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The Catholics: General Assembly of the Catholic Associations of the Rhineland and Westphalia (1849)

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If we were to say that purely political questions should not be excluded, we would be departing from history. If the associations get involved in political discussions, the danger would arise that the episcopate, which has assumed patronage over the associations, would disapprove of their efforts and that they would fall into an unfavorable position. If the associations want to be political, then they will have to become a political party, but then they will get into an objectionable and dangerous position and be opposed by all the other parties. But not all upright and honest Catholics can be reconciled to the same political view, not all of them have enough energy, endurance, and spirit of self-sacrifice, [and] instead of mutual respect, hostilities would result; instead, a member of this or that party must be able to gain a hearing, irrespective of the question submitted.

There can be no denying the fact that the behavior of some associations has already produced an unpleasant and embarrassing impression among other associations. As well-intentioned as this was, it nevertheless caused offense. It would therefore be easy for the associations, although essentially united, to split over politics. Taking up politics might easily plant the seed of destruction and discord. These are the reasons that have guided the minority in proposing the sub-motion just read.

Mr. v. Fürth, Jr., for the majority motion:

Gentlemen! The previous speaker has jumbled the real point of the question. It did not occur to the Cologne association to invite you here so that the Catholic associations of the Rhineland and Westphalia could constitute themselves as a political party. I therefore refer to the letter of invitation we released, where the only subject is agreeing on the political questions that are important for Catholics as such, and on the standpoint that Catholics as such have to assume vis-à-vis the existing political parties.

In refuting what the spokesman for the minority expressed, the speaker relied chiefly on the following arguments:

First: The majority of political questions, and also the most important of them, are such that their solution is also of importance for the future of Catholicism in Germany. The Pius Associations must resist any political effort from which it could be seen that, should it attain its goal, the independence of the Church might be imperiled.

Secondly, those who increasingly recognize that the state can only be returned to the Church and regenerated by the Church must strive to ensure that a type of politics appropriate to Catholicism and thoroughly pervaded by its spirit is acknowledged by the people as the only correct policy. In their meetings, both the adherents of the so-called constitutional party as well as the radicals tended to speak long-windedly about what the people would need to do for their own advantage, but never do they investigate whether a type of political endeavor corresponds to the principles of justice and morality as well as the dictates of the Church. Accustomed to treating political questions this way, the people increasingly lose their sense of justice. The Pius Associations must combat what is un-Catholic where they find it, hence also in the political movements of our time. Currently the people long for political freedom, and one has to prove to them that one has a heart for their freedom, and then one gains their trust and can lead them back from political aberration.

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