CSU: Founded 70 years ago © Peter Kneffel
Not “Catholic,” not “Protestant,” but “Christian” was the name of the new party in Bavaria. For 70 years, the CSU has endeavored to pursue Christian policies and has repeatedly rubbed elbows with the churches.
Mocking Markus Soder: Bavaria's finance minister caused hilarity when he decorated a Facebook Christmas greeting with an Easter message (“Christ is risen”). In times of dwindling religious education, not even CSU celebrities are able to distinguish between church festivals? To many, Soder's faux pas seemed to be a sign that the self-proclaimed Bavarian state party is more concerned about the “C” in its name than it is about having internalized it.
The Protestant had recently emphasized that his faith had made him a bit “calmer and calmer” over the years.
Peculiar relationship with the churches from the start
The CSU, which formed in the fall of 1945 and was founded exactly 70 years ago, on 8. The CSU, which was officially founded on January 1946, had a peculiar relationship with the churches from the very beginning. After the Nazi experience, the majority of the founding fathers did not want a revival of the Catholic predecessor BVP, but rather an interdenominational party. The first CSU chairman Josef Muller had already negotiated about this during the World War with the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was later murdered by the Nazis.
However, there was strong opposition to this, especially in the person of Alois Hundhammer, who saw the Lutherans simply as “apostates,” as historian Thomas Schlemmer of the renowned Munich Institute for Contemporary History describes. Hundhammer, a CSU veteran, and Georg Meixner, a Bamberg cathedral chaplain and head of the state parliamentary group from 1951 to 1958, ensured that the Protestants did not become too powerful in the ranks of the Christian Socialists. In addition, they provided guidelines for content, for example by temporarily retaining the confessional schools in the Free State of Bavaria.
Denominationally separate elementary education was finally abolished by referendum in 1968 – on the initiative of the CSU, which was driven by a broad social alliance. But the church also abandoned many a rigid position during these years, especially with new personalities and in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Thus, the chair of the Munich archbishop was no longer occupied by the eloquent Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, but by a balancing man like Julius Dopfner, one of the defining faces of the church assembly.
Catholic predominance in the ranks of the Christian Socialists waned
Proximity and distance continued to characterize the CSU's relationship with the two major churches in the decades that followed. The Catholic preponderance in the ranks of the Christian Socialists noticeably diminished, but always remained noticeable – for example, in the crucifix controversy of the 1990s, when the party and the official church acted side by side against a controversial ruling of the Constitutional Court. And the recognition of homosexual partnerships, probably not a problem for most Protestants, is likely to be missing from a CSU platform for a long time to come.
Nevertheless, the party has always united thought leaders from both denominations, such as Alois Gluck, longtime president of the German lay Catholics, and Gunther Beckstein, deputy head of the Protestant church synod. Horst Seehofer, in turn, is closely linked to Catholic social teaching – which is why observers like historian Schlemmer are surprised at how “strangely uncommented” it remains in the CSU when, for example, Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx strikes tones critical of capitalism or laments the social imbalance in society.
Criticism of CSU in current refugee policy
By the way, with his Facebook post Soder triggered gloating not only with his Christmas-Easter interplay, but also with the sentence: “No door remains closed.” In contrast, the Franconian Protestant had repeatedly expressed himself as a CSU sharpener on the subject of asylum. How in general the handling of refugees recently caused heated discussions between the Bavarian ruling party and the churches.
“What is Christian about it, if a country like Germany should solve the refugee problems of the world all alone?”, asked Prime Minister Seehofer only on Sunday. But regardless of CSU rhetoric, in practice the Free State is heavily involved in refugee aid, says historian Schlemmer. It is no coincidence that the New Testament says: “By their deeds you shall know them.”