August 21st 1991 - Oswald of Nell Breuning
† in Frankfurt/M.
He came from a deeply faithful family of high repute in Trier. There he was born on March 8th 1890. His parents, Arthur of Nell and his wife Bernharda, née of Breuning, were anxious for a good education.
After his secondary school years as well as some university terms he entered on October 1st 1911 the Society of Jesus. After his philosophical and theological studies - interrupted by four years of Interstice in the Feldkirch College 'Stella Matutina' - in Valkenburg and Innsbruck he was ordained priest there on February 27th 1921. After his graduation to the doctor of theology at the university of Münster he became in 1928 professor for moral theology, canon law and sociology at the University Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt/Main, where he - with some interruptions during World War II - lived and worked up to his death.
The social plight in Germany due to the large economic crisis induced him to concentrate on the problems of labour and the demands for compensatory justice. The Vatican called him into the team which had to prepare the text of the encyclic letter 'Quadragesimo anno' of Pius' XI.
He reached the zenith of his activity in the years after World War II. By the material depth of his thinking and arguing he achieved world-wide respect, and attention by sociologists, politicians of all parties, economists and trade unions.
The German bishops were occasionally concerned about - according to their opinion - more leftist tendencies. As he at his eightieth birthday was awarded the Romano Guardini Prize by the Catholic Academy of Bayern, the bishops stayed away from the ceremony. They tried then to make it good again with the Golden Bonifatius Medal to his ninetieth birthday.
Central topic of his life's work was the economic ethical foundation of a Catholic social policy and reform of economy. His considerations on joint control, on questions of the trade unions, on the creation of private means for the general public, and on the relationship of church and state were in great demand also outside of the Catholic area.
He had large influence by his untiring activity as speaker and writer. There are more than 1000 publications - without the numerous reviews.
Since 1956 he was an honorary professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt, lecturer at the Academy of Labour, and for seventeen years a member of the scientific advisory board at the Federal Ministry for Economics. Trier and Frankfurt conferred on him the freedom of town.
The resolution of the German Synod of 1975 with its severe social examination was to a large extent his personal work. He is considered an advocate of the human dignity of labour in the context of compensatory justice. He attached great importance to the lot of those who life at the margin of society. He is an outrider of the church's actual engagement in the defence of human rights.
The city Frankfurt conferred its highest honour, the freedom of town, to the ninety three years old Jesuit on October 10th 1983 in the Kaisersaal (emperor hall) of the Frankfurt Römer by chief burgomaster Dr. Walter Wallmann.
At his hundredth birthday he was awarded the Large Distinguished Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany by the Federal President Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker.
Father of Nell-Breuning was active also for the Nether German Province of the Society of Jesus, to which he belonged. He was the Province Economist. From 1931 to 1946 he had the responsibility for the finances of the province.
Since 1941 most houses of the province were confiscated and the money seized. In 1943 legal proceedings were instituted against him because of alleged violations of foreign exchange regulations. Although his innocence was proven he was nevertheless sentenced because of 'Distrust Against the Nazi State'.
At his hundredth birthday he could look back on an unusually creative life. His practical social commitment was effective not least by his advisory activity for most various persons and institutions of the public life.
Father of Nell-Breuning has never worked as parish minister. He was a man of science with an outstanding authority as sociologist, which manifested itself in numerous books and essays. The more amazing are his bonds for many decades with the sisters and children of the Offenbach Theresienheim. Since a short time a street there is named after him.
Father of Nell-Breuning died due to age conditioned weakness in the early evening hours of August 21st 1991. He has been buried beside his deceased Brethren on the South Cemetery in Frankfurt.
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