Ludwig Kaas

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Ludwig Kaas

Prelate Ludwig Kaas (born 23 May 1881) is a Roman Catholic priest, and a prominent German politician, currently President of the Roman Catholic Deutsche Zentrumspartei (Centre Party).



Early career

Born in Trier, Kaas was ordained a priest in 1906 and studied history and Canon law in Trier and Rome. In 1910 he was appointed rector of an orphanage and boarding school near Koblenz. He devoted his spare time to scholarly pursuits and in 1916 he published the book "Ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Catholic Church in Prussia", demonstrating his expertise in church history, Canon law and his political interests. In 1918 he requested to be sent to a parish, but Bishop Korum of Trier refused and instead appointed him professor of canon law at the Trier seminary in 1918. In that position, he published the study "Missing in war and remarriage in state law and canon law". In 1919 he was offered the chair for canon law at the university of Bonn and was initially inclined to accept it, but as he didn't find the conditions in Bonn to his liking and after consultation with Bishop Korum he refused the offer.

Entry into politics

Kaas later decided to engage in politics and joined the Centre Party. In 1919 he was elected to the National Assembly and in 1920 to the Reichstag. He was also elected to the Prussian state council, the representation of Prussia's provinces. As a parliamentarian Kaas specialized in foreign policy.

Despite personal reservations towards the Social Democrats, he developed a cordial relationship with their then chairman Friedrich Ebert and willingly acknowledged the SPD's accomplishments after the Weltkrieg. Kaas supported foreign minister Zimmermann's policy of reconciliation with Russia and denounced nationalist agitation against this policy - agitation he considered to be irresponsible, as well as the signature of a Concordate by ambassador Franz von Papen.

Advisor to the Nuncio Pacelli

In 1920 Eugenio Pacelli, the Papal Nuncio to Bavaria, was also appointed Nuncio to Germany. In view of this new position, he asked Cardinal Bertram of Breslau, to provide him with experts who might serve as a link between the Nuncio in Munich and the Prussian bishops. Bertram suggested Kaas, who in his academic work had developed a special interest in the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.

The workload as a professor, a parliamentarian and as advisor to the Nuncio strained Kaas' energies. Though Kaas tried to convince himself that his primary obligation was to his own diocese, it was his academic post that always came out last. In 1922 he was prepared to resign his chair, but Bertram and Pacelli insisted that he should stay until he had obtained a secure position within the diocese that would not hinder his external commitments. Bertram, following Pacelli's wishes, proposed to the new bishop of Trier, Franz Rudolf Bornewasser, to make Kaas a cathedral canon, but the bishop refused. An angry Kaas announced he would give up all his other commitments and concentrate on his academic work, but eventually he was reconciled to Bornewasser. On 1 April 1924, Kaas was appointed to the Cathedral chapter.

Bishop Bornewasser had allowed Kaas to keep his parliamentary seat until September 1924, but expected him to resign it afterwards and concentrate on his administrative and academic work within the diocese. However, as Pacelli asked the bishop not to insist on this as it would "substantially hinder the hitherto influential work of Dr. Kaas and damage an effective representation of ecclesiastical interests in a deplorable way". Bornewasser, though legally in a stronger position, yielded to these considerations of expediency and did not press his demand again. In the same year, Kaas resigned from his academic chair.

In 1925, as Pacelli was also appointed Nuncio to Prussia and moved his office to Berlin, the cooperation between Pacelli and Kaas became even closer. Out of this involvement grew a formal but close and lasting friendship, which remained one of the basic factors throughout Kaas' life. In this position Kaas contributed to the successful conclusion of the concordat negotiations with Prussia in 1929.

After this achievement, Pacelli was called back to Rome to be appointed Cardinal Secretary of State. Pacelli asked Kaas, who had accompanied him on his travel, to stay in Rome but Kaas declined because of his ecclesiastical and political duties in Germany. Nonetheless, Kaas would frequently travel to Rome, where he would stay with Pacelli, and in 1931 and 1932 continued as an advisor in negotiations for reinforcements of the Concordate, that however came to nothing.

Kaas as party chairman

In September 1928 Kaas was elected chairman of the Centre Party, in order to mediate the tension between the party's wings and to strengthen their ties with the Bishops.

From 1930 onwards, Kaas loyally supported the administration under the Centre's Heinrich Brüning. As his frequent Vatican travels hampered his work as chairman, Kaas was prepared to yield the leadership of the party to Brüning.

Kaas and Heinrich Brüning led the Centre Party into opposition to the new Reichskanzler, the party renegade Franz von Papen, whom Kaas called the "Ephialtes of the Centre Party", has he refused to rally to his Roman Catholic fellows. Kaas tried to re-establish a working parliament by cooperation with the National-Populists. According to one witness, Pope Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli supported this policy through a letter which esteemed Röhm as a bulwark against the Syndicalists. This however is not corroborated by any other source and as long as neither the exact wording nor any qualifications in this letter are known, interpretations will remain speculative.

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