Declaration of the French Clergy

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Also known as the "Four Articles" or the "Gallican Articles," the high-water mark of Old Regime Gallicanism, promulgated in March 1682. Relations had steadily deteriorated between louis xiv and innocent xi because of the affair of the régale, the controversy over the appointment of a new abbess for the convent of Charonne, the papal condemnation of a book by Jean Gerbais previously sanctioned by the French clergy and other incidents. Thus Louis XIV convoked a general assembly of the clergy in June 1681, to achieve a settlement of the régale with or without the approval of the Pope and to issue a new statement defining the power of the papacy in French ecclesiastical affairs. That Louis XIV exercised considerable pressure in the selection of at least the lower order of deputies is indubitable. Most of the preparatory work was in the hands of the Archbishop of Paris, Harlay Chanvallon, a powerful influence on the King and an extreme Gallican. In 1680 in answer to papal threats of the excommunication of Louis XIV, Harlay had written for the French clergy a statement that "nothing would separate them from him." Nevertheless, the extremists were not in full control of the Assembly, since Louis XIV did not want a complete rupture with Rome. The moderate Bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, was chosen for the opening address, and delivered a masterpiece of conciliation. Praising both the Gallicans and Rome, he appealed for the unity of the Church. All sides applauded, although it was apparent that accord on general principles was far easier than on the hard and immediate issues. An attempt was made to reach accord on the régale by drawing a distinction between the spiritual and temporal regalia, but Innocent XI disdained the entire proceedings and refused a reply.

The skill of the moderates, led by Bossuet, avoided a peremptory repudiation of papal infallibility. In the end, Bossuet was chosen to draft a statement of the Gallican doctrine. In four short articles, the Declaration maintained that: (1) Kings were not subject to any ecclesiastical power in temporal matters; (2) the reservations of the Council of Constance with regard to the spiritual supremacy of the pope still applied; (3) in exercising his functions, the pope must heed the customs and rules of the Gallican Church; (4) while it was acknowledged that the pope had the "principal part in matters of faith," his decisions were not final unless they had been "confirmed by the judgment of the whole Church."

Bad as this statement was from the point of view of the orthodox upholders of papal infallibility, it did prevent an even bolder pronouncement. There was in the document much ambiguity and hedging that reduced its effectiveness. Innocent XI wisely refrained from an outright condemnation, fearing to do anything that might lead to national schism. He contented himself with withholding institution to bishoprics for all participants in the Assembly, and was gratified to observe surprising opposition to the Declaration among the French clergy, particularly among the Sorbonne faculty. In 1692 his successor, Innocent XII, received from the King a communication that the Declaration would not be taught in French seminaries. Shortly thereafter, the Pope received a letter of apology from each participant in the Assembly. For the rest of the Old Regime the Declaration remained a dead letter.

Bibliography: New Cambridge Modern History (2d ed. LondonNew York 1957) v.5. j. orcibal, Louis XIV contre Innocent XI (Paris 1949). j. t. loyson, L'Assemblée du clergé de France de 1682 (Paris 1870). c. constantin, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 4.1:185205. j. dedieu, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al., (Paris 1912) 4:10981103.

[l. l. bernard]

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Declaration of the French Clergy

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Declaration of the French Clergy