Norway, The Catholic Church in
NORWAY, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
A northern European kingdom, Norway is located on the western coast of the Scandinavian Peninsula. It is bordered on the east by Sweden and Finland, on the south by Skagerrak, Denmark and the North Sea, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. A mountainous country characterized by arctic tundra in its northernmost regions, Norway contains many lakes and waterways and its irregular coastline area contains both fjords and small islands. In addition to strong timber and mining industries, Norway's economy benefited from the discovery of oil and natural gas off its coast during the mid-1900s.
The Kingdom of Norway is a constitutional monarchy. Under the political control of Denmark between 1380 and 1814, and Sweden from 1814, the country regained its independence on June 7, 1905. Its constitution dates from 1814, with modifications dating from 1884. The state church is Evangelical Lutheran.
Christianity until 1500. Christianity came to Norway mainly from England and Ireland during the reign of King Hakon the Good (935–996). It did not, however, gain a real foothold before the reigns of olaf i tryggvessØn (995–1000) and St. Olaf Haraldson (Olaf II; 1025–30; see olaf ii, king of norway, st.). Soon after being killed in the battle of Stiklestad (July 29, 1030) Olaf II was reverenced as the sainted hero of medieval Norway. His shrine at Trondheim made that town the capital of the country. The first bishops had been attached to the king's retinue, but St. Olav sent Bishop Grimkell to Bremen in northern Germany, the former bishopric of St. ansgar. Until 1100 Norwegian bishops, like other bishops of Scandinavia, were suffragans of the
archbishop of Bremen. In 1104 the See of lund (in southern Sweden, but then controlled by Denmark) became the metropolitan see for all the northern regions. The pope sent Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear, an Englishman, to Norway in 1152. In cooperation with the assembly of Norwegian peers he made the See of Trondheim metropolitan for all of Norway, including Norway proper, the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, iceland and greenland. Dioceses within the country from 1153 included also Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo and Hamar. Since Breakspear became the next pope, adrian iv (1154–59), his ordinances received the highest respect.
As elsewhere in medieval Europe, clashes between king and hierarchy were not infrequent. The struggle of Archbishops Eystein (1161–88) and Eirik (1189–1206) with King Sverre (1177–1202) revolved mainly about royal interference in the designation of bishops and pastors and the collection of ecclesiastical tithes. Eirik went into exile in Denmark and Eystein travelled to England where he was introduced to the new Gothic style. Eystein introduced the new style into Norway when he returned and oversaw construction of the cathedral at Trondheim. Many Church-State tensions were resolved by the short-lived Union of Tönsberg (1277), by which the king granted the Church freedom in ecclesiastical nominations, while the archbishop renounced rights the Church had previously enjoyed in the appointment of kings. When the peace-loving King Magnus Lagaböter (Lawmender) died in 1280, both his sons were minors, which allowed the regents to revoke the Union of Tönsberg. Protests from Rome and Trondheim were answered with the banishment of Archbishop Jon Raude and Bishops Andrew of Oslo and Torfinn of Hamar. Jon died in Sweden (1282) and Torfinn in Flanders (1285) after visiting Rome to seek help.
When the Bubonic plague afflicted the country in 1349, it ended the flourishing period of the Church in medieval Norway. Loss of life was tremendous; out of 300 priests in the archdiocese, only 40 survived, and only one of the five bishops survived. During the next two centuries no churches were built. This was evidence that the Church and the people had lost their strength.
Monastic life was introduced very early by English benedictines. The cistercians, dominicans and franciscans followed (see dacia) and these religious orders were likewise decimated by the plague. The Swedish-based Scandinavian order of the Bridgettines appeared in the second half of the 14th century.
The Protestant Reformation. lutheranism was introduced to Norway from Copenhagen by royal decree in 1537. Since 1380 the same kings had ruled Norway and Denmark; in practice Norway had become a Danish province. As a follower of Martin luther, King Christian III (1336–59) had to resort to military force to get the Norwegians to recognize his sovereignty after his election. In southern Norway, Christian was acknowledged by officeholders of Danish descent, but in Trondheim Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson organized resistance designed to promote Norwegian independence as well as defend the Catholic faith. Olav's small forces proved ineffectual and in April of 1537 he withdrew to the Netherlands, where he died at Lier on Feb. 6, 1538. The reformation came to Norway from abroad; it served the political interests of the Danish king and the magnates but did not correspond to any desire among the populace—in fact, later historians would reject the theory that Lutheranism was generally accepted in Norway before 1600. While the property of parishes was ordinarily respected, the crown confiscated all possessions of monasteries and dioceses. Lutheran beliefs and practices were introduced with great circumspection. Generally priests were allowed to continue in their posts, but when they died the royal government provided Lutheran successors. Bishop Mogens of Hamar and Bishop Hoskold of Stavanger opposed the new order; the latter was committed to prison and died at Bergen; the former was brought to Denmark, where he died at Antvortskov (1542). The See of Bergen remained vacant after 1535. Hans Rev of Oslo, born in Denmark, was the only bishop to embrace Lutheranism. He did not ordain any bishops; thus the apostolic succession was lost in Norway, as it was in Denmark.
By the late 1500s Catholic priests were no longer admitted to Norway. By the early 17th century it became apparent that many young men of the upper classes, even sons of Lutheran ministers, were attending jesuit schools abroad. A royal decree of 1604 excluded from any school or church office any students of these institutions. A few years later several priests of the Lutheran Diocese of Oslo were brought to public trial in Skien (1613) and forced into exile as Catholic sympathizers; the evidence against them included correspondence with Catholics abroad and
a disregard of Lutheran beliefs. The influence of the Norwegian Jesuit Laurentius Nicolai Norvegus was discovered. From 1624 capital punishment threatened any Catholic priest entering the country. Even so, the secular priest John Martini Rhugius visited his native country and stayed at Larvik for three short periods (1637–41) caring for a small number of widely scattered Catholics. Improved commercial relations attracted Jesuits from the Netherlands; they stayed in Bergen for six weeks in 1648, but enforcement of the draconian laws forced them to leave. After 1648, however, despite widely varying situations, Catholic priests continuously resided in Copenhagen, the capital and royal residence of the Danish-Norwegian kingdom. In Norway itself, which lacked a court and foreign ambassadors, it was possible for a Catholic priest to dwell only by serving as chaplain to foreign mercenaries in time of war or to foreign artisans in commercial establishments. Thus, foreign mercenaries made
it possible for German Jesuits to stay in Fredrikstad (1677–91) as military chaplains to General Cicignon. The royal glassworks, begun after 1740, required skilled workers from the Catholic regions of central Europe. From time to time a priest from Denmark was permitted to visit the factories so that the workers could receive the Sacraments. After 1790 a priest, probably French, stayed some years with the French consul in Christiania, and a small, illegal Catholic congregation was tolerated. But all these instances were merely temporary arrangements and organized only for foreigners.
Reestablishment of Catholicism. The first regular Catholic parish in Norway following the Reformation was founded in 1843 in Christiania (renamed Oslo in 1925). From 1814 Norway had the same king as Sweden, due to the political negotiations of the Protestant Karl XIV Johan (1763–1844). Although the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, which declared Norway independent, did not officially change the existing draconian legislation against Catholics, it was gradually permitted to lapse. Jacob Studach, chaplain to the Catholic Princess Josephine Beauharnais, visited Norway several times. In 1833 Studach was appointed vicar apostolic of Sweden and Norway and resided in Stockholm. After Studach sent the German priest Gotfred Montz to the Norwegian capital to baptize the French consul's child, Montz presented a petition to Karl XIV from about 60 Catholics he had met while in the capital. On March 6, 1843 provisional dispensations to celebrate Mass were granted, and on Easter Sunday, April 16, the first official Catholic service was held. The Dissenter Act of 1845 brought definitive regulations whereby religious freedom was granted to all Christians, although Lutheranism remained the official religion of the country. Austrian redemptorists were placed in charge of the parish (1849–54) and began the construction of St. Olav's Church (the present cathedral), dedicated in 1856. The next year a small chapel was opened in Bergen, the second largest town in Norway, by the secular priest Christopher Holfeldt-Houen. In the extreme north another effort was made in 1855 when the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda) created the Prefecture Apostolic of the Arctic Missions (Poli Arctici ) comprising the northern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Russian peninsula of Kola, Iceland, Greenland, the Arctic part of Canada, the Faroes and from 1860 even the Shetland Islands, the Orkneys and Caithness in the north of Scotland. The first prefect apostolic was the Russian convert Djunkowski, who returned to Russia the Orthodox Church in 1863. On Norwegian territory, stations were established at Alta (1856) and at Tromsø (1859), where a small church erected in 1860 can still be seen. The difficulty of communication within the vast Prefecture Apostolic of the North combined with a lack of priests in the south to create entirely new divisions in 1869, when Rome created a prefecture apostolic for each of the three northern countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Prefect Bernard Bernard, Djunkowski's successor, administered the entire Norwegian territory, with residence in Oslo (1869–87). Norway constituted a single vicariate apostolic from 1892 until 1932, when the country was divided into three ecclesiastical territories. The southernmost territory became the Diocese of Oslo and the central region established a vicar apostolic residence in Trondheim in 1953; two years later the northern territory was elevated to a vicariate apostolic with its seat in Tromsø. The areas of Trondheim and Tromsø were entrusted to religious congregations, northern Norway to the Fathers of the Holy Family and central Norway to the Fathers of the sacred heart (Picpus Fathers). Secular clergy, assisted by various orders and congregations, administered the Oslo Diocese. All three bishops depended directly on Propaganda.
The Church in the 21st Century. Although in the aftermath of the Reformation, Catholicism had become a minority religion, the Church's adherents were a vital force in Norwegian society by 2000. Factors energizing the Church as it moved into the next century were increased memberships, as well as discussion within the government of revisiting the relationship between the Lutheran Church and the state, a relationship that, if altered, would allow Catholics greater latitude. As Norwegian society became increasingly secularized during the 20th century, conditions such as that requiring the king and half the Cabinet to be avowed Lutherans were viewed as vestiges of a less liberal era. The state church also provoked anger for its decision, in July of 2000, to appoint an openly homosexual clergyman in contravention to established Lutheran doctrine. This decision was opposed by a majority of Lutheran bishops and caused those seeking a more traditional basis of faith to look elsewhere for spiritual guidance.
While Church membership in 1960 was only 7,875, within four decades over 40,000 Norwegians professed Catholicism as their faith. The increase was due in large part to the immigration of refugees from Central and Eastern Europe; one estimate held that 70 percent of the country's Catholics were born abroad. In 1995 instruction in "Religious Knowledge and Education in Ethics" became compulsory in all elementary and secondary schools, replacing a previously Lutheran curriculum. The teaching of Christian ethics in an increasingly diverse culture sparked court battles brought by Muslims and members of the Norwegian Humanist Association, an atheist group, which were still underway in the courts in 2000. Like other "dissenters" Catholic pupils were exempted from participation in services or prayer outside their faith, but were required to participate in such classes. Norway's four Catholic schools, which were exempt from such curriculum requirements, received no support from the central government, although municipal subsidies were sometimes available. Catholic hospitals, which administered to all denominations, existed in nearly all of the nation's 32 parish towns by 2000 and were run by sisters of various congregations. Of the 63 priests administering to Norway's Catholics, 40 were religious and 23 were secular; they were joined in their work by 215 sisters.
Bibliography: r. keyser, Den norske Kirkes historie under Katholicismen, 2 v. (Christiania 1856–58). c. c. a. lange, De norske Klostres historie I Middelalderen (2d ed. Christiania 1856). t. b. wilson, History of the Church and State in Norway (London 1903). j. metzler, Die apostolischen Vikariate des Nordens (Paderborn 1919). s. undset, Saga of Saints, tr. e. c. ramsden (New York 1934). c. joys, Hvad skjedde i Norge i 537 (Oslo 1937). i. h. knudsen, De relationibus inter Sanctam Sedem et Norvegiam (Rome 1946). k. larsen, A History of Norway (Princeton, NJ 1948). e. molland, Church Life in Norway 1800–1950, tr. h. kaasa (Minneapolis 1957). h. rieber-mohn, Catholicism in Norway (London 1959). g. schwaiger, Die Reformation in dem nordischen Ländern (Munich 1962). o. garstein, Rome and the Counter-Reformation in Scandinavia, v.1: 1559–85 (New York 1964). Scandinavian Churches, ed. l. s. hunter (London 1965). h. holzapfel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, eds., j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65). e. amdahl, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3 (Tübingen 1957–65) 4:1522–30. Annuario Pontificio (1964) 317. St. Ansgar's Bulletin (New York 1963).
[j. j. duin/