The Freiburg theologian Joseph Sauer (1872–1949) saw himself as scholarly heir to his teacher, the »liberal« Franz Xaver Kraus (1840–1901) whose goal of a culturally powerful
Catholicsm he attempted to realize. As an archaeologist and art historian, Sauer enjoyed high standing in the scholarly establishment of the Wilhelmine Empire and the Weimar Republic. During the
»crisis of modernism« in the Catholic Church (1893–1914), no other German theologian maintained such far-reaching international contacts to reform theologians as Sauer did.
From 1916, he decisively shaped the fortunes of the Freiburg theological faculty and, as a two-time rector, of the entire university. In 1933, Sauer served as assistant rector under Martin
Heidegger and after 1945 as permanent senator.
The author takes a critical view of Sauer’s self-image as Kraus’s heir, illuminating his career against the background of the history of Catholicism and of German universities in the
20th century. The traditional sharp division into »ultramontane« and »liberal« Catholicism does not apply very well to Sauer. But his self-immunization against the Church’s anti-modernism and
his withdrawal into »positive work« nevertheless characterize the majority of German theologians of the time. The same can be said of Sauer’s close attachment to the national conservative
eestablishment after 1918, his disappointment over lacking solidarity among »liberal« colleagues after 1933, and his support for catholicizing the University of Freiburg after 1945.
Finally, Arnold’s study casts light on Sauer’s relations to the Center Party in Baden, thereby illuminating an important part of Southwest Germany’s
political history. Sauer’s political positions evolved from complete rejection of the populist Center leader Theodor Wacker before 1914 to partial cooperation in the Weimar period, finally
ending with his efforts on behalf of interconfessional reorientation after 1945.