A European Culture War in the Twentieth Century? Antic-Catholicism and Anti-Bolshevism between Moscow, Berlin, and the Vatican 1922 to 1933

Todd Weir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)
534 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The term “culture war” has become a generic expression for secular-catholic conflicts across nineteenth-century Europe. Yet, if measured by acts of violence, anticlericalism peaked in the years between 1927 and 1939, when thousands of Catholic priests and believers were imprisoned or executed and hundreds of churches razed in Mexico, Spain and Russia. This essay argues that not only in these three countries, but indeed across Europe a culture war raged in the interwar period. It takes, as a case study, the interaction of communist and Catholic actors located in the Vatican, the Soviet Union, and Germany in the period between the beginning of the Pontificate of Pius XI in 1922 and Hitler’s appointment as chancellor of Germany in 1933. Using correspondence and reports from the Vatican archives, this essay shows how Papal officials and communist leaders each sought to mobilize the German populace to achieve their own diplomatic ends. German Catholics and communists gladly responded to the call to arms that sounded from Rome and Moscow in 1930, but they did so also to further their own domestic goals. The case study shows how national contexts inflected the transnational dynamics of radical anti-Catholicism in interwar Europe. In the end, agitation against “godlessness” did not lead to the return of a “Christian State” desired by many conservative Christians. Instead, the culture war further destabilized the republic and added a religious dimension to a landscape well suited to National Socialist efforts to reach a Christian population otherwise mistrustful of its völkisch and anticlerical elements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-306
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Religious History
Volume39
Issue number2
Early online date16 Dec 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Keywords

  • History of Secularism
  • Transnational History
  • History of Catholicism
  • German History
  • History of the Vatican

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies

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