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

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Yes, I will go even further: I view the link between clerical interests and daily political opinions and favorite wishes as something intrinsically unnatural, as if one would want to mix noble metal with common clay into a single piece, and in a mixture like this it is always the more noble that gets sullied and degraded. It is religion, then, that all too easily sees itself being degraded as the handmaiden of politics, and you should not hope, gentlemen, that you will succeed in safeguarding your pure intentions against every disadvantage, against every misinterpretation, by appealing to your good will.

Your political opponents – and they are not the only ones, but even all those who are neutral, all those who do not exactly belong to your party – will always reproach you, will always be telling the people that the well-being of religion, the maintenance of the Church is only a pretext and a cover, that you are attempting to exploit the love the people have for their faith, the trust the people have in their priests, only for the sake of selfish political endeavors.

But also do not misunderstand me, as if I were to regard a complete separation of the two areas, the religious and the political, as possible and practicable, like a separation between light and darkness, between good and evil. I gladly concede that associations like ours have the right and calling to take up questions that have a close relationship by dint of natural necessity with church-related matters.

If politics introduces itself into the arena of social concerns, then it is also the duty of the Catholic associations to be active, and in this case it is even their right to carry out agitation – in the service of eternal truths, which form the foundation of all law, of every form of government and of church – is indisputable. May of these suggestions contribute to sketching the way that Catholic associations need to go in order not to get into dangerous conflicts.

But now, too, the kinds of political problems that are by no means of such great, far-reaching importance – problems concerning which there are very different views even among the best-educated – are supposed to be drawn into the realm of the associations' activities, e.g. the responsibility of cabinet ministers, a question on which, to be sure, a church-related interest could also be demonstrated. But if we want to talk about the responsibility of ministers, we need to analyze how far this responsibility extends, before what tribunal it is to be judged, etc. Are these not subjects that have great importance for the Church and church associations? One must leave it up to the conviction of the individual how Catholics should express political convictions; the associations cannot let themselves become instruments of political theories, and thus not dissipate their energies. The Catholic associations will have plenty to do with the matters [already] assigned to them even if they abandon the question of the Kaiser and the like to their fate.

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