A Catholic City Faces Modernity: Linz, 1855-1918
(Dissertation Prospectus, Max Voegler)
This dissertation will explore urbanization and secularization in the Habsburg Monarchy, examining how the Catholic Church tried to react to these developments and how, in the process, they instead transformed the Church.  he growth of cities, the emergence of factories and industry, and the development of more democratic forms of life and a modern city administration, presented themselves as both logistical and philosophical problems to the Catholic Church. Larger cities required additional parishes, priests, and churches. Industrialization meant the emergence of a highly visible and poor working class inside the expanding city, forcing the Church to rework its positions on the social question. Finally, the emergence of democratic public life and a different, more all-encompassing type of city administration forced the Church to enter politics in a more overt and public way. Thus in the process of confronting these aspects of modernity, the Church itself became modern: in its structure, its control of ideology, and its use of technology and the democratic forum.
Linz in the Habsburg Monarchy of the late-imperial period (1855-1918) represents an engaging setting for my study. First, the multi-national Habsburg Monarchy, unlike France, Great Britain or even Germany in the nineteenth century, could not count on nationalism as an integrating force. In its place, the ruling family relied on the army, the bureaucracy, the nobility, the symbolic value of their own longevity, and, of course, Catholicism, to provide centripetal force to the myriad Habsburg lands and peoples. More than most states, they thus had a vested interest in the practice and theory of Catholicism in their lands and beyond. Second, Linz, as the regional capitol of a religiously and nationally homogeneous province, allows me to isolate one element — religion — in the precarious mix of forces that kept the Monarchy together and study it in relative isolation. Finally, with the arrival of Bishop Franz Josef Rudigier in 1853, Linz received one of the Monarchy’s, if not Europe’s, most vocal and talented defenders of Catholicism. Arrested by the liberal state in 1868 for his reactionary polemics on the new anti-Clerical laws, Rudigier was also the longest sitting member of the Upper Austrian Diet — from its inception in 1861 until his death 23 years later.  Like the Catholic Church as a whole, he thus promoted a vision that was at once reactionary and progressive. The message the former, the means of getting it across the latter.
This project speaks to three larger historical areas. First, the history of the Habsburg Monarchy remains much understudied in comparison to its neighbors farther north and west. John Boyer’s set of studies on the origins of the Christian Social movement,  though an important contribution to our understanding of the interaction of social and political forces in late-imperial Vienna, provide little insight into the rest of Austria. Throughout the book, the main framework for comparison is Germany, with the anti-clericalism of Austrian liberals in the late 1860’s seen as analogous to the anti-militarism of German liberals a few years earlier.  What his scholarship lacks, however, is any sort of Austrian context. Vienna is inherently anomalous, leading to the questions of how Catholic political movements emerged outside the capital? Did they function in a politically and socially similar way? What can this tell us about the emergence of a broad anti-Liberal consensus in the 1880’s? Why did the Christian Social Party that emerged after the First World War bear little resemblance to its Viennese predecessor?
Second, my dissertation will contribute to a small but growing body of work on both urban history in central Europe as well as that on religion and urbanization, which has emerged over the past decade. Urban history in central Europe until now has tended toward legal and institutional questions, focusing, for example, on the development of new legal definitions of the city in the wake of the Holy Roman Empire, and on the development of modern bureaucratic practices of city administrations. My project will add a new dimension to this discussion by contributing a different lens through which to view the process of urbanization, namely, the development of an organized and vocal Catholicism in tandem with the developing modern city. In formulating this approach, I will rely on the work of the British scholar Hugh McLeod, who argues that the nineteenth century city should above all be seen as a multifarious setting: the secularization of some citizens — whether for intellectual conviction or lack of proper access to a church — mingled with a new, often more fervent religiosity on the part of others.  How did the Catholic Church in Linz combat secularism among the working classes and the diverse religious practices on the part of rural immigrants? How, in an era of individual and confessional equality, did it react to competing world views, Protestant, Jewish and secular?
Finally, my project aims to demonstrate the importance of looking at history ‘from below’ for historians of the Church, i.e., from a locality toward the Vatican rather than the other way around. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church developed many of the institutional characteristics still in place today: a certain uniformity in ritual and ideology, a technological adeptness, and an often-independent force in the international arena. Much of this development occurred under three Popes, Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius X, who together held the chair of St. Peter from 1846 to 1914. Yet, again, while the view from Rome has largely been studied, how this transformation played out on the local level has been ignored.  Events such as the first Vatican Council in 1870, when bishops from around the world came to Rome to proclaim the Pope infallible, should thus also be remembered for bringing different pieces of an emerging and often still fragmented global Church together for the first time, courtesy of those wonderfully modern inventions, the steamship and the railroad. It was there, for example, that bishops learned of and experienced the Vatican’s new vision of not just a global Church, but an ideologically centralized one — unified in ideas of doctrine, liturgy and structure. Yet what did this mean when the bishops came back home? Did they implement doctrinal uniformity among their clergy? Did the Linzer Bishop Rudigier, for example, engage his contemporaries using the Syllabus of Errors (1864) as his guide or, like the French Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans, did he seek to explain the Syllabus away as a necessary utopian ideal, one that need not be taken literally or seriously by Catholics in everyday life?
The Historical Context
Austria always maintained a special relationship with the Vatican and, as said above, much of the Austrian ‘Imperial Idea’ — that all-important ideological glue that held together the various Habsburg provinces — depended not just on the Habsburg family, but on the Catholic nature of their rule. Upper Austria and Linz went the way of Protestantism during the Reformation only to end up one of the most thorough victims of the Counter-Reformation — a process in the Habsburg lands that went hand in hand with the dynasty’s attempt to reestablish its rule after the Thirty Year War. Until the development of a more modern and absolutist state in the eighteenth century, one with a standing army and a professional bureaucracy, the Catholic Church was the main artery linking the rulers to the ruled in most of Habsburg central Europe. Thus how Catholicism functioned in the Monarchy, and, by extension, in the rest of the world, was of prime importance to the ruling family.
In the mid-18th century, government reforms under Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II, greatly changed the relationship between Church and state. The process, later termed “Josephism,” meant above all three things: the end of ‘unproductive’ religious practice (closing monasteries with contemplative orders, a ban on hermits); the professionalization of the clergy through more rigorous and often secular training in such subjects as math and the sciences along with dogma; and, finally, the lessening of direct Vatican control, with the corresponding rise in state control. All communication with local clergy had to first pass through the Austrian government, no Papal Bulls or encyclicals could be issued without the monarch’s approval and all clergy had to take an oath of allegiance to the state.
In the early nineteenth century, Josephism backfired. Austria emerged from the Napoleonic Wars with a well-educated and independent-minded clergy at a time when the state desired obedience and complacency. Much of the era was subsequently spent trying to ‘un-enlighten’ the clergy — with predictably mixed results. In the revolutionary year of 1848, the Church was divided: some parish priests called for democratization, with the election of bishops by the clergy and greater freedom of action on a local level, while others argued for the status quo and supported the forces of order. The latter carried the day and the Church spent the 1850s re-instituting ideas of hierarchy and centralization.
In 1855, Austria signed a Concordat with the Vatican giving the Church control over marriages and education, an agreement that outraged liberals. Eleven years later, Austria’s loss in the Austro-Prussian war provoked a series of reforms in the monarchy, with the Liberals leading the way: the following year they negotiated with the crown over a new constitution and assumed control of the government, a position they held for the next twelve years. In 1868, Liberals passed a series of anti-clerical laws that brought education and marriage back under control of the state, chipping away at the tenets of the Concordat. After Vatican I, it was declared void in its entirety. The most outspoken opponent of these changes was the bishop of Linz, Franz Josef Rudigier, whose pastoral letter on the subject provoked his arrest.
In retrospect, 1867 was the pinnacle of liberal power in Austria. Over the next fifty years the ideology that had set the stage for industrialization and democratization was overtaken by these processes and slowly lost both its political credibility and its suffrage base, splintering into a mass of nationalist, populist, and socialist movements that its remaining forefathers looked upon with dismay. This dissertation will explore the development of one of these movements — popular Catholicism — in a regional setting, investigating the emergence of Liberal rule, the resulting economic and social change, and, most importantly, the Church’s reactions to these developments.
Organization and Methodology
The following chapter outline is tentative, though a pre-dissertation fellowship spent looking at the local archives in Linz last summer has given me some idea of topics that would better lend themselves to a study. In the following outline, I have tried to organize these themes in a more or less chronological fashion.
- Catholicism in 19th Century Austria
- Bishop Rudigier and Political Catholicism
- The City Asserts Itself: Liberal Politics in the 1850s
- Rebuilding the Pious City: The New Cathedral, 1850s-1920s
- City and Countryside: The Priesterseminar
- The Church and Minorities
- Rerum Novarum and the Working Class
- The Church and World War I
My starting point will be a short history of the Catholic Church in Austria and a look at how the Church was embedded into the growing and changing city of Linz. I will then follow with the development of political Catholicism and, more specifically, Bishop Rudigier. A great deal has already been written about Rudigier, but here I hope to connect local politics to the larger Catholic context. The proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as dogma by Pius IX in 1854 was the first step of a modern Papacy on the road to Vatican I: Pius ignored the experts and offended the public, making his decision alone and thus showing where power would lay within the ecclesiastic hierarchy. Bishop Rudigier in Linz, appointed the previous year, quickly understood the new direction and, in 1855, called for the building of a new Cathedral to honor Mary, Pius, and the recently concluded Concordat. Throughout his long career, Rudigier proved to be the very model of a modern monsignor: unwilling to concede any ground on principles to the new forces, yet extremely well versed in politics, publicity, and organization.
My next chapter will focus on two points of conflict between Catholic Church and state in Linz during the 1850s: cemeteries and hospitals. The aim will be to focus on the developing modern city administration — one that included professional nurses instead of nuns and non-denominational cemeteries — and how it came into conflict with two of the Church’s traditional realms. How did the Habsburg city evolve in the decade of Neoabsolutism? How did the centralist and authoritarian reordering of the state under Alexander Bach, the Minister of Interior, translate on the local level and to the Catholic Church? Historians have tended to argue that Neoabsolutism was soft toward the Church, that Francis Joseph’s piety and (Viennese) Cardinal Rauscher’s influence softened any affect Neoabsolutism had on the Church. My preliminary research suggests that this was not the case and that conflict between Church and state was an important part of Neoabsolutism, at least at the local level.
The fourth chapter will build on Rudigier’s efforts by focusing on the Cathedral itself. Launched in 1855, the Maria-Empfängnis Dom was begun in 1862 and only finished in the 1920’s. The building of the Cathedral was representative of how Catholic organizational and associational life developed and changed throughout the period. Well kept records relating to the project– both financial and organizational — make it a good focal point for studying longer-term changes in the Catholic community: what new forms of associational life emerged? Who donated to the Church and how did patterns of donation change? How did the meaning of the project change as both the Church and the city changed?
My fifth chapter will examine an institution close to Bishop Rudigier’s heart: the Linz Priesterseminar. Here teenage boys would come from Upper Austria and beyond, to learn how to become priests, after which they were assigned a parish and returned to the countryside. The Diözesanarchiv has very rich holdings in this area, detailing both the social and geographical origins of the boys, their curriculum (including old exams, essays, etc., with often very political and social topics), and the activities they participated in. By examining these materials, I hope to portray the changing nature of the Church from within: how it made priests politically active and aware, how ideas of ideology and hierarchy were instilled in them, how the ‘politicized’ city, the liberal state, and the godless working classes were made to look to the countryside. The Priesterseminar is also a good place to look for influence on the Church ‘from below:’ what sorts of ideas and practices did the boys bring with them and how did these shape the Church? All the later bishops of Linz came up through the ranks, beginning with the Priesterseminar.
In the next chapter, the focus will be on the Church and the “other.” Upper Austria was hardly representative of the Monarchy as a whole in terms of diversity: the nationalities problem was almost non-existent and the Jewish community small; Protestantism, though stronger here than in other parts of the western Monarchy (the proportions were different in the Hungarian half), was still only practiced by a little over two percent of the population. With religious equality and freedom of movement, given in 1867, all three groups became more vocal in asserting their rights. These were three different types of minorities in the 19th century: confessional (Protestants), religious (Jews), and national (Czechs) and this chapter will investigate how each was treated by the Church and how that treatment began to change in the later nineteenth century.
Then, my sixth chapter will focus on priests and the working class before and after the 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarum. Before then, even though the working-class consisted mostly of recent arrivals to the city and had no real political or organizational base, the ability of the Church to reach out remained limited. The encyclical, much discussed at the 1892 Austrian Catholic Congress held in Linz, led to a dramatic change in Church politics and the beginnings of a real Christian working-class movement. In this chapter I will examine how the Church looked to the working class, the successes and failures of the Christian movement, and the tension that developed between the Catholic political parties and the Church hierarchy, as each sought to define what the ‘true’ nature of Catholicism was.
Finally, World War I presented the Church with new problems. For the Catholic Church, the state level suddenly became newly important in how the global and local met. The Church stood on fragile ground in its efforts to simultaneously stay popular and neutral, an integral part of the local population and yet the local branch of a precariously perched global institution. Both sides in the conflict criticized Pope Benedict XV’s stance and local churches often did not know what to do or how to act. I will investigate how this drama played out in Linz: how the Church positioned itself at the outset, how war affected relations between the Church and state, as well as between the local Church and the Vatican. What did the Church do to promote peace and alleviate suffering? What did it do to further the war effort and spur patriotism? How did it reconcile these roles? And, finally, how did it then emerge from the war? I would like to take the study into the first post-war years, examining the Church’s role in the formation of the First Republic. Again, although our view from Vienna or of individual persons, such as Ignaz Seipel, has been covered, how the conflict between Christian Socials, the paramilitary Heimwehr, and the Social Democrats played out on a local level has all but been ignored. Linz, with its traditional trade ties to Budweis and Bohemia, provides an interesting vantage point to see the creation of a new central Europe after the war: the border conflicts, the fuel shortages, the trade embargoes, and the fear of revolution.
I am using the ideas of urbanization and secularization to denote a larger process at work on two levels: within the physical world — the emergence of new forms of economic life, the expansion of cities, the democratization of political and social life; and, second, as an emerging intellectual context, often secular in nature and ‘scientific’ in basis, which viewed Church dogma and religious truth more critically, though was not inherently anti-religious or atheist. See Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975); Lucian Hölscher, “Secularization and Urbanization in the Nineteenth Century: An Interpretive Model,” in ed. Hugh McLeod, European Religion in the Age of the Great Cities, 1830-1930 (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 263-288.
Though it must be remembered this was only because, as the Bishop, he automatically held a seat. Nevertheless he was one of its most regular attendants and most vocal participants.
John W. Boyer, Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna: Origins of the Christian Social Movement, 1848-1897 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); John W. Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna: Christian Socialism in Power, 1897-1918 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).
German historians use the 1862 constitutional crisis to show the emergence of a national liberal consensus forming around a rejection of Bismarck’s repeated requests for army reform. Boyer then argues that a Liberal consensus emerged in much the same way in Austria, but that anti-Clericalism and opposition to the 1855 Concordat were the rallying cries. For a good critique of Boyer’s missing regionalism, see Pieter Judson, “John Boyer’s Work in a Comparative Context,” in ed. Günter Bischof, et al., Women in Austria, Contemporary Austrian Studies (New Brunscwick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1998), 175-89.
See Wilhelm Rausch, ed., Die Städte Mitteleuropas im 19. Jahrhundert (Linz/Donau: Der Arbeitskreis, 1983), 1-24; especially Karl Bosl’s introduction.
Compare, for example, the stark secularism Friedrich Engels finds in his 1844 study of the working class in England with the optimistic tone of the Unitarian Minister Robert Vaughan’s 1842 treatise, The Age of Great Cities. The latter sees cities as the culmination of human civilization, where a pure, more enlightened Christianity could find a mass home finally removed from the feudal practices of the countryside. Hugh McLeod, Class and Religion in the Late Victorian City (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1974);); Hugh McLeod, Piety and Poverty: Working-Class Religion in Berlin, London and New York, 1870-1914 (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1996); and McLeod, European Religion.
Several works, excellent exceptions that merely prove the rule, are instructive here. See, R. W. Franklin, Nineteenth-Century Churches: The History of a New Catholicism in Württemberg, England, and France (New York: Garland, 1987); and Simon Ditchfield, Liturgy, Sanctity and History in Tridentine Italy: Pietro Maria Campi and the Preservation of the Particular (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
See, for example, Robert A. Kann, “The Dynasty and the Imperial Idea,” in ed. Stanley B. Winters, Dynasty, Politics and Culture: Selected Essays of Robert A. Kann (Boulder: Social Science Monographs, 1991), 45-67; and Andrew Wheatcroft, The Habsburgs: Embodying Empire, (London and New York: Viking Press, 1995).
From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, priests wrote reports on their parishes to be sent to the Archbishop and Papal nuncio in Vienna, but the court always read them first. Often, this was the ruling family’s only means of assessing the conditions of their lands and the only alternate source of information to what nobles asserted about their own holdings. Also, new laws and proclamations were usually first read aloud at Church. Robert Bireley, “Confessional Absolutism in the Habsburg Lands in the Seventeenth Century,” in ed. Charles W. Ingrao, State and Society in Early Modern Austria (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1994).
What Josephism was and was not has been argued about since the late 18th century. Almost all scholars now agree that the process began before Joseph came to power and continued on after his death. Some then go on to argue that Josephism was the Austrian version of reform Catholicism, while others emphasize its uniquely Austrian aspects, focusing on the role it played in the Habsburg state-building process. For an example of the former, see Eduard Winter, Der Josefinismus und seine Geschichte (Brunn: R. M. Rohrer, 1943), for the latter, see Ferdinand Maass, Der Fruhjosephinismus (Wien: Herold, 1969). Also see Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Derek Beales, Joseph II, vol. 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987); T. C. W. Blanning, Joseph II, Profiles in power (New York: Longman, 1994).
Adam Bunnell, Before Infallibility: Liberal Catholicism in Biedermeier Vienna (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990).
While disagreement remains on whether its paragraphs continued or ended the Josephist order, there is no disagreement about its importance in rallying opponents to the liberal camp. Here Boyer is surely correct. See Erika Weinzierl-Fischer, Die österreichischen Konkordate von 1855 und 1933 (Wien: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1960); also, Peter Wozniak, “Count Leo Thun: A Conservative Savior of Educational Reform in the Decade of Neoabsolutism,” Austrian History Yearbook 26 (1995): 61-81.
Steven Beller, Francis Joseph, Profiles in Power (London and New York: Longman, 1996), 56.
For example, at a Pastoralkonferenz in 1870, for which ex-students returned to Linz for further training, the essay question was: “One often hears the opinion: ‘Politics doesn’t belong on the pulpit.’ How is this sentence true, how is it not true? Is it important for the Church regain those rights on schooling guaranteed to it in the Concordat? What are the legal means at the disposal of the clergy to this end?” Linzer Diözesan-Blätter, 1870.