They held, and still hold, leading positions in the Church, politics, media, economy, and society: Catholic university graduates – priests as well as lay people – such as Rainer Barzel,
Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, Ernst Elitz, Helmut Kohl, or Joseph Ratzinger.
This prize-winning dissertation from the University of Bochum uses an innovative approach to examine how people who today belong to the elite of our society were shaped by the Church and Catholicism in
their student days. In doing so, it contributes to our understanding of the far-reaching processes of change that transpired in the Church and society, from the end of World War II in 1945 to
the student movement of the late 1960’s and its consequences.
The book makes it clear that, following the experiences of the Third Reich, a far-reaching reorientation took place within academic Catholicism. The individual was to be empowered to champion
Christian interests in society on his own responsibility. Social involvement attained an almost religious dignity, while attending mass, confession, and membership in associations lost their primary
standing as the badges of a »good« Catholic.
Against this background of reorientation, the »restoration« of Catholicism in the late 1950’s caused widespread disappointment. Out of this disappointment arose a continuous wave of criticism of the
Church, which found itself confronted by an exemplary model of a Christianity that proved itself through individual action in the temporal world. For many in the student movement, this interpretation of
Christianity became completely detached from any church framework. This, in turn, led to numerous conflicts in student congregations and organizations, as well as to the formation of very different
Catholic identities, whose effects can partly still be felt today.
In his investigations, the author was able to use not only extensive primary sources on the Catholic student congregations and associations; he also conducted many interviews
and utilized numerous autobiographies, which he has integrated into a stimulating, up-to-date interpretation.