When did Catholicism begin?

About 45 historians, theologians, political scientists and ethnologists from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands gathered for the 23rd annual meeting of the Schwerter Arbeitskreis Katholizismusforschung (SAK) from November 13th to 15th. The conference was chaired by NICOLE PRIESCHING (Münster) and ANDREAS HENKELMANN (Bochum) in cooperation with the Catholic Academy Schwerte of the Archdiocese of Paderborn. The general debate this year dealt with the subject of "Catholicism and resistance under National Socialism".

The kick-off on Friday was ARNE THOMSEN (Bochum), who presented his dissertation topic “Catholic hospitals in the Ruhr area from 1840 to the First World War”. Thomsen emphasized the motivation of the pastors in the local parishes, who were responsible for most of the hospitals, and those of the Catholic women's congregations, whose sisters took care of the sick in the houses. They were of crucial importance for the development and economic survival of the hospitals. The hospitals were financed through loans, cross-denominational donations, inheritances and the sale of subscriptions in case of illness, as little support was expected from the community. Protestant hospitals that were built at the same time improved the medical care of the cities, which had grown explosively through industrialization, and alleviated the enormously increased need for care.

Saturday began with a contribution by THOMAS GERDES (Erfurt) on "Catholic social teaching and modernization processes: Catholicism, the Catholic Church and the social question in Argentina of the orden conservador, 1880-1916". Based on the reception of the social encyclical "Rerum novarum" (1891) in the Catholic press of the Argentine periphery, it was exemplarily demonstrated that the social-Catholic discursive field there was spanned by the two pairs of opposites 'global-local' and 'material-spiritual' Axes unfolded. For local social Catholicism, it was less the contemporary 'material' modernization processes that constituted the actual cause of the social question. Rather, this was interpreted as a consequence of secularization processes in the 1880s. Accordingly, the Argentine Social Catholicism propagated an integralist approach, which aimed at the rechristianization of the entire society. The local Catholic answer to the social question in Argentina of the orden conservador was less an expression of an anti-modern attitude than the search for an alternative Catholic modernization.

Afterwards, MARCO PAOLINO (Viterbo) dealt with the Vatican's Eastern policy. Paolino emphasized that with the opening of the Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council, a new era in Eastern politics with the pontificate of John XXIII. and Paul VI. started. The GDR began informal contacts with the Holy See in 1972. The dialogue arose in Geneva during the preparation of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Helsinki. At the same time, there was a rapprochement via the GDR embassy in Italy. The first ambassador of the GDR in Rome was Klaus Gysi.

The next presentation presented a dissertation project on the "Sunday Messenger", the church gazette of the German Catholics in the Polish diocese of Katowice from 1925 to 1939 by MAIK SCHMERBAUCH (Frankfurt am Main). Since the 1930s, the influence of the National Socialists increased among the German minority in the Katowice diocese, so that they were forced to grapple with the phenomenon, which began slowly, even among the believers after 1933, due to the large supporters of National Socialism. Terms such as “neo-paganism” and “heresy” did not find their way into the “Sunday messengers” until 1934/1935. In the mid-1930s, ideological disputes intensified in the wake of the escalating church persecution in the Third Reich. The aim of the paper was to remove the faithful from the grip of the National Socialist ideology, to show its devastating consequences as a serious threat to Catholicism and thereby to bind the German believers firmly to the church.

EVELYNE A. ADENAUER (Cologne) then spoke about the Catholic communities in Silesia in 1945/46. The lecture offered a small excerpt from her dissertation on the transition from the German Catholic and Protestant Church to the one Polish Catholic Church. He dealt with the difficult relationship between German and Polish clergy and pointed out that it was not the common Catholic faith that counted, but national affiliation. Nationalism determined coexistence and pastoral care. The lecture also showed that there was definitely human and Christian behavior - the transition period was often a juxtaposition of Polish and German Catholics in one church. Therefore, the end of the German church life did not take place abruptly, but took place in a process.

CLAUDIO KULLMANN (Jena) then presented his political science dissertation project “Religion in the Democratic Public. The German Catholic Days since 1978 ”. Using the example of the Katholikentage, he explores the capacity of lay Catholicism, organized in the Central Committee of German Catholics, to mediate political interests. In terms of the sociology of religion, he assumes that the religious communities are located in civil society. On the basis of the preparation, implementation and impact of the Catholic Days, he examines the ability of organized lay Catholicism to aggregate political concepts into decidable demands, to articulate them publicly and effectively and finally to introduce them into the political decision-making process. In terms of method, he is based, among other things, on the network-analytical evaluation of a database he has collected on all events and participants in the Catholic Days examined.

This was followed by two lectures anticipating the general debate. In his lecture "Persecution and Resistance of Clerics During National Socialism Using the Example of the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising", THOMAS FORSTNER (Munich) dealt with three problem areas: 1. Pastoral activity by clerics, which certainly resulted in sanctions during the Third Reich could not, as is often the case, be assessed as an act of resistance, as it usually involved the fulfillment of official and professional duties and thus the freedom of conscience required for an act of resistance was not given. 2. For the rough classification of the distance situation between clerics and National Socialism, Forstner basically resorted to three terms already introduced in resistance research, but commented on them critically: distance, self-assertion and political resistance. 3. Instead of looking at the scope, the quality of the anti-church measures taken by the National Socialists should be looked at more in future in order to arrive at a realistic assessment of the situation of priests during the “Third Reich”. In the case of the clergy in the German Reich, persecution was predominantly of an individual nature, so it would not be possible to speak of a systematic "persecution of priests".

Subsequently, from the point of view of European ethnology / folklore, EIKE LOSSIN (Würzburg) undertook an analysis of the prison conditions of Catholic clergy in the Dachau concentration camp from 1940 to 1945. The monstrances made by the priests and other prisoners and used for mass services in the chapel of the priests' block No. 26 were used. This allowed a factual and cultural view of the structure and development of organizational structures within this prisoner solidarity community. While the first of the five examples presented was made from “camp waste” from the concentration camp, the changed camp structures and the improving and almost privileged position of the prisoners even allowed the production of a gold-plated and silver-plated monstrance until 1945. The objects shown provided the basis for discussing the applicability of terms such as self-assertion motivated by religiosity and the resistive behavior of the (spiritual) prisoners involved.

The general debate followed on Sunday. It was opened by ANTONIA LEUGERS (Munich). She selected three research perspectives and research desiderata on the relationship between the Catholic Church and National Socialism. First of all, it is urgent to address Catholic research and debating as such after 1945. Following Olaf Blaschke's network analysis by the Commission for Contemporary History, the focus is now on researching schools, student groups, institutions and their strategies. Leugers indicated with the "source access management" and the "fight for public opinion" their results of the evaluation of a legacy of a Catholic historian. Second, in order to find out from the interest-driven positions of the last decades on the subject of guilt and silence of the Pope and the bishops regarding the Holocaust, Leugers secondly called for the systematic edition of the numerous sources from the time before 1945, which explicitly contain silence, guilt, failure, violation contain official duties and criticism of the church. The standard of the respective time required by the “apologists' camp” is strictly taken into account and this guilt investigation is separated from the guilt debate of the feuding “camps” after 1945. Thirdly, Leugers pleaded for a long-term perspective from 1914 to 1945 with regard to the so-called "war peace discourses" of the interwar period in their potential for meaning and legitimation for a Second World War, which was also perceived by Catholics as a hoped-for path to "real peace".

Afterwards JOACHIM KUROPKA (Vechta) presented his theses on forms of resistance in Catholicism. Joachim Kuropka did not consider the usual distinction between political resistance and resistance to be of any further use, since all active resistance acts had remained unsuccessful. He pointed out that the regime’s assessment of the religious-ecclesiastical opposition corresponded on the one hand with its persecution measures, and on the other it also corresponded with the views and assessments of opponents of the regime. While this conflict on the part of the regime was mostly diverted to Rosenberg's alleged 'private work', sources on the content of the training work in thousands of training camps, which have so far hardly been consulted, showed that intensive indoctrination was carried out there, which the churches as political and thus subversive institutions featured. The church publicly contradicted the "revaluation" of values, through which the National Socialists should be consulted without inhibitions and reservations. Kuropka argued that the church's “hold fast to faith!” Had not only a transcendental but also a politically current objective, which was successful in so far as the regime did not succeed in implementing the desired spiritual revolution among the Catholics close to the church. This conflict of values ​​also meant a permanent questioning of the legitimacy of the regime.

The last contribution to the general debate came from FRANZISKA METZGER (Friborg / Nijmwegen). She gave a lecture on "Swiss Catholicism at the time of National Socialism: Nationalism - Anti-Semitism - End times mood: Research perspectives and theses". The contribution was understood as a plea for an increase in the complexity of methodological and theoretical approaches in future research on Swiss Catholicism at the time of National Socialism. The speaker pleaded for an entangled historical access to discourses and semantics, which in the sense of a entangled history examines the relationship to National Socialism from the self-descriptions of the time with a view to discourses and their entanglements, semantics and mechanisms, transfers and reinterpretations. Based on the interdependence of the discourse fields of religion and nation and a view of the history of religion based on this, the speaker particularly focused on the discourse complex of "spiritual national defense", foreign infiltration discourses entangled with anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism as well as crisis semantics and end-time discourses in the Catholic nationalistic-war history.

In the controversial discussion that followed, differences in the assessment of various relationships emerged. Depending on the perspective, the situation of persecution of Catholics was highlighted and attention was drawn to the anti-church suppression measures of the Nazi authorities, or the behavior of Catholics that conformed to the system in everyday life was emphasized. With a view to further research into the topic, it appears important not to discuss the topic, but rather to discuss it with one another. For this reason, too, there are plans to document the general debate in a conference proceedings.
The next annual conference will take place from November 12 to 14, 2010 in Schwerte.

Conference overview:

Arne Thomsen (Bochum), Catholic hospital system in the Ruhr area 1880-1914

Thomas Gerdes (Erfurt), Catholic social teaching and modernization: Catholicism, the Catholic Church and the social question in Argentina of the “orden conservador”, 1880-1916

Marco Paolino (Viterbo), The Vatican East Policy: Relations between the Holy See and the GDR

Maik Schmerbauch (Frankfurt am Main), Der “Sonntagsbote” - the church journal of the German Catholics in the Polish diocese of Kattowitz 1925-1939 in the face of the challenge of National Socialism: Problems and structures

Evelyne Adenauer (Cologne), Una sancta catholica et apostolica ecclesia? - The Catholic parishes of Silesia 1945/46

Claudio Kullmann (Cologne), Religion in the Democratic Public: The German Catholic Days since 1978

Thomas Forstner (Munich): Forms of persecution and resistance during National Socialism using the example of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising

Eike Lossin (Würzburg), Celebrating God in the KZ "- Organization and production of monstrances in the Dachau concentration camp

General debate: Catholicism and resistance under National Socialism

Antonia Leugers (Munich), New Perspectives and Research Desiderata on the Relationship between the Catholic Church and the Third Reich

Joachim Kuropka (Vechta), Forms of Resistance in Catholicism

Franziska Metzger (Friborg / Nimwegen): Swiss Catholicism at the time of National Socialism: Nationalism - Anti-Semitism - End times mood