History of Roman Catholicism in Germany: Wikis


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The History of Roman Catholicism in Germany should be read in parallel with the History of Germany as it was progressively confused, in competition with , oppressed by and distinguished from the State. The long History of the Roman Catholicism in Germany can also explain much of the History of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the period of the Middle Ages, under the Roman Catholic Empire, or the World Wars, during its struggle with authoritarian regimes.


Christianization of the Germans

The earliest stage of Christianization of the various Celtic people and Germanic people occurred only in the western part of Germany, the part controlled by the Roman empire. Christianization was facilitated by the prestige of the Christian Roman Empire amongst its pagan subjects and was achieved gradually by various means. The rise of Germanic Christianity was at times voluntary, particularly among groups associated with the Roman Empire. After Christianity became a largely unified and dominant force in Germania, remaining pockets of the indigenous Germanic paganism were converted by force. But aspects of the primeval pagan religion have persisted to this day, including the names of the days of the week.

As Roman rule crumbled in Germany in 5th century, this phase of Catholicism in Germany came to an end with it. At first, the Gallo-Roman or Germano-Roman populations were able to retain control over big cities such as Cologne and Trier, but in 459, these too were overwhelmed by the attacks of Frankish tribes. Most of the Gallo-Romans or Germano-Romans were killed or exiled.[1] The newcomers to the towns reestablished the observance of the pagan rites.[2] The small remaining Catholic population was powerless to protect its faith against the new ruling Frankish lords.

But as soon as 496, Frankish King Clovis I was baptized together with many members of his household. In contrast to the eastern German tribes, who became Arian Christians, he became a Catholic. Following the example of their king, many Franks were baptized too, but their Catholicism was mixed with pagan rites.[2]

Saint Boniface, Baptising and Martyrdom, from the Sacramentary of Fulda

Over the next eight centuries, Irish, Scottish, and English missionaries reintroduced Christianity into the German territories. During the period of the Frankish Empire, the two most important of these missionaries were Columbanus, who was active in the Frankish Empire from 590, and St Boniface, who was active from 716. The missionaries, particularly the Scottish Benedictines, founded monasteries (Schottenklöster Scottish monasteries) in Germany, which were later combined into a single congregation governed by the Abbot of the Scots monastery at Regensburg. The conversion of the Germanic peoples began with the conversion of the Germanic nobility, who were expected to impose their new faith on the general population. This expectation was consistent with the sacral position of the king in Germanic paganism: the king is charged with interacting with the divine on behalf of his people. Hence the general population saw nothing wrong with their kings choosing their preferred mode of worship. The favoured method of showing the supremacy of the Christian belief was the destruction of the holy trees of the Germans. These were trees, usually old oaks or elm trees, dedicated to the gods. Because the missionary was able to fell the tree without being slain by the god, his Christian god had to be stronger. The pagan sacrifices, known as blót, were seasonal celebrations where gifts were offered to appropriate gods and attempts were made to forecast what the coming season would be like. Similar events were sometimes convened in times of crisis, for much the same reasons.[3][4 ] The sacrifices, consisting of gold, weapons, animals, and even human beings, were hung on the branches of a holy tree. The Hiberno-Scottish mission ended in 13th century. Supported by native Christians, they succeeded in Christianizing all of Germany.

The foundation of Christendom under Charlemagne

The real History of Roman Catholicism in Germany begins on Christmas Day, 800, on the day where Charlemagne is crowned emperor by the Pope. "On this day the Germanic idea of the Kingdom of God, of which Charlemagne was the representative, bowed to the Roman idea, which regards Rome as its centre, Rome the seat of the old empire and the most sacred place of the Christian world. Charlemagne when emperor still regarded himself as the real leader of the Church. Although in 774 he confirmed the gift of his father to the Roman res publica, nevertheless he saw to it that Rome remained connected with the Frankish State; in return it had a claim to Frankish protection. He even interfered in dogmatic questions.

A bust of Charlemagne, key figure in the attempt of a united Christendom. Part of the treasure in Aachen.

Charlemagne looked upon the revived Roman Empire from the ancient point of view inasmuch as he greatly desired recognition by the Eastern Empire. He regarded his possession of the empire as resulting solely from his own power, consequently he himself crowned his son Louis. Yet on the other hand he looked upon his empire only as a Christian one, whose most noble calling it was to train up the various races within its borders to the service of God and thus to unify them. The empire rapidly declined under his weak and nerveless son, Louis the Pious (814-40). The decay was hastened by the prevailing idea that this State was the personal property of the sovereign, a view that contained the germ of constant quarrels and necessitated the division of the empire when there were several sons. Louis sought to prevent the dangers of such division by law of hereditary succession published in 817, by which the sovereign power and the imperial crown were to be passed to the oldest son. This law was probably enacted through the influence of the Church, which maintained positively this unity of the supreme power and the Crown, as being in harmony with the idea of the Kingdom of God, and as besides required by the hierarchical economy of the church organization. When Louis had a fourth son, by his second wife, Judith, he immediately set aside law of partition of 817 for the benefit of the new heir. An odious struggle broke out between father and sons, and among the sons themselves. In 833 the emperor was captured by his sons at the battle of Luegenfeld (field of lies) near Colmar. Pope Gregory IV was at the time in the camp of the sons. The demeanour of the pope and the humiliating ecclesiastical penance that Louis was compelled to undergo at Soissons made apparent the change that had come about since Charlemagne in the theory of the relations of Church and State. Gregory's view that the Church was under the rule of the representative of Christ, and that it was a higher authority, not only spiritually but also substantially, and therefore politically, had before this found learned defenders in France. In opposition to the oldest son Lothair, Louis and Pepin, sons of Louis the Pious, restored the father to his throne (834), but new rebellions followed, when the sons once more grew dissatisfied.

In 840 the emperor died near Ingelheim. The quarrels of the sons went on after the death of the father, and in 841 Lothair was completely defeated near Fontenay (Fontanetum) by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. The empire now fell apart, not from the force of national hatreds, but in consequence of the partition now made and known as the Treaty of Verdun (August, 843), which divided the territory between the sons of Louis the Pious: Lothair, Louis the German (843-76), and Charles the Bald, and which finally resulted in the complete overthrow of the Carlovingian monarchy." [5]

"As the idea of political unity declined, that of the unity of the Church increased in power. The Kingdom of God, which the royal priest, Charlemagne, by his overshadowing personality had, in his own opinion, made a fact, proved to be an impossibility. Church and State, which for a short time were united in Charlemagne, had, as early as the reign of Louis the Pious, become separated. The Kingdom of God was now identified with the Church. Pope Nicholas I asserted that the head of the one and indivisible Church could not be subordinate to any secular power, that only the pope could rule the Church, that it was obligatory on princes to obey the pope in spiritual things, and finally that the Carlovingians had received their right to rule from the pope. This grand idea of unity, this all-controlling sentiment of a common bond, could not be annihilated even in these troubled times when the papacy was humiliated by petty Italian rulers. The idea of her unity gave the Church the strength to raise herself rapidly to a position higher than that of the State. From the age of St. Boniface the Church in the East Frankish Kingdom had direct relations with Rome, while numerous new churches and monasteries gave her a firm hold in this region. At an early date the Church here controlled the entire religious life and, as the depositary of all culture, the entire intellectual life. She had also gained frequently decisive influence over German economic life, for she disseminated much of the skill and many of the crafts of antiquity. Moreover the Church itself had grown into an economic power in the East Frankish Kingdom. Piety led many to place themselves and their lands under the control of the Church."[6]

Catholicism as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire

Ecclesiastical provinces and episcopal sees in Central Europa A.D. 1500

In medieval times, Catholicism was the only official religion within the Holy Roman Empire. (There were resident Jews, but they were not considered citizens of the empire.) Within the empire the Catholic Church was a major power. Large parts of the territory were ruled by ecclesiastical lords. Three of the seven seats in the council of electors of the Holy Roman Empires were occupied by Catholic archbishops: the Arch-chancellor of Burgundy (archbishop of Trier), the Arch-chancellor of Italy (archbishop of Cologne), and the Arch-chancellor of Germany (archbishop of Mainz).

Charlemagne, crowned Roman Emperor in 800 AD, is sometimes considered as a forerunner of the Holy Roman Empire[7][8]; most historians today reject this view, arguing that the Holy Roman Empire had different antecedents and a different constitution, and the Holy Roman Emperor had a different status and role than Charlemagne and his successors. After the collapse of Charlemagne's empire, the Imperial crown was initially disputed among the Carolingian rulers of Western Francia (France) and Eastern Francia (Germany), with first the western king (Charles the Bald) and then the eastern (Charles the Fat) attaining the prize. However, after the death of Charles the Fat in 888 the empire broke asunder, never to be restored. According to Regino of Prüm, each part of the realm elected a "kinglet" from its own "bowels". After the death of Charles the Fat those who were crowned Emperors by the Pope controlled only territories in Italy. The last of such Emperors was Berengar I of Italy who died in 924.

Henry (Heinrich) I the Fowler (r. 919–936), a Saxon elected at the Reichstag of Fritzlar in 919designated his son Otto, who was elected King in Aachen in 936, to be his successor. A marriage alliance with the widowed queen of Italy gave Otto control over that nation as well. His later crowning as Emperor Otto I (later called "the Great") in 962 would mark an important step, since from then on the Eastern-Frankish realm – and not the West-Frankish kingdom that was the other remainder of the Frankish kingdoms–would have the blessing of the Pope. Otto had gained much of his power earlier, when, in 955, the Magyars were defeated in the Battle of Lechfeld.

In contemporary and later writings, this crowning would also be referred to as translatio imperii, the transfer of the Empire from the Romans to a new Empire. The German Emperors thus thought of themselves as being in direct succession of those of the Roman Empire; this is why they initially called themselves Augustus. Still, they did not call themselves "Roman" Emperors at first, probably in order not to provoke conflict with the Roman Emperor who still existed in Constantinople. The term imperator Romanorum only became common under Conrad II (later than his crowning in 1027, thus in the early-middle 11th century) after the Great Schism.

The glory of the Empire almost collapsed in the Investiture Controversy, in which Pope Gregory VII declared a ban on King Henry IV (king 1056, Emperor 1084–1106). Although this was taken back after the 1077 Walk to Canossa, the ban had wide-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, the German dukes had elected a second king, Rudolf of Swabia, whom Henry IV could only defeat after a three-year war in 1080. The mythical roots of the Empire were permanently damaged; the German king was humiliated. Most importantly though, the church was clearly an independent player in the political system of the Empire, not subject to imperial authority.

"Under the last of the Hohenstaufens the beginnings of a national culture began to appear. Latin had fallen into disuse, and German become the prevailing written language. For the first time Germany felt that she was a nation. This soon brought many Germans into opposition to the Church. In the conflict between the papacy and the empire the former often seemed the opponent of nationalism, and bitterness was felt, not against the idea of the Church, but against its representative. The Germans still remained deeply religious, as was made evident by the German mystics. "[9]

Map of the Empire showing division into Circles in 1512

The "constitution" of the Empire was still largely unsettled at the beginning of the 15th century. Although some procedures and institutions had been fixed, for example by the Golden Bull of 1356, the rules of how the king, the electors, and the other dukes should cooperate in the Empire much depended on the personality of the respective king. At the same time, the church was in crisis too. The conflict between several competing popes was only resolved at the Council of Constance (1414–1418); after 1419, much energy was spent on fighting the heresy of the Hussites. The medieval idea of a unified Corpus christianum, of which the papacy and the Empire were the leading institutions, began to decline.

The Protestant Reformation

Around the beginning of the 16th century there was much discontent in the Holy Roman Empire caused by abuses such as indulgences in the Catholic Church and a general desire for reform.

In 1517 the Reformation began with the publication of Martin Luther's 95 theses; he had posted them innocuously in the town square, and copies of them to German nobles, but never nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg as is commonly said. Rather, an unknown person decided to take the 95 theses from their obscure posting and nail them to the Church's door. The list detailed 95 assertions Luther believed to show corruption and misguidance within the Catholic Church. One often cited example, though perhaps not Luther's chief concern, is a condemnation of the selling of indulgences; another prominent point within the 95 theses is Luther's disagreement both with the way in which the higher clergy, especially the pope, used and abused power, and with the very idea of the pope.

In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Diet of Worms. But the Reformation spread rapidly, helped by the Emperor Charles V's wars with France and the Turks. Hiding in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, establishing the basis of the German language.

"The Holy Roman Empire, 1512.

In 1524 the Peasants' War broke out in Swabia, Franconia and Thuringia against ruling princes and lords, following the preachings of Reformist priests. But the revolts, which were assisted by war-experienced and politically motivated noblemen like Götz von Berlichingen and Florian Geyer (in Franconia), and by the theologian Thomas Münzer (in Thuringia), were soon repressed by the territorial princes. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 German peasants were massacred during the revolt,[10] usually after the battles had ended.[11] Burghers and monarchs were united in their frustration at the Catholic Church not paying any taxes to secular states while itself collecting taxes from subjects and sending the revenues disproportionately to Italy. Martin Luther denounced the Pope for involvement in politics. Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms justified the confiscation of church property and the crushing of the Great Peasant Revolt of 1525 by the German nobles. This explains the attraction of some territorial princes to Lutheranism.

From 1545 the Counter-Reformation began in Germany. The main force was provided by the Jesuit order, founded by the Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola. Central and northeastern Germany were by this time almost wholly Protestant, whereas western and southern Germany remained predominantly Catholic. In 1547, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant rulers.

On September 25, 1555, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and the forces of the Schmalkaldic League signed the Peace of Augsburg to officially end the religious wars between the Catholics and the Protestants. This treaty made legalized the partitioning of the Holy Roman Empire into Catholic and Protestant territories. Under the treaty, the religion of the ruler (either Lutheranism or Catholicism) determined the religion of his subjects. This policy is widely referred to by the Latin phrase, cuius regio, eius religio ("whose reign, his religion", or "in the prince's land, the prince's religion"). Families were given a period in which they were free to emigrate to regions where their desired religion prevailed. In 1608/1609 the Protestant Union and the Catholic League were formed.

From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years' War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Emperor's attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor (Defenestration of Prague), but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625-29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630-48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu, the regent of the young Louis XIV (1635-48). Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe. The war resulted in large areas of Germany being laid waste, a loss of approximately a third of its population, and in a general impoverishment.

The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, signed in Münster and Osnabrück: Imperial territory was lost to France and Sweden and the Netherlands left the Holy Roman Empire after being de facto seceded for 80 years already. The imperial power declined further as the states' rights were increased.

"Aided by the personal charm of its young king Louis XIV, who had assumed the government in 1661, France appeared to have obtained a dominant influence in Germany. France interfered in every quarrel among the states of the empire defending its own interest and the interests of Roman Catholicism. Catholicism lost its preponderance once more owing both to the renewed decay of political and national life in Germany and to the decline of France", after with the wittling down of the French monarchy under Louis XV and ultimately under Louis XVI.

Secularization of church states in the aftermath of the French Revolution

In the war of the First Coalition, revolutionary France defeated the coalition of Prussia, Austria, Spain, and Britain. One result was the cession of the Rhineland to France by the Treaty of Basel in 1795. Eight years later, in 1803, to compensate the princes of the annexed territories, a set of mediatisations was carried out, which brought about a major redistribution of territorial sovereignty within the Empire. At that time, large parts of Germany were still ruled by Catholic bishops (95.000 km² with more than three million inhabitants). In the mediatisations, the ecclesiastical states were by and large annexed to neighbouring secular principalities. Only three survived as nonsecular states: the Archbishopric of Regensburg, which was raised from a bishopric with the incorporation of the Archbishopric of Mainz, and the lands of the Teutonic Knights and Knights of Saint John.

Monasteries and abbeys lost their means of existence as they had to abandon their lands.

Bismarck's Kulturkampf against the Roman Catholic Church

To characterize Bismarck's politics toward the Catholic Church, the pathologist and member of the parliament of the Deutsche Fortschrittspartei (Progressive Liberals) Rudolf Virchow used the term Kulturkampf the first time on January 17, 1873 in the Prussian house of representatives.[12]

In the mid-19th century, the Catholic Church was also a political power, even in Protestant Prussia, exerting a strong influence on many parts of life. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck tried to subordinate the Catholic Church in Germany to the state as he had the Prussian Protestant church, which was bound to the state in many ways and absolutely loyal to the emperor.

Kulturkampf (literally, "culture struggle") is the name for the attempt by the German state to diminish the influence of the Catholic Church on subjects of the German Empire. It manifested as a series of laws enacted between 1871 and 1887 under the influence of the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.

The kulturkampf started with the kanzelparagraf ("pulpit statute", paragraf being jargon in German for "section of a legal code") of 1871. This was the addition of §130a to the German criminal code, which threatened clergy who discussed politics from the pulpit with two years of prison.

In March 1872 religious schools were forced to undergo official government inspection and in June religious teachers were banned from government schools. Under the May Laws, administered by Adalbert Falk, the education of clergy was to be monitored by the state, a secular court for cases involving the clergy created, and notification of all clergy employment required. In 1872, the Jesuits were banned and diplomatic relations with the Vatican broken off. In 1875 the civil marriage ceremony became a mandatory. Now a religious marriage required a preceding civil marriage.

On July 13, 1874 in the town of Bad Kissingen, Eduard Kullmann attempted to assassinate Bismarck with a pistol, but the bullet only hit Bismarck in the hand. Kullmann named the church laws as the reason for the attack.

The kulturkampf was not limited to the official Catholic Church. Pressure was put on the everyday life of Catholic parishioners. Catholics were suspected of ultramontanism, of being influenced by the political interests of the Holy See, a foreign power. Catholics were discriminated against by the state, especially in the areas of education and civil service. Even the exercise of faith was influenced or even restricted. When in Trier the Holy Tunic was displayed, pilgrims were assaulted.

Bismarck's attempts to restrict the power of the Catholic Church, represented in politics by the Catholic Centre Party, were not successful. In the 1874 elections, parties aligned with the Catholic Church doubled their representation in the parliament. The Catholic Church itself also grew stronger: many Catholic organizations were formed addressing all areas of life.

By now needing to counter the Social Democratic Party, Bismarck softened his stance toward the Catholic Church, especially with the election of the new Pope Leo XIII in 1878, and tried to justify his actions to the now numerous Catholic members of parliament by stating that the presence of Poles (who are predominantly Catholic) within German borders required that such measures be taken. In 1887, the official Kulturkampf was ended, but much of its discriminatory legislation, such as the anti-Jesuit laws, continued well into the 20th century.

Catholicism and the Third Reich

The signing of the Reichskonkordat on July 20, 1933 in Rome. (From left to right: German prelate Ludwig Kaas, German Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo, Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, and German ambassador Rudolf Buttmann)

Before Adolf Hitler - raised as an Austrian Catholic [13] but with a general plan, even before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich.[14][15][16]- rose to power, the Catholic Church was in opposition to Nazism, because this ideology was deemed incompatible with Christian morals. Therefore, under threat of excommunication Catholics were forbidden to join the Nazi Party (NSDAP) or its organizations. The leaders of the NSDAP for their part shared the church's view about the incompatibility of national socialism and Christianity.[17]. However, many Catholics, like other large sections of German society, thought Hitler to be an opportunity to stop the (larger) evil of communism and socialism. The Nazi party seemed to be an ally and the church's ban on joining the NSDAP was lifted in 1933 with the Reichskonkordat between the German government and the Holy See.

In 1937, Pope Pius XI in the encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge (composed in German instead of the Church's official language, Latin), condemned Nazi ideology, notably the Gleichschaltung policy directed against religious influence upon education and the Nazi elevation of race.[18] Pius XI planned to strengthen these criticisms by the promulgation of another encyclical, Humani Generis Unitas, specifically condemning racism and antisemitism in the early drafts, but his death in 1939 preempted that action.[19] Massive Catholic opposition to the euthanasia program, led by Clemens von Galen, made the Nazi Party interrupt it in 1941 temporarily. As for Nazi anti-Semitism, only sporadically did German Catholics mount opposition to it in an active and open manner. Von Galen, for example, campaigned against "Ayran" Germans being murdered in euthanasia programs, but not against German Jews being murdered.[20] Notable for voicing concern for the Jews was the bishop of Berlin, Konrad von Preysing, and his assistant, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who died on his way to Dachau. In 1943, for example, von Preysing asked Pope Pius XII to plead for German Jews confronted by deportation, but the pope felt it was inadvisable to do so. [21] And Lichtenberg, for his part, raised concern for the plight of the Jews as early as 1938 and continued to pray publicly for them until his death five years later. [22] The other notable German Catholic who aided Jews as well as Catholics of Jewish background was Dr. Margarete Sommer, who headed the official relief agency of the Berlin diocese. [23]Although a few German priests and parishioners were sent to concentration camps for opposing Nazism, most escaped that fate. Polish priests, however, in large numbers were sent to Dachau and other camps. For example, of the 2579 Catholic priests interned in the "priestblock" at Dachau, 1780 were Polish, of whom 868 died. [24] Although a number of European Catholics openly opposed the Nazis, especially from Poland, France, and Lithuania, the German bishops generally advised against it except when the Nazi state broke the Concordat of 1933 and directly challenged the institutional church, threatening its policies and putting its pastoral programs in jeopardy. Then they protested (through letters, sermons, etc.), often posing, from a Nazi perspective, a serious threat.[25]

The Nazis saw themselves as a replacement of Catholicism that would coopt its cohesion and respect for hierarchy. In 1941 the Nazi authorities began to dissolve all monasteries and abbeys through occupation and secularization by the Allgemeine SS. In 1941 this Aktion Klostersturm (Operation Storm the Monasteries) was stopped because Hitler feared the increasing protests by the Catholic part of the German population. If these were to result in passive rebellions, the Nazi war effort at the eastern front would be harmed.[26]

Catholicism in the German Democratic Republic

Konrad Adenauer, a practicing Catholic, founded the political program of his Christian right-wing party CDU on the Social teachings of the Catholic Church.

After World War II the Catholics in the zone occupied by the Soviet army found themselves under a militantly atheist government. Many parishes were cut off from their dioceses in the western part of Germany.

The Soviet zone eventually declared itself a sovereign nation, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The GDR's constitution proclaimed the freedom of religious belief, but in reality the new state tried to abolish religion.

Most of the people in the territory of the German Democratic Republic were Protestants. With exception of the Eichsfeld, a small Catholic area in the northwestern part of Thuringia, which was a former property of the archdiocese of Mainz, Catholics were a small minority right from the start of Communist rule. In contrast to the Protestant churches, the Catholic Church endured the Communist order relatively unscathed. In 1950, 13% of the population were Catholics (versus 85% Protestants). Although about 1.1 million citizens, half of East Germany's Catholic population, left the GDR, in 1989 there were still about one million Catholics, about 6% of the population (versus 25% Protestants). [27] The circumstance of being a tiny minority proved to be a substantial advantage. In the government's view, the population of Protestants was high enough to potentially endanger the atheistic state if it were to mobilize itself. Therefore, the system's main efforts to fight religion concentrated on Protestantism. As a result, the majority of atheists and agnostics registered in Germany today (29.6% in religion in Germany) are in the former East Germany.

The Protestant churches drew strong repression for a historical reason as well. The Protestant churches had had strong connections to most of the former political states (empires, etc.) that had over the centuries ruled one or another part of the territory of the GDR, while the Catholic Church had kept its distance from them (and they had kept their distance from the Catholic Church, as seen during the kulturkampf). The Catholic Church was thus used to existing without the help and even against the hostility of the state.

The present situation of Catholicism in Germany

Nowadays, the two Bundesländer where Catholics constitute the majority of the German population are Bavaria (south) (with as per 31 Dec 2006, 57.2 % of the Bavarian population being Catholics), and the smallish Saarland (west) (with 64.9% Catholics again as of 31 Dec 2006). Catholicism is also predominant, and historically of cultural and political influence, in the Rheinland part of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Besides these Bundesländer there are areas of lesser significance of Catholic majority.

Pope Benedict XVI has been heard to say: "My vocation is to the world, but my heart beats Bavarian".

The state supports both the Catholic and Protestant churches, with each church making up about a third of the population. The state collects taxes for the churches and there is religious education in the schools, taught by teachers who have to be approved by the churches. Church taxes are "automatic paycheck deductions" taken from all registered church members, "regardless of how often members attend services."[28]

Catholicism in Germany today faces several problems.

  • Traditionally, there were areas with Catholic majorities and areas of Protestant majorities (Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 34%). The mobility of modern society began to mix the population. Interconfessional married couples face the problem of not being able to share the same communion.[29]
  • Modern society is changing old structures. Catholic environments are disintegrating, though not as much in traditional areas like Bavaria.[30] The number of Catholic churchgoers has decreased (from 22% in 1990 to 14% in 2006) and many have left the church altogether. Thus the biggest challenge facing the churches is to retain the registered, tax paying members (regardless of how often they attend services) to fund the Catholic Church, especially its international relief organizations like Adveniat.


  1. ^ Kurt Hoppstädter and HansWalter Herrmann (Publishers, Geschichtliche Landeskunde des Saarlandes, Book 2: Von der fränkischen Landnahme bis zum Ausbruch der französischen Revolution. Selbstverlag des Historischen Vereins für die Saargegend e. V., Saarbrücken 1977, Pg 17/18
  2. ^ a b Kurt Hoppstädter and HansWalter Herrmann (Publishers, Geschichtliche Landeskunde des Saarlandes, Book 2: Von der fränkischen Landnahme bis zum Ausbruch der französischen Revolution. Selbstverlag des Historischen Vereins für die Saargegend e. V., Saarbrücken 1977, Pg 25
  3. ^ See Viga-Glum’s Saga (Ch.26), Hakon the Good’s Saga (Ch.16), Egil’s Saga (Ch. 65), etc.
  4. ^ Adam of Bremen. Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae pontificium Book IV. pp. Ch.26–28.  
  5. ^ Kampers, Franz, and Martin Spahn. "Germany." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Accessed June 16, 2009.
  6. ^ Kampers, Franz, and Martin Spahn. "Germany." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Accessed June 16, 2009.
  7. ^ http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa35
  8. ^ http://history-world.org/charlemagne.htm
  9. ^ Kampers, Franz, and Martin Spahn. "Germany." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Accessed June 16, 2009.
  10. ^ Peasants' War
  11. ^ The Catholic and the Lutheran Church
  12. ^ (English) "Kulturkampf". New Catholic Dictionary. 1910. http://www.catholic-forum.com/SAINTS/ncd04572.htm. "It was the distinguished liberal politician and scientist, Professor Rudolph Virchow, who first called it the Kulturkampf, or struggle for civilization."  
  13. ^ Rißmann, Michael (2001) (in (German)), Hitlers Gott. Vorsehungsglaube und Sendungsbewußtsein des deutschen Diktators, pp. 94–96. Zürich München: Pendo, ISBN 3-85842-421-8
  14. ^ SHARKEY, JOE Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler's Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity, New York Times, January 13, 2002
  15. ^ The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches, Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Winter 2001, publishing evidence compiled by the O.S.S. for the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946
  16. ^ The Religious Affiliation of Adolf Hitler Adherents.com
  17. ^ Martin Bormann
  18. ^ Claudia Carlen, The Papal Encyclicals, 1903-1939 (Wilmington, N.C.: McGrath, 1981), 233-5
  19. ^ Georges Passelecq and Bernhard Suchecky, The Hidden Encyclical of Pius IX, translated by Steven Rendall (New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1997).
  20. ^ Beth Griech-Polelle, Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and Nationalism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).
  21. ^ Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 311.
  22. ^ Spicer, 121.
  23. ^ Heinrich Herzberg, Diest am hoheren Gesetz. Dr. Margarete Sommer und das "Hilfswerk beim Bischoflichen Ordinariat Berlin" (Berlin: Servis, 2000).
  24. ^ Father Jean Bernard, Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, ISBN 978-0972598170.
  25. ^ Donald Dietrich, "Catholic Resistance in the Third Reich," Holocaust Studies and Genocide, 3, 171ff.
  26. ^ Mertens, Annette, Himmlers Klostersturm : der Angriff auf katholische Einrichtungen im Zweiten Weltkrieg und die Wiedergutmachung nach 1945, Paderborn ; München ; Wien ; Zürich : Schöningh, 2006, pp. 33, 120, 126.
  27. ^ Dr. Bernd Schäfer, Kirchenpolitik und Säkularisierung in Ost und West http://www.zzf-pdm.de/archiv/gforum/berichte/kirchen.html
  28. ^ Niels Sorrells,"Luther's spiritual heirs face uncertain future, CHRISTIAN CENTURY, March 20, 2007, 16
  29. ^ Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, "Katholikentag draws 20,000," THE TABLET, June 26, 2004, 26
  30. ^ Charles Sennett, "In a time of unrest, conflict met with contemplation," BOSTON GLOBE, April, 2005, Section A, 1


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