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The German term About this sound Kulturkampf  (pronounced [kʊlˈtuːɐ̯kampf], literally "culture struggle") refers to power struggles between emerging constitutional and democratic nation states and the Roman Catholic Church over the place and role of religion in modern polity, usually in connection with secularization campaigns. In the ancien régime, states were confessional, religion governed private and public life and the Catholic Church had been closely associated with reactionary governments and ideological conservatism,[1] thus, "the struggle against the ancien régime, its remnants, or its restoration was necessarily a struggle against the church" and such conflicts were a central theme of Western European history from the mid-19th. century until 1914.[2][3]

In the historical sense, Kulturkampf refers to such power struggles and legislative campaigns in several countries, e g. in Switzerland (see de:Kulturkampf in der Schweiz), which took a leading role in the 1840s (see: Sonderbund War), in Germany beginning around 1860 and especially their culmination between 1871 and 1876, in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain,[4] Spain,[5] Italy, Austria-Hungary (see de:Maigesetze (Österreich-Ungarn)), Hungary (1890-1895)[6] as well as in the United States and Latin America, e. g. Mexico [7] [8] or Brasil. Because of its intensity and anti-Polish aspect, the German Kulturkampf is most widely known.

With this meaning the term Kulturkampf entered many languages, e. g.: French: Le Kulturkampf, Spanish: El Kulturkampf, Italian: Il Kulturkampf. [9] It first appeared 1840 in an anonymus review of a publication by Swiss-German liberal Ludwig Snell on "The Importance ot the Struggle of liberal Catholic Switzerland with the Roman Curia". But it only gained wider currency after liberal member of the Prussian parliament, Rudolph Virchow, used it in 1873. [10] [11]

In contemporary socio-political discussion, the term Kulturkampf (see also: culture war) is often used to describe any conflict between secular and religious authorities or deeply opposing values, beliefs between sizable factions within a nation, community, or other group.[12]


Under the influence of ascending new philosophies and ideologies such as the enlightenment, humanism, realism, positivism, materialism, nationalism, secularism and liberalism, the role of religion in society and the relationship between society and church underwent profound changes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many countries endeavoured to strip the church of worldly powers, reduce the duties of the church to spiritual affairs by secularising the public sphere and by separation of church and state and to assert the supremacy of the state, especially in education.[13] Róisín Healy argues that across Europe, the Kulturkampf operated mainly on state-level and was found "especially in strongholds of liberalism, anti-clericalism, and anti-Catholicism."[14][15]

Pope Pius IX (ca. 1878)

The Catholic Church resisted this development which it portrayed as an attack on religion and sought to maintain and even strengthen its strong role in state and society.[16] With the growing influence of enlightenment and after having lost much of its wealth, power and influence in the mediatisation and secularization of the early 19th century the church had been in a state of decline.[17][18] 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.[19] The church strove to revert its waning influence and to keep sway in such matters as e. g. marriage, family and education and initiated a Catholic revival by founding associations, papers, schools, social establishments or new orders and encouraging religious practices such as pilgrimages, mass assemblies, the devotion of Virgin Mary or the sacred heart of Jesus and the veneration of relics;[20] the pope himself became an object of devotion.[21] Apart from the extraordinary proliferation of religious orders, the 19th. century also witnessed the rise of countless Catholic associations and organisations, especially in Germany and in France.[22] Catholic propaganda including the interpretation of daily events was spread through local and national Catholic newspapers prominent in all western European nations as well as through organized missions and groups dedicated to pious literature.[23][need quotation to verify]

In the years leading up to the Kulturkampf, under the leadership of pope Pius IX, the Catholic Church promulgated a series of contentious dogmas and encyclicals. In

With its "syllabus of errors" of 1864, the Catholic Church launched an assault on the new ideologies condemning 80 philosophical and political statements, mainly the foundations of the modern nation state, as false. It outright rejected such concepts as freedom of religion, free thought, separation of church and state, civil marriage, sovereignty of the people, democracy, liberalism and socialism, reason as the sole base of human action and in general condemned the idea of conciliation with progress. The announcements included an index of forbidden books.[24]

A profound change was the gradual reorganization of the Catholic Church and its expansive use of the media. The popes worked to increase their control of the Church. Heavily criticized by European governments, it was centralized and streamlined with a strict hierarchy, the bishops sought direction from the Vatican and the needs and views of the international church were given priority over the local ones. Opponents of the new hierarchical church organization pejoratively called it ultramontanism.[25] [26]

In view of the church’s opposition to enlightenment, liberal reforms and the revolutions of the 18th/19th centuries, these dogmas and the church’s expressed insistence on papal primacy angered the liberal-minded all across Europe, even among some Catholics, adding fuel to the heated debates.[27][28] The dogmas represented a threat to the secularized state as they reaffirmend that the fundamental allegiance of Catholics was not to their nation-state, but to the Gospel and the Church and that the pope’s teaching was absolutely authoritative and binding on all the faithful. Secular politicians even wondered whether "Catholicism and allegiance to the modern liberal state were not mutually exclusive". Britisch Prime Minister Gladstone wrote in 1874 that the teaching on papal infallibility compromised the allegiance of faithful English Catholics. For European liberalism, the dogmas were a declaration of war against the modern state, science and spiritual freedom.[29][30]

The pope’s handling of dissent of the dogmas, e. g. by excommunication of critics or demanding their removal from schools and universities, was considered as "epitome of papal authoritarianism".[31] In direct response to the Vatican’s announcements, Austria passed the so-called May-Laws for Cisleithania in 1868, restricting the Concordat of 1855, and then cancelled the concordat altogether in 1870.

Saxony and Bavaria withheld approval to publish the papal infallibility; Hesse and Baden even denied any legal validity. France refused to publish the doctrines altogether; Spain forbade publication of Syllabus of Errors in 1864.[32]

Kulturkampf in Germany[edit]


Anti-Catholic caricature in the Munich Leuchtkugeln, 1848. A warning not to rejoice yet. The Catholic cleric as a fox and blind passenger on the wagon of progress, in order to later reverse the course of history.

By the mid-nineteenth century, liberal policies had also come to dominate Germany and the separation of church and state became a prominent issue.[33][34] In the decades before the Kulturkampf began, the 1850s and 1860s, there existed an extensive and entrenched current of anti-Jesuit paranoia, anti-Catholicism, anti-monasticism and anti-clericalism.[35] 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 groups, a fact which made for convenient propaganda, monastic life being cast as the epitome of a backward Catholic medievalism. Prussian authorities were particularly suspicious 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.[36] What made the Kulturkampf unique in Germany compared to struggles between state and Church in other states was its anti-Polish aspect.[37]

The Kulturkampf in Germany is usually framed by the years 1871 and 1878 with the Catholic Church officially announcing its end in 1880 but the struggle in Germany had been an ongoing matter without definite beginning and the years 1871 to 1878 only mark its culmination in Prussia and Germany. In the wake of other European countries, most German states had taken first steps of secularisation well before unification. Prodominantly Catholic Baden was at the forefront curbing the power of the Catholic Church (1852 – 1854 Baden Church Dispute) and (1864 – 1876 Kulturkampf Baden, see de:Badischer Kulturkampf).[38][39] Other examples are Prussia (1830s, 1850, 1859 and 1969), Württemberg (1859/1862), Bavaria (1867, see de:Bayerischer Kulturkampf), Hesse-Nassau or Hesse-Darmstadt. In the "Kölner Wirren" (Cologne Confusion) of 1837 (question of "mixed" Protestant-Catholic marriages)[40] Prussia gave in to the demands of the Catholic Church which was considered a defeat for the state and well remembered.[41] In 1850, Prussia again had a dispute with the church about civil marriage and primary schools[42] and in 1852, it issued decrees against the Jesuits. As in many European countries, Jesuits were being banned or heavily restricted in many of the German states e. g. in Saxony (1831) and even in Catholic ones such as Bavaria (1851), Baden (1860) or Württemberg (1862).[43]

Not to be left out, the German areas to the west of the Rhine had already gone through a process of separation of church and state in line with a radical secularization after annexation by revolutionary and Napoleonic France in 1794. After their return to Germany in 1814, many if not most of the changes were kept in place.[44]

The unsuccessful German revolutions of 1848–49, which the Catholic Church had opposed, produced no democratic reforms and attempts to radically disentangle state-church relationships failed. In the revolutionary parliament, many prominent representatives of political Catholicism took the side of the extreme right-wingers. In the years following the revolution, Catholicism became increasingly politicised due to the massive anti-modernist and anti-liberal policies of the Vatican.

In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the Catholic Church sided against Prussia and it was an outspoken opponent of German unification under Prussia (as well as of Italy’s unification).

The Catholic dogmas and doctrines announced in 1854, 1864 and 1870 were perceived in Germany as direct attacks on the modern nation state.[45] Thus, Bismarck, the Liberals and the Conservatives representing orthodox Protestants found the Centre Party’s support of the pope highly provocative. Many Catholics shared these sentiments, especially against the pope’s declared infallibility and the majority of Catholic German bishops deemed the definition of the dogma as "'unpropitious' in light of the situation in Germany". According to the Bavarian head-of-state, Hohenlohe, the dogma of infallibility compromised the Catholic's loyalty to the state.[46] While most Catholics eventually reconciled themselves to the doctrine, some founded the small breakaway Old Catholic Church. The liberal majorities in the Imperial Diet as well as in the Prussian parliament regarded the Church as backward, a hotbed for reactionaries and enemies of progress. The Church, in turn, saw the National-Liberals its worst enemy, accusing them of spearheading the war against Christianity and the Catholic Church.[47]

At unification in 1871, the new German Empire included 25.5 million Protestants (62% of the population) and 15 million Catholics (36.5% of the population). Although a minority in the empire, Catholics were the majority in the states of Bavaria, Baden, and Alsace-Lorraine as well as in the four Prussian Provinces of West Prussia, Posen, Rhineland, Westphalia and in the Prussian region of Upper Silesia.Since the Thirty Years' War the population was generally segregated along religious lines and rural areas or towns were overwhelmingly if not entirely of the same religion. Education was also separate and usually in the hands of the churches. There was little mutual tolerance, interaction or intermarriage. Protestants in general were deeply distrustful of the Catholic Church.

Bismarck ca. 1875

Unification had been achieved through many obstacles with strong opponents. These were the European powers of France and Austria, both Catholic nations, and the Catholic Church itself, the three of which Bismarck perceived as "Coalition of Catholic Revenge". For Bismarck, the empire was very fragile and its consolidation was an important issue. Biographer Otto Pflanze emphasizes, "Bismarck's belief in the existence of a widespread Catholic conspiracy that posed a threat to both his German and European policies."[48] 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".[49] With the papacy at a historical weak point, historian Lothar Gall notes that the fears were greatly exaggerated by the anti-Catholic Liberals who held "quite grotesque visions" of a papal threat.[50] As to the Catholc Church, in a Protestant empire, it was to lose its good standing which it had enjoyed for centuries in the catholic dominated Holy Roman Empire and which it would have continued to enjoy in a German empire united under Austrian auspices. Thus, in 1870, on the eve of unification, the Center Party was explicitly founded to defend the position of the church in the new empire.

Bismarck was highly concerned that many major members and supporters of this new party were not in sympathy with the new empire: the House of Hanover, the ethnic minority of the Poles, the southern German states. In 1871, the predominantly Catholic states of Southern Germany had only reluctantly joined the empire, increasing the overall share of the Catholic population to 36.5%. Among this Catholic share was Germany’s largest ethnic minority, well over 2 million Poles in the east of Prussia. Bismarck regarded the new Centre Party not only as an illegal mixup of politics and religion and the church’s "long arm" but also as a unifying force for Catholic Germans and Poles and thus a threat to the consolidation of the empire. He feared that the Centre Party would frustrate his broader political agendas and he accused the Catholic priests of fostering Polish nationalism as had been done openly in the provinces of Posen and Upper Silesia.[27][51][52] [53] [54]

Prussian Minister of Education, Adalbert Falk, 1872

The Liberals regarded 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.[55] The renewed vitality of Catholicism in Germany with its mass gatherings also attracted Protestants - even the heir to the Prussian throne, with the king's approval, attended one.[56] Anticlericalism and anti-Catholicism became powerful intellectual forces of the time The antagonism between Liberals and Protestants on one side and the Catholic Church on the other was fought out through mud-slinging in the press. A wave of anti-Catholic, anticlerical and antimonastic pamphleteering in the liberal press[56] was answered by antiliberal preaching and propaganda in Catholic newspapers and vice versa.

For these reasons, the government sought to wean the Catholic masses away from the hierarchy and the Centre Party and the liberal’s demands to curb the power of the churches meshed well with Bismarck’s main political objective to crush the Centre Party. Historian Anthony J. Steinhoff wrote: "Bismarck’s plan to disarm political Catholicism delighted liberal politicians, who provided the parliamentary backing for the crusade. Yet, the phrase the left-liberal Rudolf Virchow coined for this struggle, the Kulturkampf, suggests that the liberals wanted to do more than prevent Catholicism from becoming a political force. They wanted victory over Catholicism itself, the long-delayed conclusion of the Reformation".[57]

At least since 1847 Bismarck had also been of the professed opinion, that state and church should be completely separated, having in mind the traditional position of the Protestant church in Prussia and provoking considerable resistance from conservative Protestants. This became clear in a heated debate with Prussian culture minister von Mühler in 1871 when Bismarck said: "Since you stopped my plans in the Protestant church, I have to go via Rome".[58] In August 1871 at Bad Ems, Bismarck revealed his intention to fight against the Centre Party, to separate state and church, to transfer school inspection to laymen, to abolish religious instruction from schools and to transfer religious affairs to the minister of justice.[59] Bismarck launched a preventive war against the Church whom he saw as the great internal enemy of his new German Empire, especially after the 1870 Vatican Council declared papal infallibility a church dogma. With this background, the Kulturkampf in Germany acquired an additional edge as it gathered in intensitiy and bitterness.

Timeline and laws enacted during the Kulturkampf[edit]

"Between Berlin and Rome", with Bismarck on the left and the Pope on the right, from the German satirical magazine Kladderadatsch, 1875. Pope: "Admittedly, the last move was unpleasant for me; but the game still isn't lost. I still have a very beautiful secret move." Bismarck: "That will also be the last one, and then you'll be mated in a few moves — at least in Germany."

From 1871 to 1876, the Prussian state parliament and the federal legislature (Reichstag), both with liberal majorities, enacted 22 laws in the context of the Kulturkampf. They were mainly directed against clerics: bishops, priests and religious orders (anti-clerical) and enforced the supremacy of the state over the church.[60][61] While several laws were specific to the Catholic Church (Jesuits, congregations etc.) the general laws affected both Catholic and Protestant churches. In an attempt to overcome increasing resistance by the Catholic Church and its defiance of the laws, new regulations increasingly went beyond state matters referring to purely internal affairs of the church. Even many liberals saw them as encroachment on civil liberties, compromising their own credo.[62]

Constitutionally, education and regulation of religious affairs were vested in the federal states and the leading actor of the Kulturkampf was the Prussia, Germany’s largest state. But some of the laws were also passed by the Reichstag and applied to all of Germany. In general, the laws did not affect the press and associations including Catholic ones.[61]

The major Kulturkampf laws were:


  • 8 June 1871, fusion of Catholic and Protestant sections in the Prussian Ministry of Culture (responsible for religious matters). The Catholic section had been installed in 1840. The reason given for the merger was, that "the exclusively political attitude of equal justice to all" was to be adopted and that for that purpose one ecclesiastical department was required.[63][64] The merger was also a precondition for the School Supervision Act of the following year.[65]
  • 10 December 1871, Empire, Pulpit Law (Kanzelparagraph) passed at the initiative of Bavaria and meant to curb the misuse of religious sermons for political agitation from the pulpit.[27][66] The law read:[67][68] Any cleric or other minister of religion shall be punished with imprisonment or incarceration of up to two years if he, while exercising his occupation or having his occupation exercised, makes state affairs the subject of announcements or discussion either in public before a crowd, in a church, or before any number of people in some other place designated for religious gatherings in such a way that it endangers the public peace.

The abolishment of the Catholic section of the Prussian Ministry of ecclesiastical and educational affairs, deprived 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. The school politics also alienated Protestant conservatives and churchmen.[69]


  • 11 March 1872, Prussian School Supervision Act. This legislation was at the heart of the Kulturkampf, abolishing church oversight of the Prussian primary school system (Catholic and Protestant), excluding the clergy from education and eliminating its influence in curricular matters.[30] This was a milestone for liberalism, as placing education into the hands of the government had always been at the top of its agenda. It was to ensure an open-minded and neutral education as prerequisite for a progressive society. In the eyes of Bismarck, this law was necessary after the church, putting itself in opposition to the state, used the schools to incite the young against the government.
  • On April 1872, the Vatican rejected Gustav Adolf, Cardinal Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst as German ambassador to the Holy See. Schillingsfürst had been critical of the infallibility dogma but eventually accepted the decision of the council. Therefore, Bismarck took him for a suitable mediator. In response to the rejection the diplomatic mission was left vacant and Prussia suspended relations with the Vatican in December 1872.
  • 4 July 1872, Empire, Jesuit Law banning of the Jesuits who were seen as the emissaries of Rome and the spearhead of ultramontanism. By acknowledging the supremacy of Papal authority, the Jesuits were accused of contesting the secular authority. The law allowed for the dissolution of all Jesuit chapters and expulsion of its members. The following year the law was extended to closely related orders: the Redemptorists, Lazarists, Fathers of the Holy Ghost, and the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. Continued and increasing Church resistance and contempt of the 1871/1872 laws led to changes in the constitution and the enactment of further laws. In order to facilitate these laws, the Prussian Constitution was amended.
  • 20 September 1872, at a conference in Fulda the Prussian bishops protest against the regulations hostile to the church.
  • 23 December 1872, in an address to his cardinals, the pope denounced the new laws as persecution of the church.

The British ambassador Odo Russell reported to London in October 1872 how Bismarck's plans were backfiring by strengthening the ultramontane (pro-papal) position inside German Catholicism:

The German Bishops who were politically powerless in Germany and theologically in opposition to the Pope in Rome – have now become powerful political leaders in Germany and enthusiastic defenders of the now infallible Faith of Rome, united, disciplined, and thirsting for martyrdom, thanks to Bismarck's uncalled for antiliberal declaration of War on the freedom they had hitherto peacefully enjoyed.[70]


  • 17 January 1873, the term "Kulturkampf" came into play. Debating the law on education conditions for the employment of clerics, a Progressive deputy in the Prussian legislature – the distinguished medical scientist and pioneer of public health methods, Rudolf Virchow said: "Ich habe die Überzeugung, es handelt sich hier um einen großen Kulturkampf." (I am of the conviction that this is about a great cultural struggle)[71][72] He repeated this term in a call for vote by the German Progress Party on 23 March 1873. It was ironically picked up and derided in the Catholic press and enthusiastically defended in the liberal.[73]
  • 30 January 1873, while the laws were being debated in parliament, the Prussian bishops submit a protest against the planned legislation and in a memorial, they announced their opposition to the new laws.
  • 5 April 1873, Prussia, Amendment of Sections 15, 16 and 18 of the Prussian Constitution
In section 15 the sentence "The Protestant and the Roman Catholic Church as well as every other religious community regulates and administers its affairs independently" is suplemented by "but remain subject to the laws of the state and its legally regulated superintendence". It is added, that the same applies to the possession or beneficial use of institutions for religion, teaching, charity, endowments and funds.
Section 16, regarding the unrestricted dealings of religious communities with their seniors and public announcements accordung to general regulations was totally cancelled.
Section 18 cancelled the state's right to appoint, nominate, elect or confirm clerics for a post. But the amendment added, that the state could regulate the minimum education required for clerical posts, the appointment and dismissal of clergymen and servicemen of religion, and define the limits of ecclesiastical disciplinary measures.
  • On 2 May 1873, the bishops issued a common pastoral letter explaining to the faithful the necessity to unanimously and passively resist these laws.
  • May Laws
The May Laws (Maigesetze), or Falk Laws, were a set of laws passed by the Prussian parliament in the years 1873, 1874 and 1875.
Four laws passed in 1873 were enacted on 11/12/13/14 May 1873:
1. Law on Religious disaffiliation allowing a person to sever his connection with the church by simple declaration before a justice of the peace. This declaration freed him from all civil effects of belonging to a church, especially ecclesiastical burthens and dues.
2. Law on ecclesiastical disciplinary measures restricting the exercise of ecclesiastical punishments and means of discipline directed against the life, property, freedom or honour of citizens. This included the infliction of the great excommunication if proclaimed with the name of the guilty, because of possible disturbances of civil and social intercourse. Thus, disciplinary measures were almost totally restricted to the spiritual realm (see state Monopoly on violence).
3. Ecclesiastical disciplinary law concerning ecclesiastical power of discipline and the establishment of The Royal Court of Justice for Ecclesiastical Affairs. This subordinated the Catholic Church to state jurisdiction not only in external but also in internal matters.[74] The law regulated the exercise of disciplinary power by church authorities against their officers for special violation of their duties. Members of the court had to be Germans residing in Germany. Bodily chastisement by the Church was entirely forbidden, fines were limited to maximum amounts, restrictions of freedom could only consist in banishment to a church institution within Germany no longer that 3 months and not against the will of the person concerned. On the other hand, the new court also was given jurisdiction over ecclesiastical officers in violation of state laws.
With this law the German clergy was to be exempt from any juridical body outside of the nation. Hence, judgments of the Holy See or the Roman Rota would not be binding upon them. The highest court was made up of Prussian ecclesiastics, all appointed with the permission of Prussian civil authorities. The Church's juridical and punitive powers were restricted by allowing clerics, e. g. those punished by the Church for not resisting the Kulturkampf laws, to appeal to the Royal Court of Justice for Ecclesiastical Affairs. Bishops in defiance of this law could be deposed.
4. Education standards and civic registry law concerning the education and appointment of priests. Regarding the Protestant Church, these regulations had already been in force for a long time. All men intended for priesthood needed a graduate degree (Abitur) from a German gynasium and study 3 years of theology at a German university.
All appointments of clerics had to be approved by the state. Herewith, training and appointment of the clergy came under state supervision. The traditional regimen of clerical study was to be replaced by a modern education in a liberal German institution, thus ensuring that candidates to the priesthood were imbibed with the spirit of secularism. Furthermore, ecclesiastical offices could only be filled with the permission of the highest civil authority in each province, essentially reviving the ancient practice of lay investiture.[30]
  • 26 May 1873, the bishops issued another pastoral letter calling on the faithful to resist the new laws and informed the Prussian government that they would not cooperate in their execution. Parish councils declined to elect new pastors or accept parish administrators. Exiled or imprisoned bishops used underground networks. The bishops of Münster and Paderborn refused the Kulturexamen for their seminaries and appointed priests without notifying authorities. Clergy obeying the mandate of the bishops immediately became subject to the punishments prescribed by the laws. Fines were imposed in hundreds of cases and the clerics resisted to pay at which, in turn, the government resorted to force, either by confiscation or imprisonment of up to two years.[75]
  • 21 November 1873, in his encyclical Etsi multa on the persecution of the Church in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, the pope wrote of Germany "No wonder, then, that the former religious tranquility has been gravely disturbed in that Empire by this kind of law and other plans and actions of the Prussian government most hostile to the Church. But who would wish to falsely cast the blame of this disturbance on the Catholics of the German Empire!"[76] He claimed that Freemasonry was the motivating force behind the Kulturkampf.[77] The Catholic Encyclopedia also claims that the Kulturkampf was supported by Masonic lodges.[78] As to the Centre Party, these measures did not have the effect that Bismarck had in mind. In the state elections of November 1873, it grew from 50 to 90 seats and in the Reichstag elections from 63 to 91. The number of Catholic periodicals also increased; in 1873 there were about 120.[75]


  • 9 March 1874: Prussian Civil Registry Law (birth, marriage, death). The same law was passed for the whole empire on 6 February 1875.
  • 4 May 1874: Empire, Expatriation Law: meant to curb the exercise of church duties by clerics without the required consent of authorities. The law stipulated, that in such cases, after a final conviction, a cleric would be banned from his parish or sent to another place within the empire and, in case of reoccurrence, that the cleric would be expatriated and expelled.
  • 20 May 1874: Prussian Law on the administration of vacant bishoprics. According to the law of 11 May 1873, administrators were to be elected for vacant bishoprics, authorizing laymen to assume administrative responsibilities at the parish level. This additional law stipulated that, should an administrator not be elected according to the law, the property would be managed by a state superinendent.
  • On July 13, 1874, in the town of Bad Kissingen, Eduard Kullmann attempted to assassinate Bismarck with a pistol, but only hit his hand. Kullmann cited church laws as the reason for his attempt; he was sentenced to 14 years of Zuchthaus (correctional facilities with harsh forced labor). The assassination attempt led to an intensification of the Kulturkampf measures.


  • 5 February 1875, the encyclical, Quod Nunquam declared that the May Laws were invalid, "insofar as they totally oppose the divine order of the Church". The Catholic newspaper Westfälischer Merkur was the first to publish the whole text on the 18th of the same month in Germany. All the following papers publishing the encyclical were confiscated.[76]
  • 22 April 1875, the Prussian Payment Law (Breadbasket Law) stopped government subsidies and payments for the Catholic bishoprics and clerics unless they signed a declaration of adherence to all laws.
  • 31 May 1875, Prussian Congregations Law dissolving all orders within 6 months except those involved in care for the infirm. For teaching orders, the time could be extended.
  • 20 June 1875, Prussian Church Finances Administration Law providing for a representation and a council elected by the parish for the administration of property.
  • 4 July 1875, Prussian Old-Catholic Church Entitlement Law giving Old-Catholic communities of a certain size the right to use Catholic churches and cemeteries.


The last two laws passed in 1876 were of no practical importance.

  • 26 February 1876, the possible punishment for violation of the pulpit law was extended to publications.
  • 7 June 1876, the State Supervision Act provided for government supervision of all church assets in the Catholic dioceces in Prussia.

Nearly all German bishops, clergy and laymen rejected the legality of the new laws, and were defiant facing the increasingly heavy penalties, trials and imprisonments. As of 1878, only three of eight Prussian dioceses still had bishops, some 1,125 of 4,600 parishes were vacant, and nearly 1,800 priests ended up in jail or in exile, nearly half the monks and nuns had left Prussia, a third of the monasteries and convents were closed. Between 1872 and 1878, numerous Catholic newspapers were confiscated, Catholic associations and assemblies were dissolved, and Catholic civil servants were dismissed merely on the pretence of having Ultramontane sympathies. Thousands of laypeople were imprisoned for assisting priests to evade the punative new laws.[79][80]

The general ideological enthusiasm among the liberals for the Kulturkampf[81] was in contrast to Bismarck's pragmatic attitude towards the measures[82] and growing disquiet from the Conservatives.[83]

The prospect of the government warring against a third of the population on the matter of conscience troubled conservative Protestants, who increasingly turned against the Kulturkampf. "Unease concerning the effects of his programme continued to spread among all but the most bigoted priest-haters and the most doctrinaire liberals".[84] 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."[85] and growing disquiet from the Conservatives.[83]

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. After Pius IX's death on February 7, 1878, he reconciled with the new Pope, Leo XIII, and cooperated with the Center Party.

Bismarck's attempts to restrict the power of the Catholic Church, represented in politics by the Center 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.

By retreating, Bismarck won over the Centre party support on most of his conservative policy positions, especially his attacks against Socialism. By 1890, when Bismarck lost power, many of the new laws had been abolished or toned down, yet, the laws at the heart of the kulturkampf concerning education, civil marriage and registration, disassociation, agitation from the pulpit or banning of the Jesuits remained in place.

Contemporary criticism of the Kulturkampf Laws[edit]

Apart from the outspoken criticism of the Kulturkampf Laws by the Catholic Church and the Centre Party, there was also a number of Liberals and Protestants who voiced concern at least at the so-called “Kampfgesetze” (battle laws). Such noted critics outside the Catholic camp were Friedrich Heinrich Geffcken, Emil Albert Friedberg or Julius von Kirchmann. Although they were proponents of state superiority, they regarded some of the laws as either ineffective or as interference in internal church affairs and not consistent with liberal values. Geffcken wrote that “with the intention to emancipate the laity from the hierarchy, the main body of the Catholics was brought in phalanx into the hands of leaders from which it was to be wrested. But the state cannot fight at length against a third of the population, it has no means to break such a passive resistance supported and organized by religious fanaticism. If a statesman desists from the correctness of a measure it only matters that he has the power to enforce it.” The Kulturkampf law considered the harshest and with no equivalent in Europe was the Expatriation Law. Passed by a liberal majority in parliament, it stipulated banishment as a punishment that all civilized peoples considered the harshest beyond the death penalty.[86]

Mitigation and Peace Laws[edit]

  • July 1880, the First Mitigation Law reallowed government payments to Prussian dioceces and freed the bishops from swearing allegiance to the Prussian laws. Hereupon, five bishops were reinstated. Catholic associations involved in the care of the infirm were readmitted.
  • 1882 resumption of diplimatic relations between Prussia and the Vatican, which had been cut in 1872
  • 31 May 1882, the Second Mitigation Law and
  • July 1883, the Third Mitigation Law

allowed the waiver of government exams for clerics in certain cases and the king could pardon deposed bishops. Therefore, while this law was being debated, the Vatican agreed to a compromise on the civic registry of clerics.

After direct negotiations between Prussia and the Vatican the Prussian parliament passed additional laws amending Kulturkampf laws.

  • 21 May1886, the First Peace Law amended some of the regulations in the education standards and civic registry law of 11 Maiy 1873 and in the Second Mitigation Law of 31 May 1882. The state exams for clerics were abolished. Episcopal-theological academies and seminaries as well as theological studies at these institutions were readmitted. Students were allowed to be quartered in Catholic boarding houses (Konvikts). The state acknowledged papal disciplinary poweres and abolished The Royal Court of Justice for Ecclesiastical Affairs
  • 26 April 1887, the Second Peace Law readmitted all orders except the Jesuits to Prussia

Anti-Polish aspect of Kulturkampf[edit]

The Polish minority in Prussia after the Partitions of Poland suffered from discrimination and numerous oppressive measures by the Prussian state aimed at eradication of Polish national identity through Germanization; these measures were increased after the German Empire was formed.[87][88][89] Otto von Bismarck was particularly hostile towards the Poles,[87][88] already in 1861 going as far as calling for the extermination of Poles. Leo Lucassen describes this as illustrative of Bismarck's "depths of hatred" towards Poles.[90][91][92] Edward Crankshaw writes that already at that time Bismarck's hostility to Poles bordered on "insanity" and was firmly entrenched in traditions of Prussian mentality and history. While he did not write or talked about it much, it preoccupied him greatly. There was little need for discussions in Prussian circles, as most of them including the king agreed with his views on Poles.[93]

In another letter from 1861 Bismarck stated: Every success of the Polish national movement is Prussia's failure; we can wage war on this element not based on the rules of civil justice but according to the laws of war. Polishness with all its characteristics should be judged not from the perspective of an objective humanism but as an enemy...There is no possibility of peace between us nor any attempts to resurrect Poland.[94]

After the partition of Poland in the 1790s, Prussian Germanization attempts included a program of removing Poles from all offices, courts and local administration, controlling the clergy and making peasants loyal through enforced military service. Schools were to be Germanized as well.[95] Christopher Clark argues that Prussia ignored Poland since the 1790s and Prussian policy changed radically in the 1870s in the face of highly visible Polish support for France in the Franco-Prussian war.[96] Polish demonstrations made clear the Polish nationalist feeling, and calls were also made for Polish recruits to desert from the Prussian Army — though these went unheeded. Bismarck was outraged, telling the Prussian cabinet in 1871:

From the Russian border to the Adriatic Sea we are confronted with the combined propaganda of Slavs, ultramontanes, and reactionaries, and it is necessary openly to defend our national interests and our language against such hostile actions.[97] Clark calls Bismarck's rhetoric "hyperbolic to the point of paranoia." He reacted with an attack on the Polish clergy, casting aside the traditional Prussian policy of collaboration with the Catholic bishops.[97]

In the Province of Posen the Kulturkampf took on a much more nationalistic character than in other parts of Germany.[98]

Prussian authorities imprisoned 185 priests and forced hundred of 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.[98]

Long-term results[edit]

Because of Germany's importance in Europe and the intensity of the conflict there, its Kulturkampf has received far more coverage in English language sources than others.

The Kulturkampf failed because the Catholics were almost unanimous in their resistance and organized themselves to fight back politically, using their strength in other states besides Prussia. Imprisoning the bishops and priests made Catholics more resolute; they responded not with violence but with votes, and as the newly formed Center Party became a major force in the Imperial Parliament, it gained support from non-Catholic minorities who felt threatened by Bismarck's centralization of power. The Kulturkampf 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.[99]

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 that the entire 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.

To Bismarck's surprise, the Conservative Party especially the Junkers from his own landowning class in East Prussia, sided with the Catholics. They were Protestants and did not like the Pope, but they had much in common with the Center Party. The Conservatives controlled their local schools and did not want bureaucrats from Berlin to take them over. They were hostile to the liberals, being fearful of free trade that would put them in competition with the United States and other grain exporters, and disliking their secular views. In the Prussian legislature they sided with the Center Party on the school issue. Bismarck was livid, and he resigned the premiership of Prussia (while remaining Chancellor of the German Empire), telling an ally, "in domestic affairs I have lost the ground that is for me acceptable through the unpatriotic treason of the Conservative Party in the Catholic question." Indeed, many of Bismarck's conservative friends were in opposition. So too was Kaiser William I, who was King of Prussia; he was strongly opposed to the civil marriage component of the Kulturkampf.[100]

Historian Hajo Holborn examines the contradictions between the Kulturkampf and liberal values:

only those laws that separated state and church could be defended from a liberal point of view. Full state control over schools was a liberal ideal. It was also logical to introduce the obligatory civil marriage law and entrust civil agencies with the keeping of vital statistics....But all the other measures constituted shocking violations of liberal principles. German liberalism showed no loyalty to the ideas of lawful procedure or of political and cultural freedom which had formerly been its lifeblood. With few exceptions the German liberals were hypnotized by the national state, which they wished to imbue with a uniform pattern of culture. They were unable to recognize that the Kulturkampf was bound to undermine the belief in the Rechtsstaat (government by law) and to divide the German people profoundly.[101]

Liberalism was seriously damaged by the contest after Bismarck changed course. David Blackbourn says, "It left a political legacy that was the opposite of what liberals wanted. It made them beholden to [Chancellor] Bismarck; and helped consolidate political Catholicism in Germany."[102]

Pope Leo XIII (ca. 1898)

In the long run, the most significant result was the mobilization of the Catholic voters through the Center Party, and their insistence on protecting their church. Historian Margaret Anderson says:

The effort was perceived, and not only by its opponents, as aiming at nothing less than the forcible assimilation of the Catholic Church and its adherents to the values and norms of the empire's Protestant majority....[it led] Catholics – young and old, male and female, cleric and lay, big men and small – to cleave to their priests and defy the legislation.[103]

After the Center party had doubled its popular vote in the elections of 1874, it 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.[99][104]

From the decades-long experience in battling against the Kulturkampf, the Catholics of Germany, says Professor Margaret Anderson, learned democracy. She states that the clergy:

Acquired a pragmatic, but nonetheless real, commitment to democratic elections, parliamentary procedures, and party politics – commitments in which they schooled their flock, by their practice as much as by their preaching."[105]

According to historian Michael B. Gross, the Kulturkampf was not 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.[79]

Kulturkampf in Italy[edit]

The Kulturkampf in Italy is a very early example of the struggles between states and the Catholic Church; Italian liberals and democrats contributed substantially to the secularist project of modernity and had a strong effect on its own history.

Piedmont had a similar role in the unification of Italy as Prussia in Germany and it had been at the forefront in the struggle against the Catholic Church as far back as the 17th century under Victor Amadeus. The Church rejected an edict of 1694 tolerating the Waldensians. In the ensueing dispute, Amadeus prohibited the publication of the pope’s decree and many dioceses remained vacant. Amadeus demanded secular approval of clerical postings (bishops, priests, monasteries) and for ecclesiastical acts. Repeated negotiations brought no results, all the while the Vatican pronounced excommunications on secular officials and Amadeus countered with severe measures against clerics. The acquisition of Sardinia in 1720 added more issues about Church rights on the island. It was only under the following pope, Benedict XIII that negotiations were taken up again and an agreement was found in 1727 in which the Church relinquished some its previous rights. Under Amadeus’ successor, Charles Emmanuel, the Kingdom of Sardinia continued to press the Church hard for further concessions concerning ecclesiastical jurisdiction and taxation up to 1750.

As a result of the revolutions of 1848, King Charles Albert granted the Kingdom a constitution, summoned a liberal cabinet and assumed the leadership for the unification of Italy. That same year the Jesuits were banned, as in most Italian states, and a liberal school law was enacted. In 1849, the archbishops of Turin and Sassari were imprisoned. In 1850, ecclesiastical immunities were lifted and ecclesiastical jurisdiction further restricted. 1851 saw the introduction of regulated theological instruction, 1852 the introduction of civil marriage. In 1853 the office of the Apostolic royal steward was secularized. Laws of 1854 banned monasteries, of 1855 the Ecclesiastical Academy of Superga and as of 1856, regulations followed concerning priests and parish administration and the confiscation of Church lands. As of 1852, these policies were enacted under liberal prime minister of the kingdom, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour who pursued Italian unification with the aim of Rome as the capital. [106]

In 1860, the Kingdom of Sardinia annexed all the Church territories (Romagna, Marche and Umbria) except the Patrimonium Petri and Rome itself which was protected by French troops, The pope excommunicated the "thieves of Church state" Victor Emmanuel proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy and became its first King. Cavour made an offer to the pope, to guarantee the Church’s sovereignty and far-reaching privileges in turn for the Church to give up the city of Rome. Pius IX declined. In 1861, Cavour submitted another offer, adding a regular payment to the pope and the king giving up his right to appoint bishops. Again, the pope declined.

When the French pulled their troops out of Rome due to the Franco-Prussian war, Italy, encouraged by the German envoy von Arnim, seized the remaining Church territory and the city on 20 September 1870 after which Rome became the Italian capital. The Vatican resisted any recognition of the Italian state until 1929. Through the years, the anti-church laws of Piedmont and Sardinia were extended to every expansion and eventually taken over by the new Italian state. In 1887, under prime minister Crispi, Italy added the abolishment of church tithes; in 1888 it passed a law making access to primary school religious instruction more difficult, in 1889 the pulpit law was added to the criminal code and the law on the "opere pie", putting control of a vast network of endowments and trust funds financing both religious and charitable works into public authority.[107]

Kulturkampf in Switzerland[edit]

Around the same time as in Germany, a Kulturkampf was also raging in Switzerland with roots dating back to the 1830. In fact, it was in this context that the term "Kulturkampf" first appeared.[11] The 1830s were years of liberal regeneration and 12 cantons with liberal majorities enacted new constitutions with radical changes in the relationship between state and churches, especially putting education under government control.

These changes mainly affected the Catholic Church and its clerics resisted the new regulations. On 2 January 1834, at a meeting in Baden, the cantons of Lucerne, Bern, Zug, Solothurn, Basel-Landschaft, St. Gall, Aargau and Thurgau passed the "Resolution of Baden" to assert the demands of the state. A conservative backlash 1839 in Zurich (Züriputsch) and 1841 in Lucerne (in connection with the Aargau monastery dispute), the violent repression of the liberals in Valais by the Ultramontanes and the appointment of Jesuits to secondary schools in Lucerne led to the establishment of Freischar (rebel) forces in various liberal cantons. This in turm prompted the conservative cantons, initially secret, to form the "Sonderbund" (Special Union) in December 1845. In July 1847 the Federal Diet voted to dissolve the Sonderbund, amend the constitution and to expel the Jesuits which led to protests not only by the Vatican but also from the big conservative European powers of France, Russia, pre-revolutionary Prussia and Austria. The liberals had the undisguised support of England. The Sonderbund War broke out on 3. November 1847 and lasted until the surrender of the last conservative conton, Valais, on 29. November. Liberal constitutions were installed in all cantons. With revolutions breaking out in France and Germany threats by these poweres remained empty.

The years from 1830 to the end of the Sonderbundwar are considered the first phase of the Swiss Kulturkampf. A second phase started with various disputes and conflicts in the 1870s.

Walter Munzinger, unhappy with the dogma of papal infallibility, organized the first Swiss convention of Catholics in Solothurn on 18 September 1871 for likeminded Catholics. This convention is considered the beginning of the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, a member church of the Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches.

One of the disputes was about the town priest of Geneva, Gaspar Mermillod, who assumed the powers of the bishop for the local Catholics without approval of the government. Despite the protest of the state council Mermillod continued to execute these powers; as a result he was deposed on 20 September 1872. On 16 January, the Roman Curia appointed Mermillod as vicar apostolic for the Canton of Geneva. In response, the Swiss Federal Council expelled him. After pope Pius IX called these proceedings by the Swiss authorities "disgraceful" in an encyclical of 20 November 1873, the Federal Council broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican on 12 December 1873.

After the Council of 1870, bishop Eugène Lachat of the Diocese of Basel proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility in his diocese even though the respective cantons (Solothurn, Lucerne, Zug, Bern, Aargau, Thurgau and Basel-Landschaft) had expressly forbidden him to do so. Two priests in Lucerne and Starrkirch did not acknowledge the new dogma. Lachat deposed and excommunicated them. Thereupon, the cantons Solothurn, Bern, Aargau, Thurgau and Basel-Landschaft deposed the bishop on 29 January 1873 and when the cathedral chapter refused to appoint an interim bishop, on 21 December 1874 they dissolved the diocese of Basel and liquidated Lachat's assets. Lachat moved his office from Solothurn to Lucerne. 97 clerics in the predominantly Catholic part of the canton Berne (today canton Jura) protested against the deposition of the bishop and the dissolution of the diocese. They proclaimed Lachat to be their rightful bishop at which the Federal Council deposed them. Rioting in several villages of the Jura region was quelled by force and military occupation; the 97 clerics were expelled in January 1874. The federal government rescinded this ordninance in 1875 but supremacy over the church by the canton of Berne was confirmed in a plebiscite.

In 1874, Switzerland enacted the second federal constitution which was accepted in a plebiscite. Except for the following restrictions, for the first time, this constitution allowed complete freedom of religion.

  • Section 50 stipulated that new dioceses require the consent of the government. This regulation remained in place until 2001.
  • Sections 51 and 52 outlawed the Jesuits and the (re-)establishment of monasteries. These regulations remained in place until 1973.
  • Section 75 stipulated that clerics could not be voted into the National Council (federal parliament). This did not apply to the Council of States (upper house). The regulation was quietly dropped in a revision of the constitution in 1999.

In December 1874, the University of Bern established a faculty for Catholic theology with the aim to train liberal-minded Catholic priests for the Jura region.

Kulturkampf in Austria[edit]

The Kulturkampf in Austria has roots dating back to the 18th. century. Emperor Joseph II launched a religious policy later called "Josephinism" advocating the supremacy of the state in religious matters. This resulted in far-reaching state control over the Catholic Church in Austria including e. g. the reorganization of dioceses, regulating the number of masses, the transfer of many schools into government hands, state-controlled seminaries, limiting the number of clerics and dissolving numerous monasteries. Protests of Pope Pius VI and even his visit to Vienna in 1782 were to no avail.

In the concordat of 1855, the culmination of Catholic influence in Austria, many of the Catholic Church’s previous rights taken away under Joseph II were restored (marriage, partial control of censorship, elementary and secondary education, full control of clergy and religious fund.

In 1886 and 1869, after sanctioning the December constitution, the new cabinet appointed by emperor Francis Joseph undid parts of the concordat with several liberal reforms enacted in the so-called May Laws. Against strong protests from the Catholic Church, the laws of 25 May 1868 and 14 May 1869 restored civil marriage, passed primary and secondary education into government hands, installed interconfessional schools and regulated interconfessional relations (e. g. mixed marriages, faith of children including option of free choice).[108][109]

In a secret consistory, Pope Pius IX condemned the constitution of 1867 and the May laws as "leges abominabiles". In a pastoral letter on 7 September 1868, bishop Franz-Josef Rudigier called for resistance to these May laws. The letter was confiscated and he had to appear before court on 5 June 1869 which, for the first time, lead to public demonstrations of the Catholic population. On 12 July 1869, the bishop was sentenced to a jail term of two weeks, but pardoned by the emperor.

The May laws provoked a serious conflict between state and church. Austria abrogated the concordat of 1855 in 1870 after the promulgation of papal infallibility and abolished it in altogether in 1874. In May 1874, the Religious Act was officially recognized.[110]

Kulturkampf in Belgium[edit]

The Kulturkampf in Belgium reached a pivotal point under the liberal government of Frère-Orban-Van Humbeeck (see ne:Regering-Frère-Orban II). From 1879 to 1884 there was a political crisis over religious courses in public schools and state control of private religious schools (see First School War) which broke out as a reaction to the bill on primary education of 1879. This law abolished the education law of 1842 which had been inspired by the Catholics. Major conflict parties were the Catholic Church in alliance with the conservative Catholic Party, and the secular Liberal Party.

The new law imposed recognized diplomas for teachers, stipulated state supervision of all schools and stripped Catholicism of its status as basis of education. Religious instruction in schools was possible outside the curriculum on request of parents. Municipalities were required to supply at least one neutral school and founding or subsidising private schools were banned. A new law on secondary schools was in the same vain. It was to guaranty parents the freedom of choice between religious and neutral schools. To the Catholic Church this was a declaration of all-out war and it managed to mobilise almost the entire Catholic camp. The government cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican and measures against rebellous civil servants and clergy added fire to the heat.

The struggle resulted in the development of two opposing school systems: the so-called religious "free schools" and the government schools. Staff and supporters of public schools and parents who sent their children were denied communion and in effect excommunicated.

In part due to this conflict, the liberals lost the elections of 1884 and the Catholic party won consecutive majorities until 1914. From then on, with changing majorities in parliament, regulations were made either more in favour of the Church or more in favour of the Liberals, each time to the dissatisfaction of the opposition. Therefore, the dispute remained unsolved and broke out again in the 1950s (Second School War).[111][112]

United States[edit]

In the late 19th century, cultural wars arose over issues of prohibition and education in the United States.[113] The Bennett Law was a highly controversial state law passed in Wisconsin in 1889 that required the use of English to teach major subjects in all public and private elementary and high schools. Because Wisconsin German Catholics and Lutherans each operated large numbers of parochial schools where German was used in the classroom, it was bitterly resented by German-American (and some Norwegian) communities. Although the law was ultimately repealed, there were significant political repercussions, with the Republicans losing the governorship and the legislature, and the election of Democrats to the Senate and House of Representatives.[114][115]

In the United States, the term "culture war" refers to a conflict in the late 20th century between religious social conservatives and secular social liberals.[116] This theme of "culture war" was the basis of Patrick Buchanan's keynote speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention.[117] The term "culture war" by 2004 was in common use in the United States by both liberals and conservatives.

Throughout the 1980s, there were battles in Congress and the media regarding federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities that amounted to a war over high culture launched by social conservatives.[118] 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.[119]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grew, Raymond in: "Liberty and the Catholic Church in 19th. century Europe", Freedom and Religion in the 19th. Century, edited by Richard Helmstadter, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 9780804730877, p. 201
  2. ^ Olsen, Glenn in: The Turn to Transcendence. The Role of Religion in the 21st. Century, The Catholic University of America Press, 2010, ISBN 9780813217406, p. 81
  3. ^ Berend, Ivan in: An Economic History of 19th-century Europe, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-03070-1, p. 93-94
  4. ^ Josef L. Altholz, "The Vatican Decrees Controversy, 1874-1875." Catholic Historical Review (1972): 593-605. in JSTOR
  5. ^ Enrique Sanabria (2009). Republicanism and Anticlerical Nationalism in Spain. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 1. 
  6. ^ Ramet, Sabrina in: Obstat, Nihil. Religion, Politics, and Social Change in East-Central Europe and Russia, Duke University Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-8223-2070-8, p 107
  7. ^ Borst, William in: "The Mexican Kulturkampf. The Christeros and the Crusade for the greater Glory of God", Mindszenty Report 54#8 August 2012:
  8. ^ Morton, Adam in: Revolution and State in Modern Mexico (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), p. 50, ISBN 9780742554900
  9. ^ Dittrich, Lisa in: Antiklerikalismuns in Europa: Öffentlichkeit und Säkularisierung in Frankreich, Spanien und Deutschland (1848-1914), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1914, ISBN 9783525310236
  10. ^ Ruppert, Stefan in: Kirchenkampf und Kulturkampf: Historische Legitimation, politische Mitwirkung und wissenschaftliche Begleitung durch die Schule Emil Ludwig Richter, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2002, ISBN 978-3-16-147868-0, p. 1-2
  11. ^ a b Borutta, Manuel in: Antikatholizismus. Deutschland und Italien im Zeitalter der europäischen Kulturkämpfe, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2011, p. 11, ISBN 978-3-525-36849-7
  12. ^ http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/american/kulturkampf
  13. ^ Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom (2006) pp 412-19
  14. ^ Róisín Healy (2003). The Jesuit Specter in Imperial Germany. BRILL. p. 57. 
  15. ^ http://Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (German Federal Agency for Civic Education) in: www.bpb.de/nachschlagen/lexika/das-junge-politik-lexikon/161673/saekularisierung
  16. ^ Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett, Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism since 1750 (Oxford UP, 2003) pp 128, 193
  17. ^ Franz, Georg in: Kulturkampf. Staat und katholische Kirche in Mitteleuropa von der Säkularisation bis zum Abschluss des preußischen Kulturkampfes, Munich 1954, ASIN: B0027NO7I4 , p. 16
  18. ^ Robbins, Keith in: The Dynamics of Political Reform in Northern Europe 1780-1920, Political and Legal Perspectives, Leuven University Press, ISBN 9789058678256, p.154
  19. ^ Roland Sarti (2009). Italy: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing. p. 462. 
  20. ^ Knight, Frances in : History of the Christian Church, Vol. 6: The Church in the 19th. Century, I.B.Tauris, London, 2008, ISBN 9781850438991
  21. ^ Dittrich, Lisa in: Antiklerikalismuns in Europa: Öffentlichkeit und Säkularisierung in Frankreich, Spanien und Deutschland (1848-1914), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1914, ISBN 9783525310236, p. 58
  22. ^ Dittrich, Lisa in: Antiklerikalismuns in Europa: Öffentlichkeit und Säkularisierung in Frankreich, Spanien und Deutschland (1848-1914), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1914, ISBN 9783525310236, p. 55
  23. ^ Ruppert, Stefan in: Kirchenkampf und Kulturkampf: Historische Legitimation, politische Mitwirkung und wissenschaftliche Begleitung durch die Schule Emil Ludwig Richter, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2002, ISBN 978-3-16-147868-0, p.6-8
  24. ^ Nicholas Atkin, and Frank Tallett. Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism, 1750 to the Present (2003). pp 104-6
  25. ^ Healy, Roisin in: The Jesuit Spectre in Imperial Germany, Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, 2003, ISBN 0391041940, p. 42
  26. ^ Grew, Raymond in: "Liberty and the Catholic Church in 19th. century Europe", Freedom and Religion in the 19th. Century, edited by Richard Helmstadter, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 9780804730877, p. 198-200
  27. ^ a b c Robbins, Keith in: The Dynamics of Political Reform in Northern Europe 1780-1920, Political and Legal Perspectives, Leuven University Press, ISBN 9789058678256, p. 178
  28. ^ Dittrich, Lisa in: Antiklerikalismuns in Europa: Öffentlichkeit und Säkularisierung in Frankreich, Spanien und Deutschland (1848-1914), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1914, ISBN 9783525310236, p. 182
  29. ^ Bucheim, Karl in: Geschichte der christlichen Parteien in Deutschland. Kösel, Munich, 1953, ASIN B0000BGX87, p. 197
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  31. ^ Healy, Roisin in: The Jesuit Spectre in Imperial Germany, Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, 2003, ISBN 0391041940, p. 55
  32. ^ Dittrich, Lisa in: Antiklerikalismuns in Europa: Öffentlichkeit und Säkularisierung in Frankreich, Spanien und Deutschland (1848-1914), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1914, ISBN 9783525310236, p. 95
  33. ^ Pflanze, Otto, in: Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-05587-4, p 199-200
  34. ^ Berend, Ivan in: An Economic History of 19th-century Europe, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-03070-1, p 93
  35. ^ Michael B. Gross, The War Against Catholicism, (Univ. of Michigan Press 2004) p. 11,
  36. ^ Gross, The War Against Catholicism, pp. 128-131, Univ. of Michigan Press 2004
  37. ^ The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History Helmut Walser Smith, p. 360, OUP Oxford, 29.09.2011
  38. ^ Healy, Roisin in: The Jesuit Spectre in Imperial Germany, Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, 2003, ISBN 0391041940, p. 57
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  43. ^ Healy, Roisin in: The Jesuit Spectre in Imperial Germany, Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, 2003, ISBN 0391041940, p. 52
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  45. ^ Robbins, Keith in: The Dynamics of Political Reform in Northern Europe 1780-1920, Political and Legal Perspectives, Leuven University Press, ISBN 9789058678256, p.158-161
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  48. ^ Otto Pflanze (1990). Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II: The Period of Consolidation, 1871-1880. Princeton UP. p. 189. 
  49. ^ Hollyday 1970, p. 6.
  50. ^ Lothat Gall, Bismarck, the White Revolutionary: 1871-1898 (1986) p 17
  51. ^ Pflanze, Otto, in: Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-05587-4, p 199
  52. ^ Arlinghouse, Francis in: The Kulturkampf and European Diplomacy 1871-1875 in The Catholic Historical Review 28/3, 1942, p. 342
  53. ^ Ross, Ronald in: "Kulturkampf. Restrictions and Controls on the Practice of Religion in Bismarck’s Germany", Freedom and Religion in the 19th. Century, edited by Richard Helmstadter, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 9780804730877, p. 173
  54. ^ The War between Prussia and Rome in: Quarterly Review, John Murray, London, 1874, Vol. 136, p. 314
  55. ^ Lamberti, (2001)
  56. ^ a b Gross, Michael B., The war against Catholicism: liberalism and the anti-Catholic imagination in nineteenth-century Germany, p. 75, University of Michigan Press, 2004
  57. ^ Anthony J. Steinhoff, "Christianity and the creation of Germany," in Sheridan Gilley and Brian Stanley, eds. Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 8: 1814-1914 (2008) p 294
  58. ^ Rumschöttel, Prof. Dr. Hermann in: Bismarcks Kulturkampf. Motive und Gegner, Presentation at Sommerakademie St. Bonifaz 2013 –Kulturkampf in Bayern- http://sankt-bonifaz.de/fileadmin/images-bonifaz/redakteur/colloquium/docs/neu-Rumsch%C3%B6ttel_Bismarck-2013.pdf
  59. ^ Pflanze, Otto, in: Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-05587-4, p 201
  60. ^ Pflanze, Otto, in: Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-05587-4, p 202
  61. ^ a b http://www.kath.de/kurs/kg/18.htm
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  63. ^ Pflanze, Otto, in: Bismarck and the Development of Germany, Volume II, Princeton University Press, 1971, ISBN 0-691-05587-4, p 200
  64. ^ The War between Prussia and Rome in: Quarterly Review, John Murray, London, 1874, Vol. 136, p. 311
  65. ^ Geschichte der CDU (History of t he Christian Democratic Party of Germany) in: http://www.kas.de/wf/de/71.8617/
  66. ^ Lougee, Robert W., The Kulturkampf and Historical Positivism, pp. 219–220, Church History, Vol. 23, No. 3, Sep., 1954, Cambridge Univ.
  67. ^ see text
  68. ^ Thomas Vormbaum; Michael Bohlander (2013). A Modern History of German Criminal Law. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 133. 
  69. ^ Lamberti, (2001) p 177
  70. ^ Quoted in Edward Crankshaw, Bismarck (1981) pp 308-9
  71. ^ (English) "Kulturkampf". New Catholic Dictionary. 1910. It was the distinguished liberal politician and scientist, Professor Rudolph Virchow, who first called it the Kulturkampf, or struggle for civilization. 
  72. ^ Winkler, Heinrich August in: Der lange Weg nach Westen. Deutsche Geschichte 1806–1933, Munich 2000, p. 222.
  73. ^ Bachem, Karl in: 'Vorgeschichte, Geschichte und Politik der Deutschen Zentrumspartei, Vol. III, 1927, p. 268–269
  74. ^ Geschichte der CDU in: http://www.kas.de/wf/de/71.8617/
  75. ^ a b http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08703b.htm
  76. ^ a b Robbins, Keith in: The Dynamics of Political Reform in Northern Europe 1780-1920, Political and Legal Perspectives, Leuven University Press, ISBN 9789058678256, p. 180
  77. ^ "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
  78. ^ Masonry (Freemasonry) in the Catholic Encyclopedia: "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.
  79. ^ a b Helmstadter, Richard J., Freedom and religion in the nineteenth century, p. 19, Stanford Univ. Press 1997
  80. ^ Steinhoff, "Christianity and the creation of Germany," (2008) p 295
  81. ^ "Liberals were the most enthusiastic champions of the general policy, because it satisfied a tradition of passionate anti-clericalism. Virchow meant Kulturkampf 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
  82. ^ "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
  83. ^ a b "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
  84. ^ Gordon A. Craig (1978). Germany, 1866-1945. Oxford UP. pp. 75–76. 
  85. ^ A Supreme Court in the culture wars by Jeremy Rabkin in the Fall edition of the Public Interest
  86. ^ Ruppert, Stefan in: Kirchenkampf und Kulturkampf: Historische Legitimation, politische Mitwirkung und wissenschaftliche Begleitung durch die Schule Emil Ludwig Richter, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2002, ISBN 978-3-16-147868-0, p.257 - 263
  87. ^ a b Jerzy Zdrada - Historia Polski 1795-1918 Warsaw Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN 2007; pages 268, 273-291, 359-370
  88. ^ a b Andrzej Chwalba - Historia Polski 1795-1918 Wydawnictwo Literackie 2000 Kraków pages 175-184, 307-312
  89. ^ History 1871-1939 Warszawa 2000 dr.Anna Radziwił prof.dr.hab Wojciech Roszkowski page 80
  90. ^ Bismarck Katharine Anne Lerman Bismarck's hostility to the Poles was unequivocal(...)Malwine, that for all his sympathy with the situation of the Poles, 'we can do nothing other than exterminate them
  91. ^ National Identity and Foreign Policy: Nationalism and Leadership in Poland, Russia and Ukraine Ilya Prizel Cambridge University Press Bismarck's statement that the only solution to the Polish question was the extermination of the Poles
  92. ^ The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe Since 1850, Leo Lucassen, University of Illinois Press, 2005 The depth of his hatred for the Poles is illustrated by a letter Bismarck wrote in 1861 to his sister: "Hit the Poles, so that they break down. If we want to exist, we have to exterminate them page 60
  93. ^ Bismarck Edward Crankshaw pages 1685-1686 Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011
  94. ^ Literary and Cultural Images of a Nation Without a State: The Case of Nineteenth-century Poland Agnieszka Barbara Nance Peter Lang, 2008, page 32"
  95. ^ Jerzy Zdrada - Historia Polski 1795-1918 Warsaw Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN 2007; pages 268, 273-291, 359-370
  96. ^ Christopher Clark (2007). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. Penguin. pp. 579–81. 
  97. ^ a b Clark 2006 p 579
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  99. ^ a b Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006) pp. 568–576
  100. ^ Edgar Feuchtwangler, Bismarck (2000) pp 186-87
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  102. ^ David Blackbourn (2014). Populists and Patricians (Routledge Revivals): Essays in Modern German History. Routledge. p. 160. 
  103. ^ Margaret Lavinia Anderson, Practicing democracy: Elections and political culture in Imperial Germany (Princeton University Press, 2000) p 107.
  104. ^ Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany: 1840–1945 (1969), 258–260
  105. ^ Anderson, Practicing Democracy (2000) p 150
  106. ^ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12076b.htm
  107. ^ Pollard, John (2008). Catholicism in Modern Italy: Religion, Society and Politics Since 1861, Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 9780203893197. 
  108. ^ http://www.britannica.com/topic/concordat-of-1855
  109. ^ http://www.aeiou.at/aeiou.encyclop.k/k629588.htm;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en
  110. ^ http://www.kath.net/news/22570
  111. ^ Pierce, Julian in: "The School Question in Belgium," Elementary School Journal (1921) 22#4 pp. 290-297 in JSTOR
  112. ^ Witte, Els, Craeybeckx, Jan, Meynen, Alain in: Political History of Belgium: From 1830 Onwards, ASP Brussels, 2009, ISBN 9789054875178, p. 89-92
  113. ^ Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political conflict, 1888-1896 (1971) online ch 3-5
  114. ^ William Foote Whyte, "The Bennett Law Campaign in Wisconsin," Wisconsin Magazine of History, 10: 4 (1926–1927).
  115. ^ Roger E. Wyman, "Wisconsin ethnic groups and the election of 1890." The Wisconsin Magazine of History (1968): 269-293. in JSTOR
  116. ^ Morris P. Fiorina, Samuel J. Abrams, and Jeremy C. Pope, Culture war? (2005)
  117. ^ see August 17, 1992 Buchanan Speech
  118. ^ Richard Jensen, "The Culture Wars, 1965-1995: A Historian`s Map." Journal of Social History (Oct 1995), 17-36. in JSTOR
  119. ^ "Secular and Ultra Orthodox Knesset Members threaten 'Culture War'", Israeli National News, May 11, 2013 [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Margaret Lavinia. Windthorst: A Political Biography (1981), the leader of the Catholic Center Party
  • Anderson, Margaret Lavinia. Practicing democracy: Elections and political culture in Imperial Germany (Princeton University Press, 2000)
  • Atkin, Nicholas, and Frank Tallett. Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism since 1750 (Oxford UP, 2003).
  • 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)
  • Clark, Christopher and Wolfram Kaiser, eds. Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth Century Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2003); Covers 10 countries; online review
  • 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
  • Ross, Ronald J. The failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and state power in imperial Germany, 1871–1887, (Washington, D.C., 1998)
  • Ross, Ronald J. "Enforcing the Kulturkampf in the Bismarckian state and the limits of coercion in imperial Germany." Journal of Modern History (1984): 456-482. in JSTOR
  • Ross, Ronald J. "The Kulturkampf: Restrictions and Controls on the Practice of Religion in Bismarck’s Germany." in Richard Helmstadter, ed. Freedom and Religion in the Nineteenth Century (1997) pp: 172-195.
  • Trzeciakowski, Lech. The Kulturkampf in Prussian Poland (East European Monographs, 1990) 223 pp
  • Zeender, John. "Ludwig Windthorst, 1812-1891" History (1992) 77#250 pp 237–54, the leader of the Catholic Center Party


  • Anderson, Margaret Lavinia. "Confessions of a Fellow Traveler," Catholic Historical Review (2013) 99#4 pp 623–648.
  • Heilbronner, Oded. "From Ghetto to Ghetto: The Place of German Catholic Society in Recent Historiography" Journal of Modern History (2000) 72#2 pp. 453–495. in JSTOR

External links[edit]