5 Priests Who Turned Badass When Things Got Critical

#2. Francis Gleeson Just Didn't Give a Shit


Growing up, Francis Gleeson wanted to be what many stereotypical Irishmen were destined to be: a priest. He joined the priesthood in 1912, but when World War I broke out soon thereafter, he enlisted in the British Army. He was installed as a chaplain and was sent off to France, straight to the front lines.

Via Militaryheritage.ie
"Let's make it a quick photo. I've got armies to slay."

Unlike other chaplains who simply prayed, celebrated Mass, and tended to the dead, Gleeson saw the desperate situation in France and decided on a more "hands on" approach. He would routinely play an active role in the battalion he was assigned to and, regardless of faith, would give everyone the same Mass in his smooth, Liam Neeson-like accent. He was just another one of the troops. That is, until the first Battle of Ypres.

Via Frank Hurley
"Dying horribly by the millions is a small price to pay for looking this awesome."

While fighting with his men, Gleeson soon saw that all the other officers fighting the Germans were either gravely injured or dead. With the men without a leader, Gleeson tore off his chaplain insignia (a major "never do that" in the rulebook), grabbed a revolver, and led the men against their incoming pointy-hatted nemesis. Gleeson continued to go full John Rambo until another brigade joined in the fray and politely asked why the non-combatant priest was leading a brigade.

Via Militaryheritage.ie
"Um ... war reasons, sir."

After being relieved, Gleeson continued to refuse to settle down and behave like a normal chaplain. He once gave a Christmas Day Mass from the top of a bunker where Germans were actively trying to hit him, and he was known to give last rites to troops in the middle of combat zones with shells dropping around him. The army finally had enough of his brave shenanigans and sent him home. But duty continued to call, and Gleeson would later become a chaplain again -- this time for the renegade Free Irish Army.

#1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Anti-Nazi Double Agent


Starting off as a Lutheran pastor in 1920s Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer traveled to Italy and the United States to expand his learning, building up knowledge and tolerance of people of all races and creeds. He landed back in Germany in the early 1930s, just in time to see Charlie Chaplin impersonator Adolf Hitler get "elected" as chancellor. Despite Bonhoeffer's efforts, the church leadership was filled with Nazis supporters, making the mild-mannered Bonhoeffer just a mite angry.

Via Wikipedia
You can add your own Indiana Jones joke.

He got out quickly, living in London for two years before coming back to Berlin, where he was almost immediately banned from the city for running a constantly traveling seminary (to avoid Nazi influence). After attending a conference in the United States in 1939, Bonhoeffer then had the choice of staying there or going back over to the brewing war zone. Since Bonhoeffer just really hated Nazis, he chose the latter, and literally caught the last boat back.

Even after returning to Germany, the rabble-rouser kept on working, although by now he was not allowed to speak in public or publish anything. Despite this, Bonhoeffer decided to push his luck further by joining the Abwehr (the Nazi military intelligence unit) with the intention of taking on what has to have been the most terrifying job in history: working as a double agent under the nose of the Third Reich. That's right -- by joining, he now had a good cover for going out in public to deliver messages to the anti-Nazi resistance, as well as being saved from joining the military. Soon Bonhoeffer was a part of a conspiracy within the Abwehr to overthrow and kill Hitler.

Via Ushmm.org
"It's kind of a hobby of mine."

And so Bonhoeffer spent half his time working directly with the Nazi's military intelligence, and the other half traveling all over Europe, trying to drum up support for an anti-Nazi resistance unit and secretly sending money to get Jews out of the country. The whole time he was working with other Nazi officials who had all agreed that this Hitler shit needed to end, and soon.

It's impossible to know how close Bonhoeffer came to altering history forever -- he was arrested by the Nazis, not for trying to overthrow the regime, but for money laundering (they mistook the funds meant for Jewish refugees as a simple embezzlement scheme). But while he was in jail, another Abwehr conspirator named Wilhelm Canaris was arrested, at which point the Nazis then figured out that this man of God and military intelligence agent was instrumental in multiple 1943 attempts on the Fuhrer's life that the Gestapo hadn't even caught onto.

Via Lifeondoverbeach
"I'm currently learning how to tell you to suck it in every language on Earth."

Bonhoeffer and the other conspirators were soon sentenced to death. Despite his capture, Bonhoeffer was regarded as one of the best German intelligence agents and was so badass, he was the only double agent/preacher/would-be assassin any World War II country could name.

Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. He can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.

For more holy beat downs, check out 5 Nuns Who Could Kick Your Ass and 5 Superpowers From the Bible That Put Marvel and DC to Shame.

Related Reading: For more heroes of pacifism, read this article and learn about Father Sampson, the parachuting priest. Follow up with some aggressively badass pacifists- like the reverend who stopped a violent mob single-handed. To end your reading marathon on a high note, these stories of incredible cuteness in wartime are just what you need.

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