Catholic faction

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The Catholic parliamentary group in the Prussian House of Representatives was established in 1852 and existed until 1867. It was important for the development of political Catholicism and was an indirect predecessor of the Center Party .


The cause for the formation of the parliamentary group were two decrees of the Prussian Ministry of Culture. It was about the restriction of the people's mission by the Jesuits and making it more difficult for Prussian theologians to study at the Collegium Germanicum in Rome . Especially among the Catholics in Rhineland and Westphalia , this sparked memories of the conflicts between state and church in the Cologne turmoil of 1837.

Foundation and goals

In the Prussian House of Representatives, on the initiative of August and Peter Reichensperger , Hermann von Mallinckrodt and the cathedral capitular Kaspar Franz Krabbe , 64 Catholic parliamentarians, including MP Karl Alexander Schmidt , came together. Non-Catholic MPs were also invited to join, but there was no response.

Its aim was to defend the rights of the church and the corresponding articles of fundamental rights in the Prussian constitution. In practice, she was particularly committed to maintaining Catholic influence on schools. The majority of the group was moderately liberal, with the exception of religious issues. In contrast to a considerable part of the old liberals , a large part of the members of the Catholic parliamentary group were set up in Greater German .

In 1859 the faction renamed itself: "Fraktion des Zentrums (Catholic faction)." This was the first step on the way to becoming a political party. The term center actually only meant the seating arrangement. But he also gave the political position of the group. It could vote with both the parliamentary left and the right, depending on the question.


In terms of composition, too, the faction resembled the later Center Party. Their regional focus was in the Rhineland and Westphalia. Of 63 MPs from the Rhine Province, 36 belonged to the Catholic parliamentary group and 17 to the old liberals in 1853. In Westphalia, 16 of the 31 MPs belonged to the Catholic parliamentary group and 11 to the old liberals. In social terms, the Catholic nobility, the property and educated bourgeoisie, but also the petty bourgeoisie were represented.


When, during the Prussian constitutional conflict, the internal political conflict came to a head, the number of members of the Catholic parliamentary group declined. Between 1867 and 1870, when the Center Party came into being, there was no Catholic parliamentary group either in the Prussian House of Representatives or in the Reichstag of the North German Confederation.


  • Walter Tormin: History of the German parties since 1848. Stuttgart, 1967. P. 48
  • Wilhelm Ribhegge: Prussia in the West. Struggle for parliamentarism in Rhineland and Westphalia. Münster, 2008 (special edition for the state center for political education in North Rhine-Westphalia) p. 193