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Catholic Congresses

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One of the remarkable and important manifestations of the social and religious life of the present day are gatherings of Catholics in general public conferences. This is the case both when these assemblies consist of delegates representing the entire Catholic population of a country or nation meeting to express opinions concerning matters close to its heart; or when they consist simply of the members of some one Catholic association who have come together for the advancement of the particular aims of the society. Taken collectively, these congresses prove that the life of the Catholic Church of the present day is not confined to Church devotions; that not merely individual classes and circles, but all Catholics, men of every rank and of every degree of culture, of all callings, all ages, and of all nations have been quickened to an unheard-of extent by the ecclesiastical movement of the nineteenth century, and gladly co-operate with it. This movement in Catholic life has been made possible by the development of travelling facilities, the multiplication of social interests, and also by the political freedom of modern nations. But Catholics would probably not have made use of these aids in such large measure if they had not been stirred up by extraordinary zeal.


The first large Congress was held by the Catholics of Germany. In the year of political revolutions, 1848, they founded throughout Germany local Catholic associations, called "Piusvereine" after Pope Pius IX, the Catholics of Mainz taking the lead. Their object was to stimulate Catholics to make use of the favourable moment to free the Church from dependence on the State. In accordance with an agreement made by a number of distinguished Catholics at the festivities held to celebrate the completion of a portion of the cathedral of Cologne, August, 1848, these associations met in convention at Mainz, 3-6 October of the same year. In the neighbouring city of Frankfort the German Diet was in session. Only a few weeks before, this body had decided to separate the schools from the Church, in spite of the opposing votes of the Catholic deputies, and had filled the Catholic people with a deep distrust of the Frankfort Assembly. A large part of the Catholic members of the Diet went to Mainz, and expressed their views, thus directing widespread attention to the convention and arousing the enthusiasm of its members, which reached its highest pitch when one of the deputies, Wilhelm Emanuel von Ketteler, the parish priest of Hopsten, arose and urged the Congress to give their attention to social as well as religious questions. Thenceforth the General German Catholic Congresses had a distinctive character impressed upon them. It became their mission to prove and intensify the devotion of German Catholics to their Church, to defend the rights of the Church and the liberties of Catholics as citizens, to preserve the Christian character of the schools, and to further the Christian spirit in society. At first the congress met semi-annually; after 1850, it met annually in a German or Austrian city. From the start it regarded the development of German Catholic societies into a power in national affairs as one of the most important means of gaining its ends. Consequently the Congress gave its attention not only to the "Piusvereine" but also interested itself in all other Catholic societies, e.g. the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences, the Gesellenvereine (journeymen's unions), the reading-circles, the students' corps, etc., and also encouraged the founding of important new associations, such as the societies in aid of German emigrants, the St. Boniface Association, the St. Augustine Association for the development of the Catholic press, and others. The end sought was to combine the general assemblies of as many of these societies as possible with that of the "Piusvereine", or to secure their convening at the same time and place. Thus the Catholic Congress became in a few years and is still an annual general meeting for the majority of German Catholic societies. This appears from the programme of every German Catholic Congress. As long as the Catholic Congress was principally a representative general meeting of Catholic societies, its proceedings were chiefly discussions and debates and the number of those who attended was relatively small. This was the case in the first decade of its existence. Still even at this time one or more public mass-meetings were held at each Congress, in order to arouse the interest of the Catholic population of the place of assembly and its vicinity. The most celebrated address of the first decade was made in 1849 at Ratisbon by Döllinger on the "Independence of the Church." The most important of the early German Catholic Congresses was the session held at Vienna, 1853.

Owing to epidemics and political difficulties up to 1858 the congress met irregularly and the attendance decreased so that its future appeared doubtful. After 1858, however, the congress rose again in importance while at the same time its character gradually changed. It became a general assembly of German Catholics, and the attendance greatly increased. In these changed conditions the public sessions devoted to oratorical addresses from distinguished speakers as well as the private sessions for deliberation grew in importance. In these years Catholic Germany could boast of several very eloquent orators, the best among whom were Moufang, Heinrich, and Haffner, theologians of Mainz, and after these Lindau, a merchant of Heidelberg. The participation by the Catholic nobility in the meetings made them socially more impressive. The most striking speech of this period was made at Aachen in 1862 by Moufang on the "Duties of Catholic Men." Among the subjects debated the school and education aroused the most feeling; in connexion with these great discussions great attention was given, under the guidance of Dr. Hülskamp, editor of "The Literarischer Handweiser", to the development of the press and popular literature. Since the Frankfort Congress of 1863 the labour question has occupied more and more of the attention of the assembly.

The hope awakened in the hearts of Catholics by the apparently victorious progress of the Catholic movement in Western Europe gave special inspiration to the gatherings of these years. A similar congress was held by the Swiss Catholics; a more important development was the resolve of the Belgian Catholics, instigated by the success of the German Catholic Congress near them at Aachen, to hold Catholic congresses for Belgium and to invite the most distinguished Catholic men of the entire world to participate. The intention was to form a central point for the Catholic movement of Western Europe and to give it a perpetual organization, making it an international movement, so that in the future Catholics of all nations could work together. The chief organizer of the preparatory plans was Ducpétiaux. The first Belgian congress was held at Mechlin, 18-22 August, 1863, and was a great success. The most prominent champions of the Church in Europe attended the Belgian Congresses: Montalembert, Prince Albert de Broglie, Cardinals Wiseman and Manning, the two Reichenspergers (August and Peter) and Kölping, the Abbé Mermillod; representing the United States were Bishop Fitzpatrick, of Boston, and L. Silliman Ives, of New York. Reports on the Catholic life and work of every country were presented: much time was devoted to the discussion of social questions, and decided differences of opinion were expressed. The most brilliant success was achieved by two discourses by Montalembert on "A Free Church in a Free State." A second congress took place in September of the next year, and the intention was to hold yearly meetings; but already the first clouds of internal conflict among Catholics began to appear. According to their views on political liberalism and modern science, men's minds drifted apart. Henceforth Catholics could not be gathered together for a common meeting. The only later congress was held at Mechlin in 1867; the Swiss assemblies also ceased after a short time, so that soon the German Catholic Congresses were the only large assemblies of the kind. At the Bamberg Congress, 1868, a standing Central Committee was formed, which gave a permanent form of organization to the German Catholic gathering.

Development in France

Towards the end of the sixties a third period of progressive development began, due to the increasing interest of Catholics in social problems and the growth of the spirit of association among Catholic workmen. In Belgium, in 1867, it was decided to form a union of all workmen's associations in order to systematize their development and growth. A standing committee was formed, and a first congress was called to meet at Mons in 1871. Its object was to strengthen and aid the movement for organization among workingmen, and at the same time to give it a Christian character and to enable workingmen to make their views and wishes effective. The work grew rapidly in importance; up to 1875 the president was Clément Bivort, and over 50,000 workingmen were connected with it. The most successful congress was that held in 1875 at Mechlin. After this, the organization declined, partly it would seem, because, instead of following purely practical economic ends, under French influence politics were introduced; so much weight was raid on the religious element that social interests did not receive their due, because the members were not agreed as to the intervention of the State in socio-economic activities, and because sufficient consideration was not given to the growing independence of workingmen. A Catholic workingmen's movement also sprang up in the great German industrial region of the Lower Rhine; this did not grow into a national convention, but it exerted its influence at the meetings of the general Catholic Congress, especially at the one held at Düsseldorf, 1869. In France there was formed an "Union des associations ouvrières catholiques" for the purpose of promoting all Catholic efforts and "to develop a race of Christian workingmen's families for the Church and State".

The first congress of this association was held at Nevers, 1871, but it never grew to much importance, although a permanent central office was founded, and special committees were appointed to encourage sports, clubs for study, etc. The association laid undue stress on the cultivation of religious life, and did nothing to develop social economics in connexion with politics and but little for the class interests of workingmen; it was hardly more than a confraternity. In Northern France it succeeded owing to personal influence. The "Cercles d'ouvriers catholiques", founded by the Comte de Mun in 1873, were much more successful. De Mun desired to unite in these cercles the best mechanical and agricultural labourers, to bring them under the influence of educated practical Catholic gentlemen, so that, led by the latter, the workingmen might exert a social and political influence in the world of labour. At the same time he wished the organization to frame and advocate a distinct plan of social reforms. From 1875 the work of advocating reforms fell chiefly to the annual sessions which were composed of the delegates of the "Secretariates" of the circles, the deputies from all the circles of the province, and Catholic dignitaries who were interested in social questions. The sessions for deliberation had an average attendance of from three to four hundred members, and the public meetings were often attended by several thousand persons. The assemblies were managed by the Comte de Mun, assisted by the Marquis de la Tour du Pin, M. de la Guillonnière, and M. Florroy. These meetings and the work of the various circles first spread among French Catholics correct conceptions of social problems. The practical social results became, however, gradually smaller. With the help of the congress De Mun gradually worked out a complete social programme; by means of industrial associations, with perfect freedom of organization, laws were to be obtained granting to the working classes proper representation in the political bodies of the country, effective measures were to be taken to aid workmen by means of insurance and the regulation of wages, their corporal and mental well-being were to be protected by Sunday rest, limitation of working-hours, etc.; compulsory arbitration in disputes between masters and workmen was to be legally enforced. The programme is noteworthy because it included reform of taxation, and also because it aimed to aid agricultural labourers as well as mechanics. De Mun's main mistake was, that he refused on principle to allow the workingmen to organize independently, and permitted only organizations common to workingmen and employers. Although apparently the congresses just described and the societies connected with them were the proofs of the growth in strength of the economic movement, yet in their first development they did not advance far enough to be able to impress their character upon the Catholic congresses of the third period. This was defined by the further growth of the general Catholic conventions. After the successful settlement of the differences in the Church by the Vatican Council, in consequence of the Kulturkampf, the German Catholic Congresses regained their former importance with a religious enthusiasm never before witnessed. At the same time the French Catholics also started general congresses.

During the siege of Paris by the Germans, a committee had been formed in the city to protect Catholic interests against the danger from anti-religious and revolutionary sects. In a circular of 25 August, 1872, this committee proposed that all forms of Catholic associations of the country and all French Catholic organizations should create a general representative body for the purpose of defending their common interests. This circular led to the convening of the first "Congrès des comités catholiques" at Paris, 1872, and the sessions of this body were held annually until 1892. They were originally presided over by M. Bailloud, their founder, afterwards by Senator Chesnelong. The congress, divided into different sections, busied itself with purely religious questions, with teaching, education, the press, and social subjects. A large part of the attention of these assemblies was given to the non-governmental schools, and much was done for them. On the other hand, the incessant and vehement agitation of the assemblies against free, obligatory, lay instruction had no apparent effect. The French, like the German congresses, received strong encouragement from the pope, and the bishops ardently promoted them. Nevertheless, owing to its composition, the French congress never attained the importance of the German assemblage. Although intended to be a union of all the Catholic forces of France, it drew together only the Monarchists. For although its constitution excluded politics, nevertheless, as the circular of August, 1872, said, it supported the Conservative candidates as a matter of course. The connexion with the Royalists made the congress unfruitful also in social questions; its social political position was not sufficiently advanced, and it offended the classes that were fighting their way up. When it became evident that the Royalist party had failed, the congress declined with it. The sessions ceased when Leo XIII, on receiving the congratulatory telegram of the congress of 1892, expressed the hope that, following his wishes, they should uphold the Republican constitution. The place of the former organization was taken by the "Congrès nationaux catholiques". The first session, held at Reims, was a preparatory one; this was followed by two congresses at Paris, 1897 and 1898. Both their organization and aim were the same as those of the congress of the "Comités catholiques", but the political views held were different; the meetings were gatherings or "Ralliés", that is, of Royalists who had become Republicans and of Christian Democrats. The history of this organization is, briefly, that of the "Ralliés" movement, and it went to pieces with the latter. A working together in the congress of those who were democrats from honest conviction, the politically indifferent "New Catholics", and the "Ralliés", or "Constitutional Righters", who obeyed the papal command against inclination and conviction, proved to be impossible. The "Christian Democrats" met separately, in 1896 and 1897, at Lyons and received the blessing of Leo XIII. But it was found that the views of the members were too divergent to make a continuation of these assemblies profitable. The meetings of the "Cercles d'ouvriers" also came to an end through the failure of the "Ralliés" or "Constitutional Right". From the decade 1880-90 these circles, like those of the "Union des associations ouvrières", were gradually transformed by their leaders into pious confraternities, and the clergy sought to control them more than was wise, making the members feel like irresponsible children. Most of the members of the circles were Royalists, and few of them obeyed the suggestion of the pope as sincerely as did De Mun. In 1892 the congress assembled for the last time; but even before this, of the 1200 still existing circles, a part had combined with the new diocesan organizations, and a part with the "Association catholique de la jeunesse française".

Fourth period of development

The fourth and latest period in the development of the Catholic Congresses dates from the last years of the nineteenth century. About 1890, the year when the "People's Union [Volksverein] of Catholic Germany" was founded, the Catholic social movement reached its full strength and became the leading factor among German Catholic societies. Its influence was well shown by the multiplying of Catholic societies in all directions; it shaped the form and aims of organization, checked the spirit of particularism, induced the societies to combine in a united body, and brought thousands of new members into the branch associations, while directing Catholic organization more and more toward practical social work. The meetings of the congresses are the tangible sign of this social movement; their increase in strength and influence is furthered by the growing interest of the civilized world in all kinds of congresses. It is owing to the centralized, many-sided propaganda of the well-organized "Volksverein", with its 600,000 members, that the German Catholic Congresses have been so successful. The aims of the societies are limited to social work of a practical character, and the annual meetings are held on one of the five days of the session of the Catholic Congress and at the same place. Since the Mannheim Congress of 1892 the meetings of the congresses have been attended by larger numbers of workmen than any other such conventions in Europe, from twenty-five thousand to forty thousand being present at the sessions, the number at a single session often reaching ten thousand persons. In Austria after two decades of hard struggle Christian socialism finally reached success. After 1867 it was for a long time almost impossible to hold a Catholic convention in Austria; now a General Catholic Congress is held every other year, while numerous assemblies convene in the different states forming the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; the general congress of November, 1907, attained nearly as much influence over public opinion as the German Congress; a speech of Burgomaster Luegers of Vienna started the "high-school movement" which has since greatly agitated Austria. Since 1900 a Catholic Congress has been held annually in Hungary; in Spain since 1889 Catholic assemblies have met from time to time; in Switzerland, after suspension for a generation, the first general congress was held in 1903 on the basis of an excellent organization. In 1908 the Danish Catholics of the Copenhagen district met for the first time to discuss their school interests. Before this, in 1886 and 1889, they had met for anniversary celebrations, the first time, in 1886, in conjunction with representatives from Sweden and Norway. About the close of the nineteenth century a congress was held in Italy representing all the Catholic organizations of that country. Not only among the above-named great nations of Europe has Catholic zeal led to the meeting of general congresses, but on both sides of the ocean hardly a year passes in which the Catholics of some country do not unite in a public congress.

However numerous and large these assemblies, whether general or special, have been, they do not represent the whole number of Catholics who take an interest in social reorganization. Catholics have taken a prominent part in many movements which have an interdenominational, universal Christian, or neutral character, because this form of organization can lead to better results. Among these may be mentioned the "Christian Trade Unions" of Germany, the "Christian Farmers' Unions" of Germany and Austria, and the "Société d'économie sociale et union de la paix sociale" of France, founded by Le Play, in 1856, with annual congresses since 1882. A German branch is the "Gesellschaft für sozial Reform" (founded 1890), which gives its attention largely to scientific investigations, but has at times also had much influence on legislation; besides these may be cited the "Workingmen's Gardens", founded in 1897 by Abbé Lemire, with international congresses in 1903 and 1906; the work of the "Raiffeisen Bank" (international assemblies at Tarbes, 1897, and Paris, 1900); the "Anti-Duelling Society", founded by Prince Löwenstein, the last international convention being held at Budapest, 1908; and the association for suppressing public vice, which held an international congress in 1908.

International congresses

The forerunner of the international congresses of the present was the Mechlin general congress of 1863-64. Since then international Catholic congresses of general scope have been abandoned as unlikely to be profitable, and it has been sufficient, especially as between Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, to invite a few foreign representatives. It was only by limiting the scope of discussion to a few topics, especially religious, that it has been possible to hold Catholic congresses of an international character. Among the best known of these assemblies is the "Eucharistic Congress", the aim of which is to increase and deepen the love of Christ in every way tolerated by the Church: by general communions, general adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and discussion of the best means of increasing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Between its sessions the Eucharistic League endeavours to promote and intensify Eucharistic devotion in the various dioceses in which it is organized. Nineteen of these meetings have been held since the first in Lille in 1881, most of them being preponderatingly French, the inspiration of the first coming from Mgr. de Ségur. The first to attract the attention of the Catholic world was that held at Jerusalem in 1893, and they have since grown more solemn and influential. A general congress was held at Rome, 1905, another at Metz, 1907, and one in London 9-13 September, 1908. Both Leo XIII and Pius X manifested great interest in these congresses. Less successful, however, was the attempt of Leo XIII, by means of international congresses, to make the Third Order of St. Francis once more a great socio-religious influence. After he had indicated his plan of Christian social politics in his encyclical "Novarum rerum", he hoped to change the Third Order of St. Francis from a purely pious organization into an instrument for the regeneration of society such as it had been in the thirteenth century. For a time efforts were made, especially in France, to carry out this ambition of the pope. A committee met at Valdes-Bois, July, 1893, at the call of the Minister-General of the Franciscans, and under the presidency of Léon Harmel a plan of action was drawn up: several meetings were held in France, and in 1900 an international congress met at Rome. After this the movement came to an end. The political-social scientists, who were too much absorbed in their political schemes, were unable to grasp the grandeur of the pontiff's idea, and the Tertiaries clung to their accustomed exercises and preferred to remain a pious confraternity rather than to transform themselves into a world-wide religious and social organization.

For a time the Congress of Catholic Savants had nearly as successful a career as the Eucharistic Congress. This was also of French origin, and founded by Mgr. d'Hulst, rector of the Institut Catholique at Paris, in pursuance of a suggestion of Canon Duilhé de Saint-Projet. The founders meant to prove to mankind that Catholics, instead of being opposed to science, were vigorously active in scientific work; to show the harmony of faith and science, and to stimulate the slackened interest of Catholics in science. The plan of the congress was, therefore, largely apologetic; it received the approval of Leo XIII, and from 1888 the sessions were triennial. The first two meetings, at Paris, had an attendance, respectively, of 1605 and 2494 persons; the third congress, at Brussels, 2518; the fourth, at Fribourg, in Switzerland, 3007; the fifth, at Munich, 3367; a sixth was to be held at Rome, 1903, but it did not take place. Originally this congress was divided into six sections; theology, philosophy, law, history, natural sciences, anthropology; four more were added later; exegesis, philology, biology, and Christian art. The character of the international congress of Catholic physicians which met at Rome, 1900, was largely religious.

International meetings are also held by the "Association catholique internationale pour la protection de la jeune flue", a society that looks after young girls who are seeking employment, guards them from dangers, and aids in their training and secures employment for them. It was founded by a Swiss lady, Frau von Reynold, 1896-97. Up to 1897 the sessions were at Fribourg, Switzerland; 1900, at Paris; 1902, at Munich; and in 1906, again at Paris. Fribourg, Switzerland, is the headquarters of the society. Ten countries are represented in it, among them Argentina, South America. Each national society holds its own annual meeting; the French branch, formed in 1898, alternately in the provinces and at Paris; the German, founded 1905, at the session of the Strasburg Catholic Congress in connexion with the Charities Congress. Among national Catholic assemblages may be also included the so-called "Social Week" started by the "Volksverein" (People's Union) of Catholic Germany. Its sessions were held annually, 1892-1900, with the exception of 1897, in different places. About a week was given to an introduction to practical social work. The original attendance of 582 in time rose to about 1000. The sessions were devoted not to discussions, but to instructive lectures and the answering of questions, thus making what might be called a popular travelling school. But a week was too short a period of instruction, and the constant change of place made it difficult to obtain good teachers, consequently a permanent home was given to the association at München-Gladbach, and the annual session was made a two months' course in political economy. A limited number of men and women selected by a committee of the "Volksverein" assisted at these lectures. Since 1904 the shorter courses, in improved form, have been resumed in addition to the longer ones, and the attendance has largely increased. The French Catholics were the first to imitate this example, holding a similar assembly at Lyons in 1904; since then sessions have been held at various places, that of 1907 being at Amiens, and the next at Marseilles. The best of their national economists give their assistance; the programme differs from the German in as much as the topics treated are not exclusively practical, but that the lectures include the philosophical and religious premises of modern social politics, and the part Christians should take in political life. The movement spread to the other Romance countries during 1906-08, and also to Belgium and Holland, and made great progress, thanks to the efforts of Professor Toniolo in organizing a social-science week at Pisa, followed by a larger meeting at Pistoja in October and another at Valencia in December, 1907. In France, Spain, and Italy, this social-science week will hereafter be held according to a joint programme.

National Catholic congresses


Since 1898 the French Catholics have held provincial conventions in place of general congresses, and since the separation of Church and State, these have given place to diocesan conferences. Such gatherings have been held in about half of the dioceses, the most important being those of the Archdiocese of Paris. Their aim is to unite all Catholic social societies, especially those for the young which in many dioceses have a large membership. In results they are not as effective as general Catholic congresses, but they seem rather to tend to supply what has hitherto been lacking in France, a steady and even attention to details, as the Volksverein has done in Germany, eloquent orations giving place to quiet, practical work. This would be an important result. On the other hand, it is possible that the inclination of the French to overburden even socio-political societies with religious issues, to give them a denominational aspect, and place them under strict clerical control, may be kept alive by the diocesan societies. Before this the impulse to permanent organization came from a congress, whereas now the bishop or an ecclesiastic commissioned by him is the head of the diocesan committee, and the parish priest of the parish committee.

Religious congresses

In certain French dioceses e.g. at Paris, 1902-1908, special diocesan Eucharistic Congresses have been held. A "Congrès national de l'œuvre des Catéchismes" was held at Paris under the presidency of Mgr. Amette, Archbishop of Paris, 24-26 February, 1908. Seventy dioceses were officially represented, and the attendance was over 2000. It was reported that 20,000 lay catechists, chiefly women, voluntarily assisted the French clergy in the religious instruction of the young. These teachers are united in an archconfraternity, publish a periodical, and receive special preparatory training. Charitable and social care of the families of the pupils is united with the catechetical work.

Sociological congresses

The "Union des associations ouvrières catholiques" has held, since 1871, annual meetings attended by about 500 delegates. The "Association catholique de la jeunesse française", founded in 1886 by Robert de Roquefeuil, which aims to gather together the Catholic youth of the country, in order to strengthen them in their Faith and to train them to do their duty in the struggle for the reorganization of French society in a Christian spirit, has held several hundred interesting meetings. They have served in part to spread a more thorough knowledge of certain social truths or of certain important problems of religious life; but they have principally made known the work of the "Jeunesse catholique" throughout France. Their assemblies which took up the first mentioned class of subjects were held at Châlons, 1903, where trusts were discussed; at Arras, 1904, which discussed mutual benefit schemes; at Albi, 1905, regulations governing the labour of youthful workmen was the topic; and at Angers, 1908, the agrarian movement. The treatment of these problems at these conventions was excellent. The meetings held to amuse interest in the membership were chiefly provincial, only a few being national assemblies. The growth of the association is best shown by the national conventions: Angers, 1887, 17 groups having 782 members were represented; Besançon, 1898, 25 groups with 16,000 members; Bordeaux, 1907, 180 groups with 75,000 members. There has been a great increase since the meeting at Besançon, chiefly by the admission of young mechanics and farm labourers as well as of the student class. The association has placed itself in all things under the guidance of the Church authorities, consequently, its social as well as its religious activities rest on a denominational basis without any further enunciation of principles, and it has always been very favourably regarded both by the bishops and the Roman authorities. The "Jeunesse catholique" has not been undisturbed by the political troubles of French Catholics. At the congress of Grenoble, 1892, it accepted unconditionally the advice of Leo XIII, but declared at the same time that, in accordance with its statutes, the association had nothing to do with party conflicts. Some of the groups, however, still adhere to the Monarchists. Fortunately, these differences of opinion have not checked the development of the society, the religious and social influence of which on the youth of France is not equalled by that of any other organization.

About the close of the nineteenth century Marc Sangnier and some of his friends founded the society called the "Sillon" (the Furrow). Convinced that in future democracy, which they took as their ideal, would rule the State and society, and desiring to prevent its degeneration under bad and godless leaders, while hoping to keep it from turning against the Church, these young men resolved to build up a democratic constituency of high-minded Christians devoted to the Church and well-informed on political and social questions. The idealism characteristic of the "Sillon" has gained for it the respect of the working-classes. In the beginning the tendencies of the society were not clear, as was shown in the first four general meetings: Paris, 1902; Tours, 1903; Lyons, 1904; Paris, 1905. More definiteness of plan was evident at the later gatherings, Paris, 1906; Orléans, 1907; and especially at Paris, 1908, giving promise that the "Sillon" would develop into a socio-political party taking an active part in national politics. This explains why it asserted its independence of the bishops and intention always to support any political measure that may aid in improving the condition of the working-classes, and especially all efforts aiming at thorough social regeneration and a genuinely democratic form of society and government. Only in this way, it is held, will the workman be able to obtain an equal share of the material, intellectual, and moral possessions belonging to the whole nation. Collectivism is absolutely rejected by the association. The growth of the "Sillon" into an independent socio-political party, its refusal to be "avant tout catholique" aroused the distrust of some of the bishops. Consequently the clergy held back from it. Nevertheless, the membership did not fall off. The first congress represented 45 members; the second, 300; the third, 800; the fourth, 1100; the fifth, 1500; the sixth, 1896. The "Fédération gymnastique et sportive des patronages catholiquesde France" intended to aid all Catholic societies in honour of a local saint by arranging sports for the members of the patronage has held annual meetings since 1898 when the federation began in a union of 13 patronages; the number is now 450, representing 50,000 young people in all parts of France.

Political congresses

The "Action libérale populaire", founded by M. Piou on the basis of the Associations Law of 1901, is a political association led by him with much skill and energy. Its task is to defend civil rights derived from the Constitution in all legal ways, to promote reform in law-making by energetic work at elections, to develop or create anew sociological influence and methods, and to improve the lot of the workingman. Only Catholics are members, but it claims that it is not a "Catholic party." Its first general session convened at Paris, December, 1904, with 900 delegates representing 648 comitiés or branches and 150,000 members. The statistics for the following years are as follows: Paris, 1905, 1400 delegates from 1000 comités with 200,000 members; Lyons, 1906, 1600 delegates representing 1500 comités and 225,000 members: Bordeaux, 1907, 1740 comités with 250,000 members. The proceedings of all four congresses were of great interest. The society, conducted by a central committee, is divided into provincial and town committees which, though controlled by the general committee, are allowed much independence of action. Besides assiduous efforts to educate the voter the society has turned its attention more and more to practical sociological work, as the discussions held at the various congresses show. The reactionary methods which so greatly damaged the Monarchists have never been adopted. However, the growth of the association has not equalled expectations, because at the first election which took place after its establishment (1906), while the "Action libérale" did not disappoint its friends, the parties of the Right, without the aid of which it could not succeed, were completely defeated at the polls. Besides, the distrust of many Frenchmen was aroused because in order to gain numerical strength it admitted as members many who, until their reception into its ranks, had been known as opponents of the Republic.

The women's movement

The "Ligue patriotique des Françaises", formed in 1901, to collect funds for the election expenses of the candidates of the "Action libérale populaire", aims to arouse interest among women in the efforts of the "Action" to defend civil liberty and to promote sociological activity. Since then the league has declared that it does not pursue political ends. The movement had as its leaders such able women as the Baroness Reille, Mademoiselle Frossard, Mademoiselle de Valette, and others, and in 1908 the league numbered 700 branches with 328,000 members, 28,000 more than in 1906. The league holds numerous district sessions and an annual general meeting. At the last two annual sessions at Lourdes, 2000 women attended. The addresses and discussions at these conventions show that the attention of the league is more and more fixed on attaining practical social ends. This, however, is made more difficult by the mistaken conception that all Catholic Frenchwomen, because they are Catholics, should belong to the league; consequently, the programme lacks definiteness, and many problems are taken up in a hesitating and incomplete manner. Moreover, this policy prevents a correct perception of the sociological character of the organizations in question and their accommodation to the needs of the workingman. They are turned too much into the direction of charitable and benevolent activities. The work of the league in social economics is as yet only in its infancy. The "Jeanne d'Arc" Federation aims to unite all Catholic women of France who take up questions of social betterment, in an annual assembly for exchange of views and combined effort. Since 1901 a well-attended annual meeting has been held at Paris, but so far has resulted only in an interchange of opinion and resolutions. This is due to the fact that the federation has no regular and recognized authority over the manifold associations affiliated in it.

Educational congresses

Up to 1908 three congresses of French priests had been held: Saint-Quentin, 1895; Reims, 1897; Bourges, 1898. The first, which differed in aims from those following, met at the suggestion of Léon Harmel and confined itself to considering the share the clergy should take in the efforts to better present social conditions. The attendance was about two hundred. The two following congresses called by the Abbé Lemire, supported by the Abbés Dabry, Naudet., Gibier, Lacroix, had an attendance of from six hundred to eight hundred persons. Questions touching the sacerdotal life were discussed: training of the clergy; continuation of clerical studies; activity in the cure of souls; organization to secure a continuous succession of clergy; priests' unions; mutual aid societies, etc. The conventions were presided over by bishops, Leo XIII sent his blessing, and the influence on the younger clergy was excellent. There was much opposition to them, however, on the part of some of the bishops and some of the older clergy, and especially on the part of the Conservatives in politics. The "Congrès de l'Alliance des grands-séminaires" met at Paris, 21-22, July, 1908, the questions taken up were mainly the preparatory training of the clergy in letters and in ascetic life. Conventions of delegates of the teachers of higher and elementary schools not under State control, the "Syndicats et associations de l'enseignement libre", met: at Bordeaux, 1906; Poitiers, 1907; Paris, 1908. At Paris, the delegates represented 2300 teachers belonging to teachers' unions and 3000 not connected with such organizations, from a teaching force of 20,000. Among the subject discussed were pedagogical questions, school-organization, instruction in industrial and high schools, matters of professional interest. The association of Catholic Lawyers has met yearly since 1876, the first session being held at Lyons, that of 1907 at Angers. Those legal questions are taken up which, at the moment, are of practical importance for the continuance of the Church as an organized society, for its endowment sand institutions. The "Alliance des maisons d'éducation chrétienne" aims to secure for independent schools those advantages which a centralized organization confers on those under State control. Up to 1908 the annual sessions were organized by Abbé Ragon, Professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris. The subjects discussed are methods of instruction and school organization. The Alliance originally represented 75 schools; the number rose to 600, but on account of the law of 1901, which reduced the number of schools independent of the State, those in the Alliance fell to 500 in 1908.


Up to 1908, fifty-five congresses have been held, the last, 1908, at Düsseldorf, those previous met at: Mannheim, 1902; Cologne, 1903; Ratisbon, 1904; Strasburg, 1905; Essen, 1906; Würzburg, 1907. The Central Committee, formed in 1868, superintends the preparations for the sessions and directs the conventions. When the Kulturkampf began the committee was dissolved, and its work was done by Prince Karl Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, the "Standing commissioner of the Catholic Congress". In 1898 a new committee was formed, Count Clemens Droste-Vischering being chairman. The president of the congress changes every year, and the most distinguished representatives of Catholicism in Germany and the leading members of the nobility are regularly selected for the presidency, which office is always held by a layman. On the other hand the chairman of the committee of arrangements is always the bishop of the diocese in which the coming session is to be held. Each congress lasts five days, the meeting being held in August. A number of Catholic societies, especially the Volksverein, founded 1901, the St. Augustine Association for the Development of the Catholic Press, founded 1877, at the second Catholic congress at Würzburg, and the Catholic Students' societies, founded 1867, take advantage of the occasion to hold their own conventions at the same time and place. In addition to the sessions of the General Catholic Congress, in 1850 arrangements were made for diocesan conventions; these, however, seldom meet. Conventions are more common for the various Prussian provinces and the different states of the confederation, e.g. for Silesia, Bavaria, and the last held for Würtemberg at Ulm, 1901. Early in 1904, by order of the Archbishop of Cologne, all the charitable societies and those for social betterment of the diocese were federated, the first convention of this general organization meeting in May, 1904. The first congress of the "Bonifacius Association" was held 8-9 July, 1908, at Paderborn; the object of the society is to collect funds for Catholic churches and schools among Germans scattered abroad, for the Scandinavian mission, and to aid the religious needs of the Catholics.

Social congresses

General conventions are held of the "Arbeiterwohl" (Society for Bettering the Condition of the Working-Classes); "Society of Catholic Manufacturers and Friends of Workingmen", founded in 1905; and "Society for Social Culture and Communal Betterment", founded 1880 with the aid of Franz Brandts, Hitze, etc. At the last-named general assembly held annually all members can take part in the discussions of the questions brought up. A congress of the "Volksverein" has been held annually since 1890 in connexion with the General Catholic Congress. At these sessions, open to all, annual reports and explanation of the object of the union are given. The president of these annual congresses was generally Franz Brandts of München-Gladbach, and the chief speakers Gröber, Trimborne, and Lieber. Under the direction and leadership of Mgr. Werthmann of Freiburg, Baden, the Association for Charitable Work has met annually as a national assembly since 1896, when it convened at Schwäbisch-Gmünd. The session of 1907 was at Hildesheim, the next, the thirteenth, at Ravensburg. Reports of committees and addresses are alternately made at the sessions. The Congress for Charitable Work came into existence through the sociological activity of the "Volksverein"; its aim being to show that Catholic charities should be more extensively guided by sociological considerations, and that they stand in need of closer union and greater zeal. In 1897 a "Union of Charitable Societies" grew out of this congress; the Union is divided into local and provincial societies under the direction of a well-organized central management which, without interfering with the subordinate organizations, exerts on them a beneficial influence. Especially important are its training courses; the local and provincial societies also frequently bold district and diocesan conventions. A reorganization of the St. Vincent de Paul societies has been broached, the societies for the protection of young girls, and the women's movement have also received encouragement from this charitable organization. The United Catholic Workingmen's Union has its head-quarters at Berlin. Although the greater number of organized Catholic workmen are members of trade unions not denominational in character, an effort has been made, since the end of the nineteenth century, to unite other Catholic workmen in a denominational union. This work has been done chiefly among the East German workmen and in the Diocese of Trier. Conventions of delegates have been held annually since 1898, the eleventh having taken place in 1908. The Union of the Associations of Catholic Wage-earning Women and Girls is a branch of the one just mentioned. Four congresses have been held, the fourth in 1908. The Catholic Association for German Young Men was formed to exert religious influence on boys who have left school and are apprentices until they are prepared to enter a workingmen's union. So far, not over twenty per cent of Catholic apprentices have joined the union. To remedy this it has been proposed to give a more social character to the union, and to form diocesan and a national union, and to convene the presidents of all the branch unions throughout Germany in a general meeting. The first of these general conventions was held in 1896; followed by four others, up to 1899; then the assemblies lapsed until 1905, when, through the efforts of the "Arbeiterwohl" (Society for Bettering the Condition of the Working-Classes) the union was reorganized, and a general meeting held at Cologne. Future sessions are to be held triennially.

The "Association of Catholic Women" was founded at the Congress for Charitable Work held at Frankfort, 1903. Two meetings have been held: Frankfort, 1904; Munich, 1906. Its weakness, so far, has been a lack of definiteness in its aims, for, although an offshoot of the "Charitasverband" (Charitable Union), it has been influenced, more or less, by the general women's movement in Germany and its tendencies, which deal less with sociological problems than with the general interests of the sex. It works for sociological improvement through charity; for the education of women; and in the interests of wage-earning women and women outside of the family circle.

The "Catholic Teachers' Union" in Germany, comprising male teachers of primary and middle schools, was founded in 1899, at Bochum. It numbers 19,000 members, and thirteen conventions, semi-annual as a rule, have been held; latterly it has met at Strasburg, Berlin, and Breslau. The union is made up of sixteen branches which meet, generally, once a year. Würtemberg has formed a union of its own. The "Union of Catholic Women Teachers of Germany", founded in 1885, developed slowly until 1891. Thirteen conventions have been held, the last three in Strasburg, Bochum, and Munich. It is composed of teachers, both of the primary and higher schools for girls; in 1903 it organized a section of the teachers in middle and higher girls' schools which holds special sessions during the meeting of the general convention. The "Union of the Associations of Catholic Merchants", with head-quarters at Essen, founded in 1877, has 20,000 members; its delegates hold a meeting a few days before the General Catholic Congress and at another place. The union of the Catholic Students' Corps who do not wear colours, has held regular annual conventions since 1866, the sessions convened in a different university town each year with the exception of 1906, when Wiesbaden was chosen. Some sixty societies are thus united; as many societies belong to the union of Catholic Students' Corps in which are included also some Swiss and Austrian organizations. The St. Cecilia Society was founded in 1868 to promote interest in Church music. The eighteenth general assembly took place at Eichstätt in 1908.

Political congresses

As political congresses, up to 1907, should be mentioned the general meetings of the "Windthorstbund", the first session of which was held at Essen, 1895. Their object was to interest young Catholics in politics so as to insure constant recruits for the Centre Party. The membership increasing, it was formed into unions. Since 1897 an annual convention of delegates has met. At Wiesbaden, 1907, it was decided that, in accordance with its statutes and the party it represented, the local unions could not have a denominational character, consequently some of them withdrew from the association.

Educational congresses

The Association of Catholic Lawyers, held two meetings without achieving success, and was merged, 1907, with the "Görres Association" for the encouragement of science in Catholic Germany, founded 1876, at Coblenz. Since this first general session, the latter society has held annual sessions in other cities. Its importance lies in the discussions of its different sections. At first, these treated topics in philosophy and history, only of late other sections have been added for the natural sciences, law, and archæology. At times, there are two meetings with lectures for larger audiences, which are attended by members and their guests. A general meeting of the "Association for Christian Art" has taken place annually, the object of which is to encourage Catholic artists and develop religious art. The "Catholic Press Club", largely a Bavarian association is intended to encourage Catholic journals, Catholic popular libraries, and Catholic culture. Its annual meetings are held at Munich.


In 1886 various Catholic communities, with delegates from Norway and Sweden, united to celebrate the eight-hundredth anniversary of the martyrdom of King Canute (Knut) by a festival at Odense. Some two hundred persons attended, and the exercises were largely religious. In 1889 a meeting was held at Randers to celebrate the seven hundredth anniversary of the canonization of St. Kjeld, the attendance being entirely Danish. In 1908 the Catholics of Copenhagen and its vicinity met to discuss questions concerning the Church and schools for all Denmark. Seven conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have been held since 1885.


Besides the general assemblies of the nineteenth century mentioned above, two sessions of a General Catholic Congress, in imitation of the German Congress, have been held in Switzerland: Lucerne, 27-29 September, 1903; Freiburg, 22-25 September, 1906. At Lucerne it was resolved to unite all Catholic associations into one organization, of which the Swiss "Volksverein" (People's Union) was to be the nucleus. This arrangement held until 1905. The central committee of the "Volksverein" now forms the standing committee of the Catholic Congresses, and all Catholic societies of Switzerland, charitable, social, and religious, societies to further education, culture, women's, and trades' unions are affiliated with it. The general organization is divided into cantonal unions, of which several meet annually. Special mention should be made of the first Swiss congress of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Einsiedeln, 20-21 August, 1907. At the suggestion of Bishop Mermillod international conferences of those interested in political movements for social betterment met annually at Freiburg, Switzerland, 1883-93, to discuss the principles underlying modern political economy. A similar meeting was held here, 20-22 October, 1903; the discussions concerned Christian Socialism in the different countries, trade unions, women's work, and the international protection of labourers. Practical courses in sociology were held at: Lucerne, 1896; Zurich, 1898, and 1904; in 1894 a "Congrès d'étude et de propagande" was held at Freiburg for the French Swiss; after this, these assemblies were adopted by the French Catholics.

Austria (including Bohemia)

Up to 1867 the Austrian General Congress formed part of the German Congress; since this date six independent Austrian congresses have met, the last at Vienna, 16-19 November, 1907. The organization is similar to the German, consequently, the annual meetings of various other societies are held at the same time as the important "Pius Verein" for the development of the Catholic press. Besides the General Congress there are various national congresses:

In 1903 the "Union of Catholic Benevolent Societies of the Austrian Empire" was founded; a charity congress met at Vienna, 1901; a second at Graz, 1903; a third at Linz, 1906. The second assembly brought about the formation of the Charity Union for the whole empire. This union includes the benevolent associations of the different crown lands without, however, lessening their independence, and the latter include the individual societies of each part of the empire. Besides the general congress, the imperial organization, in accordance with its statutes, holds semi-annually a convention to which the provincial unions send delegates. During the last decade a number of various other assemblies have been held in Austria, among them a congress for priests, one session; a congress for the veneration of the Blessed Virgin, St. Poelten, 1901; Prague, 1905, etc.


Six Catholic congresses have been held in Hungary since 1900, the first at Stuhlweissenburg, the four following at Budapest, the last, 1907, at Fünfkirchen. The language used is Magyar, but the language spoken at the place of meeting receives recognition. The perpetual president is Count Johanni Zichy, Jr., president of the Central Union of the Catholic Societies of Hungary. Up to 1908 the meetings of the congress mainly discussed the press and the needs of Catholic young men. At the last meeting a Catholic Federation, similar to the Volksverein of Germany, was founded. Some of the bishops are greatly interested in the congresses and their results.


In Belgium a large number of societies hold conventions, but owing to the many divisions of Catholic associations, statistics are not available.


Each diocese of Holland holds a convention from time to time of all its Catholic organizations; the agricultural associations as well as societies for schools, religious or social purposes, are included, but each society holds its own sessions and also joins in a general meeting of all. The "Sociological Week" has been held three times in the last few years. The bishop of the diocese controls the organization.


Since 1889 six Catholic congresses have been held, the last in 1903. Lately more attention has been paid to social improvement, especially by means of sociological associations; consequently, the scheme of the Sociological Week is developing. The International Marian Congress met at Lyons, 1900, at Einseideln, 1906, and at Saragossa, Sept., 1908.


Up to 1908 two Catholic congresses were held at Buenos Aires, one, 15-30 August, 1884; the other, 20-28 October, 1907. The first aroused great enthusiasm, but the results were meagre. The second had an attendance of about 350 delegates, the president being Dr. Emil Lamarca. Its chief aim was to found a Catholic daily newspaper. Besides this a Catholic Education League was organized to reform the school-laws.

In English-speaking countries

In English-speaking countries the term "congress" is usually applied only to gatherings of an important national character, hence the assemblies in the United States of such bodies as the Federation of Catholic Societies, the Central Verein, the Staats-verbund, the Catholic Young Men's National Union, the Catholic Total Abstinence Union, and other associations are treated under their separate titles.

In England, meetings are held annually of the Catholic Truth Society, founded in 1872 by Cardinal Vaughan, at which paper are read on various subjects connected with Catholic interests. The Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, organized in 1903, has also done excellent work by its conventions and the diffusion of sound Catholic literature in popular form (see CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETIES). Federations for the defence of Catholic interests have been formed in the dioceses of Salford, Westminster, and Leeds. This federation movement has done much to organize the Catholic forces, and has been characterized by the number of popular gatherings which it has promoted especially in connexion with the defence of Catholic education. The Catholic Union of Great Britain which represents an influential body of English Catholics; the Catholic Association, to promote Catholic organization and organizes social gatherings; the Catholic Young Men's Society (founded in 1854); the Catholic Education Council, established by the bishops of Great Britain in 1905; the Conference of Catholic Colleges, founded by Cardinal Vaughan in 1896, and other bodies representing Catholic education hold annual or occasional conventions. Conferences for specific social or religious purposes are held by such bodies as the Catholic Guardians Association (charitable), the League of the Cross (temperance), the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom (conversion of England). Diocesan or local conventions are found especially in London and Lancashire. The Catholics of Birmingham have held an annual reunion for over half a century. Catholic women are being effectively organized by the Catholic Women's League, founded by Miss Fletcher, London, 1907, with branches in the provinces.

The most imposing religious convocation England has seen since pre-Reformation times was the international congress of the Eucharistic League held in London, 9-13 September, 1908. Vincenzo Vannutelli, Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina, presided as the legate of the pope — the first occasion on which so exalted a representative of the Holy See had appeared in England since the days of Reginald Pole. France and Germany, as well as all the English-speaking countries, were represented by such a gathering of cardinals as is seldom seen outside of Rome. More than one hundred archbishops, bishops, and mitred abbots, from all parts of the world — even the great missionary fields of Central Africa, Cape Colony, India, Burma, with thousands of the laity, were also in attendance. The religious functions took place in Westminster Cathedral, where, on one of the mornings during the congress, by special permission of the pope, a high Mass according to the Greek Rite was sung.

The United States

There have been two congresses of Catholic laymen held in the United States. In conjunction with the celebration of the centenary of the establishment of the hierarchy of the United States by Pius VII in 1789, and the dedication of the Catholic University, at Washington, the first Catholic Congress of the United States met in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 11 and 12, 1889. The delegates were selected by the bishops of the various dioceses and were in the main representative of a certain percentage of the Catholic population in each. About twelve hundred delegates were present. In preparation for the gathering a meeting had been held in Chicago the previous May attended by Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul and Messrs. Henry J. Spaunhorst, of St. Louis, William J. Onahan, of Chicago, and Henry F. Brownson, of Detroit. The objects proposed for the congress were the closer union of all the members of the Catholic body in the country, increased activity of the laity in aid of the clergy in religious work, and a declaration of views on the important questions of the hour, and for the assistance and relief of the poorer classes of society. Cardinal Gibbons, considering the congress as in some sense part of the religious function taking place at the centenary celebration in Baltimore, deemed it desirable that the papers to be read during its sessions should first be submitted to an advisory committee of the hierarchy and named as such committee: Archbishop Ireland (chairman) and Bishops Gilmour, of Cleveland, Maes of Covington, Ryan, of Buffalo, Harkins, of Providence, and Foley, of Detroit. A committee on Organization, consisting of Messrs. Onahan, Spaunhorst, D. A. Rudd, of Cincinnati, J. D. Keiley, of Brooklyn, and Dr. John Gilmary Shea, the historian, was authorized to issue a call for the congress and to organize it; and a Committee on Papers — Messrs. Brownson, Peter L. Foy, of St. Louis, and M. J. Harson, of Providence — to prepare the work for the several sessions.

Beginning with a solemn pontifical Mass at the cathedral on the morning of 11 November, celebrated by Archbishop Corrigan of New York, and at which Archbishop Gross of Oregon preached, the sessions of the congress were opened in the Concordia Opera House, former Governor John Lee Carroll, of Maryland, presiding. The Most Rev. Archbishop Francesco Satolli, representing the pope, Cardinals Taschereau of Quebec, Gibbons of Baltimore, with representatives of the English and Irish hierarchy, and from Mexico, with many of the bishops of the United States, in addition to the lay delegates, were present. The pope, through Cardinal Rampolla, sent his blessing to the congress, and at the first session addresses were made by Cardinal Gibbons, the Rev. James Nugent of Liverpool, England, Daniel Dougherty, Francis Kernan, Honoré Mercier, Premier of Quebec, followed by the formal papers of the programme: "Catholic Congresses", by Dr. John Gilmary Shea; "Lay Action of the Church", by Henry F. Brownson; and "The Independence of the Holy See", by Charles J. Bonaparte. On the second day, the first paper, "Archbishop Carroll as a Statesman", was read by Honoré Mercier, Premier of Quebec, and at its conclusion a formal resolution sending greetings to the people of Quebec was adopted. Mgr. Gadd who represented Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, then tendered the greetings of that prelate and the English hierarchy to the congress, and Peter L. Foy, of St. Louis, read the fourth regular paper, "The New Social Order," which dealt with philanthropic movements in general. Other papers read were "Education: the rights and duties of the State, the Church, and the Parent in that Regard", by Edmund F. Dunne, of Florida; "The Catholic Periodical Press", by George Deering Wolf of Norristown, Pennsylvania; "Societies", by Henry J. Spaunhorst, of St. Louis; "Catholic American Literature", by Condé B. Pallen, of St. Louis; "Temperance", by John H. Campbell, of Philadelphia; "Sunday Observance", by Manly Tello, of Cleveland; "Labour and Capital", by William Richards, of Washington; "What Catholics have Done in the Last Hundred Years", by Richard H. Clarke, of New York; "Church Music", by Heman Allen, of Chicago.

The resolutions adopted rejoiced in the progress of the Church, advocated sound Catholic education, denounced Mormonism, divorce, and secret societies; Nihilism, Socialism, and Communism; commended Catholic charitable, social, and benevolent societies, the support of the Catholic press, Sunday observance; and pledged loyalty and devotion to the pope and demanded the temporal freedom of the Holy See. It was resolved to hold the next congress during the Columbian celebration of 1892, and in the concluding address of the congress Archbishop Ireland said: — "I am overjoyed to see so many laymen, overjoyed to listen to such magnificent discourses and such grand papers, and to have realized that there is among our Catholics in America so much talent, so much strong faith. As one of your bishops I am ashamed of myself that I was not conscious before this of the power existing in the midst of the laity, and that I have not done anything to bring it out. But one thing I will do with God's help. In the future I shall do all I can to bring out this power."

Second congress

The sessions of the Second Catholic Congress of the United States were held at Chicago on 4, 5, and 6 September, 1893, as incidental to the World's Congresses Auxiliary of the Columbus Exposition and World's Fair of that year. Archbishop Feehan of Chicago and William J. Onahan were president and secretary of the committee on organization, by which it was decided that three topics should be treated during the sessions: "The Social Question as outlined by Leo XIII in his encyclical "Rerum Novarum", "Catholic Education", and "The Independence of the Holy See". No discussion of the papers was allowed, but each was submitted to its proper section for consideration. Archbishop Feehan opened the congress, and President Bonney, of the World's Congress Auxiliary, welcomed the delegates "on behalf of the World's Exposition and the fifty million non-Catholics who loved justice and religious liberty". Cardinal Gibbons also spoke, and on the second day Archbishop Satolli, who represented the pope at the World's Exposition, greeted the congress in the name of the Holy Father. Other visitors were Archbishop Redwood of Australia, and Count de Kaefstein of Austria. Letters from Cardinals Vaughan and Logue were read.

Judge Morgan J. O'Brien, of New York, presided over the sessions during which these papers were read: "The Relations of the Catholic Church in the Social, Civil, and Political Institutions of the United States", Edgar H. Gans, of Baltimore; "Civil Government and the Catholic Citizen", Walter George Smith, of Philadelphia; "The Independence of the Holy See", Martin P. Morris, of Washington; "Columbus, His Mission and Character", Richard H. Clarke, of New York; "Isabella the Catholic", Mary J. Onahan, of Chicago; "The Colonization of the American Continent", George Parsons Lathrop, of New York; "The Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the Condition of Labor", H. C. Semple, of Montgomery, Alabama; "The Rights of Labour and the Duties of Capital", Edward O. Brown, of Chicago, and the Rev. Dr. William Barry of Dorchester, England; "Pauperism, the Cause and the Remedy", Dr. Thomas Dwight, of Boston, and Miss M. T. Elder of New Orleans; "Public and Private Charities", Charles A. Wingerer, of Wheeling, Thomas F. Ring of Boston, R. R. Elliott of Detroit, and the Rev. Francis Maguire of Albany; "Workingmen's Organizations and Societies for Young Men", Warren T. Mosher of Youngstown; "Trade Combinations and Arbitration", Robert M. Douglas, Greensboro; "Temperance", the Rev. James M. Cleary; "Women's Work in Religious Communities", F. M. Edselas; "Women in the Middle Ages", Anna T. Sadlier; "Life Insurance and Pension Funds for Wage Workers", John P. Lauth, of Chicago; "Immigration and Colonization", the Rev. M. J. Callahan, of New York; "The Need of Catholic Colleges", Maurice Francis Egan.


Two congresses have been held by the Catholics of Australasia, the first at Sydney in September, 1900, and the second at Melbourne in October, 1904. The first congress followed immediately after the dedication of St. Mary's cathedral, Sydney, on 9 September, 1900, at which Cardinal Moran presided, and three archbishops, eight bishops, two hundred priests, with the Governors of New South Wales, Queensland, New Guinea, and a great congregation of the laity were present. The congress received its impetus from Rome, as affording Catholics an opportunity to manifest their faith and devotion at the close of the nineteenth century; to make non-Catholics understand more about their religion; to answer calumnies such as were made current in the Dreyfus case; to urge a reform of divorce laws; and to promote harmonious relations between capital and labour. In opening the congress Cardinal Moran spoke on "The Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century", using the progress of Catholicism in the United States as an illustration. The sessions of the congress, which lasted a week, were held in the cathedral and the topics treated included social questions, Catholic apologetics, education, science, and sacred art, ethnology and statistics, history and the Catholic missions.

The second congress met in Cathedral Hall, Melbourne, 24 to 31 October, 1904, the Most Rev. Thomas J. Carr, Archbishop of Melbourne, presiding, and the gathering was made one of the details of the local celebration of the golden jubilee of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Its delegates included bishops, priests, and laymen not only from all the States of the Commonwealth, but also from New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific. The topics discussed in the various sections were Marian and religious: Education, History, and Missions, Charitable Organizations, Social Questions, Sacred Art, Science, Christian Woman, Medical Questions, and the Catholic Newspaper. Perhaps the most practical outcome of the gathering was the establishment of the Catholic Truth Society of Australia.


Souvenir Volume of the Centennial Celebration and Catholic Congress (Detroit, 1889); Benziger's Catholic Family Almanac (New York, 1894); Catholic News (New York); Freeman's Journal (Sydney); Advocate (Melbourne), contemporaneous files; Proceedings of the Second Australasian Catholic Congress (Melbourne, 1894).

MAY, Geschichte der general Versammlungen der katholischen Deutschlands (Cologne, 1904); BRIÜK, Geschichte der katolischen Kirche im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Münster, 1905); Catholic Social Work in Germany in The Dublin Review (London, July, 1908).

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APA citation. Spahn, M., & Meehan, T. (1908). Catholic Congresses. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Spahn, Martin, and Thomas Meehan. "Catholic Congresses." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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