Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

La Ville Charitable: Les Oeuvres Sociales Catholiques En France et En Allemagne Au XIXe Siècle

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

La Ville Charitable: Les Oeuvres Sociales Catholiques En France et En Allemagne Au XIXe Siècle

Article excerpt

La ville charitable: Les oeuvres sociales catholiques en France et en Allemagne au XIXe siècle. By Catherine Maurer. [Histoire religieuse de la France, vol. 39.] (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf. 2012. Pp. 411. euro24,00 paperback. ISBN 978-2204-09823-6.)

This work begins, after a helpful introduction, with a discussion of nineteen books of the period c. 1890-1905, which describe the charitable organizations (oeuvres) of Catholics at work in eight French cities and eight German cities. The latter category includes Strasbourg, German in that period but with a past (and future) in France. Maurer is professor at the University of Strasbourg; she brings a wealth of knowledge and scholarship to her chosen topic. Her approach is indeed comparative, noting the similarities and differences of the institutions in France and Germany, but with an emphasis on urban history and on the public-private relationships of the Catholic organizations active in those cities (lined up for the reader in two tables and maps, pp. 71-79). An overall finding is that, in this as in other respects, the avowedly antimodem Catholic laity, sisters, and clergy in both countries adopted modem approaches in the practice and development of Catholic care for the poor.

A first instance of this is the publication of the books (listed pp. 11-12) that form the central "corpus" and starting point of her research. Why did such publications appear around the same time (the 1890s)? They reflected the use of serious investigation by enquêtes after the manner of Frédéric Le Play. Despite the hesitance of, say, the St. Vincent de Paul visitors to the poor to boast of the aid they rendered, such compilations publicized the proliferation of Catholic charities in order, first, to court public support and draw more volunteers from the better-off They also systematized what services were available in the city treated, so as to serve as handbooks for charitable activists and organizations-all "modern" traits, provoked in part by the liberalism of the time; for example, by an anticlerical ascendancy (especially in France) and Protestant anti-Catholicism (more so in Germany). …

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