The German Center Party, 1870-1933: A Study in Political Catholicism

Synopsis

This is the only book to deal with the Catholic clerical influence on the German Center party, a forerunner of Germany's present Christian Democratic Union. In addition to tracing the effect of the Catholic-clerical influence up on the parliamentary functioning of the Center party, Ms. Evans explores the relationship between the Center and other political parties- both in opposition and in coalition- and the efforts of the party's leaders to satisfy the diverse interest groups it represented.

Ms. Evans notes that a combination of circumstances made necessary a separate party for German Catholics: the resentment of Catholics concerning the events of German unification; the increased solidarity and militancy of the church under Pius IX; and the need for defense against the demands for anticlerical legislation made by German liberals.

The original small party grew enormously. It changed both its nature and its platform during the years of the Kulturkampf, the campaign to weaken the Catholic church conducted by Bismarck and the liberal parties. As a consequence of the conflict, the party developed an ideological base flexible enough to encompass a strong civil rights platform, an opposition to militarism, a concern for social welfare, an affiliation with labor union Organizations, and even a tentative embrace of democracy.

At the same time, the continued pursuit of clerical goals, and in particular the goal of maintaining denominational education, made it difficult for the Center to form enduring partnerships with either Liberals or Socialists, in spite of many mutual interests. Nevertheless, the party accomplished many of its goals. Ms. Evans concentrates on some of these: The party's education policy, social policy, church-state relations, and corporativism.