An Empire Divided: Regional anti-Catholic Policies in Bismarck's Germany
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Bavaria, the largest Catholic state in Germany, was only incorporated into the Prussian dominated German Empire in 1871. Prussia, the largest Protestant state in Germany, served as the engine behind unification. From 1871-1878, the Prussian Landtag and, occasionally, the Reichstag passed anti-Catholic legislation known as the Kulturkampf. The legislation removed thousands of Prussian clergy members from their posts making it difficult for devoted Catholics to practice their faith. On multiple occasions, the Prussian government ordered the army to break Catholic rallies and protests. The Kulturkampf was also economically and culturally damaging to laymen who were suspected of strong Catholic sentiment even after rejecting the Church. In Bavaria, conversely, the Kulturkampf had little effect on most Catholics and conspicuously lacked the rights violations and severity of Prussia. The differences in policy between the states cannot be easily explained. The ultramontane movement had greater success among Prussian Catholics. Partially due to this, Prussian liberals rallied around the Kulturkampf as a nationalist means to force internal unity and set a precedent for a modern, secular Germany in contrast to what liberals perceived as a backward institution, the Church. Conversely, Bavarian liberals seldom worried about ultramontanism due to its weakness in Bavaria. Furthermore, because Bavaria was predominantly Catholic, any strong anti-Catholic legislation would have been politically tactless. The causes of the variation of severity between states and the failure of the centralized government to create a strong, consistent policy suggests a glaring problem in German internal unity.