DROSTE-VISCHERING, drōs'tê-fish’er-ing.


Activity at Münster (§ 1).

Mixed Marriages (§ 2).

Archbishop of Cologne (§ 3).

The University of Bonn (§ 4).

Droste-Vischering's Downfall (§ 5).

1. Activity at Münster. Clemens August, Freiherr von Droste-Vischering, archbishop of Cologne, was born at Münster Jan. 21, 1773; d. there Oct. 19, 1845. Descended from a strict Roman Catholic family, he was ordained priest in 1798, and in 1810 became coadjutor to the acting bishop of Munster, who was ill and died Sept. 16. Droste-Vischering was elected his successor, but when Münster came under French rule in the same year the existing diocesan administration was abolished by Napoleon, Droste-Vischering was thrust aside, and the dean of the cathedral, Count Spiegel, was appointed bishop and commissioned to administer the diocese as vicar of the chapter until he should be canonically instituted. As Droste-Vischering already occupied this office, and as after the restoration of Prussian rule in Münster the Napoleonic changes were rescinded, Spiegel ultimately had to yield and in 1815 Droste-Vischering undertook once more, as vicar of the chapter, the management of the diocese.


Even thus early he stood for principles concerning the relations of Church and State which were quite impracticable in a land where the confessions lived side by side. He was not satisfied with proposing in his publication Ueber die Religionsfreiheit der Katholiken (Münster, 1817) an impossible platform for church politics, but endeavored to put it in practise, and thus came into conflict with the Prussian government, at first on the question of mixed marriages, then by an attempt to cripple the theological faculty in Bonn. In 1819 he instructed the priests to refuse to perform mixed marriages unless the parties should promise to educate their children in the Roman Catholic faith; and he forbade students of theology to follow Georg Hermes (q.v.) from Münster to Bonn, and declared he would ordain no one who attended lectures anywhere without his permission. Soon afterward he laid down his office and lived for the next fifteen years (1820-35) in strict retirement, devoting himself in the main to the guidance of an organization of Sisters of Charity. Even his consecration as suffragan bishop of Münster in 1827 did not allure him from the manner of life which had grown dear to him. But he forsook it later under remarkable circumstances; he was elected archbishop of Cologne Dec. 1, 1835, and enthroned May 29, 1836. What this promotion signified and what later brought about his fall can be understood only by knowing the situation in church politics when he took office, especially as regards the treatment of mixed marriages.


2. Mixed Marriages. In 1741 Benedict XIV. had waived the requirement that the Tridentine form for solemnizing matrimony be absolutely necessary (cf. Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 311-315). The Prussian General Law of 1794 (Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 329-330) had ordered that, when the parents belonged to different confessions, until the completion of the fourteenth year sons should be brought up in the religion of the father and daughters in the confession of the mother. This paragraph was then suspended for the eastern provinces of the monarchy by a Royal Declaration of 1803 (Mirbt, Quellen, p. 339), because dangerous dissensions had been produced in the families affected; and it was provided that legitimate children should always be instructed in the religion of the father, and that neither husband nor wife should have the right to bind his or her helpmate by agreement to any deviation from this rule. By a Royal Cabinet Order of 1825 (Mirbt, Quellen, p. 350) this law was extended to the Rhine provinces and Westphalia. At the same time it was forbidden that clergymen should demand from engaged couples of mixed confession a promise about the religious training of their future children. These laws, which affected Protestants as well as Roman Catholics, were, however, evaded by Catholic clergymen who, to be sure, did not demand the aforesaid promise, but, if it was not voluntarily given, refused to perform the ceremony. The complaints which the government received caused it to enter upon negotiations with the archbishop of Cologne (Count Spiegel), and the bishops of Treves (Joseph von Hommer), Paderborn (Friedrich von Ledebur), and Münster (Caspar von Droste), who showed an obliging spirit but declared that they could take no steps without the permission of the pope. With the consent of the government they therefore applied to Rome. The result of the negotiations carried on there between the Prussian Ambassador Bunsen and Cardinal Capellari was a brief of Pius VIII. dated Mar. 25, 1830 (Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 350-353), in which the regulation of Benedict XIV. was extended to the four bishoprics above mentioned, and mixed marriages which had not been performed in the presence of a Catholic priest were recognized as valid; but on the real point in controversy, i.e., the promise about the education of the children, no decision was reached. As this brief, moreover, ordered that Catholic women should be warned against entering upon mixed marriages, and that Catholic priests should be forbidden to give the ecclesiastical benediction to such marriages, the Prussian government was not satisfied with the result. It attempted further direct negotiations with the bishops, and an agreement was closed in Berlin on June 19, 1834, between Bunsen and Count Spiegel, in accordance with which the brief of Pius VIII. should be transmitted to all priests; at the same time there was contemplated a similar set of directions for the general vicariates, concerning the practical treatment of mixed marriages. This instruction (Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 355-356) provided that all which had not expressly been prohibited in the brief should be held to be permitted, that the promise to educate the children in the religion of the one or the other of the parents should not be insisted on in practise, and that a mixed marriage should be entered upon in the usual solemn form; that is, by benediction, whereas the mere assistentia passiva of the clergyman was limited to special and exceptional cases. This agreement, to which the other bishops consented, was weak in that it had been reached without any cooperation by the Curia, and it had, moreover, merely the value of a personal arrangement; that is, it would be called in question as soon, as one of these bishops died. The case arose the very next year; Count Spiegel passed away Aug. 2, 1835.


3. Archbishop of Cologne. It was in fulfilment of an express wish of the Prussian government that Droste-Vischering became Spiegel's successor. It was expected that his mature age, his piety, and his inclination toward charitable work would hold his hierarchal tendencies in equilibrium, and it was hoped to produce a favorable sentiment among the Catholic nobility by the appointment of one of its members. Before the election Droste-Vischering was confidentially asked whether as bishop he would maintain the agreement of June, 1834, and would be willing to apply this in a conciliatory way; and not until he expressly assured the government of this in a letter (Mirbt, Quellen, p. 356) did the cathedral chapter receive the communication that the king desired his election. At first he held to the agreement; but in a few months his views underwent a complete transformation. The news of the government's arrangement with Spiegel had penetrated to Rome in spite of all secrecy and had caused the Curia to make energetic protests, which the Prussian ambassador unsuccessfully sought to refute by means of a denial of the agreement, more bold than skilful. Moreover, at that very time Ultramontanism began to enter the Rhine provinces by way of Belgium and at once employed its skill in arousing dissatisfaction. Droste-Vischering now all at once began to maintain that he had not known of the agreement of 1834 when he made his promise, and that he had given his consent because the minister assured him that it was in harmony with the brief of Pius VIII. The increasing complaints about the procedure of the archbishop at last compelled the minister, Von Altenstein (q.v.), to interfere. The president of the administration at Dusseldorf, Count Stolberg, appeared in Cologne in company with Bunsen, to treat personally with Droste-Vischering; but the conferences led to no understanding; the archbishop refused absolutely to acknowledge the arrangement of 1834 and declared that he wished to follow it only in so far as it was in accord with the brief.


4. The University of Bonn. There now arose a second contest with the government over its procedure against the supporters of Georg Hermes (q.v.). When Droste-Vischering entered upon his office the works of this theologian had already been condemned by Gregory XVI. (Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 357-358). Although the brief in question had not been laid before the Prussian government and therefore had not received the royal placet, the government nevertheless respected the verdict of the pope, and endeavored to forestall possible difficulties by having the professors of the Roman Catholic faculties notified that it expected that they would avoid everything which might be contrary to the pope's decision. That did not satisfy the archbishop, however, and, since the theological faculty of Bonn was the chief supporter of this tendency, he took measures against this educational institution. He began by exercising against the publications of its professors a criticism and censorship which was beyond his competence. He, moreover, sent a circular to the priests of the city of Bonn who heard confession, ordering them to use their influence so that no one should read the writings of Hermes and that no student should attend lectures disseminating such ideas. He allowed himself to use expressions which threw suspicion on the professors of theology at Bonn, and he cast doubt upon their orthodoxy. When they offered to prove their soundness he rejected their proposals and he refused to substantiate his charges, but did not withdraw them. The dormitory (Konvikt), which was partly supported by the city, suffered so much from the archbishop's interference that sixty of the seventy inmates left the house; he himself caused the priests' seminary in Cologne to be closed. Finally he went so far as to lay eighteen propositions before the newly consecrated priests for signature, containing among other things the promise to appeal from the decisions of the archbishop to nobody except to the pope. This was a direct attack on the right of the State to take cognizance of appeals concerning the misuse of ecclesiastical power. The above mentioned mission of Count Stolberg was intended to change the mind of the archbishop on this subject also, and an understanding was actually reached in this controversy; but it was not of practical significance, since the negotiations about the more important matter of mixed marriages were a failure.


5. Droste-Vischering’s Downfall. The government recognized the necessity of decisive action. On receipt of the news that the archbishop was exciting the population of Cologne, there was held in Berlin a council of ministers under the presidency of the king, and on Nov. 20, 1837, Archbishop Droste-Vischering was arrested and taken to the fortification of Minden.  The impression of this event was extraordinary. On Dec. 10 Gregory XVI. pronounced a fulminant allocution in the presence of the cardinals, in which he took the side of the deposed archbishop without waiting for reports from Berlin, and declared that the freedom of the Church was violated, the episcopal dignity derided, the rights of the Church trodden under foot. Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador at the Curia, had to be recalled. The Prussian government tried to justify its procedure in the eyes of the public by means of a memorial, and when an answer to this was published in Rome it endeavored to refute it by a second account of the condition of things.The government was also supported by the cathedral chapter of Cologne in so far forth that the latter declared itself ready to continue to conduct affairs; and it succeeded in keeping in check the nobility and clergy who took delight in being in the opposition; at the same time it showed a personal courtesy to the archbishop by permitting him to retire to his ancestral castle of Darfeld. But it was not successful in quieting the excited Catholic population. Whether it would have had the power to maintain the position which it had taken is hard to say; but, as a matter of fact, after King Frederick William IV. succeeded Frederick William III. in 1840 the government at once changed its course and began a retreat which must be designated as the utter defeat of the State. Although Droste-Vischering was not allowed to return to Cologne, Bishop Von Geissel from Speyer undertaking to administer the archdiocese as coadjutor with the right of succession, he nevertheless received from the king in reparation of his honor the declaration that the king had never entertained the thought that he had taken a part in machinations of political and revolutionary character. Moreover, the requirements previously made about mixed marriages were allowed to drop, the placet was waived, and in 1841 there was founded in the Prussian Kultusministerium a special Roman Catholic department which lasted down to 1871. Droste-Vischering spent the rest of his days in Münster far from public life. In no respect was he an important man, but he possessed great energy and perseverance. Since he aided his Church in winning a great triumph he was praised by Görres as an Athanasius, but his blustering manner reminds one rather of Epiphanius.



Bibliography: For the life consult: J. von Görres, Athanasius, Regensburg, 1837 (a Catholic eulogy; cf. J. G. Schlemmer, Görres in seinem Athanasius als Vertheidiger des Erzbischofs von Droste zu Vischering, Nuremberg, 1838); C. A. Hass, Die beiden Erzbischöfe, Leipsic, 1839; P. C. Marheineke, Der Erzbischof C. A. von Droste zu Vischering als Friedenstifter, Berlin, 1843; F. A. Muth, in Deutschlands Episcopal in Lebensbildern, Würzburh, 1873. On the Cologne controversy, of fundamental importance for the relations of the Prussian state to the Catholic Church, consult: G. F. H. Rheinwald, Allgemeines Repertorium für die theologische Literatur, vols. xxii.-xxxvii., 1838-42 (lists of contemporary literature); C. C. J. von Bunsen, Aus seinen Briefen, Leipsic, 1868, Eng. transl., London, 1869; E. Friedberg, Grenzen zwischen Staat und Kirche, Tübingen, 1872; idem, Grundlagen der Preussischen Kirchenpolitik unter Friedrich Wilhelm IV., Leipsic, 1882; H. Schmid, Geschichte der katholischen Kirche Deutschlands, Munich, 1874; H. von Sybel, Klericale Politik im 19. Jahrhundert, Bonn, 1874; C. Mirbt, Die preussische Gesandtschaft am Hofe des Papstes, Leipsic, 1899; H. Brück, Geschichte der katholischen Kirche im 19. Jahrhundert, vol. ii., Münster, 1903.