Ecclesiastical Province of the Upper Rhine
Includes the Archdiocese of Freiburg and the suffragan Dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limburg, and Rottenburg
Upper Rhine, ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE OF THE, includes the Archdiocese of Freiburg and the suffragan Dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limburg, and Rottenburg. The German Church was secularized by the Imperial Delegates Enactment of February 25, 1803, confirmed by the German Empire on March 24, and by the emperor on April 27. All bishoprics and religious foundations, abbeys, and monasteries, immediate or mediate, were used to compensate those rulers who had been obliged to yield their possessions on the left bank of the Rhine to France. A part of the Archdiocese of Mainz was preserved for the primate Karl Theodore von Dalberg and was transferred to the cathedral church of Ratisbon. Hanover, Brunswick, and Oldenburg also received ecclesiastical lands. None of these thought of providing for the needs of their Catholic subjects by establishing new dioceses. The organization of the Confederation of the Rhine, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, and the supremacy in southern Germany of Napoleon, who had no desire for the settlement of the ecclesiastical confusion in Germany, made it impossible to conclude a concordat.
The condition of the Church grew desolate. New bishops were not elected when the old bishops died, and the cathedral chapters were combined. Besides Dalberg, those who labored in the districts which now belong to the ecclesiastical Province of the Upper Rhine were: the former Bishop of Speyer, Walderdorf, at Bruchsal (up to 1810), and Joseph Ludwig Colmar, at Mainz (1802-18); in the Duchy of Nassau J. von Hommer, cathedral vicar of Trier; Hubert Corden, at Limburg. There were also vicars of the primate Dalberg at Worms, Ellwangen (from 1817 at Rottenburg), and Constance. From 1800 the vicar-general at Constance was Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg (q.v.), a Josephinist, who advocated a national German Church independent of the pope and introduced many anti-clerical innovations.
The Catholics of Germany looked to the Congress of Vienna for the removal of their difficulties. This they hoped all the more, as those territories had been won again from France in compensation for which all landed possessions had been taken from the Church. Cardinal Consalvi, the papal representative at the congress, Wessenberg, the representative of the primate Dalberg, von Wambold, dean of the cathedral of Worms, Helfferich, cathedral canon of Speyer, and Schies, formerly syndic of the collegiate church of St. Andreas at Worms, presented to the congress a number of memorials and statements on the restoration of the earlier rights of the Church, the reendowment of dioceses, and the founding of seminaries and parishes. The congress maintained an unbroken silence; moreover, it disposed of the church lands on the recovered left bank of the Rhine. As the congress also divided the territories of the primate Dalberg, after its session closed the Church was poorer than before. In vain Dalberg sought through his representative Wessenberg at the congress, and afterwards at the Diet of the Confederation at Frankfort, to bring it about that the church affairs of the Catholics should be made one of the matters to be settled by the Confederation. The reorganization of the Church and its equipment was left to the good will of the individual rulers. This was most disadvantageous, as Catholic principles were regarded with strong disfavor by Protestants and Freemasons, and by adherents of Febronianism and Josephinism.
After Bavaria and Prussia had begun the negotiations with Rome that led to the concordats of 1818 and 1821, the envoys of several Protestant rulers met at Frankfort in March, 1818, at the instance of Wurtemberg, to confer concerning the condition of the Catholic Church in their respective countries, and to discuss the general principles which should be followed by the German states in concluding a concordat. This conference was attended by representatives of Wurtemberg, of the Grand Duchies of Baden, Mecklenburg, and Hesse, of the Electoral Principality of Hesse, the Duchy of Nassau, Frankfort, and of several North German states which later withdrew. In the opening address on March 24, 1818, the envoy of Wurtemberg threw upon the Roman See the responsibility for the fact that ecclesiastical affairs were not yet in an organized condition in Germany; then he urged a close union of the Protestant governments in their position towards Rome, and announced that the governments would take up the national Church schemes of Febronius in case Rome was not willing to agree to the “favorable conditions” offered by the various countries. He called the church law devised by Febronius and Joseph II, with its episcopal system, the “only salvation” of the Catholic Church. The ends to be attained in negotiations with Rome were: first, the reorganization of religious conditions “without endangering the Jura principum circa sacra or granting rights to the Roman Court whereby it could have a disadvantageous effect upon the peace, civil order, and civilization of the states”; secondly “the introduction of a church system which would bring church affairs more into harmony with the constitution of the State and the present position of enlightenment, in order to set boundaries to the papal system which has lately threatened the states with obscurantism and all its consequences”. In the seventeenth session it was decided that a concordat with the Holy See was not to be sought, but that the governments were to communicate to the pope in a `Declaration” what they were ready to concede to the Church; the claims of the state circa sacra were embodied in an “Organic Statute”, that was kept secret at first and was to be given to the new bishops of the respective countries at the close of the negotiations.
The “Declaration”, in which Baden, Wurtemberg, the two Hesses, Nassau, and Frankfort had agreed, were presented to Pius VII, March 23, 1819, by the ambassadors of the combined governments. On August 10 this declaration was answered by Cardinal Consalvi in a celebrated report, and rejected by the Holy See. As, however, the pope had requested the governments to take in hand, at least provisionally, the Circumscription and filling of new dioceses, the representatives of the governments assembled once more at Frankfort, where new negotiations lasted from April 22, 1820, to January 24, 1821. The proposal for the circumscription of new dioceses was accepted by the governments, and they further agreed among themselves to urge the founding of special dioceses for each country, and to demand that these dioceses should not be exempt, but should be under a metropolitan. The hope was that a church province with an archbishop would be more independent of Rome than exempt, isolated bishops. The church Province of the Upper Rhine, that was to be erected, was to include the Dioceses of Freiburg, Fulda, Limburg, Mainz, and Rottenburg, with the metropolitan see at Freiburg. The desire of the pope to have the archiepiscopal See of St. Boniface reestablished at Mainz failed of accomplishment, on account of the opposition of Wurtemberg and Nassau. In March, 1821, the draft of an organization and the documents which designated the amounts necessary for the endowment of the sees were sent to the pope. On the basis of these documents Pius VII issued, August 16, 1821, the Bull of circumscription “Provida sollersque”, suppressing the Bishopric of Constance and the provost-ship of Ellwangen, and canonically erecting the church Province of the Upper Rhine with the dioceses already mentioned.
Although the governments were only partially satisfied with the Bull, still it was accepted by their representatives at Frankfort; its publication, however, was postponed. The principles and schemes of the combined governments as to national Churches, concerning which no agreement had been reached with Rome, were set forth by the assembled diplomats in the “Fundamental Instrument” and the “Church Pragmatic”. These two documents demanded the complete control of the Church system by the State. It was the intention of the governments, as soon as Rome had established the new dioceses, to force upon the new bishops this right of the State over the Church, which under no circumstances could have received the approval of Rome. In a secret treaty between the states, February 8, 1822, it was agreed that the “Church Pragmatic” was to be made binding upon the new bishops and canons. The governments also hastened to select their candidates for the new sees, some states asking the advice of the deans of the chapters. The candidates thus chosen were bound to observe the “Church Pragmatic”. The Holy See, when informed of these proceedings by Vicar General von Kempff, who was under consideration as Bishop of Fulda, rejected on June 13, 1823, both the candidates nominated for bishops and the whole of the “Church Pragmatic”. Negotiations were again broken off. However, the necessity, which was every day more apparent, of reestablishing settled church relations and the lack of agreement among the governments led Baden, first of all, to open new and confidential negotiations for itself with Rome. The results of these negotiations were four propositions which were sent as the ultimatum of the Holy See to the Government of Baden on December 8, 1824. These propositions regulated the method of filling the archiepiscopal see, the first and later appointments of the metropolitan chapter, and the founding of a seminary for priests; they also demanded a freer intercourse with Rome for the archbishop, and the free exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction according to the canons of the Church. Baden accepted these propositions, with some changes conceded by the pope. Divided into six articles these propositions were communicated after this, on July 6, 1825, to the other courts that had negotiated with the Holy See. The united governments accepted the articles, August 4, 1826, and communicated their acceptance to the pope, September 4-7, demanding, however, the omission of the articles which treated of the endowment of the seminaries and guaranteed the freedom of the administration of the Church. According to their own declarations these reservations of the governments did not imply the validity of the principles of the “Church Pragmatic”, and, as the governments made no reply to the explanations which the pope gave to these points, the pope assumed that the doubts of the Governments over these points had disappeared. Consequently on April 11, 1827, he issued the supplementary Bull, “Ad Dominic’ gregis custodiam”, which incorporated the articles in their entirety. Upon this the two Bulls, “Provida sollersque” and “Ad Dominici gregis custodiam”, were published in full by the Governments of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Cassel, Wurtemberg, and Nassau. The Bulls received the approval of the Governments only “so far as such have for their object the formation of the ecclesiastical province of the Upper Rhine, the circumscription, equipment, and founding of the five dioceses belonging to it with their cathedral chapters, also the filling of the archiepiscopal see, the episcopal sees, and the offices of the cathedral foundations”.
After the Bulls had been proclaimed by the Governments, the new bishops were elected. After the Government of Baden had dropped its former candidate, Wessenberg, the first archbishop was Bernhard Boll, parish priest of Munster; the Bishop of Limburg was Brand; of Rottenburg, J. B. Keller; of Fulda, Rieger; of Mainz, Burg. The ecclesiastical province of the Upper Rhine was now established, and the episcopal sees filled, but satisfactory relations between Church and State had not yet been attained. The Governments did not abandon their plan to extend the rights of the State in ecclesiastical questions as far as possible. No determined resistance was to be expected from most of the new bishops, who were either weak men or confidants of the Governments. Consequently, on January 30, 1830, the Governments issued jointly an “Ordinance respecting the exercise of the constitutional right of the State to protect and supervise the Catholic national Church“, containing thirty-nine articles, which were essentially only a revised form of the “Church Pragmatic” of Frankfort. The pope protested at once, although in vain. The Bishop of Fulda and his cathedral chapter also courageously opposed the ordinance, and obtained the mitigation of the most severe regulations. The bishops of the other dioceses accepted at first without opposition the publication of the ordinance of the sovereign. Still, in their dioceses also there were later violent struggles between Church and State.