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A movement in Prussia, Bavaria, Hesse, and Baden to make the Catholic Church subject to the state and independent of Rome. Professor Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), the liberal scientist who named it, called it a struggle for civilization. Bismarck and Falk, the political leaders, were actively supported by the Church's enemies in and out of the German Parliament. Their aim was to destroy papal influence and build up a national church, strengthening Protestant power. Religious orders were forced by impossible laws to secularize their schools or leave the country. Clergy were fined or punished for practicing their ecclesiastical duties, bishops and priests were imprisoned, and religious charitable institutions were closed. With the help of the state control of education it was hoped to secure absolute power over the intellectual life of the German nation. Unity of religion, i.e., Protestantism, was considered necessary for national unity. The Catholic Church, therefore, was to be either assimilated or destroyed in the interests of political solidarity. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck expelled the Jesuits, Redemptorists, Lazarists, and other religious teachers, placing all education in secular hands, and passed the May Laws, which fined, expelled, or imprisoned all bishops and clerics who in any way opposed the secularization of Catholic schools. Catholic worship soon became virtually impossible, and civil marriages were made compulsory. But the clergy remained faithful and their power of resistance grew under the able leadership of Ludwig Windthorst (1812-91) of the Catholic Center Party and with the support of Protestants who opposed such bigotry. The Kulturkampf consolidated the Catholics into a strong political party that held socialism at bay and restored Catholics to positions of influence in government. Under Pope Leo XIII in 1878 the restoration of peace began. The militant anti-Catholic laws were gradually repealed. By 1882 Prussia had established an embassy at the Vatican.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.