Josephinism

The Austrian Hapsburg policy of secular state control of the church implemented in the eighteenth century under Empress Maria Theresa and culminating with intensity under Joseph II (1780-90). Its motivation was secular and rationalist, aimed at “rationalizing” the organization of the whole of society through an “enlightened” program of statist centralism. Instructions (1767, 1768) by the chief minister, Kaunitz, initiated the program.

Then under Joseph II came a rush of projects, including the following. The law of toleration (1781) ended the Catholic monopoly, allowing Protestants and Jews a certain freedom to worship-a step permitted, Joseph argued, because any church could be made obedient to the state. Traditional censorship, including the Index, was abolished, but a new rationalist censorship was practiced against, inter alia, “superstitious” works, all ecclesiastical publications, and most public discussion of religion. Monasteries were either dissolved or their members reduced in number (beginning 1781) on grounds that many were useless, or wasteful; their properties were confiscated, and the revenues used to fund a state reorganization of parishes, and state-controlled schools, shops, or factories. All links between the papacy and the Hapsburg Church were abolished or controlled, since the pope was viewed principally as a foreign political power. Bishops were obliged to swear loyalty to the state and forbidden corporately to oppose Joseph's decrees, while priests were made de facto state officials. The system thus erected continued without major alterations until 1850.

M.C. Goodwin, The Papal Conflict With Josephinism (1938); F. Maass, Der Josephinismus (5 vols., 1951f.), “Josephinism” in New Catholic Encyclopedia VII, pp. 1118-19, and “Josephinism” in Sacramentum Mundi III, pp. 209-10, and “Josephinismus” in Lex Theol Kirche V (1960), pp. 1137-39; S.K. Padover, The Revolutionary Emperor: Joseph II of Austria (rev. ed., 1967); C.A. Macartney, The Hapsburg Empire, 1790-1918 (1968).