- Katholischer Historismus? Zum historischen Denken in der deutschsprachigen Kirchengeschichte um 1900. Heinrich Schrörs – Albert Ehrhard – Joseph Schnitzer by Gregor Klapczynski
Nineteenth-century German Catholic scholars could hardly disengage themselves from what Ernest Troeltsch referred to as the crisis generated by critical historical studies: Die Krisis des Historismus. For Troeltsch, the issue was, in no small part, how in the flux and flow of history one can establish normative values to direct one’s life. But the broader issue on how to interpret history was a matter of significant importance and probed how history, truth, and value are related.
Gregor Klapczynski’s book is a slightly revised version of his 2012 dissertation at the Catholic Faculty of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster. He pursues this question among Roman Catholic historians: how can one understand and professionally pursue church history as an academic discipline, and can one do so without placing absolute claims of the content of tradition or doctrine, still neo-Scholastic in form, at risk? His strategy is to present three notable Catholic theologians—Heinrich Schrörs (1852–1928), Albert Erhard (1862–1940), and Joseph Schnitzer (1859–1939)—considered to represent three positions in late-nineteenth-century Catholic thought in relation to what was perceived to be relativism.
Klapczynski has provided criteria for his choices from a large field of otherwise excellent candidates: each of the three was attentive to both the theory and praxis of historical research; represents the right, center, or left of a spectrum that runs from conservative to modernist, i.e., relativist; was investigated by church officials for modernist impulses; and left a pool of sources adequate for substantive analysis.
Chapter 1 sketches, in the context of the political and social changes that mark the period, the evolution of philosophies of history, from organic-idealist conceptions [End Page 169] at the outset (à la Wilhelm von Humboldt and Leopold von Ranke, but also Johann Sebastian von Drey and Johann Möhler), to scientific-objective-realist aspirations by century’s end. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 dedicate roughly equivalent amounts of space to the three figures, outlining their Lebenslauf, academic contributions, philosophies of history, intellectual interlocutors, and brushes with church authorities (only Schnitzer is excommunicated, primarily for a booklet challenging the divine origins of the papacy).
Chapter 5 draws the author’s conclusion: as theologians, Schrörs, Erhard, and Schnitzer initially shared the neo-Scholastic assumptions that shaped most Catholic theological scholarship of the period; as historians, they aspired to combine normative Catholic theology and philosophy with the historical thought of the period by way of an organic-ideal-realist model that, Klapczynski argues, was espoused by Pope Leo XIII himself. But there are differences among the three.
Schrörs affirms the compatibility of the absolute claims of the tradition with historical criticism, but without providing a coherent integration, follows the approach outlined by Tuas Libenter, becomes entangled in neo-Scholastic inter-school controversies, but is never sanctioned.
Erhard goes beyond Schörs, developing, with scholastic philosophical epistemology, a theory of forms and grounding a history of culture in a Christocentric incarnational model. Humanistic longings for the good, the true, and the beautiful, as well as the religious aspirations for God can, in principle, be distinguished, but in the concrete order remain inseparable. Despite his refusal to take the antimodernist oath, Erhard escapes formal condemnation and, in Klapczynski’s expression, is fully, like Schrörs, an “antimodernist modern.”
Over the years Schnitzer grew less satisfied with neo-Scholastic solutions to the problem of history. He was first attracted to the Reform Catholic aspirations of the Würzburg theologian Herman Schell, who nevertheless remained a modern Scholastic, and was impressed by the development model of dogma espoused by Blessed John Henry Newman, but was eventually drawn to the historical-critical methods of Alfred Loisy, whom he highly admired. According to Klapczynski, Schnitzer espoused a modern historical realism, much like Troeltsch: criteria of...