Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Der Verband Katholischer Kaufmännischer Vereinigungen Deutschlands 1877-1933

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Der Verband Katholischer Kaufmännischer Vereinigungen Deutschlands 1877-1933

Article excerpt

Der Verband katholischer kaufmännischer Vereinigungen Deutschlands 1877-1933* By Veronika Laufen. [Beiträge zur Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte, Band 22.] (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 2011. Pp. 515. euro79,90. ISBN 978-3-631-62053-3.)

This excellent book examines the relationship between labor and Catholicism in Germany-a subject largely neglected by research until now. At first, political liberalism dominated commerce in the country. Founded in Koblenz, the Union of Catholic Commercial Associations brought together local entities of Catholic businessmen in an umbrella organization through general meetings at Mainz (1877) and Koblenz (1878). Priests played an eminent role in leading the organization on the local and regional levels, although the Union was based on the idea of lay apostolate. Its members held a profound loyalty to the Catholic Church, the bishops, and the pope and drew on Catholic social teaching and the needs of their professional milieu to construct their philosophy. The Union relied on two principles-Catholicism (Katholizität) and parity (Parität)-thus seeking to unite the white-collar workers on the one side with the merchants on the other. It unfolded a broad spectrum of activities, including the publication of twelve periodicals. The most important was the Union's magazine, Merkuria. Other initiatives included life and health insurance, Social Security agencies, savings banks, and self-supporting recreational facilities. The Union also provided its members with job opportunities, legal assistance, scholarships, and funds in cases of economic hardship. A main concern was with the condition of a Catholic minority in a Protestant-dominated society. The Union's educational programs and professional training initiatives were a way to remove or reduce disadvantages imposed by Catholic inferiority (katholische Inferiorität).

Because of its emphasis on parity, the Union differed from the Christian trade unions. The latter operated as socially and politically effective pressure groups, acting only as representative bodies of working-class interests without regard to religious denomination. …

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