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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

1 - All paths to Rome? Transnational Catholicism in the nineteenth century


In the beginning was Pope Pius IX (1846–78). This would appear to be at least as true in relation to the origins of the transnationalisation of Catholicism in the nineteenth century as Richard Evans's assertion in his recent study of national socialist Germany that in the beginning really was Otto von Bismarck, the chancellor who initiated – with strong liberal support – the repression of the Catholic Church in the Kulturkampf in the newly created Protestant-dominated kleindeutsch Empire in the 1870s. Yet the process of transnationalisation was largely limited to Catholicism and the more centralised Catholic Church. It partially extended to ideological preferences and notions of societal and political conflict in an age of rapid industrialisation, nationalism and democratisation – preferences and notions that transgressed borders uniting Catholics across Europe who shared similar political beliefs and fears of a modern liberal-capitalist and secular world. Crucially, however, this process did not encompass incipient Catholic political parties who by and large accepted the quintessentially liberal terms of parliamentary politics in increasingly nationally delineated polities with the primary objective of defending Catholic interests against liberal-secular national legislation. Nonetheless, the transnationalisation of Catholicism and the common experience of the European culture wars in the second half of the nineteenth century produced the foundation for incipient transnational party cooperation after World War I, not least by creating a set of common ideas and facilitating networking across borders on an initially informal level.