Pacifism and the Fight against Alcohol Abuse

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Soon after the outbreak of World War I, Metzger volunteered as a military chaplain and took part in the war of attrition in the Vosges Mountains. Not even an offer from Graz to work for the abstinence movement enticed him away. Metzger fell so ill in the summer of 1915 that he became unfit for service. His wartime experience transformed the recipient of several medals into a pacifist and a champion of peace and international understanding.

Granted leave for this work by the ordinariate of Freiburg, he took up the post of General Secretary of the “Cross Alliance for Abstinent Catholics” in Graz. In addition to combatting alcohol abuse, comprehensive economic, social and lifestyle reform and international understanding were important to the alliance.

Metzger threw himself into his work by, among other things, lecturing and establishing a publishing company programmatically named “Volksheil” (People’s Salvation). Metzger’s radicalness in his fight against alcoholism caused annoyance among Austrian clergy, however.

Working against social misery and the moral consequences of the war, Metzger reached the conclusion based on his own experiences and those of his comrades-in-arms that war itself had to be combatted. From 1916 onward, he published several of his treatises against war with the Volksheil-Verlag.

Initially, Metzger criticized immorality and lack of faith. The army’s spirit of heroic sacrifice called for the foundation of a new Fatherland at home, in which healthy national energy, complete sobriety, deep-seated morality and saintly love of God would assure a happy future with God’s blessing (Der Feind, 33; cf.: Der Weltkrieg).

In May of 1917, Metzger formulated a peace program with twelve visionary points. Although publication of the program was forbidden in two German Catholic periodicals, Metzger was able to present his ideas to Apostolic Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli (1876–1958) and submit them to Pope Benedict XV. He received the text favorably as a letter to Metzger from June 27, 1917 reveals. Despite existing differences, Social Democrats conceded the text’s importance in the struggle for peace.

At virtually the same time as he published his twelve points, Metzger and Wilhelm Impekoven (1879–1918), the author of the “twelve points”, decided to combine their evangelization and social welfare efforts under the umbrella of the vision for peace.

Based on the twelve points and welcomed by Pope Benedict XV, the “World Peace League of the White Cross” (the White Cross. Catholic Inner Mission as of 1920) was founded on May 27, 1917. Metzger stressed that peace was more than just the absence of war and that lasting peace rested on justice for all nations (armistice or international peace). Its founding during wartime did not however receive any public response.

Metzger adopted social revolutionary tones in his treatise “Klassenkampf und Völkerfriede!” (Class Struggle and International Peace!). He compared the present era with that of the French Revolution and predicted a future revolution of the destitute and dispossessed against the propertied, which would produce a just, democratic and peace-loving state.

Source / title

  • Rassenhaß oder Völkerfriede? Ein Aufruf an Europas Völker (Zeit- und Streitschriften. 16). Graz 1917 = Friede auf Erden. Graz 1918, p. 35–58, 54–56