France, The Catholic Church in
FRANCE, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Once known as Gaul, the republic of France is located in Western Europe. It is bounded on the north by the English Channel, Belgium, and Luxemborg; on the east by Germany, Switzerland, and Italy; on the south by Spain and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west by the Bay of Biscay. This entry presents discussion of the Church in France from 500 to the present; for information on the Church in France prior to the year 500, see gaul, early church in.
The Middle Ages: 500 to 1515
The Merovingian Period. While Christianity is known to have been practiced in the city of Lyons by 120, it was not until the year 500 that the barbarian nations known as Gaul underwent a transition after its people united with the Gallo-Romans and brought new values to Christianity. The chief political institution of this new people—kingship—played a vital role in the religious history of France throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. First of all, there was the conversion of clovis, king of the franks, which precipitated the conversion of all his people. The Gallo-Roman bishops, who had distrusted
the heretical arianism of the other barbarian kings, gave full support to this new Frankish dynasty. Several years later, the Burgundians finally abjured Arianism under the influence of avitus of vienne while caesarius of arles assured the victory of Catholicism in the regions of the lower Rhône. Thus in the early 6th century, unity of faith in Gaul had been achieved.
Meantime, the king became an anointed ruler. A period of "political Augustinianism" manifested itself in the "ministerial concept of kingship." The king lived surrounded by clerics who formed the nucleus of a "Hofkapelle" from which the bishops were recruited. As the patron of churches the king summoned councils, eventually transforming the canons of these councils into capitularies, e.g., the council of Orléans (511) and the council of Paris (614). Above all, he exercised a sovereign right over church property, which had, in large part, been originally donated by him.
The end of urban life left the Church in Gaul comprised of rural parishes, and so it remained until the end of the ancien régime. From the 5th century, bishops had to send priests outside the mother church to serve the vici, villae, and castra, parishes that were often founded by nobles. Because such parishes were assured an endowment by their founders, they remained proprietary churches of a powerful laity, and intellectual, spiritual, and moral debasement of the clergy resulted for many years. Yet, this same clergy distinguished itself by the services it rendered in care of the poor (matricula ) and the ransom of prisoners. In the Merovingian period the character of the clergy changed. A benefice was now linked to the parish, while the councils imposed discipline upon the peasant priest: celibacy, the interdict of banquets, etc. Meanwhile, culture reached its lowest ebb. There were no schools, much less universities. The few writers of the day were mediocre, gregory of tours being the most characteristic. As a result, the religion of the people was very coarse. Although the councils made obligatory both Sunday Mass attendance and Easter Communion, these were but external practices of a religion entangled with superstition and ordeals. However, pilgrimages, often to legendary saints, preserved a certain spirit of Christianity, the most famous pilgrimage of the era being the one to Tours.
As a result of the spiritual mediocrity under the merovingians more perfect souls aspired to the monastic life. Consequently Irish monasticism flowered in France with St. columban's Rule enjoying an extraordinary diffusion. For a long time, and in all regions, the influence of the Scotti was felt. In time, however, the Columban monasteries united themselves to the benedictine rule, the most famous of the Benedictine monasteries being Fleury (saint-benoÎt-sur-loire), which prided itself on housing the relics of St. Benedict himself.
The Carolingian Period. The carolingian period was essentially one of Church reform pursued by a dynasty which was, admittedly, as Frankish as the Merovingians, but which was inspired by a coherent blending of the Christian spirit, the Bible, and the Fathers, in particular St. Augustine. This Carolingian reform began with the collaboration of three men: charles martel, whose policy it was to support Christianizing missions in Germany; St. boniface, an Anglo-Saxon monk who interpreted the Benedictine Rule in a missionary sense; and Pope gregory ii, who gave the enterprise the approval of Rome. This alliance of France and the papacy, which was to become one of the main themes of the country's religious history, was confirmed in 751 when pepin iii was crowned king of the Franks, and again in 754 when Pope stephen ii went to Quiercy to request aid from the king against the lombards in Italy.
This Franco-papal alliance was first put to the service of reform. The councils of Soissons and Les Estinnes (742) interrupted the secularization of Church property, but obliged the churches to lodge royal hunting parties. charlemagne followed up this early reform by bringing order to the Church, imposing the Hadriana Collectio and the Gregorian Sacramentary throughout his empire. But he wanted to be the sole master of the Church and even intervened in such dogmatic matters as iconoclasm and adoptionism, e.g., the libri carolini. The crowning of Charlemagne as Emperor of the West (800) gave him even more prestige: his empire had a certain mystique which contributed further to the myth of the "Carolingian peace." Charles summoned to the Frankish court writers such as paul the deacon and theodulf of orlÉans from all over the Christian West to give luster to a Carolingian renaissance. During his own reign, however, this renaissance became primarily a reform of the education of the clergy.
The content and the spirit of Carolingian culture presented itself as a return to tradition. Ancient texts were accepted and became the norm of thought and life, e.g., the old canonical collections, the Grammar of Priscian; those texts that had been lost were forged, e.g., the false decretals, the donation of constantine. The Carolingians tried not only to live the vita apostolica, but to reconstitute the society of the Old Testament; no period was more Biblical, more ready to prefer the commandments of the Church over the demands of interior life. A century without philosophers and without mystics, the Carolingian era was one of moralists, especially Christian moralists who never forgot the requirements of salvation. Thus it was a century marked by great revivals, such as that of 829, and by an obsession with penance closely linked to the penitentials.
The Gregorian and Bernardian Reforms. The 10th and first half of the 11th centuries were the age of feudalism par excellence, the age in which the Church fell under the power of laymen. Within this anarchy a popular religion took shape, a religion expressed in the earliest medieval drama, the Chansons De Geste; pilgrimages to santiago de compostela or to Jerusalem; and Roman pilgrimages. It was a religion of hermits, especially in western France.
During the second half of the 11th century, reform became the ambition of the Holy See. This gregorian reform began in eastern France with Pope leo ix, originally from Alsace, and with Cardinal humbert of silva candida, a former monk of moyenmoutier. The reform was extended to all France by special legates, such as hugh of die. It at first focused on the morals of the clergy, as evidenced by the councils of Vienne and Tours (1059), but it presupposed Rome's initiative, and this entailed a shift in the ecclesiastical structure by which a centralized papacy gained at the expense of the local diocesan. Naturally this did not occur without resistance from the bishops.
During this era, the popes, who were often in serious conflict with the Roman emperor (see investiture struggle), found refuge in France. In gratitude they loaded the Capetian Dynasty with privileges such as the title "very Christian king." It was this close relationship with the popes that led to that French devotion to St. Peter which is illustrated on the Miégeville portal at Saint-Sernin of Toulouse. This closeness between the papacy and France led to the election of French popes c. 1100, the first being urban ii. Then in 1107, at the council of Troyes, Pope paschal ii upheld ivo of chartres's theory of investiture; the French Pope callistus ii extended it to the whole Roman Empire through the Concordat of Worms.
The Gregorian reform was also a spiritual reawakening. Urban II fostered community life under the Rule of St. Augustine for various groups of canons (see canons regular) as well as for the cathedral chapters. These
canons then played a considerable role in developing hospitals, in parish life in the suburbs of towns, and in the sheltering of pilgrims. In 1095 the same Urban preached and organized the First crusade at the council of Clermont. France responded with two armies, one from the north, one from the Midi. To defend the crusaders' states established in the Holy Land, a new congregation, the templars, was founded in France and was soon imitated by the knights of st. john. Both orders received numerous donations, making them important economic powers. Reform did not limit itself to the secular Church; the old religious orders also rejuvenated themslaves.
cluny had been restored since the 10th century; in 1098, cÎteaux was founded. bernard of clairvaux, the most famous Cistercian monk, did not content himself with the life of a contemplative religious, but exercised a prodigious influence on his time: he was the preacher of the Second Crusade, and supervisor of the monarchy's choice of worthy bishops, the champion of the primacy of the pope. Bernard was even able to impose his own candidate, Innocent II, on France during the schism of 1130. While Bernard gave the popular religion of France elements that still predominate today— devotion to Mary, to the Passion, etc.—he was also a traditionalist, hostile to all innovation, especially in theology, where he clashed with abelard. With Bernard stood the canons of saint-victor, who revived theology and mysticism (see victorine spirituality).
This same era was characterized further by new institutions: by "communes," that owed much to the ideal of communio from which they drew their name; by the
guilds that for a long time had remained of pagan inspiration but were gradually becoming confraternities. Rivalry between the nascent towns helped to spur the development of Gothic art and church architecture. The Gallery of Kings was created at Notre-Dame in Paris, and the Virgin became the protectress of the kingdom.
The 13th Century. The second half of the 12th century was an age of decline for the Church. King philip ii augustus scandalized his contemporaries by his political cynicism. The Gregorian reform slowed down, and henceforth the reformers would be foreigners. In fact, toward 1200, France had become the home of the cathari and waldenses, the most widespread and virulent heretics of the period. In the face of this danger to the faith, St. dominic devised new forms of the apostolate, such as public debates between heretic and preacher friar. Dominic's society of itinerant and mendicant preachers, organized in Toulouse, was a success, and in 1215 his order was extended to the whole Church. It was in France especially that the Dominicans found their first recruits; the friary of Saint-Jacques in Paris was their most famous house. For a long time proper evangelical action in response to the heretics in Languedoc was impossible, for the cruelties of the northern Crusaders against the albigenses
(see louis viii, king of france) had provoked even the hesitant in southern France finally to rally to heresy. The peace treaty of 1229 did found a university in Toulouse to combat heretical error, but at the same time an institution of repression, the inquisition, was organized there.
Earlier, the University of Paris had been founded. At the time, there was a veritable popular movement in university circles, which would have been animated by an anticlerical spirit if the mendicant orders had not been able to counteract it. Dominicans and Franciscans, in effect, early constituted a university-oriented clergy, their recruits often coming from that school. The University of Paris was the prototype of medieval universities both in its statutes and in its dynamism, for throughout the Middle Ages it had the best teachers and the largest number of students. It also assured the formation of a new type of man, the "intellectual." Likewise, a new culture and a new collective mentality were being formed.
Because the mendicants presented themselves as the militia of the Holy See they clashed with the secular clergy: with the secular teachers of the University of Paris as well as with the secular parish priests to whom the mendicants meant competition because of their preaching.
These conflicts would continue until the end of the Middle Ages, with Rome most often upholding her "militia."
The new institutions in France were fruitful, thanks to louis ix (d. 1270), a king whose religious spirit was exceptional. This remarkably cultivated prince reformed his kingdom and ruled with justice. Reflecting the austerity of his private life, he followed a policy of public economy that favored the little people. He achieved peace with England. His Crusades, which were the first to have a missionary character via contacts with the mongols, earned Louis a reputation that would consolidate his dynasty. At the same time, Gregorian reforms continued; the king appointed excellent bishops; diocesan synods were held regularly and led to the composition of Statuts such as those of Nîmes that were effective throughout the whole area. Books such as the Évangiles des domées (Sunday Gospels) and the Livre des métiers (Guild Book) by Étienne Boileau revealed a vital and socially effective Christianity.
The Close of the Middle Ages. With the death of the son of Louis IX the century of knights ended. A new literature developed for the bourgeoisie: the fabliau and the second half of the Roman de la Rose. The king's chancery was no longer the monopoly of the clergy and passed into the hands of the legists. The best representative of the new spirit was Guillaume de Nogaret, for ten years the impetus behind the religious policy of King philip iv and an enthusiastic promoter of reform ideas imbibed from his contemporary spiritual milieu. Nogaret was a master in the art of propaganda and thus able to give the king the support of all three Estates of his kingdom. The struggle he inspired against Pope boniface viii was as dramatic as it was useless: nothing, in fact, gravely divided the two powers except the theology of "direct power" (see unam sanctam) and the nationalism of Nogaret. The excommunication of the king forced Nogaret to push the battle as far as the criminal attempt at Anagni. The death of Boniface allowed Philip to influence the entire Church by having his satellite, Bertrand de Got, elected Pope clement v. Clement saw his office only as a means to exploit the Church. During this pontificate, the Holy See was domesticated by France, which imposed on the pope the suppression of the Templars (see vienne, council of), while the Sacred College was weighted with French cardinals.
The transfer of the Holy See from Rome to Avignon was a result of a new policy issued by a college of French cardinals that stated that only French popes could be elected. These popes now established themselves in Provence, and this new papal capital drained the resources of the French Church. Not unnaturally this Avignon papacy favored France. john xxii excommunicated Flanders, while nepotism became commonplace as cardinals pursued personal politics. Prodigiously wealthy due to the accumulation of benefices, cardinals were often protectors of the arts, thus preparing the way for the renaissance. In this manner, there developed an Avignonese civilization closely tied to that of the western basin of the Mediterranean.
What was the responsibility of France for the beginning of the western schism? Cardinal de la Grange, who represented the French King Charles V in Rome, had followed an equivocal policy during the early months of urban vi's troubled reign. The king quickly rallied to antipope clement vii once he was elected, and exerted pressure on his bishops to do the same. Certain areas of France, however, especially the southwest, which was under English domination, continued to resist Clement (now in Avignon) and to support Urban in Rome. At the same time Charles chased any students and teachers who followed Urban out of Paris and transformed the university into a sort of royal council, making adherence to Clement VII an article of its diplomatic program. Although the alliance between Charles and Clement was very profitable to both parties, it ended at the death of Clement VII. In an attempt to end the schism, Charles VI called a veritable national council which decided to remove France from obedience to the pope at Avignon. An ordinance withdrew this pope's right to name any prelates, substituting the "liberties of the Gallican church" for papal reservations. The French Parlement established doctrine. Thus, the schism favored the development of a national religious conscience, and marked the birth of gallicanism. The affirmation of the autonomy of the Gallican Church within the universal Church was contemporary with the Gallicanism of theologians who asserted the superiority of the council over the pope (see conciliarism). This doctrine, which was defended by such sincere theologians as gerson, became a weapon in the hands of the king, and was given form with the pragmatic sanction of Bourges in 1438. Thus the king of France became the absolute master of the Church in France. Henceforth he acted as sole judge of the recruiting of bishops. No council, not even a provincial one, could be held without his sanction. He assured the unity of this Church through the legateship conferred on Cardinal d'Amboise in 1501. About 1500 the king allowed the formation of so-called "mitered" families, administrators, from generation to generation, of the same dioceses, transforming such dioceses into veritable seigneurial estates. The French king eventually determined that his domination would be stronger if it were shared with the pope. Accordingly Francis I signed a new concordat with Pope leo x in 1516 that remained in effect until 1790 and that later inspired the concordat of 1801.
Serious decadence resulted from this royal meddling in ecclesiastical affairs, a decadence stimulated by the multiplied dispensations and privileges that resulted from the Western Schism. By 1500 simony was prevalent in the episcopate, for the bishop was now primarily a lord occupied with the administration of his province, not a resident diocesan. His first concern was with the material wealth of the Church, which, reconstituted in the second half of the 15th century, permitted the full development of flamboyant Gothic art.
Reforms and Pre-Reformation. In 1500 the French king summoned a council at Pisa, thinking to take upon himself the role of champion of Church reform. In reality the Pisa council served only to compromise true reform due to its partisan politics. And what was meant by "reform"? Was it to be reform of the morals of the clergy, of the organization of the Church, or was it to be an awakening of religious sentiment? At the waning of the Middle Ages reform presented itself under each of these diverse facets. Although the secular clergy of the 15th century was generally too dependent on the monarchy to be receptive to reform, nevertheless, several of its number presented coherent programs of reform, notably Gerson, who until the beginning of the 16th century enjoyed an extraordinary audience. Gerson's ideas on education were taken up again at the end of the century by J. Standonck, who represented the Flemish milieu of the devotio moderna in Paris. All the religious orders partially reformed themselves during the 15th century. Each mendicant order gave birth to a reform group of Observants. At
Cluny Jacques d'Amboise attacked commendation as responsible for much of the moral decadence. An analogous movement took place in convents for women, e.g., at fontevrault.
Another type of reform occupied certain humanists who, in the light of ancient texts, pursued the discovery of a new art of living, always at the risk of appearing too liberal to the Sorbonne, which remained attached to scholasticism and where Noël Béda exerted a veritable despotism. gaguin, Fichet, and Budé and especially lefÈvre d'Étaples and erasmus represented the new spirit. Lefévre, molded by the culture of the Florence of Marsilio ficino and heir to the mystical tradition of the Middle Ages, published and commented on a new edition of St. Paul three years before Luther. Erasmus, who often sojourned in Paris, where he was in touch with the humanistic and reform milieu, published his Nouveau Testament in 1516.
The religious life of laymen was likewise transformed toward the middle of the 14th century, aided perhaps
by the Black Death. There followed a somber century: the Pietà, the dance of death, Holy Sepulchers, and the ars moriendi all presupposed and supported an acute sense of sin, fear of the Last Judgment, remembrance of the Passion, and trust in Christ the Savior. This same religion excited popular movements such as the flagellants of St. vincent ferrer (see flagellation) and the penitents of the Franciscan Brother Richard (c. 1428–31). There was also a whole popular evangelical movement connected with the Bible historiale, the French translation of the "histories" and the "moralities" of the Bible. At the same time, the use of the Books of Hours became widespread, and works of piety such as the golden legends, manuals for confession, and "lucidaires" or laymen's guides, multiplied. Printing increased diffusion. The most important of these works was Internelle Consolacion, a French translation of the imitation of christ.
The trials France underwent at the close of the Middle Ages purified and internalized religious sentiment. The Christian of 1500 was characterized first of all by his teatralità: his taste for mystery plays, for dramatized sermons such as those of Olivier Maillard and for exaggeratedly expressionistic iconography. He was characterized by triumphalism, which manifested itself in processions of the Holy Sacrament and coronations of Mary, by his Christian sense of history as seen in the great passion plays; he was characterized by his good conscience, his need for reassurance being reflected by his mathematical piety, his interest in indulgences, his passive confidence in the Church and priests and his recourse to the manuals of casuistry. Familiarity with the Bible increased; Christ came to be viewed more and more as the only Savior. Yet, religion remained very external, often limited to the letter of the commandments of the Church and far removed from the idea of salvation through faith. French Lutheranism in one way would benefit from these changes, but in another, would compromise this Catholic reform, which did not have the time to develop fully even its limited promise.
Bibliography: s. berger, La Bible française au moyen-âge (Paris 1884). É. mÂle, L'Art religieux du XIIe siècle en France (5th ed. Paris 1947); L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle (8th ed. Paris 1948), Eng. tr. from 3d Fr. ed. d. nussey (New York 1913); L'Art religieux de la fin du moyen-âge en France (5th ed. Paris 1949). c. v. langlois, La Vie en France au moyen-âge de la fin du XIIe au milieu du XIVe siècle, 4 v. (Paris 1924–28). j. evans, Life in Medieval France (rev. ed. New York 1957). Histoire spirituelle de la France (Paris 1964). a. latreille et al., eds., Histoire du catholicisme en France, 3 v. (rev. ed. Paris 1962–63). Merovingian and Carolingian. p. imbart de la tour, Les Paroisses rurales du IVe au IXe siècle (Paris 1900). É. lesne, Histoire de la propriété ecclésiastique en France, 6 v. in 8 (Lille 1910–43). e. salin, La Civilisation mérovingienne, 4 v. (Paris 1950–59). Études mérovingiennes (Paris 1953). Gregorian. p. imbart de la tour, Les Élections épiscopales dans l'Église de France du IX e au XII e siècle (Paris 1890). l. paulot, Un Pape français, Urbain II (Paris 1903). l. gautier, Là Chevalerie, ed. j. levron (rev. ed. Grenoble 1960). g. b. ladner, The Idea of Reform (Cambridge, MA 1959). 13th century. m. sepet, Saint Louis (Paris 1898). j. guiraud, Histoire de l'Inquisition au Moyen-Âge, 2 v. (Paris 1935–38). l. halphen et al., Aspects de l'Université de Paris (Paris 1949). l. buisson, König Ludwig IX, der Heilige, und das Recht (Freiburg 1954). Late Middle Ages. n. valois, La France et le Grand Schisme d'Occident, 4 v. (Paris 1896–1902). c. samaran and g. mollat, La Fiscalité pontificale en France au XIV e siècle (Paris 1905). g. mollat, The Popes at Avignon, 1305–1378, tr. j. love (New York 1963). g. lizerand, Clément V et Philippe le Bel (Paris 1911). j. riviÈre, Le Problème de l'Église et de l'état au temps de Philippe le Bel (Paris 1926). v. martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme, 2 v. (Paris 1939). y. renouard, La Papauté à Avignon (Paris 1954). Reforms. j. b. schwab, Johannes Gerson, Professor der Theologie und Kanzler der Universität Paris (Würzburg 1858). p. imbart de la tour, Les Origines de la Réforme, 4 v. (Paris 1905–35; v.1, 2d ed. 1948). a. renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d'Italie, 1494–1517 (2d ed. Paris 1953). e. roy, Le Mystère de la Passion en France du XIV e au XVI e siècle, 2 v. (Dijon 1903–04). m. vloberg, La Vierge et l'Enfant dans l'art français, 2 v. (Paris 1933).
The Rise of the Modern Church: 1515–1789
In 1515 the Church in France was in as disordered a state as it had been a century before at the end of the Western Schism. For guidance in matters of unity and welfare it became accustomed to look for the person of the king, who in turn, through his control of the appointment to benefices, supplied bishops who had slight regard for their religious duties.
The Concordat of Francis I. Francis I (1515–47) agreed to a concordat with the papacy (1516) that, while removing the long-term threat of a French schism, also won him the formal recognition of his right to nominate candidates for the most important benefices. This concordat, which remained in force until the French Revolution, made it unnecessary for French kings to abandon Catholicism in order to gain control of the goods of the Church. This Gallican trend was furthered by the decree of the Council of Sens (1528) that made French bishops responsible for the reform of all religious orders in France, and by the decree of the king (1540) that gave Parlement sole competence in matters of heresy. Sentiment for reform did not come from royal or episcopal circles except in the case of Guillaume briÇonnet of Meaux, who gathered around him a circle of Christian humanists. Though this group eventually moved toward Lutheranism, Briçonnet's attempts to have Catholicism preached in his dioceses sets him apart from the other French bishops.
The Huguenots and Civil War. During the reign of Henry II (1547–59) royal action severely limited the inroads of Lutheranism. However, circumstances at the time of Henry's accidental death resulted in an influx of Calvinist ministers into France that reached its peak about 1562. This influx effected political changes and divided the allegiance of the nobility. The signing of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) ended the long series of wars in Italy dating back to 1494 and limited the chance of the lesser nobles to make a career of the army. These men, who had begun to duplicate the extravagant manners of the Italian Renaissance, were finding their fixed income from the rent of peasants insufficient, especially in an era of inflation resulting from the influx of gold from the New World. In 1560 royal pensions were sharply reduced, thereby forcing them to become "clients" of the greater nobility. The seizure of Church lands seemed a way out of a dilemma. The three great noble families—the guises, the Montmorencies, and the Bourbons, all of whom had gained a large number of clients— were involved in a struggle to dominate Henry's young successor, Francis II (1559–60). The Guises supported the royal family and Catholicism in order to further their own interests. The Montmorencies were split on religious issues: the Duke of Montmorency was loyal to the king and to Catholicism though he opposed the Guises, while the Admiral de Coligny, his nephew, supported the huguenots.
The premature death of Francis II (December 1560) and the accession of his 11-year-old brother Charles IX (1560–74) shifted the balance of power. With the support of the Estates-General of 1560, the king's mother, catherine de mÉdicis, assumed the position of regent. With the consequent decline of the power of the Guises, the Huguenots, led by the Bourbon Louis de Condé, took the initiative.
Despite attempts at conciliation, by April 11, 1562, France was involved in a religious and political civil war. After the st. bartholomew's day Massacre on Aug. 25, 1572, when many Huguenots were murdered, the conflict became more bitter and culminated in strong antiroyal sentiment among the Huguenots and the formation of the fanatical Catholic League by followers of the king.
Henry IV and Reform. From the time of the murder of Henry III (1574–89) until 1594, France was in a state of anarchy that finally ended with the acceptance by all of France of Henry of Navarre, leader of the Bourbons. As Henry IV (1589–1610), he abjured Calvinism and brought a solution to the religious crisis by means of the Edict of Nantes (1598), which guaranteed the Huguenots the right to retain their religion and gave them 100 fortified towns for their protection until animosity subsided.
As a result of the Wars of Religion the expansion of Calvinism in France was halted, and political stability, based on a growing desire for a strong monarch, was restored. But the religious life of the nation worsened despite the earnest activities of the Jesuits and Capuchins. In the rural areas a forceful Christianity was disappearing because of war and neglect. Among the intellectuals the skepticism of Montaigne and Charron became dominant. Yet during the reign of Henry IV steps toward reform were taken by Cardinal Jacques duperron and Bp. Jean Camus. The assassination of Henry IV brought his wife, marie de mÉdicis, to power as regent for Louis XIII (1610–43). Though France faced a period of civil unrest that lasted into the 2d decade of the century, this religious reform continued. Despite the refusal (1614) of the Third Estate to accept the enforcement of the decrees of the Council of Trent in France and the continuing hostility of the government to these decrees on the grounds that they threatened the privileges of the Gallican Church, the Assembly of Clergy of 1615 accepted them. Under the inspiration of the Jesuits, the leaders of the First Estate resisted Gallicanism and worked for reform in the episcopacy and the regular clergy. The latter was begun by Cardinal de la rochefoucauld in 1622 and continued by Cardinal richelieu. New congregations were established, and by 1630 there were 15,000 monasteries and convents in France, half of which had been founded since the end of the Wars of Religion.
The religious quickening that occurred during the first half of the 16th century was the work also of outstanding spiritual leaders. St. francis de sales, Bishop of Geneva and founder of the Visitation nuns, emphasized that perfection is a goal attainable by all men. Pierre de bÉrulle, founder of the French Oratory, concentrated on the grandeur of God and the necessity of mortification. St. vincent de paul, founder of the Lazarists and the Sisters of Charity, influenced by both St. Francis de Sales and Cardinal Bérulle, worked for the conversion of rural France and the establishment of charitable institutions. Jean Jacques olier founded the Sulpicians (1643) to improve the secular clergy through the foundation of diocesan seminaries. This period witnessed also a great French missionary effort led by the Jesuits, Capuchins, and Récollets.
The Role of Richelieu. The reign of Louis XIII was dominated by Cardinal Richelieu, who served as first minister of France from 1624 until his death in 1642. From the time of his consecration as bishop of Luçon (1607) until his entry into political life after the Estates-General of 1614, Richelieu planned sincerely for Church reform, though his interests were also political. He restrained the independence of the nobles and the Huguenots, accomplishing the latter through the Peace of Alcais of 1629, which ended Huguenot political power and their possession of the 100 fortified towns. Beyond the borders of France, Richelieu renewed the war against the Hapsburgs that had ended in 1559. French aid to the Lutheran states of Denmark and Sweden and to the Protestant princes of northern Germany, and, finally, direct French intervention in 1635 prolonged the Thirty Years' War and wakened the power of the Hapsburg dynasty.
Mazarin and the Fronde. The Italian-born Cardinal mazarin succeeded Richelieu in power and was master of France until 1661. He concluded the Thirty Years' War and furthered the great decline of Spanish political influence through the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). Within France, however, a growing hostility erupted against Mazarin and the Spanish regent, Anne of Austria. The anti-Italian spirit dated back into the 16th century and was especially strong among the clergy because of resentment that so many Italians held important French benefices. The anti-Spanish feeling gained momentum through the long wars with the Hapsburgs. This animosity resulted in the Fronde (1648–53), a rebellion begun by Parlement but carried on by the nobles, who found their political importance declining.
Louis XIV and Absolutism. During his long reign (1643–1715), Louis XIV achieved the goal of a strong French state planned by Francis I, Henry IV, and Richelieu. He became his own first minister after Mazarin's death (1661), and by checking the threat of the Fronde and adopting a successful fiscal policy, he succeeded in reinforcing the monarchy and reducing the influence of the nobles to the functions of courtiers. His plans for full control of the state included religious affairs as well. He revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 since the presence of two religions limited the power of the crown. The Church was brought further under royal authority when the Assembly of Clergy of 1682 was pressured to accept the Four Articles. This formulation of Gallicanism emphasized the separateness of the French Church and the superiority of a general council over the pope. At issue was the régale, the rights of the king regarding appointments to benefices not included in his privileges. The Four Articles were revoked by the king in 1693 after strong opposition from innocent xi, who had annulled them in a rescript on April 11, 1682. Louis gave up his pretensions to the control of some benefices not specified in the Concordat of 1516. Louis' power was felt in the territory of Rome itself over the matter of the droit d'asile (right of asylum), in which matter Innocent struggled to limit the abuses of ambassadorial immunity and to retain sovereignty in his own capital.
The Fate of Jansenism. The theology of Cornelius jansen, Bishop of Ypres (1510–76), which emphasized predestination, human unworthiness, and the irresistibility of grace, survived the condemnation of his book, the Augustinus, by the Holy Office on Aug. 1, 1641, and spread through Belgium, Holland, and France. Through the activity of Jean duvergier de hauranne, Abbé of St. Cyran (1581–1643), it spread to the Convent of portroyal and was kept in prominence by the efforts of the arnauld family, the brilliant Provinciales of Blais pascal, and the leaders of Parlement who were sympathetic to Gallicanism and Calvinism. After the death of the influential supporter of the Jansenists, the Duchess of Longuevill, Louis XIV moved strongly against them, even when they supported Gallicanism and his own anti-Roman policies. He destroyed Port-Royal (1710) and enforced the papal bull unigentius of April 8, 1713, which denounced the Jansenist propositions of Pasquier quesnel (1634–1719). However, Jansenism remained as a sentiment in France in the seminaries and in Parlement. The Jansenists had their revenge on the Jesuits, their determined opponents, when, through the influence of Parlement, the Society of Jesus was ordered expelled from France in 1763.
Madame Guyon and Quietism. The mystical theories of Miguel de Molinos, as adapted by Madame guyon, attracted a group of followers in France in the 1680s and 1690s. quietism was a reaction against the
overly organized spiritual life of the 17th century, and in its French version emphasized resignation and pure love of God. Madame Guyon had some support among the French clergy, especially Archbishop fÉnelon. The strongest opponent of this movement was Jacques bossuet, court bishop and theoretician of divine right absolutism. Through his effort, Madame Guyon was imprisoned in 1695 and Fénelon was silenced four years later. The condemnation of Quietism brought the contemplative life under suspicion. Jansenism had already deemphasized the efficacy of prayer and this reaction against Quietism completed the damage at a time when the Church in France was in need of all of its spiritual force. The government, meanwhile, faced the task of maintaining the absolutist structures of Louis XIV without a LouisXIV. The nobles and Parlement began to regain their lost power and the kings were progressively separated from the people by a growing bureaucracy. This problem was aggravated by the inept and inattentive behavior of Louis
XV (1715–74) and the inability of Louis XVI (1774–91) ever to understand the crises he faced.
The Church and the Enlightenment. The attitude of the Church to the theories of the 17th-century scientists and the philosophies constructed upon them was multifold but disastrous. Some clerics were attracted to the ideas of Pierre gassendi and Daniel huet, which ideas derived from the philosophy of montaigne and charron and opposed that of descartes. This resulted in a fideistic skepticism. The greater number of philosophers and theologians remained conservative, if we except the appearance of an occasional philosopher such as Leonart lessius, and either ignored or condemned new trends of thought. As a consequence, men such as Descartes found themselves cut off from the established tradition and forced to forge their own answers to the pertinent question raised by investigations of the new science: if man had been so long mistaken about the organization of the universe, could he know anything with certitude? By the end of the 17th century Newton and Leibniz had restored humanity's confidence in itself. However, this new creature placed his assurance not in faith and reason, but in reason alone. The thinkers of the 18th century were weary with the endless quarrels among Jesuits, Jansenists, Quietist, and scholastics. Aware that the world was not the world of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and searching for a means of making human beings happy, they accepted the new faith in reason. Voltaire, Diderot, and the other philosophes, inspired by Newton's laws, Leibniz's optimism, and the destructive criticism of the old order by Bayle and Montesquieu, worked to build a utopia in this world. Their religion was a deism that professed belief in creation by a Supreme Being and the progress of creation wholly by means of natural laws. For the middle class and for many clerics, already repelled by the growing worldliness of French churchmen, the ideas of the philosophes were irresistible. Their religion, however, did not become Deism, but simple indifference. (see enlightenment.)
The leaders of the Church in France did not protest the government's suppression of the Jesuits (1763), thus allowing the destruction of the one group that had entered into fruitful controversy with the philosophes. In 1766 Louis XV established a Commission of Regulars composed of five laymen and five archbishops. By 1781 these enemies of exempt religious had caused the disappearance of nine religious orders and the rapid decline of most others. Though the commission had been instituted to reform the orders, which was needed, they worked without papal approval either to destroy or to bring under episcopal and royal control the religious life of France. Rather than prescribing a gradual reform of such abuses as abbeys held in commendam, the commission demanded immediate acceptance of arbitrary legislation.
The Eve of Revolt. Because the bishops of France in the 1780s were all nobles, the Church was now identified with the aristocracy and the monarchy. The rural clergy, who received little support or attention from the episcopacy, formed a clerical proletariat. In the meantime the financial crisis of the government, growing since the wars of Louis XIV, reached its climax with the calling of an Assembly of Notables (1787) to remedy the failures in the system of taxation. The Notables, hoping to gain further power in their 70-year struggle against the crown, refused to assent to the taxation of the notables and clergy and called for an Estates-General. In this fateful meeting of 1789, approved by Parlement and dominated by the aristocracy, the middle class (given its first chance to speak in 175 years and united by its desire to gain a place in society) seized power for itself. In the following years the Church, because of its association with the aristocracy, suffered from the havoc and destruction brought by the revolution.
Bibliography: j. r. boulenger, tr., The Seventeenth Century (New York 1933). a. l. guÉrard, The Life and Death of an Idea: France in the Classical Age (New York 1928). p. hazard, The European Mind: The Critical Years, 1680–1715, tr. j. l. may (New Haven 1953); European Thought in the 18th Century: From Montesquieu to Lessing, tr. j. l. may (New Haven 1954). g. lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution, 1789, tr. r. r. palmer (Princeton 1947). j. lough, An Introduction to 17th-Century France (New York 1954); An Introduction to 18th-Century France (New York 1960). v. martin, Le Gallicanisme et la réforme catholique (Paris 1919); Le Ballicanisme politique et le clergé de France (Paris 1929). j. w. thompson, The Wars of Religion in France, 1559–1576 (Chicago 1909).
[j. m. hayden]
Revolution, Restoration, and Reform: 1789–1965
The history of the Church of France after 1789 is dominated by three problems: the conflict with the more liberal society issuing from the French Revolution; the development of an industrial working class opposed to the aristocracy and all its manifestations; and the confrontation with contemporary civilization.
1789 to 1814. Under the ancien régime, the state was Catholic, and the king was considered a religious personage, a "bishop of the exterior." At the start of the French Revolution, the Constituent Assembly of 1789 could not imagine a Church separated from the state. It legislated on religious matters as the king had done. Under the diverse influence of Gallicanism, Jansenism, Protestantism, and the Enlightenment, the Assembly enacted the civil constitution of the clergy. This legislation created a schismatical Constitutional Church, and split the country religiously into two opposing groups. The revolution became increasingly hostile to the Church and by 1792 sought to destroy it, along with the monarchy with which it had been intimately allied. Later the Constitutional Church suffered persecution also. An attempt was made to dechristianize the country, and to replace Christianity with the cult of the goddess of Reason (1793), the cult of the Supreme Being (1794), theophilanthropy (1797), and the decadi cult (1798). In this condition of semi-anarchy, leftist, republican, and irreligious France triumphed over rightist, monarchist, and Catholic France.
The decade of revolution revealed the dechristianization already extant in some regions of the country and promoted the phenomenon; but by 1799 the majority of the people desired the restoration of the Catholic religion. In Vendée the greater part of the populace had taken up arms to defend their altars. With order restored under the Consulate, Bonaparte (see napoleon i) sought to unify two mutually hostile segments of France arrayed against each other in civil war. He negotiated with pius vii the concordat of 1801. A few bishops among those who had refused to resign their sees, as the pope demanded, joined the schismatic petite Église. The new concordat governed church-state relations until 1905. It did not recognize Catholicism as the state religion but as the religion of the majority of the French people. It permitted the government to name the bishops, who were then canonically instituted by the pope. Bishops in turn were given the right to select pastors and curates. The regular clergy, scorned by the public, was not mentioned in the pact. This concordat was a compromise in which the Church agreed to liberty of conscience and to a legal parity with the Protestants and Jews. Confiscated ecclesiastical goods were not restored, but the state obligated itself to a reimbursement of the clergy. However, Bonaparte, on his own authority, immediately appended to the concordat the Organic Articles, which withdrew the state's concessions. One result of this procedure was that the Church lost confidence in this French government, which was no longer Catholic and which was to manifest hostility to this faith. Gradually the Church became accustomed to turn for help to the Holy See and Gallicanism gave way to ultramontanism.
Highlighting the period of the First Empire (1804–14) was the conflict between Napoleon I and Pius VII (who came to Paris in 1894 to consecrate the emper or). The Continental Blockade provided the occasion for this great church-state dispute, but the underlying cause was imperial despotism. From 1809 to 1814 the pope was Napoleon's prisoner, during which time he agreed to the so-called concordat of fontainebleu (1813), which he soon disavowed. This dramatic conflict was terminated by the collapse of the empire. Its sole lasting effect was to increase the authority and prestige of the papacy. The empire had succeeded in its aim of restoring religious peace but it had failed to enslave the Church to the state.
1814 to 1830. The religious history of the Restoration period (1813–30) was that of the failure of an attempt at a partial return to the ancien régime. During the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, counterrevolution, the dominant ideology, found its outstanding proponents in the theocratic Joseph de maistre and the traditionalist Louis de bonald. The reactionary political outlook, to which the newly appointed bishops such as Hyacinthe de quelen subscribed, was tinged with a Gallicanism that defeated the project of a new concordat in 1817. Administrative pressure, the laws in the press (1822) and on sacrilege (1825), and other legislative measures all favored the religious reconquest of society. Indicative of the means utilized to effect this reconquest was the activity of the knights of the faith, a secret society that worked in the shadow of a pious society called the congregation, and that encountered violent opposition from a Voltairean bourgeoisie. The outcome was the expulsion of the Jesuits from teaching (1828) and the explosion of anticlericalism in the Revolution of 1830, which overthrew Charles X. The religious policy of the Restoration was mostly a failure; it had one good feature in that it permitted priests, sorely tried for a quarter of a century, to replenish their ranks and to build up a new vitality.
1830 to 1848. The July Monarchy was coterminous with the reign of Louis Philippe (1830–48), head of the cadet branch of the Bourbons. It began in an antireligious atmosphere. It was at this time that the first attempt was made at conciliation between the Church and society issuing from the revolution. The leaders in this movement of Catholic liberalism were Hugues Félicité de lamennais, lacordaire, and montalembert, whose organ was the short-lived newspaper L'Avenir. They championed liberty under every form. Above all, they upheld liberty of religion to be obtained by the complete separation of church and state. This program horrified the ecclesiastical authorities. Unfortunately, Lamennais was not a sound theologian, and L'Avenir was condemned by gregory xvi in the encyclical Mirari vos (1832). The principal Catholic demand under the July Monarchy was for liberty of education. During the Restoration the Church had tried, under the lead of Denis frayssinous, to Catholicize the university, but after 1830 the university freed itself of this control. Under the July Monarchy the Church endeavored to obtain freedom for Catholic secondary education but the Chamber refused to grant it. As a result of the Catholic assaults on the university, the Jesuits were obliged to close their homes. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie were responsible for the passage of the Guizot Law (1833), which left to the Church supervision of primary education; they were motivated by fear lest popular unbelief menace the social structure. As a result of the influence of Lamennais and the anticlericalism of the government, ultramontanism made great progress. One effect was the gradual supplanting of the Gallican by the Roman liturgy. Another was the remarkable revival of the regular clergy, a phenomenon that was evident to a slight degree between 1830 and 1848 and that attained its full development later during the Second Empire.
1848 to 1852. Its liberal position in dealing with the anticlerical July Monarchy won for the Church widespread popular approval during the Revolution of 1848 and at the beginning of the Second Republic (1848–52). For the second time hope rose for a conciliation with the society issuing from the revolution. But the economic and social crisis that resulted from the revolutionary days of July 1848, in the course of which Archbishop affre of Paris was slain, revived the division of the country into two blocs, with the Church taking its stand solidly on the right. Moreover, the hostility of the republicans was unleashed by the French military expedition to Rome, which overthrew the Roman Republic and restored Pius IX to control of the states of the church.
The Revolution of 1848 had brutally posed the social problem that arose from the destruction of the corporations by the French Revolution and from the birth of modern industry. Only a few Catholics grasped the situation as early as the time of the July Monarchy; these men formulated solutions, which later were given the name of social Catholicism. These forerunners manifested two diverse tendencies. Armand de melun was a pioneer leader in the conservative trend. The democratic direction was represented by Ere nouvelle (1848), whose political ideals were the liberal ones formerly proposed by L'Avenir. In the reaction to the stormy days of June 1848, social Catholicism suffered a blow from which it did not recover until the Third Republic.
Fear of socialism brought the middle class close to the Church on the political level. This was evident in the Falloux Law (1850), which granted the Church freedom for secondary education and representation in the council of the university. This law has been of capital importance in the religious history of contemporary France, because it assured the partial re-Christianization of the middle class, which had become completely imbued with the rationalist philosophy of the 18th-century Enlightenment. At the same time, the Falloux Law accentuated the rivalry, born during the July Monarchy, between intransigent or authoritarian Catholics, who found the law insufficient, and liberal Catholics, who were pleased with it. These two groups conflicted also over another great problem. The intransigents, led by Louis veuillot and Bp. Louis pie, condemned the type of society issuing from the revolution and sought to destroy it, whereas the liberal group, led by Montalembert, Albert de Broglie, and Bp. Félix dupanloup, aimed rather to improve it. Thus the dispute between the Church and society was further complicated by a quarrel among Catholics themselves.
1852 to 1879. The Church, dominated as it was by intransigent Catholics, supported for the most part the dictatorship inaugurated by Louis Napoleon in the coup d'état of Dec. 2, 1851, followed by the establishment of the Second Empire (1852–70). Motivating in part this outlook was the Church's eagerness for the reestablishment of order and appreciation for the official homages that the new regime lavished on the Church. The only hostile Catholic groups were the legitimists, who were partisans of the elder branch of the Bourbons, and the liberals. The situation of the latter became still more painful in 1864 with the publication of the encyclical quantacura and the syllabus of errors, despite the famous distinction made by Bishop Dupanloup between the thesis and the hypothesis. When vatican council i solemnly defined the doctrines of papal primacy and infallibility in 1870, it dealt a death blow to Gallicanism.
The drive to unify Italy led in 1859 to a war that revealed disquieting perspectives in regard to the papal temporal power. Since napoleon iii and the Church viewed this problem differently, the alliance between them loosened until 1869 when republican opposition caused it to be tightened once more.
1870 to 1918. After the fall of the Second Empire, there followed a brief period introduced by the insurrection of the Paris commune. During this uprising, violently hostile to the Church, Abp. Georges darboy of Paris was shot to death. In the National Assembly, which governed the country until 1876, monarchists and Catholics comprised the majority. Great pilgrimages at this time to paray-le-monial revealed the persistence of vain hopes for a return to the Christian state. The Church did gain one advantage by obtaining (1875) freedom of higher education, which permitted it to found several Catholic faculties.
The republicans, positivist in spirit, came into power between 1876 and 1879. They disdained Catholicism as an obscurantist force destined soon to disappear. To precipitate this event they launched a threefold offensive that aimed to destroy religious congregations, Catholic education, and the Concordat of 1801. The onslaught was conducted in two stages. During the first one (1879–89) most congregations were dissolved (1880) and primary education was made compulsory, with public schools gratuitous and nonsectarian.
During the ensuing period of appeasement (1889–98), leo xiii launched the third attempt at conciliation between the Church and the modern world. In pursuance of his policy of ralliement he issued Au milieu des sollicitudes (1892). This encyclical sought to deter French Catholics from jeopardizing their religion any longer by combating republican institutions; instead it advised Catholics to accept them. Most Catholics, however, refused either to abandon their monarchical ideal or to distinguish between the struggle against hostile legislation and the struggle against the Third Republic. The Ralliement had already collapsed when the Dreyfus Affair revived the battle between the right and the left and gave the signal for a second wave of anticlericalism and laicism (1898–1906), more violent than the first. It was started by Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau and resulted in further expulsions of religious congregations (1901). Justin Émile Combes was mainly responsible for the prohibition of congregations to teach (1904), the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Holy See (1904), and the abrogation of the concordat by the law separating Church and State (1905). Aristide Briand supervised as rapporteur the passage of this last law, which caused the Church to lose an annual budget of 35 million francs and the bulk of its possessions, because it conformed to Pius X's decision and refused to accept the juridical status bestowed on it.
At the beginning of the Third Republic, the conservative tradition of the social Catholicism was maintained in the workers' circles (Oeuvre des cercles ouvriers ), in which the leading figures were Charles la tour du pin and Albert de Mun. These circles enjoyed a measure of success for a while and then declined because of their undemocratic character. The encyclicals rerum novarum (1891) and Au milieu des sollicitudes (1892) gave rise to the movement of democratic priests, overly concerned with politics and journalism. Later came Sillon, led by Marc sangnier and the popular education movement, which had very brilliant moments c. 1900 before being dissolved by Pius X (1910), chiefly because it seemed to claim that Christianity implied democracy. Beginning in 1904 the Semaines sociales elaborated a doctrine for social Catholicism, but these ideas won support from no more than a minority of French Catholics.
The intellectual activity of the Church in France remained deficient after the Revolution because the clergy focused on the struggle against the adversaries of Catholicism, their activities absorbed by the work of ecclesiastical reconstruction. apologetics was continually behind the times. Young intellectuals who came under the influence of positivism, theological Liberalism, and Freemasonry (which in France had become irreligious) fell away from the faith. With the foundations of the Catholic faculties, the Church took note of this deficiency and underwent a veritable intellectual renaissance. This in turn gave rise to the crisis of modernism, which occurred at the point where rationalist criticism encountered the rebirth of clerical studies. There was a question, for a time at least, of bringing the Catholic religion into harmony with the intellectual and moral needs of the time. French Modernism was above all Biblical (with loisy as chief representative) and philosophical (with blondel, le roy, and laberthonniÈre as leading exponents). Its errors drew a papal condemnation that affected the Church outside as well as within France. integralism, which arose as part of the anti-Modernist reaction following the condemnation, retarded the intellectual activity of French Catholicism until after World War I.
1919 to 1945. After World War I international and financial problems relegated to the background of French politics the religious question, which was henceforth looked upon with greater serenity under the influence of the "ex-service men" spirit. The law regarding religious congregations was not put into effect. The Concordat of 1801 remained in force in Alsace-Lorraine even after the region's return to France. Relations with the Holy See were reestablished and permitted the negotiation of an accord that won for the Church the legal status that it had lacked since the separation. A last outbreak of militant anticlericalism appeared after the 1924 elections and attempted to question most of these changes. Its failure was due to the quick, resolute action of the Féderation nationale catholique and, above all, to its lack of popular support.
Taking advantage of the changed climate, Benedict XV and Pius XI overcame the opposition of the French hierarchy and resumed the Ralliement policy of Leo XIII, which Pius X had renounced. Catholics, who had been almost unanimously hostile to the separation of church and state, had since come to realize that although it had reduced the Church to poverty, it had also won for it liberty, independence, and an inestimable increase in dignity. They became accustomed to accepting separation as a permanent condition. On the other hand, Pius XI in 1926 condemned the action franÇaise of Charles maurras who compromised the Church by assembling against the government a clientele of Catholic conservatives, integralists, nationalists, and monarchists. Action Française did not submit until 13 years later, but meanwhile its influence over youth had gradually declined. This second Ralliement, which constituted the fourth attempt to reconcile the Church, did not, to be sure, resolve all the problems that had plagued the Church for 135 years, but it did blunt their sharpness and relegated them permanently to the background. Henceforth both state and church tended to respect the nation's diverse spiritual families. If the traditional struggle between the two powers did not cease, it was carried on with much less intensity, except in regard to the school question.
After the great turning point of the French Revolution, the next great turning point in the history of the Church in France occurred between 1919 and 1926. The political problem had by 1919 ceased to be as important as the social problem. Gradually it became clear that the social problem was merely one aspect of a third problem, which was posed by contemporary civilization itself.
In the years following 1926 the changed political climate became stabilized. The state maintained correct or good relations with the clergy. Collusion between Catholics and monarchists ceased. No longer was the royalist party represented in the Chamber. Catholics no longer formed a single bloc; they divided in their positions and became pluralists. Some of them formed a republican party whose inspiration was Christian, the Parti démocrate populaire; its importance was quite modest, but it enjoyed a certain role in the Assembly between the two world wars.
During World War II the French regime (1940–44) under Marshal Pétain was conservative and favorable to the Church. It abolished the legislation affecting religious congregations and granted financial assistance to private schools. The hierarchy supported this government at first and then, like the rest of the country, detached itself from it and opposed the creation of a state youth movement and measures of racial discrimination.
The liberation government was dominated by the left-wing parties, but it was not anticlerical because Catholic participation in the resistance movement was widespread and because many militant Catholics were part of this government and of succeeding governments, although Catholic membership in government ministries had been a rarity before World War II. Only the office of Minister of National Education remained inaccessible to Catholics. The governments of both the Fourth and Fifth Republics granted financial aid to Catholic schools. The Mouvement républicaine populaire (MRP), successor to the Parti démocrate populaire and, like it, Christian in inspiration without being sectarian, won the largest number of votes after the liberation, because of a temporary weakness of the right-wing parties. On the political, social, and intellectual levels, the left wing of the MRP was composed of small groups of Catholics with very advanced, even progressivist ideas, bordering on those of the Communists.
A symmetrical development assured to social Catholicism a larger following within and without the Catholic fold. Social Catholicism saw its program put into effect by legislation, notably in regard to family allowances and social insurance. Christian syndicalism, whose modest beginnings dated back to 1887, was organized in 1919 with the creation of the Conféderation française de Travailleurs chrétiens. As a result of its earlier efforts this confederation grew rapidly after World War II.
Although the Church was for the most part freed from the political problem, it became aware that in place of the seemingly static world of the 19th century, a new world was evolving, whose future was as uncertain as the situation of Catholicism in the French sector of this world. The Church accepted also a newly developed type of spirituality.
Spiritual Renaissance. By the mid-20th century, France could no longer be regarded as almost entirely Catholic, as dechristianization had made deep inroads. The two anticlerical outbreaks during the Third Republic accentuated the trend toward dechristianization, especially in some regions. Another factor in the spread of dechristianization was industrial growth, one effect of which was the creation of proletarian areas that had little or no contact with traditional Christianity. Le Christ dans le banlieu (1943) by Y. Daniel and H. Goding (Eng. tr. France Pagan, 1949; by M. Ward) revealed the existence of this little-known dechristianized society existing alongside Christian society. A school of religious sociology founded by G. Le Bras was formed to study this phenomenon.
In the 19th century Catholics regarded their religion mostly in its moral aspects: they admired its organization, respected its prescriptions, which supplied them with a way of life, honored the virtues exemplified by the saints, and practiced sentimental devotion to the rosary, the month of Mary, the souls in Purgatory, etc. Beginning at the end of the 19th century a theological renaissance, a return to the faith of numerous intellectuals, the progress of Biblical studies, and the liturgical movement oriented fervor more directly toward God. Missals were substituted for prayerbooks to be read during Mass. The mystical life became more frequently looked upon as a prolongation of the life of grace. The Catholicism of conformism and individualism, of law and obligation, pious practices, and sentiment gave way to a Catholicism at once personal and more social, inspired by the theological virtues and growing stronger by practice, a Catholicism that aimed at making the life of a Christian a life of permanent prayer, a thoroughly human activity directed not only toward the salvation of the individual but also toward that of the world. To win victories the orientation of this Catholicism was no longer political but apostolic. While this new orientation banished egoism, it also impelled some zealous young Catholics into rash activism in critical situations.
During the 20th century lourdes became a world-renowned center for pilgrimages. Other shrines in France, such as la salette, were also very popular. A large percentage of modern canonized or beatified martyrs and confessors were French, and many who had been put to death during the French Revolution were beatified in this period.
Another characteristic of the Church that became increasingly entrenched during the 20th century was the increasing number of religious congregations devoted mainly to the active apostolate. Many of these, while established in France, later spread throughout the world.
Intellectual Activities. On the intellectual plane, the modern renaissance had a character of objectivity as the human respect characteristic of the bourgeois Catholicism of the 19th century disappeared. Catholic literature enjoyed a brilliant revival, the first signs of which appeared before 1914. Georges bernanos, Paul claudel, and François Mauriac became among the best-known Catholic literary lights. The high level of this literary revival was sustained by the creation of the Semaine des Ecrivains catholiques, replaced after World War II by the much more substantial Semaine des Intellectuels catholiques. Catholic publishers produced great collections pertaining to all realms of religious thought and activity. From the Catholic press came numerous periodicals and newspapers.
Domestic Missionary Movements. To make the world Christian, the focus of missionary groups turned to natural social communities. Before World War II this apostolate was conducted through the specialized agencies of catholic action. After the war, the job was spread among various missionary movements, certain geographical areas and certain classes in society treated much like mission territories. Following the example of the Belgian Young Christian Worker movement, in 1926 Catholic France organized Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne française (JOC), the aim of which was to have catholic laymen of a certain group exercise an apostolate among other laymen of the same group and in the same milieu. The Catholic Association of French Youth, established in 1886, developed in this same spirit of social Catholicism. Between 1927 and 1931 the group was transformed into a federation of specialized movements, each focused around young persons of a different social milieu. Among the other specialized movements that arose after 1926 were the Agricultural Christian Youth (JEC), Young Christian Student (JEC), and the Independent (i.e., middle-class) Christian Youth (JIC). Corresponding movements for young women and for adults came into being later. In addition Catholic Action groups of a more general type also appeared.
Another notable feature of the Catholic revival was the birth of a domestic missionary movement among the clergy. In 1941 the Mission de France was created to remedy the inconveniences involved in the partitioning of the country into dioceses that left the most dechristianized regions deprived of priests. This apostolate was conducted among the workers and also in parishes, and involved a specialized group of priests who sought to reestablish the presence of the Church in a dechristianized class. These worker priests began their labors in 1941 and shared the same life of labor as other workers. Unfortunately some priests lacked sufficient preparation and engaged in temporal activities that sometimes compromised the integrity of the priesthood. Pius XII put an end to the experiment on 1954, but Paul VI permitted its revival in 1965 with certain modifications.
The missionary spirit was also applied to parish life, and it was here that it found the widest field of action, thanks to the revival of preaching and especially of the liturgy carried out in a community spirit centered on the celebration of Mass and the distribution of the Sacraments. In rural districts priests organized themselves into communities so that they could serve dechristianized nearby parishes.
To restore the stability of the Church after the French Revolution and its aftermath, the Church in France needed changes in its organization. The Concordat of 1801 prevented such reorganization as long as it remained in effect, and following the separation of church and state, Pius X did not sanction meetings of the hierarchy due to the fear they would further expand the law of separation. However, by the late 1800s new problems made clear the need for a new type of organization, and in 1919 a commission of French cardinals and archbishops was created. In 1951 the entire episcopate held its first plenary meeting; four others would meet by 1965. Several permanent episcopal commissions formed, as well as an episcopal secretariat, laying the groundwork for the French Church's transformation into an episcopate receptive and responsive to contemporary problems.
Vocations. Once the law of separation went into effect the social and financial considerations that once induced many peasant families to direct one of their sons toward the priesthood ceased to exist. This resulted in the gradual disappearance of a rather ineffectual type of priest. It also cut recruitments quickly to less than half of what they had been. Then, too, the regular clergy were affected by the law concerning religious congregations, as well as by the wretched material situation of most priests since 1905. This drop in recruitment was especially noticeable in rural areas, while among urban workingclass areas vocations remained characteristically few. World War I heightened the crisis: by 1929 the number of secular priests dropped to 46,500, and by 1965 to 40,000. On the other hand, the regular clergy considerably increased its membership during the same period: among the 20,000 religious men there were 7,000 priests within France (apart from those living abroad in mission areas) by 1965. Teaching brothers totaled 5,000 in France, plus 1,500 more in the missions. There were about 117,000 religious women in France and several thousand other French nuns working in the missions.
French Foreign Missionary Activity. Despite the difficulties of French Catholicism, its missionary role in the first half of the 20th century was a leading one. This labor had begun with the increase in vocations in 1830 and developed very rapidly after 1860 because of French colonial expansion. Missionaries frequently arrived before the soldiers. The privileges France possessed in the Near East resulting from the "capitulations", and in China because of the Treaty of Tien Tsin (1858) facilitated the work of various French religious institutes, many of which were founded during this period. The holy ghost fathers, the White Fathers, and the Society of the african missions made great gains in evangelizing Africa. The Fathers of the Sacred Hearts, the marist fathers, and the sacred heart missionaries dedicated themselves to work in Oceania.
Bibliography: a. dansette, Destin du catholicism français, 1926–1956 (Paris 1957); "Contemporary French Catholicism," in The Catholic Church in World Affairs, ed. w. gurian and m. a. fitzsimons (Notre Dame, IN 1954) 230–174. j. leflon, La Crise révolutionnaire, 1789–1846 (Fliche-Martin 10; 1949); L'Église de France et la révolution de 1848 (Paris 1948). r. aubert, Le Pontificat de Pie IX (Fliche-Martin 21; 2d ed. 1964). h. daniel-rops, Histoire de l'Égilse de Christ, 10 v. (Paris 1948–65) v 8, 9, 10; v. 8 The Church in an Age of Revolution, 1789–1870, tr. j. warrington (New York 1965), v.9, 10 in course of tr. k. s. latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the 19th and 20th Centuries, 5v. (New York 1958–62) v.1, 2, 4. a. latreille, L'Église catholique et la Révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 1946–50). s. delacroix, La réorganisation de lé de France après la révolution, 1801–1809 (Paris 1962—). j. brugerette, Le prêtre français et la société contemporaine, 3 v. (Paris 1933–38). j. p. martin, La nonciature de Paris et les affaires ecclésiastiques de France sous le rè de Louis-Philippe (1830–48) Empire de 1852 à 1869 (Paris 1930). w. gurian, Die politschen und sozialen Ideen des französischen Katholizismus, 1789–1914 (München-Gladbach 1929). j. b. duroselle, Les débuts du catholicisme social en France, 1822–1870 (Paris 1951). h. rollet, L'action social des catholiques en France, 1871–1914, 2 v. (Paris 1947–58). g. hoog, Histoire du catholicisme social en France, 1871–1931 (Paris 1942; new ed. 1946). j. n. moody, ed., Church and Society: Catholic Social and Political Thought and Movements (New York, 1953), see pt. 2 "Catholicism and Society in France." l. capÉran, L'invasion laïque: de l'avènement de Combes au vote de la séparation, 1905–1945 (Paris 1935); Histoire contemporaine de la laïcité française, 3 v. (Paris 1957–61). l. v. mÉjan, La séparation des églises et de l'état (Paris 1959). l. crouzil, Quarante ans de séparation, 1905–1945 (Paris 1946). w. bosworth, Catholicism and Crisis in Modern France: French Catholic Groups at the Threshold of the Fifth Republic (Princeton, NJ 1962). g. le bras, Introduction à l'histoire de la pratique religieuse en France, 2 v. (Paris 1942–45). f. boulard, An Introduction to Religious Sociology: Pioneer Work in France, tr. m. j. jackson (London 1960).
The Mid-20th Century and Beyond
With the establishment of the Third Republic in 1870, and only interrupted by German occupation during World War II, France was able to maintain a republican form of government. For the French Church, Vatican II (1962–65) represented the realization of a great hope and the vindication of a distinctive national experience. It also marked the beginning of a period of self-doubt and internal tension that brought it to a very different situation by the close of the 20th century.
The French at Vatican II. The chief contribution to Vatican II by the French was made by theologians who in the decades preceding the council had been involved in a concerted effort to make the expression of Catholic teaching more informed by tradition and more relevant to modern times. This New Theology, which stressed the pastoral aspects of dogmas, had encountered many difficulties in the past and its exponents were suspected and put aside. The writings of Henri de lubac, Yves congar, Jean daniÉlou, and their colleagues and disciples inspired influential bishops not only from their own country but also from many others. These theologians, held suspect in some quarters, were vindicated by the fact that they were among the experts chosen for the drafting and revision of the conciliar documents. Their mark appears distinctly on the texts on liturgy, revelation, ecclesiology, ecumenism, and missions. Gaudium et spes reflected an optimism typical of the influence of teilhard de chardin.
About 20 percent of the French bishops were also active participants at the council; their 210 interventions related mostly to the two constitutions on the Church, Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes. They also addressed issues concerning the Christian apostolate, especially of the laity. On that last topic, despite the interventions of Cardinal liÉnart and Bishop Ménager, the conciliar documents did not take into account the experience of French Catholic Action. On the documents on Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, and Non-Christian religions, French Archbishop Marcel lefebvre, superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, placed himself directly in opposition to the majority of his colleagues; he also took the lead in the resistance to the doctrine of episcopal collegiality.
The French Episcopal Conference. An immediate result of the Vatican II was the establishment of the French Episcopal Conference in 1964. The French hierarchy had a relative experience of episcopal collegiality since 1919 when an Assembly of Cardinals and Archbishops (ACA) began to meet occasionally. Between 1951 and 1960, the French episcopate held four plenary assemblies. In 1945 a general secretariat of the ACA was created in charge of preparing and coordinating the decisions of that body. In 1961 the position of adjunct secretary for pastoral matters was created, with the purpose of coordinating the initiatives and actions of many dioceses (pastorale d'ensemble). It was also in 1961 that a new regional structure was added that supplanted the traditional provincial division. The new structure established nine Apostolic Regions, reflecting cultural and even linguistic identities: Ile-de-France, North, West, Center, East, South-East, Midi, Provence-Mediterranée, and Center-East. The statutes of the French Episcopal Conference, first confirmed by the Holy See in 1966, were revised in 1975 in favor of a more democratic participation with all members of the episcopate electing the officers. The higher instance is the Permanent Council—president, vice president, nine elected members (one by apostolic region), the archbishop of Paris (and eventually a cardinal, if none is already present)—that meets monthly. An important secretariat was also instituted, with a general secretary and four adjunct secretaries: Information-communication (also the spokesman of the Conference); pastoral service; apostolate of the laity; and administrative, financial, and juridical matters. Fifteen episcopal commissions (Family, Rural World, Independent Milieus, Youth, Migrants, Clergy, Religious, Liturgy, Public Opinion, Social, Religious Education, Exterior Missions, Christian Unity) and six episcopal committees (Finance, Mission de France, Maritime, Relations with Judaism, France-Latin America, and Canon Law) were established. In addition a bureau doctrinal of six members was placed in charge of theological matters. Finally, three episcopal groups (groupes épiscopaux) assured a direct link between the bishops and Christian communities, charismatic renewal, and the Réalités of tourism and leisure, to which was added a National Council for Solidarity.
The Conference of Bishops also sponsored several national services. The Centre national de l'enseignement religieux was in charge of pastoral catechetics in the country. The Centre national de pastorale liturgique (1965) continued the works of the Centre de pastorale liturgique, founded in 1943. The Service national du catéchuménat coordinated the baptismal preparation of adult converts, and the Service biblique, évangile et vie organized and supported the many groups and associations interested in Biblical popularization. These groups published documents and magazines dealing with their objects of specialization.
In conformity with the reforms of Vatican II, each diocese established a council of priests (conseil presbytéral) and a pastoral council, in which the laity could participate. Religious men and women were organized in two Conferences of Major Superiors of France, with subdivisions at the regional level. The dearth of ordained ministries forced the ordinaries to commit many responsibilities to équipes animatrices of lay and religious men and women. They assumed charge of small parishes, often organizing Assemblées dominicales en l’absence de prêtres (ADAP) and serving as chaplains to schools, jails, and hospitals.
Liturgical Reform. Of the changes wrought by conciliar decisions, the most pervasive was in the area of liturgical reform. Many experts who contributed to the renewal of the liturgy were French or had been trained in France, among them A.-G. Martimort, L. Bouyer, J. Daniélou, and P. Jounel. These reformers based their recommendations on the many attempts at renewal and experimentation that had been tried during the 1940s and 1950s, both on the theoretical level (under the influence of the journal La Maison-Dieu ) and the practical one (pilot communities, such as the one at Saint-Séverin, Paris). It later became plain that the reforms implemented were often poorly prepared and imprudently pushed through. Presenting, on occasion, the image of an iconoclastic and disorderly church, these reforms baffled many conventional faithful and scandalized the rest. Traditional devotions were disparaged, cherished customs such as communion solennelle were abandoned, and new rituals were invented that had little to do with the conciliar norms. In particular, the complete elimination of Latin exacerbated and brought into the public arena a rift that had long existed between conservative and progressive Christians within France.
A Time of Crisis. The crisis soon became apparent via the conflicts of the Action catholique. This form of apostolate of the laity had evolved along the lines of social or class distinctions, under the control of the hierarchy that commissioned the baptized Christians to represent the Church in their milieu. As their activity became more directed to social and political changes than to mission, this notion of mandatum was challenged and eventually abolished (1975). The successive tensions between the leaders of the different movements and the hierarchy (especially the crisis of the Jeunesse Etudiante Chrétienne [JEC] in 1965) brought a dilution of what had been for decades the store of Catholic elites and of religious and priestly vocations. At the same time, an identity crisis seriously affected the French clergy, as significant numbers abandoned the priesthood or religious life, and seminary recruitment reached its lowest point since the French Revolution. The turmoil of May 1968, a period of political unrest and systematic questioning of traditional values that started in the university community, revealed the uncertainty of a society in transition. It also demonstrated the weakness of the Catholic community in addressing these challenges and, above all, its divisions. At the dogmatic level, the tension was compounded by the reactions to the encyclical Humanae vitae (1968), of which the French bishops had given a pastorally sensitive interpretation.
By the late 1960s the divisions of the French Church were clear. Opposition, which had serious political connotations, existed between a left wing, often under Marxist influence, that advocated deep changes and wanted Christians to be fully involved in the transformation of society, and a right wing that promoted a return to order and tradition based on their interpretation of the Christian message. The leaders of the French episcopate who had been associated with Vatican II had either died (cardinals Roques, Richaud, Veuillot), resigned (Cardinal Liénart, Archbishop Lefebvre), or received Roman appointments (cardinals Garonne, Villot). They left to their successors the difficult task of controlling growing tensions and preserving some kind of order and homogeneity. Either individually or through documents issued by the Episcopal Conference, the majority of bishops endorsed a moderately progressive course that also reflected this rift.
Religion and Politics. Since the time of the French Revolution, the attitude of the Church vis-à-vis political issues had been consistent: a desire to influence society through political choices balanced by the need to maintain the independence of the Church. A situation now existed wherein a significant number of committed Catholics desired to improve and even change French society in the name of Christianity. One area of influence was social justice and the treatment of the poor both in internal and external policies (especially the matter of decolonization, which was very important at the time). Questions related to military disarmament were also raised. On these matters the Politique, Église et Foi, issued by the Conference of Bishops in 1972, represented a milestone in its acknowledgment of a diversity of political choices compatible with the Christian message and its delineation of "normative evangelical and moral criteria" for making decisions on social and political issues. The position of French Catholics was shown to be conservative in the election of May 10, 1981, when only 20 percent of practicing Catholics gave their vote to socialist President François Mitterand.
The Church and Social Issues. Once in power, Mitterand attempted to expand the reaches of the Loi Debré which, since its inception in 1959 under the leadership of President Charles de Gaulle, regulated the recognition of Catholic schools by the state and offered limited government support to students in exchange for moderate regulatory control. The final version of the proposed law appeared to many defenders of Catholic education a complete takeover by the state. In response a massive demonstration was organized in Paris that drew over 1,400,000 participants and successfully stopped the law's passage in the National Assembly.
Further attempts to reform education were resisted by the laity, as many bishops were reluctant to endorse a position they feared might be exploited at the political level. The same episcopal reluctance to intervene in matters involving politics was also evident in the moderate official positions expressed during Parliamentary discussion on the issue of contraception (Loi Newirth, 1967) and of the legalization of abortion (Loi Weil, 1974).
A Church Divided. The growing division within French Catholicism was publicly revealed in 1976 as the result of a rebellion led by Archbishop Lefebvre. The former archbishop of Dakar rejected several of Vatican II's decisions, especially as they were implemented in France. Desiring to preserve the traditional liturgical rites established after Trent, Lefebvre maintained a classical conception of the priesthood. In July 1976, he ordained the first priests trained according to these principles at the Fraternity St. Pius X at Écone, Switzerland. The Lefebvre affair had a deep political component, revealed the frustration of many Catholics with the changes they had been forced to accept, and indicated their desire for a clearer identity. While Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988, after consecrating four bishops, negotiations conducted in Rome resulted in the reintegration of many of his followers in the Catholic communion.
Another disagreement among French Catholics was the question of catechetics. In the early 1960s most of the country's 220,000 catechists were lay women (84 percent). In response to the need for a better pedagogy of the faith, the classical presentation by questions and answers—in use in all dioceses since 1937—was replaced by a progressive method focusing more on the experience of children than on the content of the Christian message. A Directory of Pastoral Catechetics (Directoire de Pastorale catéchétique ), issued in 1964 by the Conference of Bishops, was followed by a profusion of manuals adapted to all possible situations. The results of the new methodology were disappointing and in 1976 the bishops resolved to recenter the courses on prayer and faith. A comprehensive series of programs, or parcours, was established, with a reference book collecting fundamental documents titled Pierres vivantes (1981) that presented the salvation history beginning with the Exodus in the Old Testament and Pentecost in the New. In 1985, after many complaints and the intervention of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a second edition beginning the history with the creation story in Genesis and the infancy narratives in the New Testament was published. A similar desire to improve the content of the resources available to educators resulted in a comprehensive catechism for adults (1991). By 1998, only 55,000 catechists were teaching the tenets of Catholicism in France, a reflection more of declining numbers of practicing Catholics than of the Church's commitment to catechetics.
Religious leaders long recognized the need to expose a faith many nominal Catholics seemed to know imperfectly. The success of the 1992 publication catechism of the catholic church illustrated a need for this education. In response, Catholic universities and institutes expanded their continuing education offerings to include courses for the laity on par with the level of academic scholarship in existence in the period preceding VaticanII. Contributors to the journal Communio (founded 1975) represented an influential group of young philosophers and theologians who successfully worked to restore religious understanding to a high level.
Reform and Renewal. The desire for reforms within the Church reflected a widely held desire for a "return of the sacred," a renewed interest in the transcendental elements of faith, particularly individual prayer. This tendency was encouraged by Rome through several key ecclesiastical appointments. The choice of a successor of the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Marty, in 1981, was perceived by many as an important test. The selection of J. M. Lustiger (b. 1926), a former curé of Paris and successor at Orléans of the controversial Bishop G. Riobé, was indicative enough of a new type of leadership. Lustiger, a convert from the Jewish faith, had remained aloof from general ecclesiastical stances while serving as chaplain of the Sorbonne and a pastor. He soon put his mark on the diocese, stressing the need for a stronger presence, based on a renewed and deeply spiritual sense of Catholic identity. His attention to the problem of priestly recruitment and education of the laity was soon noted and imitated by his peers.
About the same time, a new archbishop was chosen at Lyon, A. Decourtray (1923–94), formerly of Dijon, was soon perceived as an open and traditional pastor. Both cardinals exhibited a willingness to address contemporary issues with rigor and clarity, displaying a rare ability to intervene in public debates and to use the media. Their influence was notable in the appointments of comparable bishops, distinguished by their intellectual and spiritual capacities and in the support given to fresh forms of Catholic ventures.
Another indication of a renewal in the French Catholic church was the growth of charismatic fraternities (le Renouveau ), which echoed a movement begun in the Anglo-Saxon world that was based on a strong sense of community and association in prayer and action in society. Examples include Lion de Juda (1973), Chemin-neuf (1973), and Emmanuel (1976), to which can be added the older l'Arche (founded by Jean Vanier in 1964 and present in more than 17 countries) and the Foyers de charité, which started at Chateauneuf-de-Galaure in 1936 around the mystic Marthe Robin (1902–81). After their official recognition by the French bishops in 1982, these groups developed in many dioceses, often receiving a particular mission, such as the responsibility for a parish or a shrine. The international intellectual movement known as opus dei took root in France in 1956, another example of a new association constituting a new source of influential lay and clerical elites.
A Secular Society. As the French Church entered the third millennium, its members continued to weather the unstable philosophical heritage of the French Revolution. In the postmodern world, many in the Church sought to transcend the combativeness characteristic of French Catholicism, most apparent between liberal and conservative interpretations of the Christian message. Such attempts at unification—which some have viewed as a reflection of changing attitudes within Western culture overall in the wake of the two World Wars—were encouraged by the papacy, particularly Pope John Paul II. The appointment of bishops who viewed the Church as an active moral presence in the world was supported by a new, younger elite who considered surrendering to worldly values a mistake made by their predecessors. Instead, this elite prefered an aggressive presentation and defense of Christian values.
In this era of multicultural awareness, many in the French Church supported the desire by other religious denominations—Orthodox and Protestant, but also Jewish and Muslim—to replace the traditional laïcité of the state with a more emphatic expression of religious freedom that would allow diverse faiths to be acknowledged within French society and valued in the name of culture and the defense of human values. The influence of Pope John Paul II marked the first evidence of a shift in this matter: It is quite significant that the reception the pope received during his second pastoral visit to Lyon (1986) was exceedingly warmer than was his 1981 reception in Paris.
The Catholic Presence. Reflecting a trend within Christian religions as a whole, surveys of Sunday mass attendance and reception of the sacraments taken between 1960 and the early 1990s revealed a slow but persistent decline in quantitative participation in religious life. In 1966 the proportion of regular participants at the Sunday mass or messalisants was calculated to be about 23 percent, but it had dropped to 12 percent by 1990. The number of occasional Catholics seemed most in decline, according to drops in the frequency of baptisms (421,295 in 1998), weddings, and funerals. While many of these Catholiques festifs were thought to have been dismayed by the changes associated with Vatican II, it might well have been that their attitude more reflected the influence of secularization and the retreat from Christian values common throughout the Western world. Many French citizens declaring themselves to be Catholic did not adhere to the major points of the Creed, such as the belief in the Trinity or the resurrection of Christ.
The importance, for the French Church, of public communication was reflected by the number and diversity of its publications. Two major publishers existed: the Centre National de Presse Catholique, which printed 26 titles, including the daily La Croix ; and the Association Nationale de la Presse Catholique de Province, which produced 29 titles. The Chrétiens-Mídias was created in 1988, in direct association with the Episcopal Commission for Public Opinion, to coordinate diocesan activities with the goal of asserting a Catholic presence and fostering a dialogue in the fields of art and culture. The Church was also present over the airwaves, with such local radio stations as Radio-Notre-Dame in Paris (1981) and Radio-Fourvières in Lyon (1982). On national television, the Sunday program Le jour du Seigneur regularly included live broadcast of the Mass.
By 1998 there were 30,709 parishes in France. Private elementary and secondary schools (écoles privées ) had about 20 percent of the total student population, and 90 percent of these private schools were Catholic. There were also five Catholic institutes of higher education, at Angers, Lille, Lyon, Paris, and Toulouse. In 1998 the Catholic clergy in France included five cardinals, 28 archbishops, 180 bishops, 27,781 priests, 3,858 brothers, and 55,087 sisters divided between 40,000 cathedrals, churches, and smaller chapels.
Accepting Religious Diversity. By 2000 13 percent of the population of France was immigrant. Due to an increased influx of Muslims during the late 20th century, Islam grew to become the second largest religion in France, with historian Alain Besançoin going so far as to posit that the nation now housed more Muslims than practicing Catholics. The assimilation of this growing Muslim population into French society was a major challenge to both the state and the Church. In fact, French Catholics remained somewhat adverse to social accommodation of other religions, although at the official level cooperation was successfully attempted. For example, the 1994 funeral of Cardinal Decourtray concluded with an interreligious celebration in front of the Lyon cathedral, and involved representatives of France's significant Jewish community.
Despite the majority position still held by Catholics in France, in an age of increasing toleration of differences dialogues following the lines of Catholic ecumenism first presented by Y. Congar in 1937 were strengthened with other Christian communities. In addition to the exchanges existing around the community of Taizé or the informal Groupe des Dombes, official dialogues between Protestant and Catholics continued to produce declarations touching on such practical issues as the celebration of baptism and marriages.
Given the French Church's long and complex history, the growing tolerance of religious differences that developed in the closing years of the 20th century did not satisfy all the nation's Catholics. Some openly dissented from a vision that, in their eyes, succumbed to an illusive spirit of "restoration," inconsistent with decades of French Catholic experience. Such tolerance was in some circles decried as utterly impossible in the postmodern age. Another concern of this faction involved fragmentation of the Church into rival "chapels" that would leave the institution more divided than ever. Held up as proof of the viability of this concern was the removal of Bishop Jacques Gaillot of Evreux in February of 1995. The bishop's removal was not justified by any dogmatic deviation, but by his lack of "communion" with the other bishops. The passionate reactions by the right wing to Gaillot's dismissal, as well as the organized left-wing protest encountered by Pope John Paul II on his 1996 visit to France, both illustrated that ideological polarization remained a serious problem in the country. However, the difficulties experienced by the Church in France, while a consequence of its long and unique history, may have also resulted from the stresses facing Catholicism, and indeed organized religion as a whole throughout an increasingly secularized Western world.
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[j. m. gres-gayer/eds.]