Not only the Rhenish socialists, but also representatives of the Catholic Church at the Rhine concerned themselves with the “Social Question". For instance, from 1845 the former shoemaker, Adolph Kolping (1813-1865) sought to counteract the proletarianization of “vulnerable” travelling journeymen in "tradesmen’s clubs" . In 1864 the Bishop of Mainz, Wilhelm von Ketteler (1811-1877), discussed the just distribution of company profits, among other things in a study. Both socio-political ideas had an influence on the “Centre“ characterized by the Rhineland. Shortly after its foundation in 1870, the Catholic liberal-conservative Party, the second strongest faction in the Reichstag (Parliament) became embroiled in the “culture clash“ between the Protestant Prussian Imperial government under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898; in office from 1862-1890) and the Roman Curia under Pope Pius IX. (1792-1878; pontificate from 1846-1878), which concerned the assertion of its official authority.
What triggered the "culture clash" was the separation of the old Catholics from the Roman Catholic Church in 1871, which was quickly recognized by individual German states. They welcomed this as a step towards weakening the power of Pius IX., who had been Pope since 1846. The foundation of the church at the Old Catholics’ Congress in Munich in September 1871 was preceded by meetings of lay believers in Königswinter and of theologians in Nuremberg (14/25 August 1871). Both meetings rejected the dogmatic infallibility of the Pope by the First Vaticanum. Bonn, as the academic centre of this protest movement, became the seat of the diocese of Old Catholics in Germany. The office of Bishop was assigned by the Rhinelanders to Johann Hubert Reinkens (1821-1896) and, after his death, Theodor Weber (1836-1906). Old Catholic parishes came into being, such as those in Bonn, Düsseldorf, Essen, Koblenz, Cologne and Krefeld. Bismarck sought to break Rome’s influence with all his might. When he timidly gave way after the change of Pontificate in 1878, people’s indignation in the Rhineland continued, owing to his anti-Catholic church politics. Bismarck suffered a further loss of trust as a result of his ruthless persecution of social democrats.