A political party founded by the Catholics of Germany in 1870 to defend in Parliament the rights of their Church.
In 1852 a Catholic fraction with representatives of the Rhineland and Westphalia had been admitted into the lower house of Prussia, and after 1858 this Catholic faction called itself the Catholic Center Party because it occupied the central section of the house.
In 1870, when the Prussian Conservatives or Orthodox Protestants and the Liberals supported Bismarck's Kulturkampf against the Catholics, the latter united under Ludwig Windthorst.
The platform of the Center Party was as follows:
Many Protestants became affiliated with the party, which, under the capable leadership of Windthorst, continued to grow in strength so that by 1878 it had become so powerful that Bismarck himself felt the need of its support for his economic program, and began to work for the abrogation of the anti-Catholic laws passed at his dictation.
The Center Party has since played an important part in Germany's political life.
During the revolution of 1918 it held the balance of power in the Reich.
Essentially a middle party, with firm Catholic principles, it has as a whole advocated recognition of the Weimar constitution, fulfilment of the Treaty of Versailles with the object of conciliating Germany's former enemies, a policy of compromise and moderation to adjust conflicting interests in the Reich, and denominational education and closer relations with the Vatican.
At the last elections the Center Party obtained 68 seats in the Reichstag and represents over 4,000,000 votes.
The party now finds its support in Baden, Württemberg, the Rhineland and the Ruhr, which touches on Westphalia, and in Silesia.
There have been over 20 governments in power in Germany since 1919 and the Center has been represented in them all.
- the preservation of the fundamental character of the empire as a federated state;
- the promotion of the moral and material welfare of all classes;
- constitutional guarantees for the civil and religious liberty of all classes and protection of all religious organizations against encroachments of the legislature.
New Catholic Dictionary