Cologne, Mixed Marriage Dispute in

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The Cologne dispute, which found its external climax in the arrest of Abp. Clemens von droste zu vischering of Cologne (Nov. 20, 1837), was the first great controversy over the liberation of the Catholic Church in Germany from state tutelage. Its immediate occasion was the mixed marriage question and the teaching of Georg hermes, professor of theology at the University of Bonn. The deeper causes were the opposition between the ecclesiastical policy of Prussia, which since the secularization of the Catholic Church in Germany and the end of the Holy Roman Empire (1806) had forced the Church into a largely dependent relationship, and the movement for Church freedom, supported principally by the lower clergy and the laity. This movement had been gaining strength since the 1820s. Prussia's policy was similar to that of the other German states.

When Prussia applied its legislation on mixed marriages to the Catholic regions in the Rhineland and West-phalia that had been acquired in 1815, great discontent resulted. In his brief of March 25, 1830, Pius VIII went to great lengths to accommodate Prussia by permitting priests to render passive assistance at mixed marriages that did not have the guarantees customarily required by the Church, but the government of Frederick William III wanted more. After giving considerable counterpledges, it induced Abp. Ferdinand von spiegel of Cologne to sign a secret agreement (June 19, 1834) that made solemn consecration of mixed marriages possible even in cases in which the non-Catholic party refused to allow the children to be educated as Catholics. The three suffragan bishops of Cologne gave their assent. One of them, Joseph von Hommer of Trier, recanted before his death (November 1836) and informed the Roman Curia of the arrangement. At first the Curia was content with a diplomatic protest. Many priests and laymen, however, disapproved of the complaisance of the bishops; their complaints were disseminated in the press outside of Prussia.

Hermes made the first attempt to reconcile Catholic theology with German idealist philosophy, but his doctrine was condemned by Gregory XVI for its rationalist tendencies (Sept. 26, 1835). The papal decree was not fully implemented in Prussia because the government supported the Hermesian professors. When Droste became archbishop of Cologne in 1836, he at once took sharp, and in part illegal, measures against the Hermesians on the Catholic Theology Faculty at the University of Bonn. As a champion of the seminaries and an opponent of training candidates for the priesthood in universities, he wanted also to strike at the Faculty as such. When the professors turned to the state for help, the archbishop was soon in grave difficulty.

In the spring of 1837 Droste took up the mixed-marriage question, in which the government was clearly in the wrong, and demanded an exact observance of the papal brief of 1830. Neither promises nor threats could change him. Thereupon the government had him arrested in the false charge of engaging in revolutionary activities. Gregory XVI defended Droste and solemnly protested against this act of violence in his allocution of Dec. 10, 1837. The bishops of Munster and Paderborn then renounced the convention of 1834. When Abp. Martin von dunin of Gnesen and Posen demanded in 1838 that the Church's law concerning mixed marriage be respected, he too was arrested.

It was not so much the arrest of the rigid, unpopular Droste as the press reaction to the movement for Church freedom that stirred up the Catholics and helped them attain a common conviction on Church policy. The greatest effect was achieved by Johann von gÖrres, who in his polemic masterpiece Athanasius (January 1838) supported Droste, demanded freedom for the Church, and denounced the police-state principles of the Prussian bureaucracy. Numerous other polemical works followed and so aroused public opinion that, for the first time in 19th-century German history, it became a significant factor in establishing government policy. Settlement of the conflict took place only under Frederick William IV (184061), who desired the close cooperation of the state with both the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Dunin returned to his see. Droste was released from custody and received a personal apology from the king; but at Prussia's request the pope assigned the administration of his archbishopric to his coadjutor, Johannes von geissel (September 1841). In a simultaneous agreement with Rome, the government left the handling of the mixed-marriage question to the bishops and granted other important concessions. Thus the placet was abolished. Bishops were permitted unrestricted communications with the pope. Selections of bishops were to be free, except that the king could strike undesirable names from the list of candidates. Also it was agreed to set up a section for Catholic affairs in the ministry of education. With this settlement there began in Prussia a period of peace in matters of ecclesiastical policy that lasted until the kulturkampf. After the Cologne conflict the group that supported Church freedom and close ties to Rome assumed more and more the leadership of German Catholicism.

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[r. lill]