The New International Encyclopædia/German Catholics

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GERMAN CATHOLICS. The name given to a sect which originated in Germany in 1844, and had a short existence. In that year Johannes Czerski (q.v.) undertook to found the ‘Christian-Apostolic Catholic Congregation,’ at Schneidemühl, in Posen. The confession of faith drawn up by Czerski rejected certain doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but retained the Nicene Creed, the seven sacraments, and prayer for the dead; it declared the Bible the only sure source of Christian faith. About the same time Johannes Ronge (q.v.) uttered his protest against the exhibition of the holy coat (q.v.) at Treves, and the following year was called to take charge of a large ‘German Catholic’ congregation at Breslau. Ronge's confession of faith was far more radical than that of Czerski, and had a decided rationalistic tendency. The movement spread with remarkable rapidity, and many similar congregations were formed. In March, 1845, a conference was held at Leipzig and an organization effected. Among the prominent members of this gathering was Robert Blum (q.v.). The movement was forbidden in Austria and Bavaria. By the end of 1846 there were 60,000 German Catholics, more than half of them in Silesia. A second council was held at Berlin in 1847, at which liberal and rationalistic tendencies were still more marked. The decline of the association was due to two causes — the active part which many of its members took in politics, and the continual controversy between the adherents to the rationalistic confession of Ronge and those who preferred the more evangelical one of Czerski. Alter the Revolution of 1848 it rapidly went to pieces. In 1850 it was united with the Free Congregations (q.v.). In 1863 Ronge and Czerski attempted to revive the movement by the ‘Religious Reform Union.’ It is now practically dead. Consult: Günther, Bibliothek der Bekenntnissschriften der deutschkatholischen Kirchen (Jena, 1845); Bauer, Geschichte der Gründung und Fortbildung der deutschkatholischen Kirche (Meissen, 1855); Kampe, Wesen des Deutschkatholicismus (Tübingen, 1850); id., Geschichte der religiösen Bewegung der neuern Zeit (Leipzig, 1852-60).