Until well into the 20th century, the everyday life of Catholics in Germany was shaped to a high degree by the clergy. The author examines and analyzes this symbiosis of clergy and the Catholic
faithful using the striking example of the Diocese of Münster.
This is a vividly written social history, which concentrates on the seminal issues of recruiting and training candidates for the priesthood. The elegance with which Schulte-Umberg relays his insight into
the diversity of the long period under examination, from the Enlightenment to the 1930s, adds to the book’s appeal.
Questions about the structure and content of priests’ training, and the religious conceptions they instilled, are closely tied to questions about influential
personalities and the transformation of societal and church environments. The author answers such questions on the basis of an extensive source analysis. Using newly-compiled statistical data, which
takes into account family environments, social welfare networks, and schooling of all priests between 1815 and 1940, as well as relevant organizational data from the diocese, the study offers
innovative methodogical currents. Schulte-Umberg demonstrates how over time the priesthood evolved into a corps of professionals, in which offical duty and proving oneself individually –
profession and charisma – were closely linked. The clergy stood at the center of Catholic life not least because their roots were firmly within the Catholic milieu and because the quality of
their training gave them a theological, social, and human competence, including the essential ability to adapt to changing conditions in church and society.