Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler belongs to those important churchmen of the 19th century who attempted to secure the constitutional freedom of the Church on the basis of liberal basic
rights. His open-mindedness about the conditions and demands of his time made him a far-seeing critic of the major turn in German liberalism, from the »idealism« of the Frankfurt Parliament to the
»realism« and »empiricism« of the Bismarck era.
Previous scholarly interest in the »social bishop« Ketteler has been limited largely to his personality. Adolf Birke’s present study, in contrast, uses biographical
considerations as a starting point for exploring fundamental problems between political Catholicism and German liberalism. By studying the confrontations between both these currents, Birke opens up new
perspectives. He relies on important, previously unexplored materials from Ketteler’s papers, some of which are included in the documentary appendix.