Ronge, who had formerly been chaplain at Grottkau, was then a schoolmaster at Laurahütte near the Polish border. The article made a great sensation, and led to Ronge’s excommunication by the chapter of Breslau in December 1844. The ex-priest received a large amount of public sympathy, and a dissenting congregation calling itself the "New Catholics" was almost immediately formed at Breslau. Within less than a year, the group grew to over 8,000 members.
The Bible was made the sole rule, barring all external (papal) authority. Within a few weeks similar communities were formed at Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin, Offenbach, Worms, Wiesbaden and several other locations; and at a council convened at Leipzig at Easter 1845, twenty-seven congregations were represented by delegates, of whom only two or at most three were in clerical orders.
Ronge organized the "New Catholics" as a principally democratic organization. He ended the rule of celibacy for priests, excommunication, oral confessions, indulgences and other practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and he married Berthe Mayer, sister of Carl Schurz's wife, Margarethe. Many churches followed his example and the "New Catholics" grew rapidly. Ronge had also garnered support from Robert Blum, a newspaper publisher in Saxony. Blum published writings of the new movement and helped to organize it.
Many of the "New Catholics" were involved in politics. Their membership dominated the parliament in Worms. With their view of "rational religion", the council proclaimed "that the sole basis of Christian faith was to be in the Bible, interpreted by each for himself in the light of reason". They were later forced to change their name from "New Catholics" to "German Catholics". A Protestant group analogous to the New Catholics was the Friends of the Light. In 1849, these two groups combined to form the Free Congregations.
Of the German Catholic congregations which had been represented at Leipzig some manifested a preference for the fuller creed of the Christian Catholic sect based in Schneidemühl, but a great majority continued to accept the comparatively rationalistic position of the Breslau school. The number of these rapidly increased, and the congregations scattered over Germany numbered nearly two hundred. External and internal checks, however, soon limited this advance. In Austria, and ultimately also in Bavaria, the use of the name German Catholics was officially prohibited, that of Dissidents being substituted, while in Prussia, Baden and Saxony the adherents of the new creed were laid under various disabilities, being suspected both of undermining religion and of encouraging the revolutionary tendencies of the age. Ronge himself was a foremost figure in the troubles of 1848; after the dissolution of the Frankfort parliament he lived for sometime in London, returning in 1861 to Germany. He died at Vienna on 26 October 1887.
In 1859 some of the German Catholics entered into corporate union with the Free Congregations, an association of free-thinking communities that had since 1844 been gradually withdrawing from the orthodox Protestant Church, when the united body took the title of The Religious Society of Free Congregations. Before that time many of the congregations which were formed in 1844 and the years immediately following had been dissolved, including that of Schneidemuhl itself, which ceased to exist in 1857.