Confronting a Volatile Social Situation

This first generation of Catholic theologians at Tübingen spoke out on a variety of contemporary social and political issues during a tumultuous period. They witnessed the final demise of the Holy Roman Empire, which had lasted for almost a thousand years, with its ancient form of monarchy and feudal relations, and the rise of the modern nation-states, constitutional democracies, and fundamental changes in commercial production and exchange. The century after the French Revolution of 1789 began as one of ongoing upheaval, instability, and change, due not only to the efforts to consolidate power under Napoleon's absolutist monarchy, but also to the reforms of the bureaucratic state and society brought about by German state officials and especially the civil servants, and the series of democratic revolutions, most notably in 1830 and 1848. In this midst of all this arose a variety of church-state questions, and the underlying issue that tied them all together concerned the mission and the role of the church in modern society. Threats and challenges to the church's mission emerged in the negotiations that took place about the involvement of the state in educational matters, especially as they pertained to teaching Christian theology in the universities, and also on a seemly insignificant but profoundly symbolic issue concerning mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants. These specific skirmishes were fueled by larger concerns about the extension and limits of the rights of the states in matters of church affairs, such as deciding diocesan lines, confirming or vetoing the election of the bishop, and supervising diocesan decisions and actions. With church property and the financial support of the state at risk, the power and influence of the Church was jeopardized and diminished.

As they took stands on these social issues, the two basic tendencies of the Tübingen school were clearly in evidence. Drey and Hirscher espoused a dynamic, primarily positive, and relatively hopeful approach to the relationship between the Church and the state, which combined a certain ecumenical receptivity to Reformation insights and judgments with a clear recognition of the role of critical public opinion about ecclesial matters. Although secularization was not condoned, modernizing currents were not repudiated. Möhler, on the other hand, quite early in his career fashioned a contentious approach to matters of Church and state, and toward Protestants and liberalizing trends, which he saw as connected. His confessional posture took on increasing significance and was more widely received as the century wore on. Staudenmaier offers an important development of Möhler's position. As important as the distinction between these two tendencies remained, during the second half of the nineteenth century increasing tension between the church and the state and the marginalization of the churches in social affairs produced growing alarm at the social problems emerging. Confronted by these changing circumstances, Drey and Hirscher also became more cautious, and in their later careers advocated a stronger stance of the Church against the secularizing impact of the state and social life, while Staudenmaier's voice grew shrill.21

In an early text, Drey framed the issue of the church's relation to society first historically, second as the realization of the Christian idea (doctrine), and third practically. Historically, Drey claimed that the social and political history of effects of Christianity merited serious attention in theology. Christianity, he held, has left its mark on civic life and organizations. It has undermined narrow brands of nationalism and has contributed to the breakup of the old universal monarchies (KE §187). Moreover, it has influenced states and laws, "and has altered the situation of particular classes, estates, and corporations within the state, or even helped to form new ones, and ... influence ... constitutions and [social] forms in general" (§ 188). As the concrete realization of Christian doctrine, the church and the state must be viewed as two separate realities side by side, neither above, nor below. There is no theoretical resolution of the opposition of church and state, only the policies of individual churches and states. Still, general features of both church and state can be isolated. There need not be hostility, but the church's stand to all states and societies must be viewed in relation to the central idea of the kingdom of God. "The Christian church and the state are thus related as a universal human reality and a national one, as a heavenly reality and an earthly one. Both ideas are interdependent but neither eliminates the other, rather, both stand side by side, though one is unattainable by the other" (§§ 298-307, at 301). The church has the right to be totally independent from and protected by the state in its internal and external policy; a violation of this right is tyranny. But the state also has the right to protect itself against the church by means of police force and punishment, even though the limits of such actions must be determined (§§ 303, 306). In his treatment of practical theology, Drey claims that the church must protect "those goals [of the church] from any obstacle arising from the church's position over against the state" (§ 332). He also discusses what should happen if the boundaries of either the church or the state are transgressed by one or the other (§§ 345-349).

Beginning in the late 1820s, Drey became more alert to the tension between the church and the state, and he developed in response a growing "pessimism about modern society."22 By the late 1830s, he charged that the church must be freed from the force and power of the state; and the separation of the church and state means that a citizen must be able to be in the kingdom of God on earth and in the earthly state too.23 By 1847, Drey's melancholy about society was in clear relief as he charged that the original duty of the church is to make Christians out of heathens, so that the truth of Christianity will be received not only externally but also internally, which has taken place slowly in the progress of civilization (3:12). He offers a "surprising appreciation" of the "transatlantic paradox" evident in the constitutional separation of church and state in the United States of America: the church is not recognized within the state, and yet this total separation of the state and the church articulates plainly a "true relationship."24

Drey later in his career identified the spirit of Christianity and the church with "socialism in its most comprehensive and lofty meaning" (Apologetik 3:4). Christian socialism advances the union of God with humans and humans among themselves and provides the church's universal ethical mandate. This noble vision of Christianity has been mediated through various political arrangements, including ancient monarchy and the medieval empire. The Reformation initiated an opposite movement toward disintegration by stressing subjectivity and individuality, and then modernity built on this legacy by advancing egoism and the importance of an individual people and individual states. The rise of nationalism and constitutionalism in his judgment inevitably leads to isolation and separation and undermines both the church and society (3:14-17, cf. 3:204).

Drey came to accentuate the differences between church and state. Church power, authority, and institution are entirely different to those of the state in origins, purpose, and history (3:198-203). Whereas the younger Drey had stressed the importance of inner faith in the struggle with the sterility of degenerate Christianity, in his later life he highlighted the external ecclesial manifestation of the Spirit in conflict with the "growing bureaucratic absolutist behavior of the German states."25 Drey's position had changed: defining the legitimacy of theological criticism gave way to defending the official faith; the dialectic of the ideal and the real was replaced by a defense of the established ecclesial fact; and rather than championing the value of regional synods, he now spoke of the necessity of Roman authority in beleaguered local settings.26 His later comments on priestly celibacy, now a symbol of a muscular Catholicism, and on the diminished role of the diocesan synod indicate his deep reservations about the power of the state and a greater recognition of the need for stronger Roman church authority. As much as diocesan, regional, and national synods were consistent with his own theological vision of the church, Drey's later concern about the rights of the state in local ecclesial matters left him fearing a greater loss of the freedom of the church; a general synod or papal authority was needed to offset this national state control.27 His judgment of Protestantism, once dynamically posed and even at times viewed as a needed component in Catholicism, became more rigid and harsh as he identified Protestantism with modernity.28

Hirscher remained far more resolute in his position, even in the face of the harsh realities of the changing social and political situation. As a moral and pastoral theologian, Hirscher had always been more attuned to the concerns among laity and clergy in all sectors of society. He spoke in considerable detail about the relation of the church and the state both in his widely received Die christliche Moral and in numerous other books and essays. In the third volume of his Die christliche Moral, he examined how the power of God's kingdom operates internally in human beings and externally in the church and in the state. The individual state was treated in terms of law and the execution of the law by the head of state and the civil servants (judges, attorneys, police, and financiers) and the duties of the subjects. The relationships between states were considered in terms of the rights and laws of the people.

Hirscher spoke about how the powers of the head of state, of laws, and of the state itself are grounded in and derive from the common will of the people, that is, of a nationality (Volkstum). The Christian state is the achievement of the common will in compliance with the will of God (3:622). The religious observance of personality is the content of this will, and the head of state represents this will as established by God (3:663). Like Drey, Hirscher spoke of the kingdom of God as a moral world order (KE § 264), but he went a step further and advanced the social implications of God's reign. The world order of God's reign is established through love and freedom, based on right and justice.29 Citizens should respect, love, and obey the heads of state and civil servants as a part of the divine order. He condemned the idea of the sovereignty of the people, while defending the various types of laws and holding that "the prince or the highest power of the state is fully sovereign and does not as one might expect need control through a parlia-ment."30 In his catechism, Hirscher spoke about the duties of the citizen that each child of God must fulfill. Catechists and pastors must take seriously their role in teaching these social commitments and conventions.

Hirscher responded to the revolutionary events in Germany in 1848 with a sense of urgency.31 He described the social and moral condition of his day, highlighting industrialization, the shrinking of the middle-class artisans, the impoverishment of all strata of the populace, the rise in poverty, the increase in the profit motive and of material interests, and communism. He called for the affirmation of the equal dignity of human beings and of their rights, freedom, and common goods. He challenged state authorities to abide by the legal character of society, but more so to foster the Christian ethos. A liberal understanding of the freedom of citizens is insufficient if it is not grounded in moral freedom guided by the truth.32 His was a moral and religious appeal, but now no longer in terms of the kingdom of God. After 1848, he revised his previous conviction concerning what the state could contribute to the goals of Christianity. Moreover, he returned to the question of the sovereignty of the people and said that "the people may choose and install their government, but its office (whether also bestowed through the hand of the people) is from God, and its rule rests in God."33 The church needs freedom from state interference to be able to fulfill its mission.34 On the other hand, religious teachers of Christian doctrine have a legal duty to work in state schools and state schools must provide religious education provided by church authority. Catechists, educators, and pastors were not to trust in state-supported institutions, but in the living Christianity of the members of the church community which will lead to mobilization in society. As a result, Hirscher rejected the idea of a Christian state and a pure monarchy.35 Unlike Drey, he remained a staunch advocate of diocesan synods in 1848, and he was particularly clear on the need for the involvement of the laity in these synods, "like the constitutional and democratic principle" which is precisely what some ultramontanists feared.36

Johann Adam Möhler has been described as "an a-political church politician," and in this role he became a firebrand.37 He addressed and rallied Catholic forces around numerous defining social issues. He published essays on the relation of the modern university and the state (1829), and the social-economic doctrine of the Saint-Simonians (1832). During a time when a power struggle took place between civil servants and clergy with bureaucratization and secularization in the balance, Möhler defended priestly celibacy, and he spoke out on the "Cologne Incident" of 1837 where an Archbishop was exiled by the government for insisting on strict adherence to Catholic discipline in cases of mixed marriages, which required raising children in the Catholic faith. These statements are best understood in relation to the social implications of his two major theological works, Unity in the Church and Symbolism, which together stake a claim about the majestic identity and mission of the Catholic Church in the social cauldron in Germany.

Möhler's Unity in the Church espoused a vision of church unity in fellowship, and identity in doctrine and practice, as inwardly evoked and created by the Holy Spirit, and externally expressed and governed by church institutions. The chief error of heresy was egoism, selfishness, and arrogance, which fuel religious separatism and a freedom of inquiry severed from communal moorings. Protestantism was the chief example of this spirit. The beautiful organic and mystical vision of the church presented here may have affirmed the role of the bishops in close relation with the local communities, but it stressed even more strongly the divinely established reality of the church, its historical givenness, and its function as a criterion for judging. The critical impulse of Drey's view of the kingdom of God, and the ideal and the real distinction that reflected Aufklärung convictions, is contrasted with Möhler's romantic approach to the dialectical relationship of inner and outer, wherein the external is the necessary romantic unfolding of the inner, which then guides and governs. Möhler's early position thus feeds into the emerging strict-adherence approach to Catholic identity.38

Möhler's critique of Protestant beliefs in Symbolik may have been primarily intended to negotiate historical disputes about the origins of beliefs concerning anthropology, sacraments, and the church, but in fact the connection it drew between Protestant beliefs and modern liberal views of subjectivity and freedom served to bolster Catholic identity among German Catholics, who, in the aftermath of the settlement of 1803 establishing new kingdoms, were increasingly losing ground to Protestants in affairs of state and in bureaucratic society. Alleged Protestant deficiencies in anthropology, Möhler's readers inferred, could ultimately only be resolved and resisted by emphasizing the divinely established visible Catholic Church and the authority of its hierarchy.39

Möhler's stance against the Aufklärung Catholic (and Protestant) critiques of mandatory priestly celibacy, and against accommodationist views of mixed marriages, fit together, as even he himself realized, and further solidified his strict confessional view of the Church. His deep convictions no doubt colored his judgment, but they did not blind him to complexity. He was substantive and nuanced in his interpretation and evaluation of any period in history. Moreover, he exhibited a growing appreciation of the larger social dimensions of Christianity, as evidenced in his essays on the history of slavery, monasticism, Charlemagne and the episcopacy, and the relation of Islam and Christianity. This blend of judiciousness and social concern is evident in his analysis of contemporary issues, such as in his treatment of the inner and outer relationships of the universities and the state with the formation of state constitutions, the social and religious beliefs of the Saint-Simonians, and the undergirding reasons for and results of the French Revolution.40 Yet in the end, the cumulative case Möhler made for the visible, institutional, and hierarchical Catholic Church could not help but be identified with the strict-adherence approach to Catholic doctrine and practice, which fostered the freedom and social power of the Catholic Church in relation to growing state and bureaucratic power. It also lent credence to Ultramontanism, on the rise with increasingly virulent forms, even though his own position on that matter was more nuanced, and his move from predominantly Protestant Tübingen to Catholic Munich would help to temper it.41

Franz Anton Staudenmaier's personal life and career offer a particularly interesting case study of the interconnection between social context, ideological convictions, and theological outlook.42 Financially supported by nobility during his education, he was deeply rooted in the traditional class structure of farmers, artisans, and nobility. Antagonistic toward the absolutism of rulers and princes and the rise of the bureaucratizing civil service class, he grew in hostility toward "liberal" revolutionary forces in Germany and increasingly advocated the importance of the leadership of the Catholic Church alone, with its clergy and theologians in the vanguard.

His later writings, beginning in the second half of the 1840s, earned him the reputation of being a representative of "political Catholicism" associated with "the politicization of Catholicism and the Catholicization of politics."43 In the face of growing secularization and bureaucratization, he espoused strict adherence to Catholic teachings and practices, and a pugnacious approach to Protestant and modern developments, in the spirit of his mentor Möhler.

Staudenmaier's 1841 essay "About the Essence of the Catholic Church," sought to clarify the relation between the church and the state, and in 1845 was expanded into a book.44 The church and the state are two organisms standing side by side, distinguished according to their goals. The divine purpose of the state is based on the eternal idea of law to order rightly the earthly life of a people. The church has the higher goal of mediating divine and eternal life. The church mediates life to society and the state (and by extension to all areas of science and culture) by witnessing to the Gospel of the genuine freedom and dignity of the human person and the right order of society established by God as the foundation for the virtues of justice and love. The state in turn secures and guarantees the freedom and mediating function of the church. By 1851, he could not have been clearer: the government should be Christian, and the Christian who is a member of the Catholic Church is the perfect member of society and should fulfill the duties of his "station" - whether farmer, merchant, soldier, or prince - without seeking to change this station in life.

With the breaking forth of the ideology of revolution, and with the French call for liberté, fraternité, et egalité and the bureaucratization of modern society sweeping through Germany and Europe, Staudenmaier in 1847 sharpened an apocalyptic idiom about the emerging chaos and the cumulative effect of the fall from Christendom.45 In matters of church and state, Staudenmaier followed the lead of Möhler, echoing his assessment of repercussions of Protestant anthropology in his discussion of Saint Simonianism, and slavery, and espousing the affinity between modernity and the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. More so than Möhler, who died in 1838, Staudenmaier perceived ominous connections between Protestantism and modern rationalism which reached its zenith in Hegel's philosophy and, he held, ineluctably led to communism, socialism, liberalism, and atheism. He saw in these modern developments present-day versions of pantheism, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism, all false paths that lead to a false unity. What was needed was a unity rooted in the unity of God, who establishes human freedom and personality, and brings about peace and social harmony. This would be the way to reestablish a Christian state and society, through Catholic Christendom and the turning back of the "liberal" revolutionary ethos.

Staudenmaier remained the champion of social order under the guidance of the traditional hierarchical clerical structure. The revolutionary events of 1858

challenged that order and led Staudenmaier and some of his Freiburg colleagues to consider moving the school to Switzerland for an interim period. It was soon decided that the move would not be necessary, but because radicals in Freiburg expressed such animosity toward Staudenmaier, he still fled the city and spent time in a Swiss cloister until passions cooled.46 Significantly, as important as social order, organic harmony, and the power of the integrating whole were for Staudenmaier, he remained convinced throughout his career of the power of the Spirit working to bring about individuation: naturally given predispositions charismatically realized. Each person has his or her calling; each group has their contribution to make.47 This position too could legitimate a static social structure and order, with every person in his or her divinely ordered place, but it could also support a great appreciation of individual groups and local deliberations. Like Hirscher, who became his colleague at Freiburg, Staudenmaier advocated German synods. At least in principle his insight into the power of the Spirit fostered both individuation and harmony, both diversity and communion, and held out the prospect of supporting a more dynamic understanding of the creativity and critical impulses of individuals and local groups in relation to larger social forces. Herein was a Trinitarian hope that the contribution of all particular cultures to the catholicity of the church could be appreciated, and the politics of the period, especially evident in the practice of slavery, undermined.48 For Staudenmaier, however, an eschatological novum was hard to imagine, and the Trinitarian vision, which he had long advocated and which could have modeled diversity in unity, dropped out in his church-state writings during the revolutionary period of 1848. His emphasis on human freedom and divine personality near the end of his career found its source in the one monarchial God who is actively working through the one true Church.49

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