Schilling, Heinz: Confessional Europe

Overlapping Authorities

The states’ activities also intensified in what had lain largely in the church’s hands during the Middle Ages, when the state had lacked the capacity to manage them. The most important such matters were marriage and the family, education, poor relief, and social welfare. Except for Catholic marriage, which remained a sacrament and thus did not fall under the “mixed matters”, in both Protestant and Catholic lands such matters came under the jurisdiction of both authorities. And if in the long run the state’s competence grew at the church’s expense, the norm was their coordination, despite the frequent differences of opinion and even conflicts between them.

The individual confessions were nonetheless quite differently equipped to protect the church’s interests in mixed matters. Calvinist responsibility for these matters was especially explicit and instrumentally rational in the modern sense: it lay primarily with the congregational presbytery and secondarily with the synod. Where Calvinism was the established religion, both bodies coordinated their activities with those of the civil magistrates. (25) In Lutheran lands, by contrast, the powers of the local congregation were incorporated into the territorial bureaucracy, which allowed the state possibilities for influence and even control.(26) In Catholic lands most of the medieval institutions survived, though here, too, the drive for agreement and coordination can be traced in the episcopal authority, which the Council of Trent strengthened, in the new religious orders, such as the Jesuits, and above all in the state itself. (27) Best known are the Jesuits establishment of schools and universities. In 1576 Peter Canisius (1521-97) could still complain “that the Catholics have so few universities, and such poor ones.” He and others nonetheless pressed forward energetically on this front since the late sixteenth century, and gradually the gap diminished. The essential difference between Protestant and Catholic education consisted in the fact that behind the Calvinist and Lutheran efforts normally stood a territorial patron or even a national state, while in Catholic lands the main effort was borne by internationally organized religious orders, whose colleges, seminaries, and houses of study contributed to the progress of learning, including the natural sciences. (28)

Under Calvinism social welfare –care of the poor, orphans, and the sick– belonged to a special institution, the diaconate, governed by the deacons under the presbytery’s supervision. The Calvinist cities developed effective systems of district or neighborhood responsibility for a deacon, or a pair of deacons, who collected alms and supported the needy. In some places this system, which always meant supervision as well as support, became models for secular welfare institutions in the nineteenth century. Lutheranism established the “common chest” at the parish level, though this seldom led to a separate local welfare system, which instead was supplied by the territorial church and the state. Catholicism retained here, too, the medieval plurality of institutions, though with attempts to rationalize them.(29) Independently from these ecclesiastical efforts, the state became active in social welfare, especially in the German territorial states, where the political traditions favored the promotion of the common good through legislation. Hundreds of regulations and poor laws were issued, mostly based symbiotically on religious and political elements without much variation from confession-to-confession.(30)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

You may also like...