Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. II
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CHAPTER II. - Hippolyte Taine, The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. II 
The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. II, trans. John Durand (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1894).
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I. The effects of the system.—Completion of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.—Omnipotence of the Pope in the Church.—Influence of the French Concordat and other precedents from 1801 to 1870.—Why the clergy becomes ultramontane.—The dogma of Infallibility.—II. The bishop in his diocese.—Change of situation and rôle.—Depreciation of other local authorities.—Diminution of other ecclesiastical authorities.—Decline of the chapter and the officialité.—The bishop alone dispenses rigors and favors.—Use of displacement.—Second-class clergy subject to military discipline.—Why it submits to this.—Change in the habits and ways of the bishop.—His origin, age, capability, mode of living, labor, initiative, undertakings, and moral and social ascendency.—III. The subordinates.—The secular clergy.—Its derivation and how recruited.—How prepared and led.—The lower seminary.—The higher seminary.—Monthly lectures and annual retreat.—The Exercitia.—The Manreze du Prêtre.—The curé in his parish.—His rôle a difficult one.—His patience and correct conduct.
In 1801, at Rome, pending the negotiations for the Concordat, when Pius VII. still hesitated about the deposition in mass of the survivors of the ancient French episcopacy, clear-sighted observers already remarked, “Let this Concordat which the First Consul desires be completed,1 and you will see, on its ratification, its immense importance and the power it will give to Rome over the episcopacy throughout the universe.”—In effect, through this “extraordinary, nearly unexampled” act of authority, and certainly unequalled “in the history of the Church,”2 the ultramontane theory, contested up to this time, maintained in the speculative region of abstract formulæ, comes down to solid ground, into practical and lasting use. Willingly or not, “the Pope acts as if universal bishop;” urged and constrained by the lay power, attached to a dictatorship,1 he entered upon it and so installed himself, and, ten years later, Napoleon, who had impelled him on, regretted that he had done so. Warned by his Gallican legists, he saw the ecclesiastical import of his work; but it was too late to retreat—the decisive step had been taken.—For, in fact, the Pope had deprived all the chieftains of a great church of their thrones, “his colleagues and co-bishops,”2 successors of the apostles under the same title as himself, members “of the same order and stamped” with the same “character,” eighty-five legitimate incumbents3 and, still better, as admitted by himself, blameless, worthy, persecuted because they had obeyed him, banished from France on account of their unwillingness to quit the Roman Church. He had ordered them to resign; he had withdrawn apostolic powers from the thirteen who had refused to tender their resignations; to all, even to those who refused, he had appointed their successors. He assigned to the new titularies dioceses of a new pattern and, to justify novelties of such gravity,4 he could allege no other reasons than circumstances, the exigencies of lay power, and the welfare of the Church. After that the Gallicans themselves, unless accepting the risk of a schism and of separating forever from the Holy See, were obliged to allow the Pope above and beyond the ordinary powers exercised by him within the old limits of canons and of custom, an extraordinary power unlimited by any canon or by any custom,1 a plenary and absolute authority, a right above all other rights, by virtue of which, in cases determined by himself, he provided in a discretionary way for all Catholic interests, of which he thus becomes the supreme judge, the sole interpreter and the court of last appeal. An indestructible precedent was set up; it was the great corner-stone in the support of the modern Church edifice; on this definitive foundation all other stones were to be superposed, one by one. In 1801, Pius VII., under the pressure of the reigning Napoleon, had obliged the prelates of the old régime, sullied by a monarchical origin and suspected of zeal for the dethroned Bourbons, to abandon their seats. In 1816, under the pressure of the re-established Bourbons, the same Pius VII. obliged Fesch, cardinal-archbishop of Lyons, and uncle of the fallen Napoleon, to abandon his seat.2 In both cases the situation was similar, and, in the latter as in the former case, motives of the same order warranted the same use of the same power.
But the situation, in being prolonged, multiplied, for the Church, cases of urgency, and, for the sovereign pontiff, cases of intervention. Since 1789, the entire civil order of things, constitutional, political, social and territorial, had become singularly unstable, not only in France but in Europe, not only on the old continent but likewise on the new one. Sovereign states by hundreds sunk under the strokes and counter-strokes, indefinitely propagated and enforced by the philosophy of the eighteenth century and of the French Revolution; others, by dozens, arose in their place, and, in these, different dynasties succeeded each other; here, Catholic populations falling under the rule of a schismatic or Protestant prince; there, this or that Catholic country, for fifteen years included in a mixed state, detached from it and constituted apart. In Protestant America, the Catholics, increased to millions, formed new communities; in Catholic America, the colonies had become independent; almost everywhere in America and in Europe the maxims of government and of public opinion had changed. Now, after each of these changes, some initiative, some direction, some authority was necessary, in order to reconcile ecclesiastical with lay institutions; the Pope was on hand, and on each occasion he establishes this concord.1 At one time, by a diplomatic act analogous to the French Concordat of 1801, he negotiates with the sovereign of the country—Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, the two Sicilies, the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia. Again, owing to the tolerant liberalism, or to the constitutional indifference of the lay government, he alone prescribes, notably in Holland, in Ireland, in England, in Canada, and in the United States, a division of the country into ecclesiastical districts, the erection of new bishoprics, and the lasting regulation of the hierarchy, the discipline, the means of support and the recruiting of the clergy. Again, when sovereignty is in dispute, as after the emancipation of the Spanish colonies, he does without it, in spite of the opposition of the mother-country, and, “without putting himself in relation with the new governments,”1 he, acting for himself, “that he may put an end to the widowhood of the Churches,” appoints bishops, assigns them a provisional régime in anticipation of the epoch when, in concert with better-founded governments, he will decree their definitive régime. In this way, all the great existing churches of the Catholic universe are the work of the Pope, his latest work, his own creation attested by a positive act of contiguous date, and of which the souvenir is vivid: he has not recognized them—he has made them; he has given them their external form and their internal structure; no one of them can look within itself without finding in its laws the fresh imprint of the sovereign hand which has fashioned it; none of them can assert or even believe itself legitimate without declaring the superior authority to be legitimate which has just endowed it with life and being. The last step, the greatest of all, above the terrestrial and practical order of things, in speculative theology, in the revelation of the supernatural, in the definition of things that are divine: the Pope, the better to prove his autocracy, in 1854, decrees, solely, of his own accord, a new dogma, the immaculate conception of the Virgin, and he is careful to note that he does it without the concurrence of the bishops; they were on hand, but they neither deliberated nor decided.2
Thus arise durable powers, spiritual or temporal, little by little, through the uninterrupted and uncontested series of their acts; from 1791 to 1870 all ecclesiastical precedents, one added to another, became consolidated, one through the other and through their mass; story after story, steadily ascending and converging to raise the Pope higher still, until at last, on the summit of the edifice, the Holy See becomes the keystone of the arch, the omnipotence of fact being completed by omnipotence of right.
Meanwhile, Catholic opinion came to the aid of pontifical opinion, and, in France, the clergy spontaneously became ultramontane because there was no longer any motive for remaining Gallican. Since the Revolution, the Concordat and the Organic Articles, all the sources which maintained in it a national as well as particularist spirit, had dried up; it ceased being a distinct, proprietary and favored body; its members are no longer leagued together by the community of a temporal interest, by the need of defending their privileges, by the faculty of acting in concert, by the right of holding periodical assemblies; they are no longer, as formerly, attached to the civil power by great social and legal advantages, by their honorable priority in lay society, by their immunities from taxation, by the presence and influence of their bishops in the provincial parliaments, by the noble origin and magnificent endowments of nearly all their prelates, by the repressive support which the secular arm lent to the Church against dissenters and free-thinkers, by the immemorial legislation and customs which, erecting Catholicism into a State religion, imposed the Catholic faith on the monarch, not alone in his quality of a private individual and to fix his personal belief, but again in his quality of public magistrate, to influence his policy and to share in his government. This last article is capital, and out of its abrogation the rest follows: at this turn of the road the French clergy is thrown off the Gallican track, every step it takes after this being on the way to Rome. For, according to Catholic doctrine, outside of the Roman Church there is no salvation; to enter it, to rest in it, to be led by it is the highest interest and first duty of man; it is the unique and infallible guide; all acts that it condemns are culpable, and not only private acts, but likewise all public acts; the sovereign who commits them may, as an individual, be Catholic by profession and even loyal at heart; but, as a ruler, he is disloyal, he has lost his semi-ecclesiastic character, he has ceased to be “the exterior bishop,” he is not worthy to command a clerical body. Henceforth, the Christian conscience no longer bows down before him with love and respect; nothing remains to him for support but social prudence; and again is it with resignation, because the Church commands obedience to the authorities, and the same Church commands disobedience to these authorities when, abusing their power, they encroach on its rights.
Now, for ten years back, the State had done nothing else, and, to the old Concordat which was not good, it had just substituted a Concordat that was worse. This new alliance, concluded by it with the Church in 1802, is not a religious marriage, the solemn sacrament by which, at Rheims, she and it promised to live together and in harmony in the same faith, but a simple civil contract, more precisely the legal regulation of a lasting and deliberate divorce.—In a paroxysm of despotism the State has stripped the Church of its possessions and turned it out of doors, without clothes or bread, to beg on the highways; next, in a fit of rage, its aim was to kill it outright, and it did partially strangle it. Recovering its reason, but having ceased to be Catholic, it has forced the signature of a pact which is repugnant, and which reduces their moral union to physical cohabitation. Willingly or not, the two contracting parties are to continue living together in the same domicile, since that is the only one they possess; but, as there is incompatibility of humor, they will do well to live apart. To this end, the State assigns a small, distinct lodging to the Church and allows her a meagre supply of food; this done, it tancies that it may cry quits; and, worse still, it imagines that she is always its subject, and still pretends to the same authority over her; the State is determined to retain all rights conferred upon it by the old marriage, and these rights it exercises and adds to. Meanwhile, it admits into the same lodging three other Churches which it subjects to the same régime: that makes four mess-rooms to be maintained and which it watches, supports and utilizes the best it can for the temporal advantage of the household. There is nothing more odious to the Catholic Church than this advertised, practical polygamy, this subvention granted indifferently to all cults, this patronage in common, more insulting than abandonment, this equal treatment1 which places the pulpit of truth and the pulpits of falsehood, the ministry of salvation and the ministries of perdition, on the same footing. Nothing is more serviceable for alienating a Catholic clergy, for making it consider civil power as foreign, usurping, or even inimical, for detaching the Gallican Church from its French centre, for driving it back towards its Roman centre and for handing it over to the Pope.
Henceforth, the latter is the unique centre, the sole surviving head of the Church, inseparable from it because he is naturally its head and because it is naturally his body; and all the more because this mutual tie has been strengthened by trials. Head and body have been struck together, by the same hands, and each on the other’s account. The Pope has suffered like the Church, along with and for it. Pius VI., dethroned and borne off by the Directory, died in prison at Valence; Pius VII., dethroned and carried off by Napoleon, is confined, sequestered and outraged for four years in France, while all generous hearts take sides with the oppressed against his oppressors. Moreover, his dispossession adds to his prestige: it can no longer be claimed that territorial interests prevail with him over Catholic interests; therefore, according as his temporal power diminishes his spiritual power expands, to such an extent that, in the end, after three-quarters of a century, just at the moment when the former is to fall to the ground the latter is to rise above the clouds; through the effacement of his human character his superhuman character becomes declared; the more the sovereign prince disappears, the more does the sovereign pontiff assert himself. The clergy, despoiled like him of its hereditary patrimony and confined like him to its sacerdotal office, exposed to the same dangers, menaced by the same enemies, rallies around him the same as an army around its general; inferiors and superiors, they are all priests alike and are nothing else, with a clearer and clearer conscience of the solidarity which binds them together and subordinates the inferiors to the superiors. From one ecclesiastical generation to another,1 the number of the refractory, of the intractable and of independents, rigorists or the lax, goes on decreasing, some, conscientious Jansenists, hardened and sectarians of the “Little Church,” others, semi-philosophers, tolerant and liberal, both inheriting too narrow convictions or too broad opinions for maintaining themselves and spreading in the newly founded society (milieu).2 They die out, one by one, while their doctrines fall into discredit and then into oblivion. A new spirit animates the new clergy, and, after 1808, Napoleon remarks of it, “It does not complain of the old one, and is even satisfied with it; but, he says, they are bringing up new priests in a sombre fanatical doctrine: there is nothing Gallican in the youthful clergy,”1 no sympathy for the civil power. After Napoleon, and on getting out of his terrible hands, the Catholics have good reasons for their repugnance to his theology; it has put too many Catholics in jail, the most eminent in rank, in holiness, bishops and cardinals, including the Pope. Gallican maxims are dishonored by the use Napoleon has made of them. Canon law, in public instruction and in the seminaries (of the Catholics), ends insensibly in unlooked-for conclusions; texts and arguments opposed to the Pope’s authority seem weaker and weaker; texts and arguments favorable to the Pope’s authority seem stronger and stronger;2 the doctors most deferred to are no longer Gerson and Bossuet, but Bellarmin and Suarez; flaws are discovered in the decrees of the council of Constance; the Declaration of the clergy of France in 1682 is found to contain errors condemned and open to condemnation.3 After 1819, M. de Maistre, a powerful logician, matchless herald and superb champion, in his book on “The Pope,” justifies, prepares and announces the coming constitution of the Church.—Step by step, the assent of the Catholic community is won or mastered;4 on approaching 1870, it is nearly universal; after 1870, it is wholly so and could not be otherwise; whoever refuses to submit is excluded from the community and excludes himself from it, for he denies a dogma which it professes, a revealed dogma, an article of faith which the Pope and the council have just decreed. Thenceforward, the Pope, in his magisterial pulpit, in the eyes of every man who is and who wants to remain Catholic, is infallible; when he gives his decision on faith or on morals, Jesus Christ himself speaks by his mouth, and his definitions of doctrine are “irreformable,” “they are so of themselves, they alone, through their own virtue, and not by virtue of the Church’s consent.”1 For the same reason, his authority is absolute, “not only in matters which concern faith and morals, but again in matters which concern the discipline and government of the Church.”2 His judgment may be resorted to in every ecclesiastical case; nobody is allowed to question his verdict; “nobody is allowed to appeal to the future œcumenical council.”3 He has not only “a priority by right, an office of inspection and of direction; he holds again priority of jurisdiction, a full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, . . . ” “the total plenitude of this supreme power,” not indirectly and extraordinarily, but “directly and ordinarily, over all churches and over each one of them, over all pastors and all believers, over each believer and each of the pastors.”—Read this in the Latin: each word, through its ancient root and through its historic vegetation, contributes to strengthening the despotic and Roman sense of the text; the language of the people which invented and practised dictatorship had to be employed for the affirmation of dictatorship with that precision and that copiousness, with that excess of energy and of conviction.
The change brought about in the condition and rôle of the bishop was not less grave. Along with the court noblesse and great ecclesiastical property, we see the prelate of the old régime disappearing by degrees, the younger son of a noble family, promoted by favor and very young, endowed with a large income and much more a man of the world than of the Church. In 1789, out of one hundred and thirty-four bishops or archbishops, only five were of plebeian origin; in 1889, out of ninety bishops or archbishops there are only four of them nobles;1 previous to the Revolution, the titulary of an episcopal see enjoyed, on the average, a revenue of one hundred thousand francs2 ; at the present day, he receives only a salary of from ten to fifteen thousand francs. In place of the grand seignior, an amiable and magnificent head of a mansion, given to display and to entertaining the best company, keeping an open table in his diocese when he happens to be there, but generally absent, an habitué of Paris or a courtier at Versailles, we see another stepping forward to take his seat, bearing the same title, a personage whose habits and origins are different, a resident administrator, much less ornamental but a far more active and governing spirit, provided with a more ample jurisdiction, with more absolute authority and wielding more effective influence. The final effect of the Revolution in relation to the bishop is the same as in relation to the Pope, and in the French diocese, as in the universal Church, the modern régime sets up a central, extraordinary, enormous power of which the ancient regime knew nothing.
Formerly, the bishop encountered around him, on the spot, equals and rivals, bodies of men or individuals, as independent and powerful as himself, irremovable, owners of estates, dispensers of offices and of favors, local authorities by legal sanction, permanent patrons of a permanent class of dependents. In his own cathedral, his metropolitan chapter was, like himself, a collator of livings; elsewhere, other chapters were so likewise and knew how to maintain their rights against his supremacy. In each body of regular clergy, every grand abbot or prior, every noble abbess was, like himself, a sort of sovereign prince; likewise sovereign through the partial survival of the old feudal order, wholly laic, a territorial seignior and justiciary on his own domain; likewise sovereign, for its part, the parliament of the province, with its rights of registry and of remonstrance, with its administrative attributes and interferences, with its train of loyal auxiliaries and subordinates, from the judges of the presidencies and bailiwicks down to the corporations of advocates, prosecutors and other members of the bar.1 The parliamentarians of the district capital (chef-lieu), purchasers and owners of their offices, magistrates from father to son, much wealthier and much prouder than nowadays, were, in their old hereditary mansions, the real chiefs of the province, its constant representatives on the spot, its popular defenders against ministerial and royal absolutism. All these powers, which once counterbalanced episcopal power, have disappeared. Restricted to their judicial office, the tribunals have ceased to be political authorities and moderators of the central government: in the town and department, the mayor and general councillors, appointed or elected for a certain time, enjoy only temporary credit; the prefect, the military commandant, the rector, the treasurer-general are merely passing strangers. The local circumscription, for a century, is an exterior post where individuals live together in contact but not associated; no longer does any intimate, lasting and strong bond exist between them; nothing remains of the old province but a population of inhabitants, a given number of private persons under unstable functionaries. The bishop alone has maintained himself intact and erect, a dignitary for life, the conductor, by title and in fact, of a good many persons, the stationary and patient undertaker of a great service, the unique general and undisputed commander of a special militia which, through conscience and profession, gathers close around him and, every morning, awaits his orders. Because, in his essence, he is a governor of souls. Revolution and centralization have not encroached on his ecclesiastical prerogative. Thanks to this indelible quality he has been able to endure the suppression of the others; these have come back to him of themselves and with others added, comprising local superiority, real importance and local ascendency; including the various honorable appellations which, under the ancient régime, denoted his rank and preëminence; at the present day, under the modern régime, they are no longer in use for a layman and even for a minister of state; after 1802, one of the articles of the Organic Laws,1 interdicts them to bishops and archbishops; they are “allowed to add to their name only the title of citizen and monsieur.” But practically, except in the official almanac, everybody addresses a prelate as “my lord,” and in the clergy, among believers, in writing or in speaking to him, he is called “your Grace,” under the republic as under the monarchy.
Thus, in this provincial soil where other powers have lost their roots, not only has he kept his, but he has extended them and much farther; he has grown beyond all measure and now the whole ecclesiastical territory belongs to him. Formerly, on this territory, many portions of it, and quite large ones, were enclosures set apart, reserves that an immemorial wall prevented him from entering. It is not he who, in a great majority of cases, confers livings and offices; it is not he who, in more than one-half of them, appoints to vacant curacies. At Besançon,1 among fifteen hundred benefices and livings, he once conferred less than one hundred of them, while his metropolitan chapter appointed as many curés as himself; at Arras, he appointed only seventeen curés and his chapter sixty-six; at Saint-Omer, among the collators of curacies he ranked only third, after the abbey of Saint-Martin and after the chapter of the cathedral. At Troyes, he could dispose only of one hundred and ninety-seven curacies out of three hundred and seventy two; at Boulogne, out of one hundred and eighty, he had only eighty, and this again because the chapter voluntarily abandoned to him sixteen. Naturally, the eyes of all aspirants turned towards the collator; now, among the highest and most lucrative places, those which gave the least trouble and afforded the most satisfaction, all sinecures, ranks, simple benefices and large urban curacies, probendaries and canonicates, most of the offices, titles, and incomes that might tempt human ambition, were in the hands, not of the bishop, but of the king or of the Pope, of an abbot or prior, of an abbess, or of a certain university,2 of this or that cathedral or college-body, of a lay seignior, of a patentee, or of an indultaire, and often of the titulary himself. Thus, the hold of the bishop on his clercs was feeble; he did not hold them through the hope of a favor. And, on the other hand, he had still less hold on them, no hold at all, through fear of losing favor. They might displease him almost with impunity; his faculty for punishment was much more restricted than his means of recompense. His subordinates could find shelter and refuge against his displeasure, and even against his hostility. In the first place, and as a principle, a titulary, whether ecclesiastic or laic, owned his office and hence was irremovable; they themselves, plain vicar-curates, the humble desservans1 of a rural parish, had acquired this privilege through the declarations of 1726 and 1731.2 Moreover, in case of interdiction, suspension or of censure, a titulary could always recur to the courts against episcopal judgment and any other, against all encroachment on spiritual or temporal prerogatives, or on those which were useful or honorary belonging to his charge.
These courts were of two kinds, one ecclesiastical and the other laic, and in each an appeal could be made from a lower to a higher court, from the diocesan official to the metropolitan official, and from the présidial to the parliament, with a complete judicial staff, judge, assessors, public ministry, prosecutors, advocates and clerks, restricted to the observing of all judicial formalities, authentic papers, citations of witnesses and challenges of testimony, interrogatories and pleadings, allegation of canons, laws and precedents, presence of the defendant, opposing arguments, delays in procedure, publicity and scandal. Before the slow march and inconveniences of such a trial, the bishop often avoided giving judgment, and all the more because his verdicts, even when confirmed by the ecclesiastical court, might be warded off or rendered ineffective by the lay tribunal; for, from the former to the latter, there was an appeal under writ of error, and the latter, a jealous rival of the former, was ill-disposed towards the sacerdotal authorities;1 besides, in the latter case, far more than in the former, the bishop found confronting him not merely the more or less legal right of his own party, but again the allies and patrons of his party, corporations and individuals who, according to an accepted usage, interfered through their solicitations with the judges and openly placed their credit at the service of their protégé. With so many spokes in the wheels, the working of an administrative machine was difficult; to give it effective motion, it required the steady pressure, the constant starting, the watchful and persistent efforts of a laborious, energetic, and callous hand, while, under the ancient régime, the delicate white hands of a gentleman-prelate were ill-adapted to this rude business; they were too nicely washed, too soft. To manage personally and on the spot a provincial, complicated and rusty machine, always creaking and groaning, to give one’s self up to it, to urge and adjust twenty local wheels, to put up with knocks and splashes, to become a business man, that is to say a man of all work—nothing was less desirable for a grand seignior of that epoch. In the Church as in the State, he made the most of his rank; he collected and enjoyed its fruits, that is to say money, honors and gratifications, and, among these gratifications, the principal one, leisure; hence, he abandoned every special duty, the daily manipulation of men and things, the practical direction, all effective government, to his ecclesiastical or lay intendants, to subordinates whom he scarcely looked after and who, at his own house, on his own domain, replaced him as fixed residents. The bishop, in his own diocese, left the administration in the hands of his canons and grand-vicars; “the official decided without his meddling.”1 The machine thus worked alone and by itself, with very few shocks, in the old rut established by routine; he helped it along only by the influence he exercised at Paris and Versailles, by recommendations to the ministers; in reality, he was merely the remote and worldly representative of his ecclesiastical principality at court and in the drawing-room.2 When, from time to time, he made his appearance there, the bells were rung; deputations from all bodies hurried to his antechambers; each authority in turn, and according to the order of precedence, paid him its little compliment, which compliment he graciously returned and then, the homage being over, he distributed among them benedictions and smiles. After this, with equal dignity and still more graciously throughout his sojourn, he invited the most eligible to his table and, in his episcopal palace or in his country-house, he treated them as guests. This done, he had performed his duty; the rest was left to his secretaries, ecclesiastical officials and clerks, men of the bureaux, specialists and “plodders.” “Did you read my pastoral letter?” said a bishop to Piron. And Piron, who was very outspoken, dared reply, “Yes, my lord. And yourself?”
Under the modern régime, this suzerain for show, negligent and intermittent, is succeeded by an active sovereign whose reign is personal and constant; the limited and easy monarchy of the diocese is converted into an universal and absolute monarchy. When the bishop, once invested and consecrated, enters the choir of his cathedral to the reverberations of the organ, lighted with wax candles amidst clouds of incense, and seats himself in solemn pomp3 “on his throne,” he is a prince who takes possession of his government, which possession is not nominal or partial, but real and complete. He holds in his hand “the splendid cross which the priests of his diocese have presented to him,” in witness of and symbolizing their voluntary, eager and full obedience; and this pastoral baton is larger than the old one. In the ecclesiastical herd, no head browses at a distance or under cover; high or low, all are within reach, all eyes are turned towards the episcopal crook; at a sign made by the crook, and according to the signal, each head forthwith stands, advances or recedes: it knows too well that the shepherd’s hands are free and that it is subject to its will. Napoleon, in his reconstruction of the diocese, made additions to only one of the diocesan powers, that of the bishop; he suffered the others to remain low down, on the ground. The delays, complications and frictions of a divided government were repugnant to him; he had no taste for and no comprehension of any but a concentrated government; he found it convenient to deal with but one man, a prefect of the spiritual order, as pliable as his colleague of the temporal order, a mitred grand functionary—such was the bishop in his eyes. This is the reason why he did not oblige him to surround himself with constitutional and moderating authorities; he did not restore the ancient bishop’s court and the ancient chapter; he allowed his prelates themselves to pen the new diocesan statute.—Naturally, in the division of powers, the bishop reserved the best part to himself, the entire substance, and, to limit his local omnipotence, there remained simply lay authority. But, in practice, the shackles by which the civil government kept him in its dependence, broke or became relaxed one by one. Among the Organic Articles, almost all of them which subjected or repressed the bishop fell into discredit or into desuetude. Meanwhile, those which authorized and exalted the bishop remained in vigor and maintained their effect. Consequently, Napoleon’s calculation, in relation to the bishop or in relation to the Pope, proved erroneous. He wanted to unite in one person two incompatible characters, to convert the dignitaries of the Church into dignitaries of the State, to make functionaries out of potentates. The functionary insensibly disappeared; the potentate alone subsisted and still subsists.
At the present day, conformably to the statute of 1802, the cathedral chapter,1 except in case of one interim, is a lifeless and still-born body, a vain simulachre; it is always, by title or on paper, the Catholic “senate,” the bishop’s obligatory “council”;2 but he takes his councillors where he pleases, outside of the chapter, if that suits him, and he is free not to take any of them, “to govern alone, to do all himself.” It is he who appoints to all offices, to the five or six hundred offices of his diocese; he is the universal collator of these and, nine times out of ten, the sole collator; excepting eight or nine canonships and the thirty or forty cantonal curacies, which the government must approve, he alone makes appointments and without any person’s concurrence. Thus, in the way of favors, his clerical body has nothing to expect from anybody but himself—while, on the other hand, they no longer enjoy any protection against his severities; the hand which punishes is still less restrained than that which rewards; like the cathedral chapter, the ecclesiastical tribunal has lost its consistency and independence, its efficiency; nothing remains of the ancient bishop’s court but an appearance and a name.1
At one time, the bishop in person is himself the whole court; he deliberates only with himself and decides ex informata conscientia without a trial, without advice, and, if he chooses, in his own cabinet with closed doors, in private according to facts, the value of which he alone estimates, and through motives of which he is the sole appreciator. At another time, the presiding magistrate is one of his grand-vicars, his revocable delegate, his confidential man, his mouthpiece, in short, another self, and this official acts without the restraint of ancient regulations, of a fixed and understood procedure beforehand, of a series of judicial formalities, of verifications and the presence of witnesses, of the delays and all other legal precautions which guard the judge against prejudice, haste, error, and ignorance and without which justice always risks becoming injustice. In both cases, the head over which the sentence is suspended lacks guarantees, and, once pronounced, this sentence is definitive. For, on appeal to the court of the metropolitan bishop, it is always confirmed;2 the bishops support each other, and, let the appellant be right or wrong, the appeal is in itself a bad mark against him: he did not submit at once, he stood out against reproof, he was lacking in humility, he has set an example of insubordination, and this alone is a grave fault. There remains the recourse to Rome; but Rome is far off,1 and, while maintaining her superior jurisdiction, she does not willingly cancel an episcopal verdict; she treats prelates with respect, she is careful of her lieutenant-generals, her collectors of Saint Peter’s pence. As to the lay tribunals, these have declared themselves incompetent,2 and the new canon law teaches that never, “under the pretext of a writ of error, may a priest make an appeal to the secular magistrate”;3 through this appeal, “he derogates from the authority and liberty of the Church and is liable to the gravest censures;” he betrays his order.
Such is now, for the lower clergy, ecclesiastical law, and likewise laic law, both agreeing together in not affording him protection; add to this change in the jurisprudence which concerns him a no less decisive change in the titles which place and qualify him. Before 1789, there were in France thirty-six thousand curés entitled irremovable; at the present day, there are only three thousand four hundred and twenty-five; before 1789, there were only twenty-five hundred curés in France entitled removable, while to-day there are thirty-four thousand and forty-two;4 all of the latter, appointed by the bishop without the approbation of the civil powers, are removable at his discretion; their parochial ministry is simply a provisional commission; they may be transferred from day to day, they may be placed elsewhere, passing from one precarious curacy to another no less precarious. “At Valence,5 Mgr. Chartrousse, in one month transferred one hundred and fifty priests from one parish to another. In 1835, in the diocese of Valence, thirty-five transfers were sent out by the same mail.” No assistant-priest, however long in his parish, feels that he is at home there, on his own domain, for the rest of his life; he is merely there in garrison, about the same as lay functionaries and with less security, even when irreproachable. For he may be transplanted, not alone for spiritual reasons, but likewise for political reasons. He has not grown less worthy, but the municipal council or the mayor have taken a dislike to his person; consequently, to tranquillize things, he is displaced. Far better, he had become worthy and is on good terms with the municipal council and the mayor; wherever he has lived he has known how to mollify these, and consequently “he is removed from parish to parish,1 chosen expressly to be put into those where there are troublesome, wrangling, malevolent, and impious mayors.” It is for the good of the service and in the interest of the Church. The bishop subordinates persons to this superior interest. The legislation of 1801 and 1802 has conferred full powers upon him and he exercises them; among the many grips by which he holds his clergy the strongest is the power of removal, and he uses it. Into all civil or ecclesiastical institutions Napoleon, directly or by counterstrokes, has injected his spirit, the military spirit; hence the authoritative régime, still more firmly established in the Church than in the State, because that is the essence of the Catholic institution; far from being relaxed in this, it has become stricter; at present it is avowed, proclaimed, and even made canonical; the bishop, in our days, in fact as in law, is a general of division, and, in law as in fact, his curés are simply sergeants or corporals.1 Command, from such a lofty grade, falls direct, with extraordinary force, on grades so low, and, at the first stroke, is followed by passive obedience. Discipline in a diocese is as perfect as in an army corps, and the prelates publicly take pride in it. “It is an insult,” said Cardinal de Bonnechose to the Senate,2 “to suppose that we are not masters in our own house, that we cannot direct our clergy, and that it is the clergy which directs us. . . . There is no general within its walls who would accept the reproach that he could not compel the obedience of his soldiers. Each of us has command of a regiment, and the regiment marches.”
In order to make troops march, a baton, even when pastoral, is not sufficient; it is still requisite that forced subordination in the men should go along with voluntary subordination; consequently, legal authority in the chief should be accompanied with moral authority; otherwise he will not be loyally supported and to the end. In 1789, this was not the case with the bishop; on two occasions, and at two critical moments, the clergy of the inferior order formed a separate band, at first at the elections, by selecting for deputies curés and not prelates, and next in the national assembly, by abandoning the prelates to unite with the Third Estate. The intimate hold of the chief on his men was relaxed or broken. His ascendency over them was no longer sufficiently great; they no longer had confidence in him. His subordinates had come to regard him as he was, a privileged individual, sprung from a distinct race and furnished by a class apart, bishop by right of birth, without a prolonged apprenticeship, having rendered no services, without tests of merit, almost an interloper in the body of his clergy, a Church parasite accustomed to spending the revenues of his diocese away from his diocese, idle and ostentatious, often a shameless gallant or obnoxious hunter, disposed to be a philosopher and free-thinker, and who lacked two qualifications for a leader of Christian priests: first, ecclesiastical deportment, and next, and very often, Christian faith.1
All these gaps in and discrepancies of episcopal character, all these differences and distances between the origins, interests, habits, and manners of the lower and the upper clergy, all these inequalities and irregularities which alienated inferiors from the superior, have disappeared; the modern régime has levelled the wall of separation established by the ancient régime between the bishop and his priests. At the present day he is, like them, a plebeian, of common extraction, and sometimes very low, one being the son of a village shoemaker, another the natural son of a poor workwoman, both being men of feeling and never blushing at their humble origin, openly tender and respectful to their mothers,—a certain bishop lodging his mother, formerly a servant, in his episcopal palace and giving her the first seat at his table among the most honored and noblest of his guests.1 He is “one of fortune’s officers,” that is to say, a meritorious and old officer. According to the “Almanac” of 1889, the three youngest are from forty-seven to forty-nine years of age; all the others are fifty and over; among the latter, three fourths of them are over sixty. As a general rule, a priest cannot become a bishop short of twenty or twenty-five years’ service in the lower and average grades; he must have remained in each grade a longer or shorter period, in turn vicar, curé, vicar-general, canon, head of a seminary, sometimes coadjutor, and almost always have distinguished himself in some office, either as preacher or catechist, professor or administrator, canonist or theologian. His full competence cannot be contested, and he enjoys a right to exact full obedience; he has himself rendered it up to his consecration; “he boasts of it,” and the example he proposes to his priests is the one he has himself given.2 On the other hand, his moderate way of living excites but little envy; it is about like that of a general of division, or of a prefect, or of a high civil functionary who, lacking personal fortune, has nothing but his salary to live on. He does not display, as formerly, confessionals lined with satin, kitchen utensils of massive silver, hunting accoutrements, a hierarchical staff of major-domos, ushers, valets, and liveried lackeys, stables and carriages, lay grand-seigniors, vassals of his suzerainty and figuring at his consecration, a princely ceremonial of parade and homage, a pompous show of receptions and of hospitalities. There is nothing but what is necessary, the indispensable instruments of his office: an ordinary carriage for his episcopal journeys and town visits, three or four domestics for manual service, three or four secretaries for official writings, some old mansion or other cheaply repaired and refurnished without ostentation, its rooms and bureaus being those of an administrator, business man, and responsible head of a numerous staff; in effect, he is responsible for a good many subordinates, he has a good deal to attend to; he works himself, looking after the whole and in detail, keeping classified files by means of a chronological and systematic collection,1 like the general director of a vast company; if he enjoys greater honors, he is subject to greater exigencies; assuredly, his predecessors under the ancient régime, delicate epicureans, would not have wished for such a life; they would have considered the disagreeable as surpassing its gratifications.
Even when old, he draws on his energies; he officiates, he preaches, he presides at long ceremonies, he ordains seminarians, he confirms thousands of children,2 he visits one after another the parishes in his diocese; often, at the end of his administration, he has visited them all and many times. Meanwhile, shut up in his episcopal cabinet, he is constantly inspecting these four or five hundred parishes; he reads or listens to reports, informs himself on the number of communicants, on what is required in worship, on the financial state of the fabrique, on the attitude of the inhabitants, on the good or bad dispositions of municipal counsellors and mayors, on the local causes of dissension and conflict, on the conduct and character of the curé or vicar; each resident ecclesiastic needs guidance or maintenance between intemperate zeal and inert lukewarmness, evenly balanced according as parishes and circumstances vary, but always in a way to prevent false steps, to turn aside mistakes, to humor opinion, to stop scandals. For the entire life of the clergyman, not only his public life but again his personal, domestic, private life, belongs to and concerns the Church: there must be no evil reports, even without foundation, on his account; if these occur, the bishop summons him to headquarters, warns him, admonishes him, and, without handing the matter over to a responsible tribunal, decides himself alone, in private, and therefore subject to the investigations, anxieties and painful, painstaking labor always attendant on direct absolute power. Likewise, in relation to his upper and his lower seminary: here are two indispensable nurseries of which he is the head gardener, attentive to filling annual vacancies and seeking proper subjects for these throughout his diocese, ever verifying and cultivating their vocations; he confers scholarships; he dictates rules and regulations; appoints and dismisses, displaces and procures as he pleases, the director and professors; he takes them, if he chooses, out of his diocese or out of the body of regular clergy; he prescribes a doctrine to them, methods, ways of thinking and teaching, and he keeps his eye, beyond his present or future priests, on three or four hundred monks and on fourteen hundred nuns.
As to the monks, so long as they remain inside their dwellings, in company together and at home, he has nothing to say to them; but, when they come to preach, confess, officiate or teach in public on his ground, they fall under his jurisdiction; in concert with their superior and with the Pope, he has rights over them and he uses them. In effect, they are auxiliaries assigned to or summoned by him, available troops and a reinforcement, so many choice companies expressly ready, each with its own discipline, its particular uniform, its special weapon, and who bring to him in following a campaign under his orders, distinct aptitudes and a livelier zeal; he has need of them1 in order to make up for the insufficiency of his local clergy in arousing the spirit of devotion in his parishes and in enforcing sound doctrine in his seminaries. Now, between these two forces a common understanding is difficult; the former, adjuncts and flying about, march in front; the latter, holding the ground and stationary, look upon the new-comers as usurpers who lessen both their popularity and their fees; a bishop must possess great tact as well as energy to impose on both bodies of this clergy, if not an intimate union, at least mutual aid and a collaboration without conflict.—As to the nuns,2 he is their ordinary, the sole arbiter, overseer and ruler over all these cloistered lives; he receives their vows, and renders them free of them; it is he who, after due inquiry and examination, authorizes each entrance into the community or a return to society, at first each admission or novitiate, and next each profession of faith or assumption of the veil, every dismissal or departure of a nun, every claim that one makes, every grave act of severity or decision on the part of the superior; he approves of, or appoints, the confessor of the establishment; he maintains seclusion in it, he draws tighter or relaxes the observances; he himself enters its doors by privilege of his office, and, with his own eyes, he inspects its régime, spiritual and temporal, through a right of control which extends from the direction of souls to the administration of property.
To so many obligatory matters he adds others which are voluntary, not alone works of piety, those relating to worship, propagandism, diocesan missions, catechising adults, brotherhoods for perpetual adoration, meetings for the uninterrupted recital of the rosary, Peter’s pence, seminary funds, Catholic journals and reviews—but, again, institutions for charity and education.1 In the way of charity, he founds or supports twenty different kinds, sixty in one diocese alone, general and special services, infant nurseries, clubs, asylums, lodging-houses, patronages, societies for helping and placing the poor, for the sick at home and in the hospitals, for suckling infants, for the deaf and dumb, for the blind, for old men, for orphans, for repentant prostitutes, for prisoners, for soldiers in garrison, for workmen, apprentices, youths, and quantities of others. In the way of education, there are yet more of them—works which the Catholic chiefs have most at heart; without these, it is impossible in modern society to preserve the faith in each new generation. Hence, at each turning-point of political history, we see the bishops benefiting by the toleration or warding off the intolerance of the teaching State, competing with it, erecting alongside of its public schools free schools of its own, directed or served by priests or religious brotherhoods;—after the suppression of the university monopoly in 1850, more than one hundred colleges1 for secondary education; after the favorable law of 1875, four or five provincial faculties or universities for superior instruction; after the hostile laws of 1882, many thousands of parochial schools for primary instruction.
Foundation and support, all this is expensive. The bishop requires a great deal of money, especially since the State, become ill-disposed, cuts off clerical resources as much as possible, no longer maintains scholarships in the seminaries, deprives suspicious desservans of their small stipends, eats into the salaries of the prelates, throws obstacles in the way of communal liberalities, taxes and overtaxes the congregations, so that, not merely through the diminution of its allowances it relieves itself at the expense of the Church, but again, through the increase of its imposts, it burdens the Church for its own advantage. The episcopacy obtains all necessary funds through collections in the churches and at domiciles, through the gifts and subscriptions of the faithful; and, every year, it needs millions, apart from the budget appropriation, for its faculties and universities in which it installs largely paid professors, for the construction, location and arrangement of its countless buildings, for the expenses of its minor schools, for the support of its ten thousand seminarists, for the general outlay on so many charitable institutions; and it is the bishop who, their principal promoter, must provide for this, all the more because he has often taken it upon himself in advance, and made himself responsible for it by either a written or verbal promise. He responds to all these engagements; he has funds on hand at the maturity of each contract. In 1883, the bishop of Nancy, in need of one hundred thousand francs to build a school-house with a work-room attached to it, mentions this to a number of persons assembled in his drawing-room; one of these puts his hand in his pocket and gives him ten thousand francs, and others subscribe on the spot to the amount of seventy-four thousand francs.1 Cardinal Mathieu, during his administration, archbishop of Besançon, thus collects and expends four millions. Lately, Cardinal Lavigerie, to whom the budget allows fifteen thousand francs per annum, wrote that he had spent eighteen hundred thousand francs and had incurred no debt.2 —Through this initiative and this ascendency the bishop becomes a central social rallying-point; there is no other in the provinces, nothing but so many disjointed lives, juxtaposed and kept together in an artificial circle prescribed from above; so that a good many of these, and of most consideration, gravitate to and group themselves, especially since 1830, around this last permanent centre and form a part of its body; he is the sole germinating, vivifying, intact centre that still agglutinates scattered wills and suitably organizes them. Naturally, class and party interests incorporate themselves additionally along with the Catholic interest which he represents, and his ecclesiastical authority becomes a political influence; besides his secular and regular clergy, over and beyond the two thousand five hundred exemplary or directorial lives which he controls, we see behind him an indefinite multitude of lay adhesions and devotedness. Consequently, every government must take him into their calculations, and all the more because his colleagues stand by him; the episcopacy, banded together, remains erect in face of the omnipotent State, under the July monarchy as claimants of free instruction and under the second empire in support of the temporal power of the Pope.—In this militant attitude, the figure of the bishop is fully unveiled; the titular champion of an infallible Church, himself a believer and submissive; his voice is extraordinarily proud and defiant;1 in his own eyes, he is the unique depository of truth and morality; in the eyes of his followers, he becomes a superhuman personage, a prophet of salvation or of destruction, the annunciator of divine judgments, the dispenser of celestial anger or of celestial pardon; he rises to the clouds in an apotheosis of glory; with women especially, this veneration grows into enthusiasm and degenerates into idolatry. Towards the end of the second empire an eminent French bishop, on a steamboat on Lake Leman, taking a roll of bread from his pocket, seated himself alongside of two ladies and ate it, handing each of them a piece of it. One of them, bowing reverently, replied to him, “At your hands, my lord, this is almost the holy communion!”2
A clergy submissive in mind and feeling, long prepared by its condition and education for faith and obedience, acts under the sway of this sovereign and consecrated hand. Among the forty thousand curés and desservans “more than thirty-five thousand belong to the laboring class of workmen and peasants,”3 not the first class of peasants, but the second class, the poorer families earning their daily bread and often with a good many children. Under the pressure of the ambient atmosphere and of the modern régime, the others keep back their sons, retaining them for the world and denying them to the Church; ambition, even low down on the scale, has developed itself and changed its object. Nobody now aspires to make his son a curé but a schoolmaster, a railroad employé, or a commercial clerk.1 The ground has to be dug deeper, to reach a lower stratum, in order to extract from it the priests that are lacking.
Undoubtedly, at this depth, the extraction costs more; the family cannot afford to pay for the child’s ecclesiastical education; the State, moreover, after 1830, no longer gives anything to the lower seminary, nor to the large one after 1885.2 The expenses of these schools must be borne by the faithful in the shape of donations and legacies; to this end, the bishop orders collections in the churches in Lent and encourages his diocesans to found scholarships; the outlay for the support and education, nearly gratis, of a future priest between the ages of twelve and twenty-four is very great; in the lower seminary alone it costs from forty to fifty thousand francs over and above the net receipts;3 in the face of such an annual deficit, the bishop, who is responsible for the undertaking, is greatly concerned and sometimes extremely anxious.—To make amends, and as compensation, the extraction is surer; the long process by which a child is withdrawn and instructed for the priesthood goes on and is finished with less uncertainty. Neither the light nor the murmur of the century finds its way to these low depths; nobody ever reads the newspaper, even the penny paper; vocations can here shape themselves and become fixed like crystals, intact and rigid, and all of a piece; they are better protected than in the upper layers, less exposed to mundane infiltrations; they run less risk of being disturbed or thwarted by curiosity, reason and scepticism, by modern ideas; the outside world and family surroundings do not, as elsewhere, interfere with their silent internal workings. When the choirboy comes home after the service, when the seminarian returns to his parents in his vacations, he does not here encounter so many disintegrating influences, various kinds of information, free and easy talk, comparisons between careers, concern about advancement, habits of comfort, maternal solicitude, the shrugs of the shoulder and the half-smile of the strong-minded neighbor; stone upon stone and each stone in its place, his faith gains strength and completedness without any incoherency in its structure, with no incongruity in the materials, without having deviated from a plumb-line. He has been taken in hand before his twelfth year, when very young; his curé, who has been instructed from above to secure suitable subjects, has singled him out in the catechism class and again at the ceremony of confirmation;1 he is found to have a pious tendency and a taste for sacred ceremonies, a suitable demeanor, a mild disposition, complacency, and is inclined to study; he is a docile and well-behaved child; whether an acolyte at the altar or in the sacristy, he tries to fold the chasuble properly; all his genuflexions are correct, they do not worry him, he has no trouble in standing still, he is not excited and diverted, like the others, by the eruptions of animal spirits and rustic coarseness. If his rude brain is open to cultivation, if grammar and Latin can take root in it, the curé or the vicar at once take charge of him; he studies under them, gratis or nearly so, until he is far enough advanced, and he then enters the lower seminary.
This is a school apart, a boarding-house of picked youths, an inclosed hot-house intended for the preservation and development of special vocations. None of these schools existed previous to 1789; at the present day, they number eighty-six in France, and all the pupils are to become future priests. No foreign plants, no future laymen, are admitted into this preparatory nursery;1 for experience has shown that if the lower seminary is mixed it no longer attains its ecclesiastical purpose; “it habitually turns over to the upper seminary only the foot of the classes; those at the head seek fortune elsewhere”; on the contrary, “in the lower seminaries kept pure, the entire rhetoric class passes on into the upper seminary; not only do they obtain the foot of the classes but the head.”—The culture, in this second nursery, which is prolonged during five years, becomes extreme, wholly special; it was less so under the ancient régime, even at Saint-Sulpice; there was breakage in the glass which let in currents of air; the archbishop’s nephews and the younger sons of nobles predestined for Church dignities had introduced into it the laxity and liberties which were then the privileges of the episcopacy. During the vacations,2 fairy scenes and pastorals were performed there with costumes and dances, “The Enthronement of the Great Mogul,” and the “Shepherds in Chains”; the seminarians took great care of their hair; a first-class hair-dresser came and waited on them; the doors were not regularly shut: the youthful Talleyrand knew how to get out into the city and begin or continue his gallantries.1 From and after the Concordat, stricter discipline in the new seminaries had become monastic; these are practical schools, not for knowledge, but for training, the object being much less to make learned men than believing priests; education takes precedence of instruction and intellectual exercises are made subordinate to spiritual exercises2 —mass every day and five visits to the Saint-Sacrament, with minute or half-hour prayer stations; rosaries of sixty-three paters and aves, litanies, the angelus, loud and whispered prayers, special self-examinations, meditation on the knees, edifying readings in common, silence until one o’clock in the afternoon, silence at meals and the listening to an edifying discourse, frequent communions, weekly confessions, general confession at New-year’s, one day of retreat at the end of every month after the vacations and before the collation of each of the four orders, eight days of retirement during which a suspension of all study, morning and evening sermons, spiritual readings, meditations, orisons and other services from hour to hour;1 in short, the daily and systematic application of a wise and steadily perfected method, the most serviceable for fortifying faith, exalting the imagination, giving direction and impulse to the will, analogous to that of a military school, Saint-Cyr or Saumur, to such an extent that its corporeal and mental imprint is indelible, and that by the way in which he thinks, talks, smiles, bows and stands in your presence we at once recognize a former pupil of Saint-Sulpice as we do a former pupil of Saumur and of Saint-Cyr.
Thus graduated, an ordained and consecrated priest, first a vicar and then a curé desservant, the discipline which has bound and fashioned him still keeps him erect and presenting arms. Besides his duties in church and his ministrations in the homes of his parishioners, besides masses, vespers, sermons, catechisings, confessions, communions, baptisms, marriages, extreme unctions, funerals, visiting the sick and suffering, he has his personal and private exercises: at first, his breviary, the reading of which demands each day an hour and a half, no practical duty being so necessary. Lamennais obtained a dispensation from it, and hence his lapses and fall.2 Let no one object that such a recitation soon becomes mechanical3 ; the prayers, phrases and words which it buries deep in the mind, even wandering, necessarily become fixed inhabitants in it, and hence occult and stirring powers banded together which encompass the intellect and lay siege to the will, which, in the subterranean regions of the soul, gradually extend or fortify their silent occupation of the place, which insensibly operate on the man without his being aware of it, and which, at critical moments, unexpectedly rise up to steady his footsteps or to save him from temptation. Add to this antique custom two modern institutions which contribute to the same end. The first one is the monthly conference, which brings together the desservans curés at the residence of the oldest curé in the canton; each has prepared a study on some theme furnished by the bishopric, some question of dogma, morality or religious history, which he reads aloud and discusses with his brethren under the presidency and direction of the oldest curé, who gives his final decision; this keeps theoretical knowledge and ecclesiastical erudition fresh in the minds of both reader and hearers. The other institution, almost universal nowadays, is the annual retreat which the priests in the diocese pass in the large seminary of the principal town. The plan of it was traced by Saint Ignatius; his Exercitia is still to-day the manual in use, the text of which is literally,1 or very nearly, followed.2 The object is to reconstitute the supernatural world in the soul, for, in general, it evaporates, becomes effaced, and ceases to be palpable under the pressure of the natural world. Even the faithful pay very little attention to it, while their vague conception of it ends in becoming a mere verbal belief; it is essential to give them back the positive sensation, the contact and feeling. To this end, a man retires to a suitable place, where what he does actively or passively is hourly determined for him in advance—attendance at chapel or at preaching, telling his beads, litanies, orisons aloud, orisons in his own breast, repeated self-examination, confession and the rest—in short, an uninterrupted series of diversified and convergent ceremonies which, by calculated degrees, drive out terrestrial preoccupations and overcome him with spiritual impressions; immediately around him, impressions of the same kind followed by the contagion of example, mutual fervor, common expectation, involuntary emulation, and that overstrained eagerness which creates its object; with all the more certainty that the individual himself works on himself, in silence, five hours a day, according to the prescriptions of a profound psychology, in order that his bare conception may take upon itself body and substance. Whatever may be the subject of his meditations, he repeats it twice the same day, and each time he begins by “creating the scene,” the Nativity or the Passion, the Day of Judgment or Hell; he converts the remote and undefined story, the dry, abstract dogma, into a detailed and figured representation; he dwells on it, he evokes in turn the images furnished by the five senses, visual, audible, tactile, olfactory, and even gustatory; he groups them together, and in the evening he animates them afresh in order that he may find them more intense when he awakes the next morning. He thus obtains the complete, precise, almost physical spectacle of his aspirations; he reaches the alibi, that mental transposition, that reversal of the points of view in which the order of certainties becomes inverted, in which substantial objects seem to be vain phantoms and the mystic world a world of substantial reality.—According to persons and circumstances, the theme for meditation differs, and the retreat is prolonged for a shorter or longer period. For laymen, it generally lasts for three days only; for the Brethren of the Christian Schools it is eight days annually, and when, at the age of twenty-eight, they take their vows in perpetuity, it lasts thirty days: for the secular priests, it lasts a little less than a week, while the theme on which their meditations are concentrated is the supernatural character of the priest. The priest who is confessor and ministrant of the Eucharist, the priest who is the saviour and restorer, the priest who is pastor, preacher and administrator—such are the subjects on which their imagination, assisted and directed, must work in order to compose the cordial which has to support them for the entire year. None is more potent; that which the Puritans drank at an American camp-meeting or at a Scotch revival was stronger but of less enduring effect.1
Two different cordials, one strengthening the other, are mixed together in this drink, both being of high flavor and so rank as to burn an ordinary mouth.—On the one hand, with the freedom of language and the boldness of deduction characteristic of the method, the sentiment of the priest’s dignity is exalted. What is the priest? “He is, between God who is in heaven and the man who tries to find him on earth, a being, God and man, who brings these nearer by his impersonating both.1 . . . I do not flatter you with pious hyperboles in calling you gods; this is not a rhetorical falsehood. . . . You are creators similar to Mary in her coöperation in the Incarnation. . . . You are creators like God in time. . . . You are creators like God in eternity. Our creation on our part, our daily creation, is nothing less than the Word made flesh itself. . . . God may create other worlds, he cannot so order it that any act under the sun can be greater than your sacrifice; for, at this moment, he reposes in your hands all that he has and all that he is. . . . I am not a little lower than the cherubim and seraphim in the government of the world, I am far above them; they are only the servants of God, we are his coadjutors. . . . The angels, who behold the vast riches passing through our hands daily, are amazed at our prerogative. . . . I fulfil three sublime functions in relation to the god of our altars—I cause him to descend, I administer his body, I am his custodian. . . . Jesus dwells under your lock and key; his hours of reception begin and end through you, he does not move without your permission, he gives no benediction without your assistance, he bestows nothing except at your hands, and his dependence is so dear to him that, for eighteen hundred years, he has not left the Church for one moment to lose himself on the glory of his Father.”—On the other hand, they are made to drink in full draughts the sentiment of subordination, which they imbibe to their very marrow.2 “Ecclesiastical obedience is . . . a love of dependence, a violation of judgment. . . . Would you know what it is as to the extent of sacrifice? A voluntary death, the sepulchre of the will, says Saint Climaque. . . . There is a sort of real presence infused into those who command us. . . . ” Let us be careful not to fall “into the crafty opposition of liberal Catholicism. . . . Liberalism, in its consequences, is social atheism. . . . Unity, in Roman faith, is not sufficient; let us labor together in the unity of the Roman spirit; for that, let us always judge Rome with the optimism of affection. . . . Each new dogmatic definition produces its own advantages: that of the Immaculate Conception has given us Lourdes and its truly œcumenical wonders.”
Nothing of all this is too much, and, in the face of the exigencies of modern times, it scarcely suffices. Now that society has become incredulous, indifferent or, at the least, laic, the priest must possess the two intense and master ideas which support a soldier abroad among insurgents or barbarians, one being the conviction that he is of a species and essence apart, infinitely superior to the common herd; and the other is the thought that he belongs to his flag, to his chiefs, especially to the commanding general, and that he has given himself up entirely to prompt obedience, to obeying every order issued without question or doubt. Thus, in that parish where the permanent curé was once installed, especially in the rural districts,1 the legal and popular governor of all souls, his successor, the removable desservant, is merely a resident bailiff, a sentry in his box, at the opening of a road which the public at large no longer travel. From time to time he hails you! But scarcely any one listens to him. Nine out of ten men pass at a distance, along a newer, more convenient and broader road. They either nod to him afar off or give him the go-by. Some are even ill-disposed, watching him or denouncing him to the ecclesiastic or lay authorities on which he depends. He is expected to make his orders respected and yet not hated, to be zealous and yet not importunate, to act and yet not efface himself: he succeeds pretty often, thanks to the preparation just described, and, in his rural sentry-box, patient, resigned, obeying his orders, he mounts guard lonely and in solitude, a guard which, for the past fifteen years, is disturbed and anxious and becoming singularly difficult.
Artaud, “Histoire de Pie VII.,” i., 167.
Comte d’Haussonville, “L’Église romaine et le premier Empire, iv., 378, 415. (Instructions for the ecclesiastical commission of 1811.) “The Pope exercised the authority of universal bishop at the time of the re-establishment of the cult in France. . . . The Pope, under the warrant of an extraordinary and unique case in the Church, acted, after the Concordat, as if he had absolute power over the bishops.” (Speech by Bigot de Préameneu, Minister of Worship, at the national council, June 20, 1811.) This act was almost universal in the history of the Church, and the court of Rome started from this sort of extraordinary act, passed by it at the request of the sovereign, in order to enforce its ideas of arbitrary rule over the bishops.”
So stated by Napoleon.
Bossuet, “Œuvres complètes, xxxii., 415. (Defensio cleri gallicani, lib. viii. 14.)—“Episcopis, licet papæ divino jure subditos, ejusdem esse ordinis, ejusdem caracteris, sive, ut loquitur Hieronymus, ejusdem meriti, ejusdem, sacerdotii, col. legasque et coepiscopos appelari constat, scitumque illud Bernardi ad Eugenium papam: Non so dominus episcoporum, sed unus ex illus.”
Comte Boulay (de la Meurthe), “les négociations du Concordat,” p. 35.—There were 50 vacancies in 135 dioceses, owing to the death of their incumbents.
Bercastel and Henrion, xiii., 43. (Observations of Abbé Emery on the Concordat.) “The Popes who have stretched their authority the farthest and, in general, all the Popes, in the whole series of centuries, have not struck such heavy, authoritative blows, so important as those struck at this time by Pius VII.”
Prælectiones juris canonici habitæ in seminario Sancti Sulpici, 1867 (by Abbé Icard), i., 138. “Sancti canones passim memorant distinctionem duplicis potestatis quâ utitur sanctus pontifex: unam appelant ordinariam, aliam absolutam, vel plenitudinem potestatis. . . . Pontifex potestate ordinaria utitur, quando juris positivi dispositionem retinet. . . . Potestatem extraordinariam exserit, quando jus humanum non servat, ut si jus ipsum auferat, si legibus conciliorum deroget, privilegia acquisita immutet. . . . Plenitudo potestatis nullis publici juris regulis est limitata.”—Ibid., i., 333.
Bercastel et Henrion, xiii., 192. Cardinal Fesch having been banished from France by the law of January 12, 1816, “the Pope no longer regarded the person of the cardinal, but the diocese that had to be saved at any cost, by virtue of the principle salus populi suprema lex. Consequently, he prohibited the cardinal from “exercising episcopal jurisdiction in his metropolitan church, and constituted M. de Bernis administrator of that church, spiritually as well as temporally, notwithstanding all constitutions decreed even by the general councils, the apostolic ordinances, privileges, etc.”
Principal Concordats: with Bavaria, 1817; with Prussia, 1821; with Wurtemburg, Baden, Nassau, the two Hesses, 1821; with Hanover, 1824; with the Netherlands, 1827; with Russia, 1847; with Austria, 1855; with Spain, 1851; with the two Sicilies, 1818; with Tuscany, 1851; with Portugal (for the patronat of the Indies and of China), 1857; with Costa Rica, 1852; Guatemala, 1853; Haiti, 1860; Honduras, 1861; Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua and San Salvador, 1862.
Bercastel et Henrion, xiii, 524.
“Adstantibus non judicantibus.”—One of the prelates assembled at the Vatican, Nov. 20, 1854, observed that if the Pope decided on the definition of the Immaculate Conception . . . this decision would furnish a practical demonstration . . . of the infallibility with which Jesus Christ had invested his vicar on earth.” (Émile Ollivier, “L’Église et l’État au concile du Vatican, i., 313.)
Bercastel et Henrion, xiii., 105. (Circular of Pius VII., February 25, 1808.) “It is said that all cults should be free and publicly exercised; but we have thrown this article out as opposed to the canons and to the councils, to the Catholic religion.”—Ibid. (Pius VII. to the Italian bishops on the French system, May 22, 1808.) “This system of indifferentism, which supposes no religion, is that which is most injurious and most opposed to the Catholic apostolic and Roman religion, which, because it is divine, is necessarily sole and unique and, on that very account, cannot ally itself with any other.”—Cf. the “Syllabus” and the encyclical letter “Quanta Cura” of December 8, 1864.
Sauzay, “Histoire de la persecution révolutionnaire dans le département du Doubs,” x., 720-773. (List in detail of the entire staff of the diocese of Besançon, in 1801 and in 1822, under Archbishop Lecoz, a former assermenté.)—During the Empire, and especially after 1806, this mixed clergy keeps refining itself. A large number, moreover, of assermentés do not return to the Church. They are not disposed to retract, and many of them enter into the new university. For example (“Vie du Cardinal Bonnechose,” by M. Besson, i., 24), the principal teachers in the Roman college in 1815-1816 were a former Capuchin, a former Oratorian and three assermentés priests. One of these, M. Nicolas Bignon, docteur ès lettres, professor of grammar in the year iv at the Ecole Centrale, then professor of rhetoric at the Lycée and member of the Roman Academy. “lived as a philosopher, not as a Christian and still less as a priest.” Naturally, he is dismissed in 1816. After that date, the purging goes on increasing against all ecclesiastics suspected of having compromised with the Revolution, either liberals or Jansenists.
Cf. the “Mémoires de l’abbé Babou, évêque nommé de Séez,” on the difficulties encountered by a too Gallican bishop and on the bitterness towards him of the local aristocracy of his diocese.
“Mémorial,” July 31, 1816.
Both systems, set forth with rare impartiality and clearness, may be found in “L’Église et l’Etat au concile du Vatican,” by Emile Ollivier, i., chs. ii. and iii.
Bercastel et Henrion, xiii., p. 14. (Letter of M. d’Avian, archbishop of Bordeaux, October 28, 1815.) “A dozen consecutive Popes do not cease, for more than one hundred and thirty years, improving that famous Declaration of 1682.”
Émile Olliver, ibid., i. 315-319. (Declarations of the French provincial councils and of foreign national and provincial councils before 1870.)—Cf. M. de Montalembert, “Des Intérets Catholiques,” 1852, ch. ii. and vi. “The ultramontane doctrine is the only true one. The great Count de Maistre’s ideas in his treatise on the Pope have become commonplace for all Catholic youth.”—Letter of Mgr. Guibert, February 22, 1853. “Gallicanism no longer exists.”—“Diary in France,” by Chris. Wordsworth, D.D., 1845. “There are not two bishops in France who are not ultramontane, that is to say devoted to the interests of the Roman See.”
“Constitutio dogmatica prima de ecclesia Christi,” July 18, 1870. “Ejusmodi romani pontificis definitiones exsesi, non ex consensu Ecclesiæ irreformabiles esse.”
Ibid., ch. iii. “Si quis dixerit romanum pontificem habere tantummodo officium inspectionis vel directionis, non autem plenam et supremam potestatem juridictionis in universam Ecclesiam, non solum in rebus quæ ad fidem et mores, sed etiam in iis quæ ad disciplinam et regimen Ecclesiæ per totum orbem diffusæ pertinent; aut etiam habere tantum potiores partes, non vero totam plenitudinem hujus supremæ potestatis, aut hanc ejus potestatem non esse ordinariam et immediatem. . . . ”
Ibid., ch. iii. “Aberrant à recto veritatis tramite qui affirmant licere ab judiciis Romanorum pontificum ad œcumenicum concilium, tanquam ad auctoritatem romane pontifice superiorem, appellare.”
“Almanach national de 1889.” (Among these four, one only belongs to a historic family, Mgr. de Deux-Brézé of Moulins.)
See “The Ancient Régime,” pp. 65, 120, 150, 292.
Cf. the history of the parliaments of Grenoble and Rennes on the approach of the Revolution. Remark the fidelity of all their judicial subordinates in 1788 and 1789, and the provincial power of the league thus formed.
“The Revolution,” Vol. I.—Abbé Sicard, “Les Dispensateurs des bénéfices ecclésiastiques avant 1789.” (“Correspondant” of Sep. 10, 1889, pp. 887, 892, 893.) Grosley, “Mémoires pour servir l’histoire de Troyes,” ii., pp. 35, 45.
Abbé Elie Méric, “Le Clergé sous l’ancien régime,” i., p. 26. (Ten universities conferred letters of appointment on their graduates.)—Abbé Sicard, “Les Dispensateurs,” etc., p. 876.—352 parliamentarians of Paris had an indult, that is to say, the right of obliging collators and church patrons to bestow the first vacant benefice either on himself or on one of his children, relations or friends. Turgot gave his indult to his friend Abbé Morellet, who consequently obtained (in June 1788) the priory of Thimer, with 16,000 livres revenue and a handsome house.—Ibid., p. 887. “The bias of the Pope, ecclesiastical or lay patrons, licensed parties, indultaires, graduates, the so frequent use of resignations, permutations, pensions, left to the bishop, who is now undisputed master of his diocesan appointments, but very few situations to bestow.”—Grosley, “Mémoires, etc.,” ii., p. 35. “The tithes followed collations. Nearly all our ecclesiastical collators are at the same time large tithe-owners.”
An inferior class of priests, generally assigned to poor parishes.
Abbé Elie Méric, ibid., p. 448.
Abbé Elie Méric, ibid., pp. 392-403. (Details in support.)
Abbé Richandeau, “De l’ancienne et de la nouvelle discipline de l’Église en France,” p. 281. Cf. Abbé Elie Méric, ibid., ch. ii. (On the justice and judges of the Church.)
Mercur, “Tableau de Paris,” iv., chap. 345. “The flock no longer recognize the brow of their pastor and regard him as nothing but an opulent man, enjoying himself in the capital and giving himself very little trouble about it.”
“Le Monde” of Novem. 9, 1890. (Details, according to the Montpellier newspapers, of the ceremony which had just taken place in the cathedral of that town for the remission of the pallium to Mgr. Roverié de Cabrières.
“Encyclopédie théologique,” by Abbé Migne, ix., p. 465. (M. Emery, “Des Nouveaux chapitres cathédraux,” p. 238.) “The custom in France at present, of common law, is that the bishops govern their dioceses without the participation of any chapter. They simply call to their council those they deem proper, and choose from these their chapter and cathedral councillors.”
Ibid., id.: “Notwithstanding these fine titles, the members of the chapter take no part in the government during the life of the bishop; all depends on this prelate, who can do everything himself, or, if he needs assistants, he may take them outside of the chapter.” Ibid., p. 445. Since 1802, in France, “the titular canons are appointed by the bishop and afterwards by the government, which gives them a salary. It is only the shadow of the canonical organization, of which, however, they possess all the canonical rights.”
Abbé André, “Exposition de quelques principes fondamentaux de droit canonique,” p. 187 (citing on this subject one of the documents of Mgr. Sibour, then bishop of Digne).—“Since the Concordat of 1801, the absence of all fixed procedure in the trial of priests has left nothing for the accused to depend on but the conscience and intelligence of the bishop. The bishop, accordingly, has been, in law, as in fact, the sole pastor and judge of his clergy, and, except in rare cases, no external limit has been put to the exercise of his spiritual authority.”
Émile Ollivier, “L’Église et l’État au concile du Vatican,” p. 517.—Abbé André, ibid., pp. 17, 19, 30, 280. (Various instances, particularly the appeal of a rural curé, Feb. 8, 1866.) “The metropolitan (bishop) first remarked that he could not bring himself to condemn his suffragan.” Next (Feb. 20, 1866), judgment confirmed by the metropolitan court, declaring “that no reason exists for declaring exaggerated and open to reform the penalty of depriving the rector of the parish of X——of his title, a title purely conferred by and revocable at the will of the bishop.”
Émile Ollivier, ibid., ii., 517, 516. Abbé André, ibid., p. 241. “During the first half of the nineteenth century no appeal could be had from the Church of France to Rome.”
Émile Ollivier, ibid., i., p. 286. Abbé André, ibid., p. 242: “From 1803 to 1854 thirty-eight appeals under writ of error (were presented) to the Council of State by priests accused. . . . Not one of the thirty-eight appeals was admitted.”
Prælectiones juris canonici habitæ in seminario Sancti Sulpicii, iii., p. 146.
Émile Ollivier, ibid., i., 136.
Id., ibid., i., p. 285. (According to Abbé Denys, “Études sur l’administration de l’Église,” p. 211.)—Cf. Abbé André, ibid., and “L’État actuel du clergé en France par les frères Allignol” (1839).—This last work, written by two assistant-curés, well shows, article by article, the effects of the Concordat and the enormous distance which separates the clergy of to-day from the old clergy. The modifications and additions which comport with this exposition are indicated by Abbé Richandeau, director of the Blois Seminary, in his book, “De l’ancienne et de la nouvelle discipline de l’Église en France” (1842). Besides this, the above exposition, as well as what follows, is derived from, in addition to printed documents, personal observations, much oral information, and numerous manuscript letters.
“Manreze du prêtre,” by the R. P. Caussette, vicar-general of Toulouse, 1879, t. ii., p. 523. (As stated by the Abbé Dubois, an experienced missionary. He adds that these priests, “transferred to difficult posts, are always on good terms with their mayors, . . . triumph over obstacles, and maintain peace.”)—Ibid., i., p. 312. “I do not know whether the well-informed consciences of our lords the bishops have made any mistakes, but what pardons have they not granted! what scandals have they not suppressed! what reputations have they not preserved! What a misfortune if you have to do with a court instead of with a father! For the court acquits and does not pardon. . . . And your bishop may not only employ the mercy of forgiveness, but, again, that of secrecy. How reap the advantages of this paternal system by calumniating it!”
“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” by Abbé Lagrange, ii., p. 43: “Mgr. Dupanloup believed that pastoral removal was very favorable, not to say necessary, to the good administration of a diocese, to the proper management of parishes, even to the honor of priests and the Church, considering the difficulties of the times we live in. Irremovability was instituted for fortunate times and countries in which the people fulfilled all their duties and in which the sacerdotal ministry could not be otherwise than a simple ministry of conservation; at the present day it is a ministry of conquest and of apostleship. The priest, accordingly, must dispose of his priests as he thinks them fit for this work, according to their zeal and to their possible success in a country which has to be converted.” Against the official character and publicity of its judgments “it is important that it should not make out of a misfortune which is reparable a scandal that nothing can repair.”
“Moniteur,” session of March 11, 1865.
“The Ancient Régime,” pp. 65, 120, 150, 292. “Memoires inédits de Madame de——” (I am not allowed to give the author’s name). The type in high relief of one of these prelates a few years before the Revolution may here be found. He was bishop of Narbonne, with an income of 800,000 livres derived from the possessions of the clergy. He passed a fortnight every other year at Narbonne, and then for six weeks he presided with ability and propriety over the provincial parliament at Montpellier. But during the other twenty-two months he gave no thought to any parliamentary business or to his diocese, and lived at Haute Fontaine with his niece, Madame de Rothe, of whom he was the lover. Madame de Dillon, his grand-niece, and the Prince de Guémenée, the lover of Madame de Dillon, lived in the same château. The proprieties of deportment were great enough, but language there was more than free, so much so that the Marquise d’Osmond, on a visit, “was embarrassed even to shedding tears. . . . On Sunday, out of respect to the character of the master of the house, they went to Mass; but nobody carried a prayer-book; it was always some gay and often scandalous book, which was left lying about in the tribune of the château, open to those who cleaned the room, for their edification as they pleased.”
“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” by Abbé Lagrange.—“Histoire du Cardinal Pie, évêque de Poitiers,” by Mgr. Bannard.
“Moniteur,” session of March 14, 1865, speech of Cardinal de Bonnechose: “I exact full obedience, because I myself, like those among you who belong to the army or navy, have always taken pride in thus rendering it to my chiefs, to my superiors.”
“Histoire du Cardinal Pie,” by M. Bannard, ii., p. 690. M. Pie left six large volumes in which, for thirty years, he recorded his episcopal acts, uninterruptedly, until his last illness.
Ibid., ii., p. 135: “In the year 1860 he had confirmed 11,586 belonging to his diocese; in 1861 he confirmed 11,845.”—“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” by Abbé La Grange, iii., p. 19. (Letter to his clergy, 1863.) He enumerates what he had done in his diocese: “The parochial retraites which have amounted to nearly one hundred; the perpetual adoration of the Holy Sacrament established in all the parishes; confirmation, not alone in the cantonal town but in the smallest villages and always preceded by the mission; the canonical visit made annually in each parish, partly by the archdeacon, partly by the dean, and partly by the bishop; . . . the vicarships doubled; life in common established among the parochial clergy; sisters of charity for schools and the sick multiplied in the diocese and spread on all sides; augmentation of everything concerning ecclesiastical studies, the number of small and large seminaries being largely increased; examinations of young priests; ecclesiastical lectures; grades organized and raised; churches and rectories everywhere rebuilt or repaired; a great diocesan work in helping poor parishes and, to sustain it, the diocesan lottery and fair of the ladies of Orleans; finally, retraites and communions for men established, and also in other important towns and parishes of the diocese.” (P. 46.) (Letter of January 26, 1846, prescribing in each parish the exact holding of the status animarum, which status is his criterion for placing a curé.) “The État de Pâques in his parish must always be known while he is in it, before withdrawing him and placing him elsewhere.”
“Moniteur,” session of March 14, 1865. (Speech of Cardinal de Bonnechose.) “What would we do without our monks, Jesuits, Dominicans, Carmelites, etc., to preach at Advent and during Lent, and act as missionaries in the country? The (parochial) clergy is not numerous enough to do this daily work.”
Prælectiones juris canonici, ii., 305 and following pages.
“La Charité à Nancy,” by Abbé Girard, 1890, 1 vol.—“La Charité à Angers,” by Léon Cosnier, 1890, 2 vols.—“Manuel des œuvres et institutions charitable à Paris,” by Lacour, 1 vol.—“Les Congrégations religieuses en France,” by Émile Keller, 1880, 1 vol.
“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” i., 506 (1853). “More than one hundred free ecclesiastical establishments for secondary education have been founded since the law of 1850.”—“Statistique de l’enseignement secondaire.” In 1865, there were 276 free ecclesiastical schools for secondary instruction with 34,897 pupils, of which 23,549 were boarders and 11,348 day-scholars. In 1876, there were 390 with 46,816 pupils, of which 33,092 were boarders and 13,724 day-scholars.
“La Charité à Nancy,” by Abbé Girard, p. 87.—“Vie du Cardinal Mathieu,” by Mgr. Besson, 2 vols.
Cf., in the above-mentioned biographies, the public and political discourses of the leading prelates, especially those of M. Mathieu (of Besançon), M. Dupanloup (of Orleans), Mgr. de Bonnechose (of Rouen), and particularly Mgr. Pie (of Poitiers).
A fact told me by a lady, an eye-witness. In the seventeenth century it is probable that Fénelon or Bossuet would have regarded such a response as extravagant and even sacrilegious.
Abbé Elie Méric, in the “Correspondant” of January 10, 1890, p. 18.
“De l’État actuel du clergé en France” (1839), p. 248, by the brothers Allignol. Careers of every kind are too crowded; “only the ecclesiastical is in want of subjects; willing youths are the only ones wanted and none are found.” This is due, say these authors, to the profession of assistant-priest being too gloomy—eight years of preparatory study, five years in the seminary, 800 francs of pay with the risk of losing it any day, poor extras, a life-servitude, no retiring pension, etc.—“Le Grand Péril de l’Église en France,” by Abbé Bougaud (4th ed., 1879), pp. 2-23.—“Lettre Circulaire” (No. 53) of Mgr. Thiebaut, archbishop of Rouen, 1890, p. 618.
There is a gradual suppression of the subvention in 1877 and 1853 and a final one in 1885.
Abbé Bougaud, ibid., p. 118, etc.—The lower seminary contains about 200 or 250 pupils. Scarcely one of these pays full board. They pay on the average from 100 to 200 frs. per head, while their maintenance costs 400 francs.—The instructors who are priests get 600 francs a year. Those who are not priests get 300 francs, which adds 12,000 francs to the expenses and brings the total deficit up to 42,000 or 52,000 francs.
Circular letter (No. 53) of M. Léon, archbishop of Rouen (1890), p. 618 and following pages.
Abbé Bougaud, ibid., p. 135. (Opinion of the archbishop of Aix, ibid., p. 138.) “I know a lower seminary in which a class en quatrième of 44 pupils furnished only 4 priests, 40 having dropped out on the way. . . . I have been informed that a large collège in Paris, conducted by priests and containing 400 pupils, turned out in ten years but one of an ecclesiastical calling.”—“Moniteur,” March, 14, 1865. (Speech in the Senate by Cardinal Bonnechose.) “With us, discipline begins at an early age, first in the lower seminary and then in the upper seminary. . . . Other nations envy us our seminaries. They have not succeeded in establishing any like them. They cannot keep pupils so long; their pupils enter their seminaries only as day scholars.”
“Histoire de M. Emery,” by Abbé Elie Méric, i., 15, 17. “From 1786 onwards, the toleration of the drama was allowed to the philosophers, the ‘Robertuis’ and the Laon community; it was excluded from the great seminary where it ought never to have been admitted.” This reform was effected by the new director, M. Emery, and met with such opposition that it almost cost him his life.
M. de Talleyrand, “Mémoires,” vol. i. (Concerning one of his gallantries.) “The superiors might have had some suspicion, . . . but Abbé Couturier had shown them how to shut their eyes. He had taught them not to reprove a young seminarist whom they believed destined to a high position, who might become coadjutor at Rheims, perhaps a cardinal, perhaps minister, minister de la feuille—who knows?”
“Diary in France,” by Christopher Wordsworth, D.D., 1845. (Weakness of the course of study at Saint-Sulpice.) “There is no regular course of lectures on ecclesiastical history.”—There is still at the present day no special course of Greek for learning to read the New Testament in the original.—“Le clergé français en 1890” (by an anonymous ecclesiastic), pp. 24-38. “High and substantial service is lacking with us. . . . For a long time, the candidates for the episcopacy are exempt by a papal bull from the title of doctor.”—In the seminary there are discussions in barbarous Latin, antiquated subjects, bits of text, cut out and wire-drawn: “They have not learned how to think. . . . . Their science is good for nothing; they have no means or methods even for learning. . . . The Testament of Christ is what they are most ignorant of. . . . A priest who devotes himself to study is regarded either as a pure speculator unfit for the government, or with an ambition which nothing can satisfy, or again an odd, ill-humored, ill-balanced person; we live under the empire of this stupid prejudice. . . . We have archeologists, assyriologists, geologists, philologists and other one-sided savants. The philosophers, theologians, historians, and canonists have become rare.”
“Journal d’un voyage en France,” by Th. W. Allies, 1845, p. 38. (Table of daily exercises in Saint-Sulpice furnished by Abbé Caron, former secretary to the archbishop of Paris.)—Cf. in “Volupté,” by Saint-Beuve, the same table furnished by Lacordaire.
“Manreze du prêtre,” by the Rev. Father Caussete, i., 82.
Ibid., i., 48. “Out of 360 meditations made by a priest during the year, 300 of them are arid.” We have the testimony of Abbé d’Astros on the efficacy of prayers committed to memory, who was in prison for three years under the first empire and without any books. “I knew the psalms by heart and, thanks to this converse with God, which escaped the jailor, I was never troubled with ennui.”
As with the “Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes,” whose society has the most members.
“Manreze du prêtre,” by the Rev. Father Caussette, i., 9. The Manreze is the grotto where Saint Ignatius found the plan of his Exercitia and the three ways by which a man succeeds in detaching himself from the world, “the purgative, the illuminative and the unitive.” The author says that he has brought all to the second way, as the most suitable for priests. He himself preached pastoral retreats everywhere in France, his book being a collection of rules for retreats of this kind.
One of these enduring effects is the intense faith of the prelates, who in the last century believed so little. At the present day, not made bishops until about fifty years of age, thirty of which have been passed in exercises of this description, their piety has taken the Roman, positive, practical turn which terminates in devotions properly so called. M. Emery, the reformer of Saint-Sulpice, gave the impulsion in this sense. (“Histoire de M. Emery,” by Abbé Elie Méric, p. 115 etc.) M. Emery addressed the seminarians thus: “Do you think that, if we pray to the Holy Virgin sixty times a day to aid us at the hour of death, she will desert us at the last moment?”—“He led us into the chapel, which he had decked with reliquaries. . . . He made the tour of it, kissing in turn each reliquary with respect and love, and when he found one of them out of reach for this homage, he said to us, ‘Since we cannot kiss that one, let us accord it our profoundest reverence!’ . . . And we all three kneeled before the reliquary.”—Among other episcopal lives, that of Cardinal Pie, bishop of Poitiers, presents the order of devotion in high relief. (“Histoire du Cardinal Pie,” by M. Bannard, ii., 348 and passim.) There was a statuette of the Virgin on his bureau. After his death, a quantity of paper scraps, in Latin or French, written and placed there by him-were found, dedicating this or that action, journey or undertaking under the special patronage of the Virgin or St. Joseph. He also possessed a statuette of Our Lady of Lourdes which never was out of his sight, day or night. “One day, having gone out of his palace, he suddenly returned, having forgotten something—he had neglected to kiss the feet of his Heavenly Mother.”—Cf. “Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” Abbé Lagrange, i., 524. “During his mother’s illness, he multiplied the neuvaines, visited every altar, made vows, burnt candles, for not only had he devotion, but devotions. . . . On the 2d of January, 1849, there was fresh alarm; thereupon, a neuvaine at Saint-Geneviève and a vow—no longer the chaplet, but the rosary. Then, as the fête of Saint François de Sales drew near, a new neuvaine to this great Savoyard saint; prayers to the Virgin in Saint-Sulpice; to the faithful Virgin; to the most wise Virgin, everywhere.”
“Manreze du prêtre,” i., 27, 29, 30, 31, 35, 91, 92, 244, 246, 247, 268.
Ibid., i., 279, 281, 301, 307, 308, 319.
“Le clergé française en 1890” (by an anonymous ecclesiastic), p. 72. (On the smaller parishes.) “The task of the curé here is thankless if he is zealous, too easy if he has no zeal. In any event, he is an isolated man, with no resources whatever, tempted by all the demons of solitude and inactivity.”—Ibid., 92. “Our authority among the common classes as well as among thinking people is held in check; the human mind is to-day fully emancipated and society secularized.”—Ibid., 15. “Indifference seems to have retired from the summits of the nation only to descend to the lower strata. . . . In France, the priest is the more liked the less he is seen; to efface himself, to disappear is what is first and oftenest demanded of him. The clergy and the nation live together side by side, scarcely in contact, through certain actions in life, and never intermingling.”