The New International Encyclopædia/Kulturkampf

Edition of 1905. See also Kulturkampf on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

KULTURKAMPF, kụl-tōōr'kämpf (Ger., culture-war). The name given in Germany to the conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and the Prussian and the German Imperial governments, initiated by Bismarck in 1872, and having for its chief issue the control by the State of educational and ecclesiastical appointments. The term was first used by Virchow in a political manifesto. Conceiving that the Church stood in the way of his policy, the Iron Chancellor determined to put an end to even what shadow of independence the Church possessed. In pursuance of his policy of centralization, Bismarck attempted to vindicate the authority of the State while aiming at the same time at the overthrow of the party of the Centre in the Imperial Reichstag, whose influence had come to be exerted in opposition to his political programme. Bismarck urged that the declaration of Papal infallibility by the Vatican Council in 1870 was an arrogation of rights “dangerous to the State,” and that the Church had assumed “an attitude of aggression dangerous to the laws of the State.” The Roman Curia was irritated at the support given by the Government to those members of the Church who refused to accept the Vatican decrees as binding (see Old Catholics), as well as by its denial of the right of the Church to excommunicate any of its members without leave from the State. Another cause of dispute was the refusal of Pope Pius IX. to receive Cardinal Hohenlohe as German Ambassador, on the ground that a cardinal, as a member of the Pope's own council, cannot represent a foreign government. The ill feeling caused by these conflicting claims led the Reichstag to pass a law (1872) expelling the Jesuits from the Empire. The outbreak of the Kulturkampf, however, is dated from the enactment by the Prussian Diet (May 11-14, 1873) of a series of four laws aiming at the regulation of the Catholic and Evangelical clergy. These were introduced by Falk, Bismarck's Minister of Public Worship, and, together with certain supplementary legislation, were known as the Falk or May Laws. The first of these laws provided that all candidates for ecclesiastical office should have received a three years' university training in the liberal arts, and required them to pass a State examination; it also placed all theological seminaries under State control, and gave the provincial authorities the right to confirm or annul all ecclesiastical appointments. The second law subjected the discipline of the churches to the supreme authority of a specially created ecclesiastical court. The third law further limited the exercise of disciplinary authority by the clergy. The fourth law made it obligatory on converts to obtain the consent of a magistrate before changing their confession. The May Laws were received with a storm of protest, and the Catholic bishops as a body refused to recognize their validity. The opposition of the Catholic clergy was met with more drastic measures by the Government. In April, 1875, all recusant priests were deprived of their stipends, and in May all religious orders and congregations were abolished, with the exception of those devoted to the care of the sick. The Reichstag in the same year passed a law making marriage a civil contract. The Pope's encyclical of 1875 declaring all the anti-clerical legislation void was answered by the Prussian Government with the use of force. Many of the bishops and the lower clergy were fined, exiled, or imprisoned, and the Church organization in Prussia was practically destroyed. In 1877, 8 out of 15 bishoprics, and more than 1400 out of some 4000 parishes, were vacant. By this time, however, Bismarck had discovered that he had gone too far. The people were aroused by what had ceased to be a State policy and had become persecution, and in 1877 sent an increased delegation of Clericals to the Reichstag. New questions, besides the rise of the Socialist Party and the need of economic legislation, drew the Chancellor's attention, and in joining conflict with the Socialists he found that he had need of the support of the Clerical Centre. The accession of Leo XIII. prepared the way for the resumption of friendly relations. Negotiations were opened in 1878, and were continued in the following year. Falk was displaced in the Ministry of Public Worship, and in a series of five laws, enacted between 1880 and 1887, the May Laws were practically nullified. Consult: Hahn, Geschichte des Kulturkampfs in Preussen (Berlin, 1881); Wiermann, Geschichte des Kulturkampfs (2d ed. Leipzig, 1886). See Bismarck-Schönhausen; Germany; Political Parties, section on Germany.