Catholicism in twentieth-century Germany was more than a Sunday-morning activity: it was a political economy, or a means of grasping and governing the social realm. Catholics began to forge their own social theories at the end of the nineteenth century, and during the Weimar era the Zentrum, a Catholic party, was able to pursue Catholic political economy using the levers of the state, largely thanks to Heinrich Brauns, a priest who served as minister of labor throughout most of the 1920s. During the Cold War, Catholic political economy was even more influential, as it was one of the primary ideological motivations behind the Christian Democratic Union, whose leaders, voters, and ministers of labor were predominantly Catholic. Some version of this narrative can be traced throughout Europe. This article focuses on the Rhineland, the center of social Catholic thinking in Germany, to demonstrate the continuity in the Catholic approach from Weimar to the Cold War. It also analyzes the differences between the two periods, exploring why Germany's Catholics were far more committed to the Federal Republic than they had ever been to its Weimar predecessor.

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