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May Laws

Legislation associated with Bismarck's Kulturkampf directed against German Catholicism. Passed in May 1873 under the direction of Adalbert Frank in the Prussian Landtag, they were based on the theory of the absolute supremacy of the state. They limited the extent of episcopal powers of excommunication and discipline, instituted a supreme ecclesiastical court whose members were appointed by the emperor and directly under state control, placed priestly training under close governmental supervision, and required all ordinands to pass through a state university and submit to state examinations in literature, history, and philosophy, and subjected clerical appointments by bishops to government veto. The laws were condemned by Pius IX in the encyclical Quod nunquam (1875) and were opposed also by many German Protestants. One effect of the laws was to unify Catholics and strengthen their resistance. They were eventually modified in 1886-87 after agreement between Bismarck and Leo XIII.