Jeune droite et vieille droite avant le congrès catholique de 1909.

Young Right-Wingers And Old Right-Wingers Before The Catholic Congress In 1909: The Catholic Party was in power in Belgium from 1884 until the first world war. During this period its history is one of slow change which consists in the rise of a minority group, the Christian Democracy. In order to obtain recognition and, later, a real share of power, this wing, embodied in the Ligue démocratique belge (Belgian democratic league), founded by Helleputte and Verhaegen in 1891, had to wage a severe struggle against the Association des Fédérations et Cercles catholiques (Association of Catholic Federations and Circles) headed by Charles Woeste. From the moment of their establishment as an autonomous group, the democrats had expressed the desire of calling a catholic congress which, in the tradition of the great congresses of Mechlin, was to be a clear manifestation of the catholic unity, in a legally recognized diversity. The conservatives, who considered the Christian democracy a necessary evil and whose evil spirit, Charles Woeste, claimed the title of unchallenged right-wing leader, made this congress-plan fail several times, for on such an occasion " i t wouldn't be possible to restrain anyone from speaking", as Woeste himself admitted. The death of Leo III, who was in favour of the democrats, could not but bring them in a rather uncomfortable position. Arthur Verhaegen, the democrats' leader, needed a strong tenacity to face the repeated attacks by the conservative wing who did not conceal their desire of the democrats disappearing altogether. The 1906 legislative elections, reducing the governmental majority a little, brought about a change, by assigning more importance to the democratic group. They took advantage of this situation by claiming social reforms from the government. Moreover, on 12 April, 1907, the democrats did not hesitate to censure the government, which involved its resignation. For the first time the new cabinet, headed by de Trooz, consisted of democratic-minded ministers : Renkin and Helleputte. On the other hand, even within his own Fédération of circles Woeste met with a firm opposition on the side of de Broqueville, future Cabinet-president, and Pirmez, leader of the Jeunes Gardes Catholiques (Young Catholic Guards). The old leader's influence was more and more contested until the war, when it had become non-existent. Finally, the episcopal appointment of monseigneur Mercier in 1906, was to give the democrats a very strong support The new archbishop, in his turn, again undertook the plan of the congress and defeated Woeste's opposition. When, in September, 1909, the Congress met, it had lost a great part of its first aim : the recognition of the Christian Democracy, which had been an accomplished fact since 1907.