Basel, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Outer-Rhodes, Vaud, Neuchatel and Geneva doubled: by 1888, almost as many Catholics lived in these cantons as in Catholic central Switzerland; by 1900 their numbers exceeded those in the latter region. The increasingly bi-confessional situation in many regions, and especially in some towns, caused social and political friction, but, not least through intermarriage, was leading also to an increasing ecumenism in everyday life and a decline in prejudices and resulting conflicts.
Whereas after the Helvetic Revolution of 1798 the new elites had aimed at secularising the central state while maintaining state sovereignty over the church, in the Mediation Act of 1803 the regulation of freedom of belief and worship was transferred to the cantons. The Federal Treaty of 1815 did not mention religious freedom, but affirmed the preservation of the monasteries, whilst declaring state sovereignty over religious orders and congregations, whose situation varied according to the different cantonal constitutions. Whereas in some cantonal constitutions of the Regeneration Era of the 1830s, freedom of belief and conscience was guaranteed to the Christian confessions, a number of cantons recognised only one church.6
In the 1830s, the Liberals and Radicals were eager to subjugate the Catholic Church to secular state power. The abolition of the monasteries in the canton of Argovia by the anticlerical Radicals and the appointment of Jesuits to institutions of higher education by Catholic ultras in Lucerne brought about a further radicalisation of the conflicts, leading to the civil war of 1847 (the Sonderbundskrieg). These actions were an expression of the politicisation of religion and the confessionalisation of politics characteristic of the Kulturkampfe between the 1830s and the 1880s. These were, above all, conflicts about the demarcation of spheres of influence, cultural hegemony and conceptions of political and social order.7
In the 1830s, the Catholic movement was not completely homogeneous in its ideology; a reactionary ultra-Catholic traditionalist direction can be differentiated from a more moderate conservative one. The leaders of the ultras, Josef Leu von Ebersol and Constantin Siegwart-Muller, reflected the
6 See Alfred Kolz, Neuere schweizerische Verfassungsgeschichte: ihre Grundlinien vom Ende der alten Eidgenossenschajtbis 1848 (Berne: Verlag Stampfli, 1992), vol. 1, pp. 337-9.
7 See Urs Altermatt, 'L'engagement des intellectuels catholiques suisses au sein de l'Internationale noire', in Emiel Lamberts (ed.), The Black International 1870-1878: the Holy See and militant Catholicism in Europe (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2002), pp. 409-26; Metzger, 'The legal situation of religious institutes'.
Was this article helpful?