From Academic Kids

The Reichskonkordat is the concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich, signed in 1933. It is still valid today in Germany.



After the constitution of 1919 of the Weimar Republic had instituted the separation of church and state, the Vatican and clericals active in the German Centre Party initiated negotiations on a concordat with the German Republic. On the German side, the lead negotiator was Franz von Papen. However, the democratically elected governments of Germany did not accept the requests of Nuncio Pacelli, the later Pope Pius XII.

In January 1933 Franz von Papen (he was then vice chancellor to Hitler) persuaded Hitler to resume negotiations. The Nazi government accepted the far-reaching rights of the church in exchange for the agreement of the Centre Party to the Enabling Act. (The Enabling Act needed to pass with a two-thirds majority, which was only possible with the votes of the Centre Party.) The Nazis were also interested in reassuring their Catholic critics and in the political disempowerment of the clergy (articles 16 and 32 of the concordat) and in gaining international recognition: the Reichskonkordat was their first bilateral treaty.

On the significance of the Reichskonkordat, Guenter Lewy, author of The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, has written:

There is general agreement that the Concordat increased substantially the prestige of Hitler's regime around the world. As Cardinal Faulhaber put it in a sermon delivered in 1937: "At a time when the heads of the major nations in the world faced the new Germany with cool reserve and considerable suspicion, the Catholic Church, the greatest moral power on earth, through the Concordat expressed its confidence in the new German government. This was a deed of immeasurable significance for the reputation of the new government abroad."
Missing image
Signature of the Reichskonkordat

Signature of the Reichskonkordat on July 20, 1933.
On the left, Franz von Papen; in the center, Nuncio Pacelli.

The Reichskonkordat was signed on July 20, 1933, and ratified on September 10, 1933.

The Concordat

The main points of the concordat are:

  • The right to freedom of religion. (Article 1)
  • The state concordats with Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929), and Baden (1932) remain valid. (Article 2)
  • Unhindered correspondence between the Holy See and German Catholics. (Article 4)
  • The right of the church to collect church taxes. (Article 13)
  • The oath of allegiance of the bishops: "(...) Ich schwöre und verspreche, die verfassungsmässig gebildete Regierung zu achten und von meinem Klerus achten zu lassen (...)" ("I swear and vow to honor the constitutional government and to make my clergy honor it") (Article 16)
  • State services to the church can be abolished only in mutual agreement. (Article 18)
  • Catholic religion is taught in school (article 21) and teachers for Catholic religion can be employed only with the approval of the bishop (article 22).
  • Protection of Catholic organizations and freedom of religious practice. (Article 31)
  • Clericals may not be members of or be active for political parties. (Article 32)

A secret annex relieved clericals from military duty in the case that mandatory military service should be reinstated. (Germany was not allowed to have mandatory military service by the Treaty of Versailles).

Only when the Nazi government violated the concordat (in particular article 31), the clergy started to critize their politics. This criticism culminated in the papal encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge" ("With Deep Anxiety") of 1937 of Pope Pius XI.

After World War II

After World War II, the validity of the Reichskonkordat was unclear. On March 26, 1957, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht) finally decided that the concordat was still valid, making it thus the only bilateral treaty from the Nazis that is still valid for Germany today.

Besides the dubious pedigree of the treaty, critics point out that the concordat basically undermines the disestablishment instituted in the constitution of the Weimar Republic and also upheld by the constitution of modern Germany.

See also

External links

de:Reichskonkordat fr:Concordat du 20 juillet 1933 cs:Říšský konkordát


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