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

The general assembly of the Catholic associations of the Rhineland and Westphalia was held from April 17-20, 1849. The assembly discussed whether Catholic associations should devote themselves solely to religious concerns or should also address purely political questions. Catholic groups were already active in various parliaments, including the 1848 Frankfurt National Assembly. Concern with social questions and, later on, defense of church rights against state interference, led to more political involvement. Excerpts from the debate on April 18, 1849 appear below.

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The proceedings of the second section began with a discussion of the preliminary question of whether so-called purely political questions from the current assembly of Catholic associations of the Rhineland and Westphalia should even be heard. On one side there was a motion proposing that the assembly should explicitly resolve not to concern itself with such questions. This motion, however, was rejected by a majority of the section, by 29 votes against 12. Now since, according to the rules of procedure, a motion rejected in the section can only avoid recapitulation in the general assembly when a majority of more than 3/4 of those voting have spoken out against it, [and] such a majority is not present in the current case, it must first be asked whether the petitioner, Professor Dieringer from Bonn, wants to recapitulate the motion in question.

Professor Dieringer (from Bonn) states that he certainly does want to bring his motion to a decision in the general assembly, which he herewith presents as correspondent for the minority in the following version:

"The Pius Associations state that they shall only deal with political questions that have some direct and fundamental link with the clerical and social welfare aims of the Pius Associations," and in case this statement should not be popular, he proposes the sub-motion:

"It should be left up to the individual Pius Associations in the Rhineland and Westphalia as to whether and to what extent they want to deal with purely political questions."

Public reading of the motions referred to the political section, without [their] wording reproduced [here].

Mr. Rübsahmen provides a short overview of the arguments advanced by both sides of the section in the above-cited dispute over principles, which concerns whether purely political questions [should be] excluded.

On one side, it was maintained that, if this exclusion did not take place, an assertion of many different political views could soon endanger the continued existence of the Pius Associations; the Pius Associations, it was further maintained, were to be viewed as church-related associations, and should therefore not be concerned with purely political questions.

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