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The German term (literally, "culture struggle") refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Chancellor of the German Empiremarker, Otto von Bismarck.

Until the mid-19th century, the Catholic Church was still a political power. The Pope's Papal Statesmarker were supported by Francemarker but ceased to exist as an indirect result of the Franco-Prussian War. The Catholic Church still had a strong influence on many parts of life, though, even in Bismarck's Protestant Prussia. In the newly founded German Empire, Bismarck sought to bolster the power of the secular state and reduce the political and social influence of the Roman Catholic Church by instituting political control over Church activities.

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.

It is generally accepted amongst historians that the Kulturkampf measures targeted the Catholic Church under Pope Pius IX with discriminatory sanctions. Many historians also point out anti-Polish elements in the policies in other contexts. In the USAmarker since early in the 1990s, the term Kulturkampf and its calque culture war have been used used to describe the ongoing conflicts between Conservatives and Liberals generally thought to originate in the 1960s.

Restrictions on Catholics

The 1871 Kanzelparagraph introduced a series of sanctions against Catholicism imposed by Bismarck throughout 1875. To characterize Bismarck's politics toward the Catholic church, the pathologist and member of the parliament of the Deutsche Fortschrittspartei (Progressive Liberals) Rudolf Virchow used the term Kulturkampf the first time on January 17, 1873 in the Prussian house of representatives. As this conflict brought him 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.

Since the Protestant reformation, the German states were divided into Protestant states in the North and Roman Catholic states in the South. When the German Empiremarker was founded in 1871, the bulk of the empire was constituted from the Prussian-led Protestant states of the former North German Confederationmarker. Catholic South German states also joined the empire, but the odds were for the Protestants as Austriamarker, the largest Catholic South German state, was excluded from the empire. Bismarck saw the addition of the southern states (especially Catholic Bavariamarker) as a possible threat to the Empire's stability. Tensions were also increased by the 1870 Vatican Council proclamation on papal infallibility. There were also significant Catholic populations in eastern parts of Germany (mainly Poles), the Rhineland and in Alsace-Lorrainemarker. Moreover, Bismarck had deliberately formed the German Empire against interference from Austriamarker, a more powerful Catholic country than those previously mentioned.

Among the measures taken to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church was the addition in 1871 of § 130a to the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), which threatened 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.

On July 13, 1874 in the town of Bad Kissingenmarker Eduard Kullmann attempted to assassinate Bismarck with a pistol, but only hit his hand. Kullmann cited church laws as the reason why he had to shoot Bismarck.

May Laws

The “May Laws” 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.

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.

Germanisation of Poznan region

The Kulturkampf had a major impact on the regions of Prussia with a Polish population by instituting a policy of Germanisation of Poznan.

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 term Kulturkampf or Culture War in the USA

The word Kulturkampf has also been used to refer to similar cultural conflicts in other times and places. In the United Statesmarker, the term culture war has been used by Patrick Buchanan, among others, to describe an analogous conflict starting in the 1960s and continuing to the present between religious social conservatives and secular social liberal (Buchanan used the English "culture war," though in the context Buchanan used it, as a war between traditional morality and avant-garde liberalism, it clearly evoked memories 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.[35167] 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 Coloradomarker 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.

See also

With respect to the German Empire



With respect to Catholicism



With respect to Poland



With respect to the USA



Notes and references

:In-line:
  1. Hahn, Geschichte des Kulturkampfs in Preussen, (Berlin, 1881)
  2. Wiesmann, Geschichte des Kulturkampfs, (Leipzig, 1886)
  3. Robinson and Beard, Development of Modern Europe, volume ii, (Boston, 1908)
  4. C. D, Hazen, Europe since 1815, (New York, 1910)
  5. David Blackbourn, Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford, 1993)
  6. Ronald J. Ross, The failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and state power in imperial Germany, 1871-1887, (Washington, D.C., 1998)


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