The German term Kulturkampf (help·info) (pronounced [kʊlˈtuːɐ̯kampf], literally "culture struggle") refers to German policies in relation to secularity and reducing the role and power of the Roman Catholic Church in Prussia, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Prime Minister of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck.
Bismarck accelerated the Kulturkampf, which did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria. As one scholar put it, "the attack on the church included a series of Prussian, discriminatory laws that made Catholics feel understandably persecuted within a predominantly Protestant nation." Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and other orders were expelled in the culmination of twenty years of anti-Jesuit and antimonastic hysteria.
In 1871, the Catholic Church comprised 36.5% of the population of the German Empire, including millions of discriminated Poles. In this newly founded Empire, Bismarck sought to appeal to liberals and Protestants (62% of the population) by reducing the political and social influence of the Catholic Church and attempting to eradicate the Polish nationality.
Priests and bishops who resisted the Kulturkampf were arrested or removed from their positions. By the height of anti-Catholic legislation, half of the Prussian bishops were in prison or in exile, a quarter of the parishes had no priest, half the monks and nuns had left Prussia, a third of the monasteries and convents were closed, 1800 parish priests were imprisoned or exiled, and thousands of laypeople were imprisoned for helping the priests.
Bismarck's program backfired, as it energized the Catholics to become a political force in the Centre party and revitalized Polish resistance. The Kulturkampf ended about 1880 with a new pope willing to negotiate with Bismarck, and with the departure of the anti-Catholic Liberals from his coalition. By retreating, Bismarck won over the Centre party support on most of his conservative policy positions, especially his attacks against Socialism.
- 1 Papal powers
- 2 Background
- 3 Restrictions on Catholics
- 4 Long term results
- 5 Origin and character of the Kulturkampf
- 6 Use of the terms Kulturkampf and Culture War in the United States and Israel
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The Papacy at this time was at a weak point in its history, having just lost all its territories to Italy, with the Pope a "prisoner" in the Vatican. However Bismarck said that someday it might revive. Gall notes that the fears were greatly exaggerated by the anti-Catholic Liberals who held "quite grotesque visions" of a papal threat.
Bismarck said that future popes might use papal infallibility as a weapon for promoting a potential "papal desire for international political hegemony."
Bismarck's attention was also riveted by fear of what he believed to be the desire of the international Catholic church to control national Germany by means of the papal claim of infallibility, announced in 1870. If, as has been argued, there was no papal desire for international political hegemony and Bismarck's resistance to it may be described as shadowboxing, many statesmen of the time were of the chancellor’s persuasion. The result was the Kulturkampf, which, with its largely Prussian measures, complemented by similar actions in several other German states, sought to curb the clerical danger by legislation restricting the Catholic church's political power.
In order to prevent potential papal political meddling, in 1872 Bismarck attempted to reach an understanding with other European governments, whereby future papal elections would be manipulated. He proposed that European governments should agree beforehand on unsuitable papal candidates, and then instruct their national cardinals to vote in the appropriate manner. This plan was circulated in "Bismarck's confidential diplomatic circular to German representatives abroad," Berlin, 14 May 1872, in which Bismarck wrote:
The concordats already concluded at the beginning of the century produced direct and, to some extent, intimate relations between the Pope and governments, but, above all, the Vatican Council, and both its most important statements about infallibility and about the jurisdiction of the Pope, also entirely altered his position in relation to the governments. Their interest in the election of the Pope increased to the greatest degree--but with that their right to concern themselves with it was also given a much firmer basis. For, by these decisions, the Pope has come into the position of assuming episcopal rights in every single diocese and of substituting papal for episcopal power. Episcopal has merged into papal jurisdiction; the Pope no longer exercises, as heretofore, individual stipulated special privileges, but the entire plenitude of episcopal rights rests in his hands. In principle, he has taken the place of each individual bishop, and, in practice, at every single moment, it is up to him alone to put himself in the former's position in relation to the governments. Further the bishops are only his tools, his officials without responsibility. In relation to the governments, they have become officials of a foreign sovereign, and, to be sure, a sovereign who, by virtue of his infallibility, is a completely absolute one--more so than any absolute monarch in the world. Before the governments concede such a position to a new Pope and grant him the exercise of such rights, they must ask themselves whether the election and person chosen offer the guarantees they are justified in demanding against the misuse of such rights.
Bismarck's scheme did not gain support outside Germany.
Prussia had greatly expanded and by 1871 the new German Empire included 25,500,000 Protestants (62% of the population), both Reformed and Lutheran, and 15,000,000 Catholics (36.5% of the population). They were generally segregated into their own worlds, living in rural districts or city neighborhoods that were overwhelmingly of the same religion, and sending their children to separate public schools where their religion was taught. There was little interaction or intermarriage. On the whole, the Protestants had a higher social status, and the Catholics were more likely to be peasant farmers or unskilled or semiskilled industrial workers. In 1870, the Catholics formed their own political party, the Centre Party, which generally supported unification and most of Bismarck's policies. However, Bismarck, a devout pietistic Protestant, distrusted parliamentary democracy in general and opposition parties in particular, especially when the Centre Party showed signs of gaining support among dissident elements such as the Polish Catholics in Silesia.
A powerful intellectual force of the time was anti-Catholicism, led by the liberal intellectuals who formed a vital part of Bismarck's coalition. They saw the Catholic Church as a powerful force of reaction and anti-modernity, especially after the proclamation of papal infallibility in 1870, and the tightening control of the Vatican over the local bishops. Jesuit and other Catholic missionaries had restored the vitality of Catholicism in Germany, and, although they were not intended to convert non-Catholics, the missions attracted Protestants in large numbers—even the heir to the Prussian throne, who attended sessions with the king's approval. The response to the Catholic revival, and, importantly, the draw on Protestant congregants, was a wave of anti-Catholic, anticlerical and antimonastic pamphleteering and preaching.
The Kulturkampf launched by Bismarck in 1872 affected Prussia; although there were similar movements in Baden and Hesse the rest of Germany was not affected. According to the new imperial constitution, the states were in charge of religious and educational affairs; they funded the Protestant and Catholic schools. In July 1871 Bismarck abolished the Catholic section of the Prussian Ministry of ecclesiastical and educational affairs, depriving Catholics of their voice at the highest level. The system of strict government supervision of schools was applied only in Catholic areas; the Protestant schools were left alone. Many historians also point out anti-Polish elements in the Kulturkampf, as it targeted Catholic Poles in the eastern provinces of Upper Silesia, West Prussia and Posen, parts of Prussia that were majority Catholic. Poles formed majority in those provinces with the exception of West Prussia.
The Kulturkampf failed because the Catholics were unanimous in their resistance and organized themselves to fight back politically, using their strength in other states besides Prussia. The Prussian state officials imprisoned most of the bishops and thousands of Catholic clergy and laymen. The Catholics responded not with violence but with votes, as the newly formed Catholic Center Party became a major force in the Imperial Parliament. The culture war gave secularists and socialists an opportunity to attack all religions, an outcome that distressed the Protestant leaders and especially Bismarck himself, who was a devout pietistic Protestant.
Restrictions on Catholics
From 1871 to 1875 the Pulpit Law (Kanzelparagraph) introduced a series of sanctions against Catholicism in Prussia. To characterise Bismarck's politics toward the Catholic Church, the pathologist and member of the parliament of the German Progress Party (Progressive Liberals) Rudolf Virchow used the term Kulturkampf for the first time on January 17, 1873 in the Prussian house of representatives. Since this conflict brought Bismarck an ever growing political defeat, he moderated his struggle with the Catholic Church and in the wake of Pius IX's death on February 7, 1878, reconciled with the new Pope, Leo XIII, lifting some sanctions. The Kanzelparagraph remained in force until 1953, several religious orders like the Jesuits remained banned from the German Empire, confiscated properties were not returned, a de facto discrimination against the Catholic minority continued in Civil Service positions and civil marriage remained mandatory.
Tensions were increased by the 1870 Vatican Council proclamation on papal infallibility. There were also significant Catholic populations in Prussia (mainly Poles), in the Rhineland and in Alsace-Lorraine.
Among the measures aimed at the Catholic Church was the addition in 1871 of § 130a to the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), infringed on clerical freedom of speech, threatening clergy who discussed politics from the pulpit with two years of prison; this article was dubbed the Kanzelparagraph (from the German Kanzel 'pulpit').
In March 1872 religious schools were forced to undergo official government inspection and in June religious teachers were banned from government schools. In 1872, the Jesuits were banned (and remained banned in Germany until 1917) and in December the German government broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican. In addition, under the May Laws of 1873 administered by Adalbert Falk, the state began to supervise the education of clergy closely, created a secular court for cases involving the clergy, and required notification of all clergy employment.
The Papal encyclical Etsi multa of Pope Pius IX in 1873 claimed that Freemasonry was the motivating force behind the Kulturkampf. The Catholic Encyclopedia also claims that the Kulturkampf was instigated by Masonic lodges.
The May Laws (Maigesetze), or Falk Laws, of 1873 gave responsibility for the training and appointment of clergy to the state, which resulted in the closing of nearly half of the seminaries in Prussia by 1878. During the discussion of these laws, Rudolf Virchow first used the word "Kulturkampf."
Congregations Law 1875
The Congregations Law of 1875 abolished religious orders, stopped state subsidies to the Catholic Church, and removed religious protections from the Prussian constitution. In 1875, marriage became a mandatory civil ceremony, removed from the control of the Church. Many clerics resisted the laws and were imprisoned or removed from their positions by the state.
Bismarck's attempts to restrict the power of the Catholic Church, represented in politics by the Catholic Centre Party, were not entirely successful. In the 1874 elections, these forces doubled their representation in the parliament. Needing to counter the Social Democratic Party, Bismarck softened his stance, especially with the election of the new Pope Leo XIII in 1878, and tried to justify his actions to the now numerous Catholic representatives by stating that the presence of Poles (who are predominantly Catholic) within German borders required that such measures be taken.
The general ideological enthusiasm among the liberals for the Kulturkampf was in contrast to Bismarck's pragmatic attitude towards the measures and growing disquiet from the Conservatives.
Kulturkampf was hardly a success of Bismarck's government, despite temporary gains within the government itself.
Anti-Polish aspect of Kulturkampf
In the Province of Posen the Kulturkampf took on a much more nationalistic character than in other parts of Germany. Prussian authorities imprisoned 185 priests and forced hundred others into exile. Among the imprisoned was the Primate of Poland Archbishop Mieczysław Ledóchowski. A large part of the remaining Catholic priests had to continue their service in hiding from the authorities. Although most of the imprisoned were finally set free by the end of the decade, the majority of them were forced into emigration. Many observers believed these policies only further stoked the Polish independence movement. Contrary to other parts of the German Empire, in Greater Poland - then known under the German name of Provinz Posen - the Kulturkampf did not cease after the end of the decade. Although Bismarck finally signed an informal alliance with the Catholic Church against the socialists, the policies of Germanization did continue in Polish-inhabited parts of the country.
Long term results
Nearly all German bishops, clergy, and laymen rejected the legality of the new laws, and were defiant facing the increasingly heavy penalties and imprisonments imposed by Bismarck's government. By 1876, all the Prussian bishops were imprisoned or in exile, and a third of the Catholic parishes were without a priest. In the face of systematic defiance, the Bismarck government increased the penalties and its attacks, and were challenged in 1875 when a papal encyclical declared the whole ecclesiastical legislation of Prussia was invalid, and threatened to excommunicate any Catholic who obeyed. There was no violence, but the Catholics mobilized their support, set up numerous civic organizations, raised money to pay fines, and rallied behind their church and the Center Party. The government set up a rival Old Catholic Church, but it attracted only a few thousand members. Bismarck realized his Kulturkampf was a failure when secular and socialist elements began using the opportunity to attack all religion. In the long run, the most significant result was the mobilization of the Catholic voters, and their insistence on protecting their church. In the elections of 1874, the Center party doubled its popular vote, became the second-largest party in the national parliament, and remained a powerful force for the next 60 years. It became difficult for Bismarck to form a government without their support.
Origin and character of the Kulturkampf
In the decades before the Kulturkampf began, the 1850s and 1860s, there existed extensive and entrenched anti-Jesuit paranoia, anti-Catholicism, anti-monasticism and anti-clericalism. Since 1848, the German states saw a resurgence of Catholic monastic life and a growth in the number of monasteries and convents. German liberals monitored and tabulated a dramatic rise in the numbers and types of monasteries, convents and clerical religious, a fact which made for convenient propaganda, the monastic life being cast as the epitome of a backward Catholic medievalism. Prussian authorities were particularly suspect of the spread of monastic life east and west into the Polish and French ethnic areas. The Diocese of Cologne, for example, saw a tenfold increase of monks and nuns between 1850 and 1872, and other areas saw similar increases.
A wave of anti-Catholicism and anti-Catholic propaganda accompanied the Kulturkampf, accompanied by “outright hatred” by the liberals who considered Catholics the enemy of the modern German nation. The Kulturkampf was not, however, a spontaneous popular occurrence, but “a campaign against the Catholic Church conducted through the law, with the police and bureaucracy as its principal agents”, the legality of which gave it its “sinister character”:
Clergy arrested, humiliated, and marched through the streets by the police; house searches conducted by the police looking for evidence of disloyalty; the Catholic press suppressed; the civil service cleansed of Catholics; the Army used to disperse a Catholic crowd gathered to witness the appearance of the Virgin; nuns and monks and clergy fleeing the country; official support for popular harassment and intimidation of Catholics.
No one however was killed and few were injured, as Bismarck did not seek to extinguish Catholicism in his land, but rather sought to assimilate the Polish peasants and saw international Catholicism as an enemy of the "still fragile German Reich".
Use of the terms Kulturkampf and Culture War in the United States and Israel
The word "Kulturkampf" has also been used to refer to similar cultural conflicts in other times and places. In the United States, the term "culture war" was used by Patrick Buchanan, among others, to describe a conflict starting in the 1960s between religious social conservatives and secular social liberals (Buchanan used the English "culture war," though in the context Buchanan used it, as a war between traditional morality and modern liberalism, it seemed to have been contrived as an analogy of the earlier German experience). Coincidentally, Buchanan himself is descended from German Catholics on his mother's side. This theme of "culture war" was the basis of Buchanan's keynote speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Regarding Buchanan's speech, liberal humorist Molly Ivins quipped that it "probably sounded better in the original German." The term "culture war" had by 2004 become commonly used in the United States by both liberals and conservatives. However, Buchanan's opinions have no relevance to the actual Kulturkampf as it was conducted in Germany in the 1800s.
Justice Antonin Scalia referenced the term in the Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), saying "The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite." The case concerned an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that prohibited any subdepartment from acting to protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. Scalia believed that the amendment was a valid move on the part of citizens who sought "recourse to a more general and hence more difficult level of political decision making than others." The majority disagreed, holding that the amendment violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The term, translated to Hebrew, (Milhemet Tarbut, מלחמת תרבות) is also frequently used, with similar connotations, in the political debates of Israel - having been introduced by Jews who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
- Culture war
- Holy See – Germany relations
- Away from Rome!
- The First School War in Belgium (1879–84)
- The Jules Ferry Laws in France
- Freedom of religion
- Gross, Michael B., The war against Catholicism: liberalism and the anti-Catholic imagination in nineteenth-century Germany, p. 1, University of Michigan Press, 2004
- Helmstadter, Richard J., Freedom and religion in the nineteenth century, p. 19, Stanford Univ. Press 1997
- Roland Sarti (2009). Italy: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing. p. 462.
- Lothat Gall, Bismarck, the White Revolutionary: 1871-1898 (1986) p 17
- Hollyday 1970, p. 6.
- Hollyday 1970, p. 43.
- Lamberti, (2001)
- Gross, Michael B., The war against Catholicism: liberalism and the anti-Catholic imagination in nineteenth-century Germany, p. 75, University of Michigan Press, 2004
- Lamberti, (2001) p 177
- Norman Davies (1982). God's Playground. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-05353-3.
- Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006) pp. 568–576
- "Kulturkampf". New Catholic Dictionary. 1910.
- Lougee, Robert W., The Kulturkampf and Historical Positivism, pp. 219–220, Church History, > Vol. 23, No. 3, Sep., 1954, Cambridge Univ. Press
- "Some of you may perchance wonder that the war against the Catholic Church extends so widely. Indeed each of you knows well the nature, zeal, and intention of sects, whether called Masonic or some other name. When he compares them with the nature, purpose, and amplitude of the conflict waged nearly everywhere against the Church, he cannot doubt but that the present calamity must be attributed to their deceits and machinations for the most part. For from these the synagogue of Satan is formed which draws up its forces, advances its standards, and joins battle against the Church of Christ." Para 28, Etsi Multa
- "They also instigated the "Kulturkampf". The celebrated jurisconsult and Mason, Grandmaster Bluntschli, was one of the foremost agitators in this conflict; he also stirred up the Swiss "Kulturkampf"." From Masonry (Freemasonry) in the Catholic Encyclopedia and "German Freemasons fostered the Kulturkampf and helped further the dominance of the Prussian state." Freemasonry', New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 ed, Volume 6, p 135, McGraw-Hill, New York.
- Norman Livergood, The Triumph of Civilization, http://www.hermes-press.com/triumph_civ.htm
- Kulturkampf Columbia Encyclopedia (on Yahoo),6th Ed. 2006
- "Liberals were the most enthusiastic champions of the general policy, because it satisfied a tradition of passionate anti-clericalism. It was, in fact, a Progressive deputy in the Prussian legislature – the distinguished medical scientist and pioneer of public health methods, Rudolf Virchow – who coined the term "Kulturkampf" to describe the stakes. Virchow meant it as a term of praise, signifying the liberation of public life from sectarian impositions (though the term was later taken up by Catholic leaders in a spirit of bitter derision)." From "A Supreme Court in the Culture Wars" by Jeremy Rabkin in the Fall edition of the Public Interest
- "Even Bismarck – who initially saw a variety of tactical political advantages in these measures – took pains to distance himself from the rigors of their enforcement." From A Supreme Court in the culture wars by Jeremy Rabkin in the Fall edition of the Public Interest
- "Conservative political forces, centering on the old Prussian aristocracy, became increasingly critical of these measures, fearing that they would jeopardize the status of their own Protestant Evangelical Church. "From A Supreme Court in the culture wars by Jeremy Rabkin in the Fall edition of the Public Interest
- (English) Piotr Stefan Wandycz (2001). The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe. London: Routledge. pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-415-25491-4.
- (English) Jarmila Kaczmarek, Andrzej Prinke (2000). "Two Archaeologies in one Country: Official Prussian versus amateur Polish activities in Mid-Western (i.e.: Greater) Poland in XIXth-early XXth cent.". Poznań Archaeological Museum publications. Retrieved February 16, 2006.
- Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany: 1840–1945 (1969), 258–260
- Gross, Michael B., The War Against Catholicism, p. 11, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
- Gross, Michael B., The War Against Catholicism, p. 128-129, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
- Gross, Michael B., The War Against Catholicism, p. 129, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
- Gross, Michael B., The War Against Catholicism, p. 130, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
- Gross, Michael B., The War Against Catholicism, p. 130-131, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
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- New York Times, Feb 1, 2007 Molly Ivins, Columnist, Dies at 62
- "Secular and Ultra Orthodox Knesset Members threaten 'Culture War'", Israeli National News, May 11, 2013
- Bennette, Rebecca Ayako. Fighting for the Soul of Germany: The Catholic Struggle for Inclusion After Unification (Harvard University Press; 2012) 368 pages; examines Catholics' promotion of an alternative national identity after 1871.
- Blackbourn, David. Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford, 1993)
- Gross, Michael B. The War against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany (2005)
- Hollyday, FBM (1970), Bismarck, Great Lives Observed, Prentice-Hall.
- Hope, Nicholas, "Prussian Protestantism," in Philip G. Dwyer, ed. Modern Prussian History: 1830–1947 (2001) pp. 188–208
- Lamberti, Marjorie. "Religious conflicts and German national identity in Prussia, 1866–1914," in Philip G. Dwyer, ed. Modern Prussian History: 1830–1947 (2001) pp. 169–187
- Ronald J. Ross, The failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and state power in imperial Germany, 1871–1887, (Washington, D.C., 1998)
- "Kulturkampf". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913., detailed article by Martin Spahn, written in 1910.
- "Kulturkampf". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- “Bismarck’s Failure: the Kulturkampf” long description
- Bismarck’s Domestic Polices 1871 -1890 Kulturkampf in the context of Bismarck's entire domestic policies, by a head of history at Catholic University School in Dublin
- Kulturkampf Now and Then 13-paged essay in pdf by a Professor of the United States Air Force Academy
- Ludwig Windthorst Speaks in the Prussian Parliament (1873) speech of Ludwig Windthorst following its analysis
- Bismarck on the purpose of the Kulturkampf Speech in the Prussian House of Lords, March 10, 1873
- Kulturkampf: Bibliography by LitDok East-Central Europe Herder-Institut (Marburg)