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Josephinism

JOSEPHINISM

The Austrian State-Church system of the period of enlightenment, the rules of which were worked out by the Imperial Chancellor, Prince Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, approved by Empress maria theresa, and implemented by her son joseph ii to such an extent that the whole System took its name from him.

Principles of Reform. In contradistinction to the preceding Hapsburg State-Church system, Josephinism did not take the papal privileges as the legal basis for papal interference in Church affairs, but the sovereign power of the State to which, it was thought, the Church and its ministers also were subject. Hence, even those ecclesiastical reforms effected by the Josephinist State for the material benefit of the Church, e.g., increase in parishes, demarcation of dioceses, better remuneration of the clergy, and reorganization of theological studies, were dictated in the first place by reasons of state: pastoral care was held to be inseparable from the safety of the State. But improvements in ecclesiastical administration cannot by themselves evoke and further internal spiritual life, as every real reform in Church matters testifies. Not only is the purely secular purpose of the State unable to do this, but besides, the interference of Josephinism in the intimate organization of the Church was liable to weaken the supernatural life to the vanishing point, if not to kill it. A standard example is the suppression, on principle, of the contemplative orders, judged and condemned from a purely utilitarian standpoint in complete misunderstanding of their spiritual purpose. Hence, the first real reform of Austrian Catholicism that began in the first half of the 19th century took place without Josephinist influences in its spiritual regeneration.

Influence of Prince Kaunitz. In the 1760s Prince Kaunitz recognized during his negotiations with the Roman Curia that the latter was unwilling to forego the immunity of Church property without corresponding compensation from the State. He, therefore, in 1767 issued ordinances for Austrian Lombardy, a territory under his immediate administration, restricting on essential points Church property rights, endangering the free movement of Church personnel, and imperiling the independence of the Church from the State. When, notwithstanding Church protests, Maria Theresa confirmed these ordinances, Kaunitz submitted to her on June 15, 1768, a set of secret instructions to his supreme administrative body in Milan, which was to put the relation between State and Church on an entirely new basis. The Church was to be subject to the State in all mixed questions. The State was to obtain all Church property. It was even to control the spiritual activity of the clergy, since, so the document declared, "the ruler is vitally interested in keeping dogma in harmony with the gospel and in adapting the discipline of the clergy and the outward forms of religion to the needs of the commonweal." The instructions further prevented the formation of a "corpus ecclesiasticum," as in France, so that all churchmen stood before the State as individual persons. Herewith there was erected a State-Church system differing unfavorably from Gallicanism in its pressure on the Church. Another protest, this time from the Pope, was disregarded by the Empress. In 1769 the system was extended to the whole monarchy, and in the last decade of the reign of the Empress it was applied especially against the monastic orders.

Summit and Decline. While Maria Theresa hesitated to draw the last consequences from the new State-Church system, her successor, Joseph II, knew no such restraints. He isolated the Austrian Church from Rome and subjected her internally to so far-reaching a control that the whole system, though already in use for 12 years, was named after him. His enforced innovations were bound to wound the feelings of the people. Everywhere disturbances broke out, so that his successor, Leopold II, promised kindly to examine the complaints of the bishops. But when quiet had been restored to the state, the Josephinist system was confirmed on all essential points on March 17, 1791. Under Emperor Francis II (I) the situation remained unchanged; Josephinism was introduced in 1816 even in the newly gained Italian territories. A formal papal condemnation was threatening. But after a journey to Rome in 1819, the Emperor tried to reestablish peace with the Church. To that effect he had Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich conduct negotiations with the papal nuncio in Vienna from 1832 to 1836, but they were interrupted by the unexpected death of Francis, March 2, 1835. After 1848, many churchmen, especially among the younger clergy, were won over to the idea of freeing the Church from the yoke of the State. The last phase of the emancipation came when the young Emperor Francis Joseph I, through the ordinances of April 18 and 23, 1850, abolished the Josephinist Church-State system.

Bibliography: f. maass, ed., Der Josephinismus: Quellen zu seiner Geschichte in Österreich 17601850, 5 v. (Fontes rerum Austriacarum II.7175; Vienna 195161). m. c. goodwin, The Papal Conflict with Josephinism (New York 1938). f. valjavec, Der Josephinismus (2d ed. Vienna 1945), with reservations. e. winter, Geschichte des Josefinismus (Berlin 1962), anti-Catholic. e. wolf, Die Religion in Geschitchte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 3:866867.

[f. maass]

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