Muth, Carl

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Journalist; b. Worms am Rhein, Jan. 31, 1867; d. Reichenhall (Bavaria), Nov. 15, 1944. His parents were devout Catholics, and his father's occupation as church painter brought young Carl early into contact with the problems of art and religion. Muth took six years of his gymnasium studies in Algiers, where the whole spiritual and intellectual ferment of French Catholicism was revealed to him under the influence of Cardinal Charles lavigerie. Muth abandoned early plans for mission work to devote himself to the study of political science and German philology in Giessen, Berlin, and Strassburg. During this time he contributed to the Mainzer Journal, was editor (189395) of the daily Der Elsässer (Strassburg), and published the family magazine Alte und Neue Welt, in which he concerned himself principally with the problem of modern literature. In an article "Wem gehört die Zukunft" (1893), he opposed the superstitious belief in progress inherent in materialism and began considering for the first time the possibilities of overcoming the "literary inferiority" of the Catholics in Germany, so as to liberate church and theology from their isolation.

With his polemical works published under the pseudonym of Veremundus (Steht die katholische Belletristik auf der Höhe der Zeit?, and Die literarischen Aufgaben der deutschen Katholiken, 1899), he launched the "Catholic literary controversy" in which he had to fight on two fronts, against the intellectually unambitious in his own camp and against the "Enlighteners" hostile to the Church. He was severely critical of the literary backwardness of Catholic writers and critics, whom he reproached for "apathy and unconcern for the general artistic endeavors of the nation," denominational prejudice, moral and pedagogical narrowmindedness, and "a positively unbelievable prudery." Simultaneously Muth opposed modernism and its naturalistic and materialistic aberrations, proposing instead an idealistic philosophy. He won the debate with his key work, Wiedergeburt der Dichtung aus dem religiösen Erlebnis (1909), directed particularly against his principal opponent, Richard von Kralik and Viennese neoromanticism ("The Gral").

A stay in Paris brought Muth into contact with the renouveau catholique; this contact was crucial for his later development. The magazine Hochland (a monthly publication "for all fields of knowledge, literature, and art"), which he founded in 1903 to cope with the grave perils and difficulties besetting German Catholic literature, aimed at a "new encounter between Church and culture." Until World War I, Hochland 's interests were mainly literary; only in 1916 did the magazine begin to devote attention to political and social problems. Muth became a champion of the concept of democracy within the still predominantly monarchically minded German Catholicism of those days. The essay "Res publica"(1926) typifies his political stand; it is a call to Catholics to become aware of their political responsibility and to cooperate actively in the fashioning of the new social order.

Muth believed that Europe's survival was dependent on the solution of the social question, on whether it would be possible to imbue social democracy with the sentiments and impulses of Christian brotherliness. He made an urgent appeal to all Christians (in "Die Stunde des Bürgertums," 1930) to abandon their antisocialist prejudices and to the socialists to get rid of their anti-Christian resentments. Muth was forthright in his opposition to the rising tide of national socialism (in Das dritte Reich und die Sturmvögel des Nationalsozialismus, 1931). Hochland maintained its stand even after Hitler had come to power and was banned only in 1941. It resumed publication in 1946 and remained in publication in Munich, under the direction of Muth's long-time associate Karl Schaezler.

Bibliography: k. ackermann, Der Widerstand der Monatsschrift Hochland gegen den Nationalsozialismus (Munich 1965), with bibliog. Wiederbegegnung von Kirche und Kultur in Deutschland: Festschrift für Karl Muth (Munich 1927).

[o. b. roegele]