Plzeňské sympozia

Tomáš Petráček

Paupertas Meretrix. On the ecclesiastic reflection of the Social Question in the 19th Century

pp. 22–30 (Czech), Summary pp. 30–31 (English)

In this contribution, the author deals with the reflection of the social question among the élites of the ecclesiastic community on Bohemian territory in the course of the 19th century. He initially describes the attitudes embraced by the papacy towards the social question, embodied by the issuance of the encyclical Rerum novarum, as well as  major social activities carried out by European Catholics in Germany, France, and Switzerland. The following  passage is devoted to socially-oriented endeavours of female religious orders which contributed significantly to specific forms of alleviation of the industrial revolution’s negative impacts. In the reports ad limina submitted by the Bishops of Hradec Králové, the social question is mentioned primarily in response to the spread of alcoholism  among industrial workers and unskilled labourers entailing the destruction of their social and religious life, plus  occasionally also in reference to the development of the socialist movement whose anti-clerical orientation qualified it as hostile and undesirable. The essay’s core section concentrates on a source of unique relevance to an insight  into the reflection of the social question, penned by P. Bohumil Hakl, parish priest in Hořice v Podkrkonoší, in the last third of the 19th century. His observations recorded in the parish chronicle contain valuable information about the lifestyle of local industrial workers, documenting the viewpoint of a local Catholic clergyman, as well as supplying a  possible guide for an interpretation of certain anti-Semitically tinged arguments voiced by 19th-century Czech élites. Although Hakl was by no means a staunch opponent of either new technologies perse, or of scientific and  technological progress at large, he justifiably regarded the impact thereof on the life of industrial workers and of the Bohemian population in general as catastrophic.

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