Pius Societies

Pius Societies The stormy years of 1848 and 1849 brought great hopes and great dangers to the Roman Catholic Church of Germany, especially the hope of entire emancipation from the State, and the danger of enslavement to the despotism of a liberalism hostile to the Church. But its representatives knew how to steer skillfully between the Scylla and Charybdis. In November 1848, the German bishops of the Romish body assembled at Wilrzburg, to consult together concerning the best means to proceed in this critical period. Unvarying faithfulness to the papacy was the first point settled; voluntary co-operation with the "political regeneration" of the fatherland, the second; thankful acceptance of the promise of unconditional freedom of conscience (in the fundamental rights of the Frankfort Parliament), in order to accomplish the most complete independence of the Church and absolute control of national education, from the elementary to the high schools, the third. Shortly before this, however, an organization of far-reaching significance had been effected, in which also-and prominently the laity were to co-operate, viz., the Pius Society, a Roman Catholic counterpart of the Protestant Church Dict (q.v.). Soon after the revolutionary struggles of March, unions were formed at several places in Germany having for their object the protection and advancement of Roman Catholic interests. At the anniversary of the building of the cathedral at Cologne, in August, 1848, the members of several of these unions met together and resolved upon a general convocation, in October, 1848, at Mayence, where the first union of this kind was formed, under the name of Pius Society. Here all the single unions were formed into a great collective union under the name of" Catholic Union of Germany;" although in practice the shorter name of Pius Society has been preferred. To direct the business of the collective union, one of the single unions was to be chosen every time from the annual general convention, which was called "Vorort." The object of the union was "the obtaining and maintenance of the freedom of the Church and control of the same over the schools; national culture in the Roman Catholic spirit and practice of Christian mercy; as fundamental law, obedience to the pope and to the episcopate; pacific posture towards the State and towards every existing form of government, so far as the rights of the Church were not thereby prejudiced; and defensive, not aggressive, posture towards the non-Catholic confessions. The Virgin Mary was chosen as patroness of the union, and every member bound himself to repeat a daily Paternoster and Ave Maria to further the objects of the union." The first general assembly, which was held at Mayence in 1848, was represented by eighty-three different societies; and a letter received from the pope (Feb., 1849), in which he gave his approbation and blessing to this union, only strengthened the movement, and gave not only authority, but also the name. A second assembly was held at Breslaul, where the papal letter was received, and where the assembly openly expressed it that "a united Germany was only possible with a Catholic Christianity." Here a new society was also organized, the Vincentius Society, for missionary work at home. The third general assembly was held at Regensburg (October, 1849). Here, besides the organization of the Botnaicius Society, a paper was started, Katholischer Vereinsbote fur das dettsche Reich, in the interest of all societies organized in the spirit of the Pius societies. Every year new societies of like tendency and spirit were organized, till in the year 1851 the number was so great that the original Pius societies, with the now-existing branch associations, were finally amalgamated into one, as all were only serving one purpose-the advancement of ultramontanism in Germany. Yet, in spite of all these efforts, the seventh general assembly, held at Vienna (Sept., 1853), was forced to acknowledge that it had not succeeded in attracting the masses, for only the same faces were present. The meeting at Cologne in 1854 became discordant, because the committee refused to give the Prussian government a guarantee of abstinence from political utterances and confessional polemics. The ninth general assembly, held at Salzburg in 1857, was a living "testimonium paupertatis," which the Roman Catholic world exhibited to the union. Little was felt here of important men, deeds, and speeches. The cathedral capitular Himioben of Mayence, the "real miles gloriosus of the meeting." uttered hectoring fanfaronades about the glorious victories of Roman Catholicism in Germany, and expressed the confident hope, in regard to the forty new Protestant churches built by the Gustavus Adolphus Union, that these would shortly again be cast out into the garden of rejected stones. "Harlequinades also were not wanting. Prof. Kreuzer, of Cologne, e.g., comforted those present in regard to the charge of ultramontanism with the proverb, 'There stands the ox at the mountain;' from which it follows incontestably that the oxen are the real Cismontanes, because they are not able to pass over the mountain; and as regards the papacy, it is evident that Christ himself, who called upon his Father-on the cross, was a papist; indeed, every man is a born papist because the child lisps 'papa' already in the cradle; and other such comical things." As a change, it was also greatly lamented that two hundred and seven large and twelve hundred and thirty-four small journals were in the service of the Protestants of Germany, while, on the other hand, the Roman Catholics had only six large and eighty-one small ones.

The tenth general assembly was held at Cologne (September, 1858). All agreed that the results hitherto achieved were satisfactory. In general, the deportment of this conference was more dignified, the contents of its speeches more important, than those of the former years. "Still the jester Himioben was not wanting this time also. He exhorted the women to form Parament unions, and informed them that the first union of this kind was formed in the year 33 after Christ, in consequence of the first secularization, when the soldiers cast lots for the garment of the Savior, which he had worn the evening previous as a chasuble at the first celebration of the mass. Indeed, we can even go farther back than this: Mary, who made swaddling bands for the child Jesus, was the proper originator of the union. After being edified with such trifles, but also hearing many important truths, especially concerning the study of history and the musical culture of the young, the meeting was closed by consecrating the pillar of Mary built at Cologne in honor of the immaculate conception." The eleventh annual conference, which was held at Freiburg in 1859, expressed the hope that soon all Germany will be brought back within the pale of the Roman Catholic Church; while the twelfth, held at Prague in 1860, lamented over the wounds which were inflicted upon the papacy in that same year. The thirteenth general meeting, held at Munich in 1861, extolled the virtues of the Holy Father, and declared the robbing of the pope's territory to be a robbery of God. The seventeenth, which was held at Treves in 1865, praised the encyclica published in 1864 in the bull "Quanta cira" as the greatest deed of the 19th century; pronounced John Goerres (q.v.) as the greatest German, and the holy coat at Treves as the symbol of Catholic unity. In this tenor it went on. "Half childish, half spleenish remained the rest of the meetings, until the day at Breslau, in 1872, when humor gave place to rage, naiveté to fanaticism, and the ostensible peace policy to the ringing of the alarm-bell" (Kurtz).

The most prominent societies in connection with the original Pius societies are the Bonifacius unions for the support of needy Roman Catholic congregations in Protestant Germany (an imitation of the Gustavus Adolphus Union); the Charles Borromeo unions, to spread good Roman Catholic writings; the Vincentius and Elizabeth unions, for visiting the sick and taking care of the poor; the Journeymen unions (founded by Kolping, of Elberfeld, in 1846), for the spiritual and temporal sustenance of journeymen; the unions of The Holy Childhood of Jesus, composed chiefly of children, who contribute monthly five pennies for the salvation of exposed heathen children (especially in China), and daily pray an Ave Maria for them. These are the most prominent organizations in the service of the hierarchy, and are found all over the world. In the United States there is hardly a large town in which one or the other of these societies is not to be found. The tendency is the same, although the name may be different. The purpose of these organizations in the United States is to bring the state as much as possible under the influence and control of the hierarchy, and the political arena is the field of labor. Already they influence the legislatures, school boards; yea, we may say they form a state within the state. The clergy commands a great ignorant mass, easily fanaticized, and ready to do anything "in majorem Dei gloriam et honorom papas infallibilis." The doctrines of the Vatican are promulgated through numerous papers, and the utterances made at the annual gatherings of the different organizations are the best proof of the spirit which animates these societies. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop, s.v. Piusvereine; Theolog. Universal-Lexikon, s.v.; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, s.v.; more especially Kurtz, Lehrbuch der Kirchengesch. (Mitau, 1874), 2, 332 sq. SEE ULTRAMONTANISM (in its conflict with Germany). (B. P.)

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