The relationship of the state and ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) in East Germany to the Catholic Church between 1949 and 1961 was burdened in a variety of ways and fraught with conflict.
The socialist state increasingly claimed a monopoly over the area of ideological world-view and considered the Catholic Church the »enemy’s last remaining organized power within the republic.«
Consequently, the SED’s church policies aimed to push religion and the churches out of public life and to interfere with religious life. The Catholic Church, in turn, attempted to defend its
latitude for action in a struggle of attrition that was marked by various setbacks.
Thomas Raabe analyzes the various fields of conflict using six case studies: the establishment of a theological seminary in Erfurt; the struggle against organized Christian
youth activities; conflicts over schools and Caritas (Catholic Charities); the Jugendweihe (a socialist ceremony marking entry into adolescence, designed to compete with religious confirmation), Catholic
gatherings and pilgrimages; and the Church's reaction to forced collectivization in agriculture and the events of 17 June 1953. All these examples portray an East German Catholicism
caught in a permanent state of tension produced by the necessity of a Christian service ethos, on the one hand, and of maintaining distance from the atheistic environment, on the other.