PIUS SOCIETIES: Certain religious associations, composed of clergy and laity, formed in Germany after the revolutionary disturbances of 1848, the object of which was the defense and promotion of Roman Catholicism in Germany. The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church assembled at Würzburg in 1848, agreed to support the Pius Societies, so called after Pius IX. (q.v.), to maintain the supremacy of the pope in Germany, and to keep national education in the hands of the Church. In Oct., 1848, a meeting representing many local unions was held at Mainz in which all the Pius Societies throughout the country were incorporated in one collective union which took the name of the "Catholic Union of Germany." The object of this association was declared to be the treatment of all social and religious questions from a Roman Catholic standpoint, and especially the preservation and promotion of the Church's welfare and independence. The union was pronounced by the bishop of Limburg to be "a powerful lever for the Christian restoration of Germany." At this meeting were formed the Vincent societies for domestic missionary work, and later Boniface societies, which, together with a host of societies either new or previously in existence, became adjuncts of the Pius Societies.
The assemblies were always made occasions for commenting on the condition of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, for preaching Ultramontanism (q.v.), and inveighing against Protestantism. During the trials of the so-called Kulturkampf (see ULTRAMONTANISM) the Pius Societies at their annual meeting at Würzburg, 1877, resolved: "We will fight not with the sword but with the cross." This peaceful attitude gave way after 1880 to a more stormy program, including the ultramontane policy of Pius IX., the readmittance of Roman Catholic orders, particularly the Jesuits, and the temporal supremacy of the pope. The Pius Societies do not aim at a parity of privileges among all religious bodies, but at the total catholicization of the German nation in accordance with the introduction of that future ideal when, in the words of Baron von Loë uttered in the Roman Catholic Assembly at Bonn in 1881: "Germany shall be a Catholic country and the Church the leader of the nations."