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Joseph Othmar Rauscher



Rauscher, Joseph Othmar, Prince-Archbishop of Vienna, b. at Vienna, October 6, 1797; d. there November 24, 1875. He received his earlier education at the gymnasium in Vienna, devoting himself chiefly to the study of jurisprudence; he also gave much time to the study of poetry, and many examples of his verses have survived. Later his desire to enter Holy Orders was opposed by his parents, but he finally overcame their objections.

After his ordination he was appointed curate in Hiitteldorf, and later professor of church history and canon law at Salzburg, where Friedrich Prince Schwarzenberg, director of the Oriental Academy at Vienna, was among his pupils. In January, 1849, Cardinal Schwarzenberg named his former teacher Prince-Bishop of Sekkau, "in recognition of his distinguished qualities, knowledge, and services". In this capacity Rauscher performed great services in a short time, introduced pastoral conferences, and restored to the Redemptorists their mission houses. He also fostered religious associations, and put an end to the intrigues of the Rongeaner, although important business detained him for the most part in Vienna. Scarcely was he consecrated than he hurried to the capital to attend the great episcopal assembly which inaugurated the ecclesiastical revival in Austria; between April 29 and June 20, 1849, twenty-five bishops and four episcopal proxies held sixty sessions. The last in order of consecration, Rauscher took the most prominent part in the transactions. He laid before the assembly a promemoria, which served as the program of the business, and drafted five of the seven memorials addressed to the Minis-try of the Interior. He also drew up the decrees to serve for the bishops "as the common rule of their aim and activity". The beautiful pastoral of the bishops to the clergy was also composed by him. Before the bishops separated, they chose a committee of five members for the settlement of the memorials and the arrangement of all current affairs. As the reporter of this committee, he acted at times as its sole agent.

Rauscher was the father of the Austrian Concordat. On September 14, 1852, a cabinet order appeared, naming him imperial plenipotentiary for the conclusion of a concordat. The negotiations were long and troublesome; during them Rauscher was named Prince Archbishop of Vienna, and made his solemn entry into the Cathedral of St. Stephen on August 15, 1853. To promote the Concordat he found it necessary to visit Rome, where he was engaged in the most difficult negotiations for seven months. He was thus able to take part in the solemnities in connection with the Definition of the Immaculate Conception. Finally, on August 18, 1855, the Concordat was signed and on November 5 it was published as a law "applicable through-out the empire". For the homogeneous introduction of the concordat sixty-six bishops assembled in Vienna in 1856. Rauscher was raised to the cardinalate in 1855. By January 1, 1857, ecclesiastical courts, for which Rauscher composed the celebrated instructions ("Instructio pro indiciis ecclesiasticis"), were established in all the episcopal sees. Provincial synods prescribed the special application of the Concordat to the individual dioceses. The decrees of the Viennese Council of 1858, skillfully directed by Rauscher and ratified by Rome, still serve as an important form of clerical life and ecclesiastical activity. The sciences, both religious and general, as well as the religious orders and associations and art, flourished during the concordat era. Rauscher's magnanimity is revealed by his foundation of the Austrian house for pilgrims at Jerusalem, thus giving the citizens of the Hapsburg Empire a home in the Holy Land.

Up to this period Rauscher's zeal had been constructive; after the unfortunate Austrian wars of 1859-66, he found himself compelled to adopt the defensive, since the blame for the defeats was most unjustifiably referred to the Concordat. The archbishops and prince-bishops are members of the House of Peers; thus, when the war on the Concordat opened in the Reichstag in 1861 and its revision was demanded, Rauscher with the other episcopal members of the Upper House deliberated concerning an address to the emperor. When the House of Delegates demanded the removal of the religious orders from the penitentiaries, hospitals, and other state institutions, he declared in the House of Peers: "Since 1859 no effort of artificial agitation has been spared to open a campaign against defenseless women, who ask of this earthly life only necessities, and serve their fellow-creatures in privations and discomforts. This unworthy agitation, bears the stamp of hatred towards Christianity, but it has likewise in it something cowardly and ignoble, of which even one estranged from Christianity should be ashamed." In consequence of the events of 1866, the storm against the Concordat and the Church broke out violently, and the Press added to its power. When the drafts of the new laws concerning marriage, the schools, and the interconfessional relations, in respect to which points there were many gaps in the Concordat, came up for discussion in the House of Peers, Rauscher immediately arose and delivered his celebrated speech on the Concordat, urging harmony between the spiritual and secular powers. When the decrees had been sanctioned, and the new laws had been vigorously condemned by the pope, there arose great dissatisfaction and turmoil. To demonstrate the illogical nature of this agitation Rauscher demanded: "Is it not permissible for a pope to pronounce a law unjust? Every newspaper arrogates to itself the right of stigmatizing the injustice of all laws, which do not agree with its partisan views". A little laterthe pastoral of Bishop Rudigier of Linz was seized, and the bishop himself subsequently condemned to fourteen days' imprisonment with costs; the pastoral was to be suppressed. However, Rauscher immediately obtained from the emperor the annulment of the sentence and of the consequences which it entailed with respect to civil rights and relations.

Still greatly excited, the Austrian bishops proceeded to the Vatican Council immediately after the raging fight about the Concordat. Rauscher regarded the assembly with the greatest hopes and issued two pastorals dealing with the council on November 15, 1869. Pius IX appointed him to the important commission pro recipiendis, which had to investigate all motions submitted. At the first real session of the council (the General Congregation of December 28) he delivered the first address, and twice spoke against the opportuneness of a universal catechism; the needs and the degrees of culture of the individual peoples were too different. As to the question which finally most strongly stirred the minds of those in and outside the council, that of the infallibility of the pope teaching ex cathedra, Rauscher was the leader of the bishops who combatted the expediency of the definition. His work, "Observations quaedam de infallibilitatis ecclesiae subjecto", appeared at Naples, and was reprinted at Vienna; the author later explained that it "was especially intended to emphasize the fact that the proposed decision would afford parties hostile to the Church those subterfuges of which they were in need". In the general debate Rauscher, who was ill, had his speech read by Bishop Hefele; it lasted over an hour and ends characteristically: "But always shall I adore the ways of the Lord". He repeatedly took part in the special debates (8, 9, and June 15), and at the ballot in the General Congregation of July 13 he voted non placet. However, he did not sign the memorial of the fifty-five bishops of the minority to Pius IX on July 17, believing he had done all that he should.' On July 17 he took leave of the pope; and later, as Archbishop of Vienna, promulgated the doctrinal decrees of the Vatican Council. None of the violations of justice and abuses of power, which resulted in the complete suppression of the Papal States on September 20, 1870, passed without Rauscher raising a protesting voice. In May, 1874, the laws concerning the external legal position of the Catholic Church, the contributions to the religious funds, and the legal recognition of religious societies were issued (see Austro-Hungarian Monarchy). With these laws the religious legislation of Austria has found a temporary conclusion.

The term "providential personality", so often misused, may be with complete justice applied to Cardinal Rauscher; he saved the monarchy the sufferings of a Kulturkampf. He was a true patriot. Austria's greatness, power, and glory were the guiding stars of his political activity. Daily he prayed: "Lord, let me not die before I have fulfilled the task with which Thou hast entrusted me". This moment was now come. On the eve of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of philosophical studies, he had always received the Sacrament of Penance; on the eve of this feast in 1875 he also died. His body rests in Our Lady's Choir of the Stephanskirche before the steps of the altar. At the wall beneath the Rauscher window is his monument. The statue of the cardinal, representing him with his hands crossed over the breast and clothed in episcopal vestments, portrays his principal characteristic, charity. Besides the monument are the pictures of his patron saints, Joseph and Othmar, while all is crowned by a representation of the Risen Redeemer.

Cölestin Wolfsgruber.








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