Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER III. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
I. The regular clergy.—Difference in the condition of the two clergies.—The three vows.—Rules.—Life in common.—Object of the system.—Violent suppression of the institution and its abuses in 1790.—Spontaneous revival of the institution free of its abuses after 1800.—Democratic and republican character of monastic constitutions.—Vegetation of the old stock and multiplication of new plants.—Number of monks and nuns.—Proportion of these numbers to the total population in 1789 and 1878.—Predominance of the organizations for labor and charity.—How formed and extended.—Social instinct and contact with the mystic world.—II. The mystic faculty.—Its sources and works.—Evangelical Christianity.—Its moral object and social effect.—Roman Christianity.—Development of the Christian idea in the West.—Influence of the Roman language and law.—Roman conception of the State.—Roman conception of the Church.—III. Existing Catholicism and its distinctive traits.—Authority, its prestige and supports.—Rites, the priest, the Pope.—The Catholic Church and the modern State.—Difficulties in France born out of their respective constitutions.—Other difficulties of the French system.—New and scientific conception of the world.—How opposed to the Catholic conception.—How it is propagated.—How the other is defended.—Losses and gains of the Catholic Church.—Its narrow and broad domains.—Effects of Catholic and French systems on Christian sentiment in France.—Increased among the clergy and diminished in society.
However correct the life of a secular priest may be, he stills belongs to his century. Like a layman, he has his own domicile and fireside, his parsonage in the country with a garden, or an apartment in town—in any event, his own home and household, a servant or housekeeper, who is often either his mother or a sister; in short, a suitable enclosure set apart, where he can enjoy his domestic and private life free of the encroachments on his public and ecclesiastical life, analogous to that of a lay functionary or a bachelor of steady habits. In effect, his expenses and income, his comforts and discomforts are about the same. His condition, his salary,1 his table, clothes and furniture, his out-of-door ways and habits, give him rank in the village alongside of the school-teacher and postmaster; in the large borough or small town, alongside of the justice of the peace and college professor; in the large towns, side by side with the head of a bureau or a chief of division; at Paris, in certain parishes, alongside of the prefect of police and the prefect of the Seine.2 Even in the humblest curacy, he regulates his budget monthly, spending his money without consulting anybody. When not on duty, his time is his own. He can dine out, order for himself at home a special dish, allow himself delicacies. If he does not possess every comfort, he has most of them, and thus, like a lay functionary, he may if he chooses get ahead in the world, obtain promotion to a better curacy, become irremovable, be appointed canon and sometimes mount upward, very high, to the topmost rank. Society has a hold on him through all these worldly purposes; he is too much mixed up with it to detach himself from it entirely; very often his spiritual life droops or proves abortive under so many terrestrial preoccupations.—If the Christian desires to arrive at the alibi and dwell in the life beyond, another régime is essential for him, a protection against two temptations, that is to say the abandonment of two dangerous liberties, one consisting in the power by which, being an owner of property, he disposes as he likes of what belongs to him, and the other consisting in the power by which, being master of his acts, he arranges as he pleases his daily occupations. The secular priest,1 to this end, adds also to the vow of continence which he takes, two other vows, distinct and precise. By the vow of poverty he renounces all property whatever, at least that which is fully and completely his own,2 the arbitrary use of possessions, the enjoyment of what belongs to him personally, which vow leads him to live like a poor man, to endure privations, to labor, and beyond this, even to fasting, to mortifications, to counteracting and deadening in himself all those instincts by which man rebels against bodily suffering and aims at physical well-being. By the vow of obedience he gives himself up entirely to a double authority: one, in writing, which is discipline, and the other a living being, consisting of the superior whose business it is to interpret, apply and enforce the rule. Except in unheard-of cases, where the superior’s injunctions might be expressly and directly opposed to the letter of this rule,3 he interdicts himself from examining, even in his own breast, the motives, propriety and occasion of the act prescribed to him; he has alienated in advance future determinations by entirely abandoning self-government; henceforth, his internal motor is outside of himself and in another person. Consequently, the unforeseen and spontaneous initiative of free will disappears in his conduct to give way to a predetermined, obligatory and fixed command, to a system (cadre) which envelops him and binds together in its rigid compartments the entire substance and details of his life, anticipating the distribution of his time for a year, week by week, and for every day, hour by hour, defining imperatively and circumstantially all action or inaction, physical or mental, all work and all leisure, silence and speech, prayers and readings, abstinences and meditations, solitude and companionship, hours for rising and retiring, meals, quantity and quality of food, attitudes, salutations, bearing, tone and forms of language and, still better, mute thoughts and the deepest sentiments. Moreover, through the periodical repetition of the same acts at the same hours, he confines himself to a cycle of habits which are forces, and which keep growing since they are ever turning the inward balance on the same side through the ever-increasing weight of his entire past. Through a table and lodging in common, through a communion of prayer, through incessant contact with other brethren of the same religious observances, through the precaution taken to join with him one companion when he goes out and two companions when he lodges elsewhere, through his visits to and fro to the head establishment, he lives in a circle of souls strained to the same extent, by the same processes, to the same end as himself, and whose visible zeal maintains his own.—Grace, in this state of things, abounds. Such is the term bestowed on the silent and steady, or startling and brusque, emotion by which the Christian enters into communication with the invisible world, an aspiration and a hope, a presentiment and a divination, and even often a distinct perception. Evidently, this grace is not far off, almost within reach of the souls which, from the tenor of their whole life, strive to attain it. Closed on the earthly side, therefore, these can no longer look or breathe otherwise than heavenward.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the monastic institution no longer produced this effect; deformed, weakened and discredited through its abuses, especially in the convents of males, and then violently overthrown by the Revolution, it seemed to be dead. But, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, behold it springing up again spontaneously, in one direct, new, strong and active jet and higher than the old one, free of the excrescences, rottenness and parasites which, under the ancient régime, disfigured and discolored it. No more compulsory vows, no “frocked” younger sons “to make an elder,” no girls immured from infancy, kept in the convent throughout their youth, led on, urged, and then driven into a corner and forced into the final engagement on becoming of age; no more aristocratic institutions, no Order of Malta and chapters of men or of women in which noble families find careers and a receptacle for their supernumerary children. No more of those false and counterfeit vocations the real motive of which was, now pride of race and the determination not to fall, and again the animal attractions of physical comfort, indolence and inertia; no more lazy and opulent monks, occupied, like the Carthusians of Val Saint-Pierre, in overeating, in the brutalities of digestion and routine, or, like the Bernardines of Granselve,1 turning their building into a worldly rendezvous for jovial hospitality and themselves taking part, foremost in rank, in prolonged and frequent feastings, balls, plays and hunting-parties; in diversions and gallantries which the annual fête of Saint Bernard, through a singular dissonance, excited and consecrated. No more over-wealthy superiors, usufructuaries of a vast abbatial revenue, suzerain and landlord seigniors, with the train, luxury and customs of their condition, with four-horse carriages, liveries, officials, antechamber, court, chancellorship and ministers of justice, obliging their monks to address them as “my lord,” as lax as any ordinary layman, well fitted to cause scandal in their order by their liberties and to set an example of depravity. No more lay intrusions, commendatory abbés or priors, interlopers, and imposed from above; no more legislative and administrative interferences2 in order to bind monks and nuns down to their vows, to disqualify them and deprive them almost of citizenship, to exclude them from common rights, to withhold from them rights of inheritance and testamentary rights, from receiving or making donations, depriving them in advance of the means of subsistence, to confine them by force in their convents and set the patrol on their track, and, on trying to escape, to furnish their superior with secular help and keep down insubordination by physical constraint. Nothing of this subsists after the great overthrow of 1790; under the modern régime, if any one enters and remains in a convent it is because the convent is more agreeable to him than the world outside; there is no other motive—no pressure or hindrance of an inferior or different kind, no direct or indirect, no domestic or legal constraint, no ambition, vanity and innate or acquired indolence, no certainty of finding satisfaction for a coarse and concentrated sensuality. That which now operates is the awakened and persistent vocation; the man or the woman who takes vows and keeps them, enters upon and adheres to his or her engagement only through a spontaneous act deliberately and constantly renewed through their own free will.
Thus purified, the monastic institution recovers its normal form, which is the republican and democratic form, while the impracticable Utopia which the philosophers of the eighteenth century wanted to impose on lay society becomes the effective régime under which the religious communities are going to live. In all of them, the governors are elected by the governed; whether the suffrage is universal or qualified, one vote is as good as another; votes are counted by heads, and, at stated intervals, the sovereign majority uses its right anew; with the Carmelites, it is every three years and to elect by secret ballot, not alone one authority but all the authorities, the prior, the sub-prior and the three clavières.1 —Once elected, the chief, in conformity with his mandate, remains a mandatory, that is to say a laborer assigned a certain work, and not a privileged person enjoying a gratification. His rank is not a dispensation, but an additional burden; along with the duties of his office, he subjects himself to an observance of the rules—having become a general, he is no better off than the simple soldier; he rises as early and his daily life is no better; his cell is as bare and his personal support not more expensive. He who commands ten thousand others lives as poorly, under as strict a watchword, with as few conveniences and with less leisure than the meanest brother.1 Over and above the austerities of ordinary discipline this or that superior imposed on himself supererogatory mortifications which were so great as to astonish as well as edify his monks. Such is the ideal State of the theorist, a Spartan republic, and for all, including the chiefs, an equal ration of the same black broth. There is another resemblance, still more profound. At the base of this republic lies the corner-stone designed in anticipation by Rousseau, then hewn and employed, well or ill, in the constitutions or plébiscites of the Revolution, the Consulate and the Empire, to serve as the foundation of the complete edifice. This stone is a primitive and solemn agreement by everybody interested, a social contract, a pact proposed by the legislator and accepted by the citizens; except that, in the monastic pact, the will of the acceptors is unanimous, earnest, serious, deliberate and permanent, while, in the political pact, it is not so; thus, whilst the latter contract is a theoretical fiction, the former is an actual verity.
For, in the small religious cité, all precautions are taken to have the future citizen know for what and how far he engages himself. The copy of the rules which is handed to him in advance explains to him the future use of each day and of each hour, the detail in full of the régime to which he is to subject himself. Besides this, to forestall any illusion and haste on his part he is required to make trial of the confinement and discipline; he realizes through personal, sensible and prolonged experience what he must undergo; before assuming the habit, he must serve a novitiate of at least one year and without interruption. Simple vows sometimes precede the more solemn vows; with the Jesuits, several novitiates, each lasting two or three years, overlie and succeed each other. Elsewhere, the perpetual engagement is taken only after several temporary engagements; up to the age of twenty-five the “Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes” take their vows for a year; at twenty-five for three years; only at twenty-eight do they take them for life. Certainly, after such trials, the postulant is fully informed; nevertheless, his superiors contribute what they know. They have watched him day after day; deep down under his superficial, actual and declared disposition they define his profound, latent, and future intention; if they deem this insufficient or doubtful, they adjourn or prevent the final profession: “My child, wait—your vocation is not yet determined,” or “My friend, you were not made for the convent, return to the world!”
Never was a social contract signed more knowingly, after greater reflection on what choice to make, after such deliberate study: the conditions of human association demanded by the revolutionary theory are all fulfilled and the dream of the Jacobins is realized. But not on the ground they have assigned to it; through a strange contrast, and which seems ironical in history, this dream of speculative reason has produced nothing in the lay order of things but elaborate plans on paper—a deceptive and dangerous Declaration of Rights, appeals to insurrection or to a dictatorship, incoherent or still-born organizations—in short, abortions or monsters; in the religious order of things, it adds to the living world thousands of living creatures of indefinite viability. So that, among the effects of the French revolution, one of the principal and most enduring is the restoration of monastic institutions.
They are seen springing up and multiplying on all sides and uninterruptedly, from the Consulate down to the present day. Early, new sprouts shoot out and cover the old trunks of which the revolutionary axe had cut off the branches. In 1800, “the reëstablishment of a corporation shocked current ideas.”1 But the able administrators of the Consulate required volunteer women for service in their hospitals. In Paris, Chaptal, the minister, comes across a lady superior whom he formerly knew and enjoins her to gather together ten or a dozen of her surviving companions; he installs them in the rue Vieux-Colombier, in a building belonging to the hospitals, and which he furnishes for forty novices; at Lyons, he notices that the “Sisters” of the general hospital were obliged, that they might perform their duties, to wear a lay dress; he authorizes them to resume their costume and their crosses; he allows them two thousand francs to purchase necessaries, and, when they have donned their old uniform, he presents them to the First Consul. Such is the first sprout, very small and very feeble, that appears in the institution of Saint-Vincent de Paule at Paris and in that of Saint-Charles at Lyons. In our days,2 the congregation of Saint-Charles, besides the parent-house at Lyons, has 102 others with 2,226 nuns, and the congregation of Saint-Vincent de Paule, besides the parent-house at Paris, has 88 others with 9,130 nuns. Oftentimes, the new vegetation on the trunk amputated by the Revolution is much richer than on the old one; in 1789, the institution of the “Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes” had 800 members; in 1845, there were 4,000; in 1878, 9,818; on the 31st of December, 1888, there were 12,245. In 1789, it counted 126 houses; in 1888, there were 1,286.—Meanwhile, alongside of the old plantations, a large number of independent germs, new species and varieties, spring up spontaneously, each with its own aim, rules and special denomination; on Good Friday, April 6, 1792, at the very date of the decree of the Legislative Assembly abolishing all religious communities,1 one is born, that of the “Sœurs de la Retraite Chrétienne,” at Fontenelle, and, from year to year, similar plants constantly and suddenly spring out of the ground for a century. The list is too long to be counted; a large official volume of more than four hundred pages is filled with the mere statement of their names, localities and statistics.—This volume, published in 1878, divides religious institutions into two groups. We find in the first one, comprising the legally authorized societies, at first 5 congregations of men possessing 224 establishments with 2,418 members, and 23 associations of men with 20,341 members and supplying 3,086 schools; next, 259 congregations of women and 644 communities which possess 3,196 establishments, supplying 16,478 schools and counting 113,750 members. In the second group, comprising unauthorized societies, we find 384 establishments of men with 7,444 members, and 602 establishments of women with 14,003 members,—in all, in both groups, 30,287 brethren and 127,753 sisters. Considering the total population, the proportion of brethren in 1789 and in our day is about the same; it is their spirit which has changed; at the present day, all desire to remain in their profession, while in 1789 two-thirds wanted to withdraw from it. As to the proportion of Sisters, it has increased beyond all calculation.1 Out of 10,000 women in the population, there were, in 1789, 28 Sisters; in 1866, 45; in 1878, 67.
Carmelites, Clarisses, Filles du Cœur de Jésus, Réparatrices, Sœurs du Saint-Sacrament, Visitandines, Franciscaines, Benedictines and others like these, about 4000 nuns or sisters, are contemplatists. The Carthusians, Cistercians, Trappists, and some others, about 1800 monks and brethren who, for the most part, till the ground, do not impose labor on themselves other than as an accessory exercise; their first and principal object is prayer, meditation and worship; they, too, devote their lives to contemplation on the other world and not to the service of this one. But all the others, more than 28,000 men and more than 123,000 women, are benefactors by institution and voluntary laborers, choosing to devote themselves to dangerous, revoltant, and at least ungrateful services—missions among savages and barbarians, care of the sick, of idiots, of the insane, of the infirm, of the incurable, the support of poor old men or of abandoned children; countless charitable and educational works, primary schools, orphan asylums, houses of refuge and prisons, and all gratuitously or at the lowest wages through a reduction of bodily necessities to the lowest point, and of the personal expenditure of each brother or sister.2 Evidently, with these men and with these women, the ordinary balance of motives which prompt people is reversed; in the inward balance of the scale it is no longer self-love which prevails against the love of others, but the love of others which prevails against self-love.—Let us look at one of their institutions just at the moment of its formation and see how the preponderance passes over from the egoistic to the social instinct. The first thing we always find at the origin of the enterprise is compassion; a few kind hearts have been moved at the aspect of misery, degradation and misconduct; souls or bodies were in distress and there was danger of shipwreck; three or four saviours have come to the rescue. At Rouen, in 1818, it is a poor girl who, by advice of her curé, brings together a few of her friends in her garret; during the day they study in a class and at night they work for their living; to-day, under the title of “Sœurs du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus,” they number eight hundred. Elsewhere, at Laval, the founder of the House of Refuge for poor repentants is a plain ironing-girl who began her “House” by charitably harboring two prostitutes; these brought others, and there are now a hundred of similar institutions. Most frequently, the founder is the desservant or vicar of the place, who, moved by local misery, fancies at first that he is doing only local work; thus, there is born in 1806 at Rouissé-sur-Loire the congregation of “La Providence,” which now has nine hundred and eighteen “Sisters,” in one hundred and ninety-three houses; in 1817, at Lovallat, the association of “Les Petits-Frères de Marie,” which numbers to-day three thousand six hundred brethren; in 1840, at Saint-Servan, the institution of “Les Petites-Sœurs des Pauvres,” who now number two thousand six hundred and eighty-five, and, with no other help but alms-giving, feed and care for, in their one hundred and fifty-eight houses, twenty thousand old men, of which thirteen thousand live in their ninety-three domiciles in France; they take their meals after the inmates, and eat only what they leave; they are prohibited from accepting any endowment whatever; by virtue of their rules they are and remain mendicants, at first, and especially, in behalf of their old men, and afterwards and as accessory, in their own behalf. Note the circumstances of the undertaking and the condition of the founders—they were two village work-women, young girls between sixteen and eighteen for whom the vicar of the parish had written short regulations (une petite règle); on Sunday, together in the cleft of a rock on the seaside, they studied and meditated over this little summary manual, performed the prescribed devotions, this or that prayer or orison at certain hours, saying their beads, the station in the church, self-examination and other ceremonies of which the daily repetition deposits and strengthens the supernatural mental conception. Such, over and above natural pity, is the superadded weight which fixes the unstable will and maintains the soul permanently in a state of abnegation.—At Paris, in the two halls of the Prefecture of Police, where prostitutes and female thieves remain for a day or two in provisional confinement, the “Sisters” of “Marie-Joseph,” obliged by their vows to live constantly in this sewer always full of human dregs, sometimes feel their heart failing them; fortunately, a little chapel is arranged for them in one corner where they retire to pray, and in a few minutes they return with their store of courage and gentleness again revived.—Father Etienne, superior of the “Lazarists” and of the “Filles de Saint-Vincent de Paule,” with the authority of long experience, very justly observed to some foreign visitors,1 “I have given you the details of our life, but I have not told you the secret of it. This secret, here it is—it is Jesus Christ, known, loved, and served in the Eucharist.”
In the thirteenth century, to the communicant on his knees about to receive the sacrament, the Host often faded out of sight; it disappeared, and, in its place, he saw an infant or the radiant features of the Saviour; according to the Church doctors, this was not an illusion but an illumination;1 the veil had lifted, and the soul found itself face to face with its object, Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. This was second sight, infinitely superior in certainty and reach to the former, a direct, full view granted by grace from above, a supernatural view.—By this example, which is an extreme case, we comprehend in what faith consists. It is an extraordinary faculty operating alongside of and often in conjunction with our natural faculties; over and above things as our observation naturally presents them to us, it reveals to us a beyond, a majestic, grandiose world, the only one truly real and of which ours is but the temporary veil. In the depths of the soul, much below the superficial crust of which we have any conscience,2 impressions have accumulated like subterranean waters. There, under the dust and heat of inherent instincts, a living spring has burst forth, growing and bubbling in the obscurity; let a shock or a fissure intervene and it suddenly spouts up and forces its way above the surface; the man who has this within him and in whom it overflows is amazed at the inundation and no longer recognizes himself; the visible field of his conscience is completely changed and renewed; in place of his former vacillating and scattered thoughts he finds an irresistible and coherent belief, a precise conception, an intense picture, a passionate affirmation, sometimes even positive perceptions of a species apart and which come to him not from without but from within, not alone mere mental suggestions, like the dialogues of the “Imitation” and the “intellectual locutions” of the mystics, but veritable physical sensations like the details of the visions of Saint Theresa, the articulate voices of Joan of Arc and the bodily stigmata of Saint Francis.
In the first century, this beyond discovered by the mystic faculty was the kingdom of God, opposed to the kingdoms of this world;1 these kingdoms, in the eyes of those who revealed them, were worthless; through the keen insight of the moral and social instinct, these large, generous and simple hearts had divined the internal defect of all the societies or States of the century. Egoism in these was too great; there was in them a lack of charity,2 the faculty of loving another equally with one’s self, and thus of loving, not only a few, but all men, whoever they might be, simply because they were men, and especially the meek, the humble and the poor; in other words, the voluntary repression of the appetites by which the individual makes of himself a centre and subordinates other lives to himself, the renunciation of “the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes and of self-love, the insolences of wealth and luxury, of force and of power.”
1 Opposed to and in contrast with this human order of things, the idea of a divine order of things was born and developed itself—a Heavenly Father, his reign in heaven, and very soon, perhaps on the morrow, his reign here below; his Son descending to the earth to establish his reign and dying on the cross for the salvation of men; after him, his Spirit, sent by him, the inward breath which animates his disciples and continues his work; all men brethren and beloved children of the same common father; here and there spontaneous groups who have learned “these good tidings” and propagated them; small scattered communities which live in the expectation of an ideal order of things and yet, by anticipation, realizing it from this time forth; “All2 were of one heart and one soul, . . . for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need,” all happy in being together, in mutual love and in feeling themselves regenerate or pure.
Here, evidently, is a new motor in the soul, a regulator, a powerful, fresh, appropriate, effective organ, obtained through internal metamorphosis and change of being, like an insect provided with wings during its chrysalis stage. In every living organism, necessity, through tentative effort and selections, thus produces the possible and requisite organ. In India, five hundred years before our era, it was Buddhism; in Arabia, six hundred years after our era, it was Mahometanism; in our western societies it is Christianity. At the present day, after eighteen centuries on both continents, from the Ural to the Rocky Mountains, amongst Russian moujiks and American settlers, it works as formerly with the fishermen of Galilee and in the same way, in such a way as to substitute for the love of self the love of others; neither in substance nor in use has any change taken place; under its Greek, Catholic or Protestant envelope, it is still, for four hundred millions of human beings, the spiritual means, the great, indispensable pair of wings by which man rises upward above himself, above his grovelling existence and his limited horizons, leading him on through patience, hope and resignation to serenity, and beyond to temperance, purity, goodness, self-devotion and self-sacrifice. Always and everywhere, for the past eighteen hundred years, as soon as these wings grow feeble or give way, public and private morals degenerate. In Italy, during the Renaissance, in England under the Restoration, in France under the Convention and Directory, man becomes as pagan as in the first century; the same causes render him the same as in the times of Augustus and Tiberius, that is to say voluptuous and cruel: he abuses himself and victimizes others; a brutal, calculating egoism resumes its ascendency, depravity and sensuality spread, and society becomes a den of cut-throats and a brothel.
After contemplating this spectacle near by, we can value the contribution to modern societies of Christianity, how much modesty, gentleness and humanity it has introduced into them, how it maintains integrity, good faith and justice. In this service no philosophic reasoning, no artistic and literary culture, no feudal, military and chivalric honor, no code, no administration, no government is a substitute for it. There is nothing else to restrain our natal bent, nothing to arrest the insensible, steady, down-hill course of our race with the whole of its original burden, ever retrograding towards the abyss. Whatever its present envelope may be, the old Gospel still serves as the best auxiliary of the social instinct.
Among its three contemporary forms, that which groups together the most men, about one hundred and eighty millions of believers, is Catholicism, in other words, Roman Christianity, which two words, comprising a definition, contain a history. At the origin, on the birth of the Christian principle, it expressed itself at first in Hebrew, the language of prophets and of seers; afterwards, and very soon, in Greek, the language of the dialecticians and philosophers; at last, and very late, in Latin, the language of the jurisconsults and statesmen; then come the successive stages of dogma. All the evangelical and apostolic texts, written in Greek, all the metaphysical speculations,1 also in Greek, which served as commentary on these, reached the western Latins only through translations. Now, in metaphysics, Latin poorly translates the Greek2 ; it lacks both the terms and the ideas; what the Orient says, the Occident only half comprehends; it accepts this without dispute and confidently holds it as truth.3 At length in its turn, in the fourth century, when, after Theodosius, the Occident breaks loose from the Orient, it intervenes, and it intervenes with its language, that is to say with the provision of ideas and words which its culture provided; it likewise had its instruments of precision, not those of Plato and Aristotle, but others, as special, forged by Ulpian, Gaius and twenty generations of jurists through the original invention and immemorial labor of Roman genius. “To say what is law,” to impose rules of conduct on men, is, in abridged form, the entire practical work of the Roman people; to write this law out, to formulate and coördinate these rules, is, in abridged form, its entire scientific work, and with the Romans in the third, fourth and fifth centuries, during the decadence of other studies, the science of law was still in full force and vigor.1 Hence, when the Occidentals undertook the interpretation of texts and the elaboration of the Creed it was with the habits and faculties of jurisconsults, with the preoccupations and mental reservations of statesmen, with the mental and verbal instruments which they found suitable. In those days, the Greek doctors, in conflict with the monophysites and monothelites, brought out the theory of the divine essence; at the same date, the Latin doctors, opposing the Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians and Donatists, founded the theory of human obligation.2Obligation, said the Roman jurists, is a “lien of law” by which we are held to doing or suffering something to free us from indebtedness, and out of this juridical conception, which is a masterpiece of Roman jurisprudence, issued, as with a bud full of sap, the new development of the Creed.—On the one hand, we are obligated towards God, for, in relation to him, we are, in legal terms, insolvent debtors, heirs of an infinite debt, incapable of paying it and of satisfying our creditor except through the interposition of a superhuman third person1 who assumes our indebtedness as his own; still more precisely, we are delinquents, guilty from birth and by inheritance, condemned in a mass and then pardoned in a mass, but in such a way that this pardon, a pure favor, not warranted by any merit of our own, always remains continual and revocable at will; that, for a few only, it is or becomes plenary and lasting, that no one amongst us can be sure of obtaining it, and that its award, determined beforehand on high, forever remains for us a State secret. Hence the prolonged controversies on Predestination, Free-will and Original Sin, and the profound investigations on man before, during and after the Fall. Hence, also, the accepted solutions, not very conclusive and, if one pleases, contradictory, but practical, average and well calculated for maintaining mankind in faith and obedience, under the ecclesiastical and dogmatic government which, alone, is authorized to lead man on in the way of salvation.
On the other hand, we are obligated to the Church, for she is a cité, the city of God, and, following the Roman definition, the cité is not an abstract term, a collective term, but a real, positive existence, “the commonwealth” (chose publique), that is to say a distinct entity consisting of generations which succeed each other in it, of infinite duration and of a superior kind, divine or nearly so, which does not belong to individuals but to which they belong, an organized body, with special form and structure, based on traditions, constituted by laws and ruled by a government. The absolute authority of the community over its members and the despotic leadership of the community by its chiefs—such is the Roman notion of the State and, for much stronger reasons, of the Church. She, thus, is a militant, conquering, governing Rome, predestined to universal empire, a legitimate sovereign like the other one, but with a better title, for she derives hers from God. It is God who, from the beginning, has preconceived and prepared her, who has bodied her forth in the Old Testament and announced her through the prophets; it is the Son of God who has built her up, who, to all eternity, will never fail to maintain and guide her steps, who, through his constant inspiration, ever remains present in her and active through her. He has committed to her his revelation. She alone, expressly delegated by Christ, possesses second sight, the knowledge of the invisible, the comprehension of the ideal order of things as its Founder prescribed and instituted, and hence, accordingly, the custodianship and interpretation of the Scriptures, the right of framing dogmas and injunctions, of teaching and commanding, of reigning over souls and intellects, of fashioning belief and morals. Henceforth, the mystic faculty is to be confined within dikes. At bottom, this is the faculty for conceiving of the ideal, to obtain a vision of it, to have faith in this vision and to act upon it; the more precious it is the greater the necessity of its being under control. To preserve it from itself, to put it on guard against the empire and diversity of one’s senses, to prevent raving theoretically or practically on the side of laxity or of rigor, requires a government.
That this is a legacy of ancient Rome the Catholic Church does not dispute. She styles herself the Roman Church. She still writes and prays in Latin. Rome is always her capital; the title of her chief is that which formerly designated the head of the pagan cult; after 1378 all the Popes except five, and since 1523 all, have been Italians; at the present day, thirty-five out of sixty-four cardinals are likewise Italians. The Roman stamp becomes still more evident on comparing the millions of Christians who are Catholics with the millions of Christians who are not. Among the primitive annexations and ulterior acquisitions of the Roman Church, several have separated from her, those of the countries whose Greek, Sclavic and Germanic populations never spoke Latin and whose language is not derived from the Latin. Poland and Ireland are alone, or nearly so, the only countries which have remained loyal, because, with these, the Catholic faith, under the long pressure of public calamities, has become incorporated with national sentiment. Elsewhere the Roman alluvion is insignificant or was found not deep enough. On the contrary, all the populations that were once Latinized have at bottom remained Catholic; four centuries of imperial rule and of Roman assimilation have made deposits in them of layers of habits, ideas and sentiments which endure.1 To measure the influence of this historic layer it is sufficient to note that three elements compose it, all three contemporary, of the same origin and of the same thickness, a Roman language, the civil law of Rome, and Roman Christianity; each of these elements, through its consistence, indicates the consistence of the others.
Hence the profound and established characteristics by which the Catholic branch now distinguishes itself from the other two issuing from the same Christian trunk. With the Protestants, the Bible, which is the Word of God, is the sole spiritual authority; all the others, the Doctors, Fathers, tradition, Popes and Councils, are human and, accordingly, fallible; in fact, these have repeatedly and gravely erred.2 The Bible, however, is a text which each reader reads with his own eyes, more or less enlightened and sensitive, with eyes which, in Luther’s time, possessed the light and sensibility of the sixteenth century, and which, at the present time, read with the sensibility and light of the nineteenth century; so that, according to epochs and groups, the interpretation may vary, while authority, if not as regards the text, or at least its meaning, belongs wholly to the individual. With the Greeks and Sclavonians, as with the Catholics, it belongs only to the Church, that is to say to the heads of the Church, the successors of the apostles. But with the Greeks and Slavonians, since the ninth century, the Church had decreed no new dogmas; according to her, revelation had stopped; the creed was finished, final and complete, and there was nothing to do but to maintain it.—On the contrary, with the Catholics, after as before that date, the creed never ceased developing itself, always becoming more precise, and revelation kept on; the last thirteen councils were inspired like the first seven, while the first one, in which Saint Peter at Jerusalem figured, enjoyed no more prerogatives than the last one convoked by Pius IX. at the Vatican. The Church is not “a frozen corpse,”1 but a living body, led by an always active brain which pursues its work not only in this world but likewise in the next world, at first to define it and next to describe it and assign places in it; only yesterday she added two articles of faith to the creed, the immaculate conception of the Virgin and the infallibility of the Pope; she conferred ultra-terrestrial titles; she declared Saint Joseph patron of the universal Church; she canonized Saint Labre; she elevated Saint François de Sales to the rank of Doctor. But she is as conservative as she is active. She retracts nothing of her past, never rescinding any of her ancient decrees; only, with the explanations, commentaries and deductions of the jurist, she fastens these links closer together, forms an uninterrupted chain of them extending from the present time back to the New Testament and, beyond, through the Old Testament, to the origins of the world, in such a way as to coördinate around herself the entire universe and all history. Revelations and prescriptions, the doctrine thus built up is a colossal work, as comprehensive as it is precise, analogous to the Digest but much more vast; for, besides canon law and moral theology, she includes dogmatic theology, that is to say, besides the theory of the visible world, the theory of the invisible world and its three regions, the geography of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, immense territories of which our earth is merely the vestibule, unknown territories inaccessible to sense and reason, but whose confines, entrances, issues and subdivisions, the inhabitants and all that concerns them, their faculties and their communications, are defined, as on Peutinger’s map and in the Notitia imperii romani, with extraordinary clearness, minutia and exactitude, through a combination of the positive spirit and the mystic spirit and by theologians who are at once Christians and administrators. In this relation, examine the “Somme” of Saint Thomas. Still at the present day his order, the Dominican, furnishes at Rome those who are consulted on matters of dogma; or rather, in order to abridge and transcribe scholastic formula into pictorial realities, read over the “Divine Comedy” by Dante1 ; this picture, probably as far as imagination goes, is still to-day the most exact as well as most highly-colored presentation of the human and divine world as the Catholic Church conceives it. She has charge of its keys and reigns and governs in it. The prestige of such a government over souls and intellects, very numerous, who by nature or through education are disciplinable, who repudiate personal initiation, who need imperative and systematic guidance, is sovereign, equal or superior to that of the old Roman State exercised over one hundred and twenty millions of souls. Outside of the Empire all seemed to these souls anarchy or barbarism; the same impression exists with the Catholics in relation to their Church. Whether spiritual or temporal, an authority has many chances for adoption and reverence when, always visible and everywhere present, it is neither arbitrary nor capricious, but orderly, restrained by texts, traditions, legislation and jurisprudence, derived from above and from a superhuman source, consecrated by antiquity and by the continuity, coherence and grandeur of its work, in short, by that character which the Latin tongue is alone capable of expressing and which it terms majesty.
Among the acts which religious authority prescribes to its subjects, there are some which it imposes in its own name—rites, outward ceremonies and other observances—of which the principal ones, in the Catholic catechism, form a sequence to the “commandments of God,” and which are entitled the “commandments of the Church.”—With the Protestants, where Church authority is almost gone, rites have almost disappeared; considered in themselves, they have ceased to be regarded as obligatory or meritorious; the most important ones, the Eucharist itself, have been retained only as commemorative or as symbolic; the rest, fasts, abstinences, pilgrimages, the worship of saints and the Virgin, relics of the cross, words committed to memory, genuflections and kneelings before images or altars, have been pronounced vain; in the way of positive injunctions none remain but the reading of the Bible, while duty in outward demonstration of piety is reduced to piety within, to the moral virtues, to truthfulness, probity, temperance and steadfastness, to the energetic determination to observe the watchword received by man in two forms and which he finds in two concordant examples, in the Scriptures as interpreted by his conscience, and in his conscience as enlightened by the Scriptures. As another consequence, the Protestant priest has ceased to be a delegate from on high, the indispensable mediator between man and God, alone qualified to give absolution and to administer the rites by which salvation is obtained; he is simply a man, graver, more learned, more pious and more exemplary than other men, but, like the others, married, father of a family and entering into civil life, in short a semi-layman. The laymen whom he leads owe him deference, not obedience; he issues no orders; he sentences nobody; the sermon in the pulpit of an assemblage is his principal, almost unique, office, and the sole purpose of this is instruction or an exhortation.—With the Greeks and Sclavonians, with whom the authority of the Church is merely conservative, all the observances of the twelfth century have subsisted, as rigorously in Russia as in Asia Minor or in Greece, although fastings and Lents, which Southern stomachs can put up with, are unhealthy for the temperaments of the North. Here, likewise, these observances have assumed capital importance. The active sap, withdrawn from theology and the clergy, flows nowhere else; these, in an almost paralyzed religion, constitute almost the sole vivifying organ, as vigorous and often more so, than ecclesiastical authority; in the seventeenth century, under the patriarch Nicon, thousands of “old believers,” on account of slight rectifications of the liturgy, the alteration of a letter in the Russian translation of the name of Jesus, and the sign of the cross made by three instead of two fingers, separated themselves and, to-day, these dissenters, multiplied by their sects, count by millions. Defined by custom, every rite is sacred, immutable, and, when exactly fulfilled, sufficient in itself and efficacious; the priest who utters the words and makes the motions is only one piece in the mechanism, one of the instruments requisite for a magic incantation; after his instrumentation, he falls back into his human negativity; he is nothing more than an employé paid for his ministration. And this ministration is not exalted in him by an extraordinary and visible renunciation, by perpetual celibacy, by continence promised and kept; he is married,1 father of a family, needy, obliged to shear his flock to support himself and those belonging to him, and therefore is of little consideration; he is without moral ascendency; he is not the pastor who is obeyed, but the official who is made use of.
The rôle of the priest in the Catholic Church is quite different. Through her theory of rites she confers on him incomparable dignity and real personal power. According to this theory, observances and ceremonies possess intrinsic and peculiar virtue; undoubtedly, these require some mental support, which is found in earnest piety; but earnest piety independent of these is not enough; it lacks the terminal prolongation, the meritorious accomplishment or “satisfaction,”1 the positive act by which we atone for our sins to God and demonstrate our obedience to the Church.2 It is the Church, the living interpreter of God’s will, which prescribes these rites; she is then the mistress of these and not the servant; she is empowered to adapt their details and forms to necessities and circumstances, to lighten or simplify them according to time and place, to establish the communion in one shape, to substitute the Host in place of bread, to lessen the number and rigor of the ancient Lents, to determine the effects of diverse pious works, to apply, ascribe and transfer their salutary effects, to assign proper value and reward to each devotional act, to measure the merit derived from them, the sins they efface and the pardons these obtain not only in this world but in the next one. By virtue of her administrative habits, and with the precision of a bookkeeper, she casts up her accounts of indulgences and notes on the margin the conditions for obtaining them,—a certain prayer repeated so many times on certain days and what for, so many days less in the great penitentiary into which every Christian, however pious, is almost sure to get on dying, this or that diminution of the penalty incurred, and the faculty, if the penitent rejects this deduction for himself, of bestowing the benefit on another. By virtue of her authoritative habits and the better to affirm her sovereignty, she regards as capital sins the omission of the rites and ceremonies she commands,—“not going to mass on Sunday or on fête-days;1 eating meat on Friday or Saturday unnecessarily;” not confessing and communing at Easter, a mortal sin which “deprives one of the grace of God and merits eternal punishment” as well as “to slay and to steal something of value.” For all these crimes, irremissible in themselves, there is but one pardon, the absolution given by the priest, that is to say, confession beforehand, itself being one of the observances to which we are bound by strict obligation and at the very least once a year.
Through this office the Catholic priest rises above human conditions to an immeasurable height; for, in the confessional, he exercises supreme power, that which God is to exercise at the Last Judgment, the formidable power of punishing or remitting sins, of judgment or of absolution, and, if he intervenes on the death-bed, the faculty of consigning the impenitent or repentant soul to an eternity of rewards or to an eternity of damnation.2 No creature, terrestrial or celestial, not even the highest of archangels, or St. Joseph or the Virgin,3 possesses this veritably divine prerogative. He alone holds it through exclusive delegation, by virtue of a special sacrament, the order which assigns to him the privilege of conferring five others, and which endows him for life with a character apart, ineffaceable and supernatural.—To render himself worthy of it, he has taken a vow of chastity, he undertakes to root out from his flesh and his heart the consequences of sex; he debars himself from marriage and paternity; through isolation, he escapes all family influences, curiosities and indiscretions; he belongs wholly to his office. He has prepared himself for it long beforehand, he has studied moral theology together with casuistry and become a criminal jurist; and his sentence is not a vague pardon bestowed on penitents after having admitted in general terms that they are sinners. He is bound to weigh the gravity of their errors and the strength of their repentance, to know the facts and details of the fall and the number of relapses, the aggravating or extenuating circumstances, and, therefore, to interrogate in order to sound the soul to its depths. If some souls are timorous, they surrender themselves to him spontaneously and, more than this, they have recourse to him outside of his tribunal; he marks out for them the path they must follow, he guides them at every turn; he interferes daily, he becomes a director as was said in the seventeenth century, the titular and permanent director of one or of many lives. This is still the case at the present day, and especially for women and for all nuns; the central conception around which all Roman ideas turn, the conception of the imperium and of government, has here found its perfect accomplishment and attained to its final extreme.
There are now of these spiritual governors about one hundred and eighty thousand, installed in the five regions of the world, each assigned to the leadership of about one thousand souls and as special guardian of a distinct flock, all ordained by bishops instituted by the Pope, he being absolute monarch and declared such by the latest council. In the new Rome as in the ancient Rome, authority has gradually become concentrated until it has centred in and is entrusted wholly to the hands of one man. Romulus, the Alban shepherd, was succeeded by Cæsar Augustus, Constantine or Theodosius, whose official title was “Your Eternal,” “Your Divine,” and who pronounced their decrees “immutable oracles.” Peter, the fisherman of Galilee, was succeeded by infallible pontiffs whose official title is “Your Holiness,” and whose decrees, for every Catholic, are “immutable oracles” in fact as in law, not hyperbolically, but in the full sense of the words expressed by exact terms. The imperial institution has thus formed itself anew; it has simply transferred itself from one domain to another; only, in passing from the temporal order of things to the spiritual order, it has become firmer and stronger, for it has guarded against two defects which weakened its antique model.—On the one hand, it has provided for the transmission of supreme power; in old Rome, they did not know how to regulate this; hence, when an interregnum occurred, the many violent competitors, the fierce conflicts, the brutalities, all the usurpations of force, all the calamities of anarchy. In Catholic Rome, the election of the sovereign pontiff belongs definitively to a college of prelates who vote according to established formalities; these elect the new pope by a majority of two-thirds, and, for more than four centuries, not one of these elections has been contested; between each defunct pope and his elected successor, the transfer of universal obedience has been prompt and unhesitating and, during as after the interregnum, no schism in the Church has occurred.—On the other hand, in the legal title of Cæsar Augustus there was a defect. According to Roman law, he was only the representative of the people; the community had delegated all its rights incorporate to him; but in it alone was omnipotence vested. According to canon law, omnipotence was vested solely in God; it is not the Catholic community which possesses this and delegates it to the Pope1 ; his rights accrue to him from another and higher source. He is not the elect of the people, but the interpreter, vicar and representative of Jesus Christ.
Such is the Catholic Church of to-day, a State constructed after the type of the old Roman empire, independent and autonomous, monarchical and centralized, with a domain not of territory but of souls and therefore international, under an absolute and cosmopolite sovereign whose subjects are likewise subjects of other sovereigns consisting of laymen. Hence, for the Catholic Church a situation apart in every country, more difficult than for Greek, Sclavic or Protestant churches; these difficulties vary in each country according to the character of the State and with the form which the Catholic Church has received in them. In France, since the Concordat, these difficulties are of greater gravity than elsewhere.
When, in effect, at the beginning, in 1802, the Church received her French form, this consisted of a complete systematic organization, by virtue of a general and regular plan, according to which she formed only one compartment of the whole. Napoleon, by his Concordat, organic articles and ulterior decrees, in conformity with the ideas of the century and the principles of the Constituent Assembly, desired to render the clergy of all kinds, and especially the Catholic clergy, one of the subdivisions of his administrative staff, a corps of functionaries, mere agents assigned to religious interests as formerly to civil matters and therefore manageable and revocable; all, in fact, in his hands, were so, comprising the bishops, since they at once tendered their resignations at his order. Still, at the present day all, except the bishops, are thus situated, having lost the ownership of their places and the independence of their lives, through the maintenance of the consular and imperial institutions, through removal, through the destruction of the canonical and civil guarantees which formerly protected the lower clergy, through the suppression of the officialité, through the reduction of chapters to the state of vain shadows, through the rupture or laxity of the local and moral tie which once attached every member of the clergy to a piece of land, to an organized body, to a territory, to a flock, and through the lack of ecclesiastical endowment, through the reduction of every ecclesiastic, even a dignitary, to the humble and precarious condition of a salaried dependent.1
A régime of this kind institutes in the body subject to it an almost universal dependence, and hence entire submission, passive obedience, and the stooping, prostrate attitude of the individual no longer able to stand upright on his own feet.2 The clergy to which it is applied cannot fail to be managed from above, which is the case with this one, through its bishops, the Pope’s lieutenant-generals, who give the countersign to all of them. Once instituted by the Pope, each bishop is the governor for life of a French province and all-powerful in his circumscription; we have seen to what height his moral and social authority has risen, how he has exercised his command, how he has kept his clergy under discipline and available, in what class of society he has found his recruits, through what drill and what enthusiasm every priest, including himself, is now a practised soldier and kept in check; how this army of occupation, distributed in ninety regiments and composed of fifty housand resident priests, is completed by special bodies of troops subject to still stricter discipline, by monastic corporations, by four or five thousand religious institutions, nearly all of them given to labor and benevolence; how, to the subordination and correct deportment of the secular clergy is added the enthusiasm and zeal of the regular clergy, the entire devotion, the wonderful self-denial of thirty thousand monks and of one hundred and twenty-seven thousand nuns; how this vast body, animated by one spirit, marches steadily along with all its lay supporters towards one end, ever the same, the maintenance of its dominion over all the souls that it has won over, and the conquest of all the souls over which it has not yet established its domination.
Nothing could be more antipathetic to the French State. Built up like the Church, after the Roman model, it is likewise authoritative and absorbent. In the eyes of Napoleon, all these priests appointed or sanctioned by him, who have sworn allegiance to him, whom he pays annually or quarterly, belong to him in a double sense, first under the title of subjects, and next under the title of clerks. His successors are still inclined to regard them in the same light; in their hands the State is ever what he made it, that is to say a monopolizer, convinced that its rights are illimitable and that its interference everywhere is legitimate, accustomed to governing all it can and leaving to individuals only the smallest portion of themselves, hostile to all bodies that might interpose between them and it, distrustful and ill-disposed towards all groups capable of collective action and spontaneous initiation, especially as concerns proprietary bodies. A self-constituted daily overseer, a legal guardian, a perpetual and minute director of moral societies as of local societies, usurper of their domains, undertaker or regulator of education and of charitable enterprises, the State is ever in inevitable conflict with the Church. The latter, of all moral societies, is the most active; she does not let herself be enslaved like the others, her soul is in her own keeping; her faith, her organization, her hierarchy and her code are all her own. Against the rights of the State based on human reason, she claims rights founded on divine revelation, and, in self-defence, she justly finds in the French clergy, as the State organized it in 1802, the best disciplined militia, the best classified, the most capable of operating together under one countersign and of marching in military fashion under the impulsion that its ecclesiastical leaders choose to give it.
Elsewhere, the conflict is less permanent and less sharp; the two conditions which aggravate it and maintain it in France are, one or both, wanting. In other European countries, the Church has not the French form imposed upon it and the difficulties are less; in the United States of America, not only has it not undergone the French transformation, but the State, liberal in principle, interdicts itself against interventions like those of the French State and the difficulties are almost null. Evidently, if there was any desire to attenuate or to prevent the conflict it would be through the first or the last of these two policies. The French State, however, institutionally and traditionally, always invasive, is ever tempted to take the contrary course.1 —At one time, as during the last years of the Restoration and the first years of the second Empire, it allies itself with the Church; each power helps the other in its domination, and in concert together they undertake to control the entire man. In this case, the two centralizations, one ecclesiastic and the other laic, both increasing and prodigiously augmented for a century, work together to overpower the individual. He is watched, followed up, seized, handled severely, and constrained even in his innermost being; he can no longer breathe the atmosphere around him; we can well remember the oppression which, after 1823 and after 1852, bore down on every independent character and on every free intellect.—At another time, as under the first and the third Republic, the State sees in the Church a rival and an adversary; consequently, it persecutes or worries it and we of to-day see with our own eyes how a governing minority, steadily, for a long time, gives offence to a governed majority where it is most sensitive; how it breaks up congregations of men and drives free citizens from their homes whose only fault is a desire to live, pray and labor in common; how it expels nuns and monks from hospitals and schools, with what detriment to the hospital and to the sick, to the school and to the children, and against what unwillingness and what discontent on the part of physicians and fathers of families, and at what bungling waste of public money, at what a gratuitous overburdening of taxation already too great.
Other disadvantages of the French system are still worse.—In this century, an extraordinary event occurs. Already, about the middle of the preceding century, the discoveries of savants, coördinated by the philosophers, had afforded the sketch in full of a great picture, still in course of execution and advancing towards completion, a picture of the physical and moral universe. In this sketch the point of sight was fixed, the perspective designed, the various distances marked out, the principal groups drawn, and its outlines were so correct that those who have since continued the work have little to add but to give precision to these and fill them up.1 In their hands, from Herschel and Laplace, from Volta, Cuvier, Ampère, Fresnel and Faraday to Darwin and Pasteur, Burnouf, Mommsen and Renan, the blanks on the canvas have been covered, the relief of the figures shown and new features added in the sense of the old ones, thus completing it without changing in any sense the expression of the whole, but, on the contrary, in such a way as to consolidate, strengthen and perfect the master-conception which, purposely or not, had imposed itself on the original painters, all, predecessors and successors, working from nature and constantly inviting a comparison between the painting and the model.—And, for one hundred years, this picture, so interesting, so magnificent, and the accuracy of which is so well guaranteed, instead of being kept private and seen only by select visitors, as in the eighteenth century, is publicly exposed and daily contemplated by an ever-increasing crowd. Through the practical application of the same scientific discoveries, owing to increased facilities for travel and intercommunication, to abundance of information, to the multitude and cheapness of books and newspapers, to the diffusion of primary instruction, the number of visitors has increased enormously.2 Not only has curiosity been aroused among the workmen in towns, but also with the peasants formerly plodding along in the routine of their daily labor, confined to their circle of six leagues in circumference. This or that small daily journal treats of divine and human things for a million of subscribers and probably for three millions of readers.—Of course, out of a hundred visitors, ninety of them are not capable of comprehending the sense of the picture; they give it only a cursory glance; moreover, their eyes are not properly educated for it, and they are unable to grasp masses and seize proportions. Their attention is generally arrested by a detail which they interpret in a counter-sense, and the mental image they carry away is merely a fragment or a caricature; at bottom, if they do come to see a magisterial work, it is through amour-propre and that the spectacle, which some of them enjoy, should not remain to a privileged few. Nevertheless, however imperfect and confused their impressions, however false and ill-founded their judgments, they have learned something important and one true idea of their visit remains with them: of the various pictures of the world not one is painted by the imagination but from nature.
Now, between this picture and that which the Catholic Church presents to them, the difference is enormous. Even with rude intellects, or otherwise occupied, if the dissimilarity is not clearly perceived it is vaguely felt; in default of scientific notions, the simple hearsays caught on the wing and which seem to have flickered through the mind like a flash of light over a hard rock, still subsist there in a latent state, amalgamating and agglutinating into a solid block until at length they form a massive, refractory sentiment utterly opposed to faith.—With the Protestant, the opposition is neither extreme nor definitive. His faith, which the Scriptures give him for his guidance, leads him to read the Scriptures in the original text and, hence, to read with profit, to call to his aid whatever verifies and explains an ancient text, linguistics, philology, criticism, psychology, combined with general and particular history; thus does faith lay hold on science as an auxiliary. According to diverse souls, the rôle of the auxiliary is more or less ample; it may accordingly adapt itself to the faculties and needs of each soul, and hence extend itself indefinitely, and already do we see ahead the time when the two collaborators, enlightened faith and respectful science, will together paint the same picture, or each separately paint the same picture twice in two different frames.—With the Sclavonians and Greeks, faith, like the Church and the rite, is a national thing; creed forms one body with the country, and there is less disposition to dispute it; besides, it is not irksome; it is simply a hereditary relic, a domestic memorial, a family icon, a summary product of an exhausted art no longer well understood and which has ceased to produce. It is rather sketched out than completed, not one feature having been added to it since the tenth century; for eight hundred years this picture has remained in one of the back chambers of the memory, covered with cobwebs as ancient as itself, badly lighted and rarely visited; everybody knows that it is there and it is spoken of with veneration; nobody would like to get rid of it, but it is not daily before the eyes so that it may be compared with the scientific picture.—Just the reverse with the Catholic picture. Each century, for eight hundred years, has applied the brush to this picture; still, at the present time we see it grow under our eyes, acquiring a stronger relief, deeper color, a more vigorous harmony, a more definite and striking expression. To the articles of belief which constitute the creed for the Greek and Sclavic church, thirteen subsequent councils have added to it many others, while the two principal dogmas decreed by the last two councils, Transubstantiation by the council of Trent and the Infallibility of the Pope by that of the Vatican, are just those the best calculated to hinder forever any reconciliation between science and faith.
Thus, for Catholic nations, the dissimilarity, instead of diminishing, is aggravated; both pictures, one painted by faith and the other by science, become more and more dissimilar, while the profound contradiction inherent in the two conceptions becomes glaring through their very development, each developing itself apart and both in a counter-sense, one through dogmatic verdicts and through the strengthening of discipline and the other by ever-increasing discoveries and by useful applications, each adding daily to its authority, one by precious inventions and the other by good works, each being recognized for what it is, one as the leading instructor of positive truths and the other as the leading instructor of sound morality. Hence, a combat and painful anxieties in the Catholic breast, as to which of the two conceptions must be accepted as guide. To every sincere mind and to one capable of entertaining both, each is irreducible to the other. To the vulgar mind, unable to combine both in thought, they exist side by side and clash with each other only occasionally when action demands a choice. Many intelligent, cultivated people, and even savants, especially specialists, avoid confronting them, one being the support of their reason and the other the guardian of their conscience; between them, in order to prevent any possible conflict, they interpose in advance a wall of separation, “a compartment partition,”1 which prevents them from meeting and clashing. Others, at length, clever or not too clear-sighted politicians, try to force their agreement, either by assigning to each its domain and in prohibiting mutual access, or by uniting both domains through the semblance of bridges, by imitation stairways, and other illusory communications which the phantasmagoria of human eloquence can always establish between incompatible things and which procure for man, if not the acquisition of a truth, at least a pleasure in the play of words. The ascendency of the Catholic faith over these uncertain, inconsequent, tormented souls is more or less weak or strong according to time, place, circumstance, individuals and groups; in the larger group it has diminished, while it has increased in the smaller one.
The latter comprises the regular and secular clergy with its approximate recruits and its small body of supporters; never was it so exemplary and so fervent; the monastic institution in particular never flourished so spontaneously and more usefully. Nowhere in Europe are more missionaries formed, so many “brethren” for small schools, so many volunteers, male and female, in the service of the poor, the sick, the infirm and of children, such vast communities of women freely devoting their lives to teaching and to charity.1 Life in common, under uniform and strict rules, to a people like the French, more capable than any other of enthusiasm and of emulation, of generosity and of discipline, naturally prone to equality, sociable and predisposed to fraternity through the need of companionship, sober, moreover, and laborious, a life in common is no more distasteful in the convent than in the barracks, nor in an ecclesiastical army more than in a lay army, while France, always Gallic, affords as ready a hold nowadays to the Roman system as in the time of Augustus. When this system obtains a hold on a soul it keeps its hold, and the belief it imposes becomes the principal guest, the sovereign occupant of the intellect. Faith, in this occupied territory, no longer allows her title to be questioned; she condemns doubt as a sin, she interdicts investigation as a temptation, she presents the peril of unbelief as a mortal danger, she enrolls conscience in her service against any possible revolt of reason. At the same time that she guards herself against attacks, she strengthens her possession; to this end, the rites she prescribes are efficient, and their efficiency, multiplicity and convergence—confession and communion, retreats, spiritual exercises, abstinences, and ceremonies of every kind, the worship of saints and of the Virgin, of relics and images, orisons on the lips and from the heart, faithful attendance on the services and the exact fulfilment of daily duties—all attest it.
Through its latest acquisitions and the turn it now takes, Catholic faith buries itself in and penetrates down to the very depths of the sensitive and tried souls which it has preserved from foreign influences; for it supplies to this chosen flock the aliment it most needs and which it loves the best. Below the metaphysical, abstract Trinity, of which two of the three persons are out of reach of the imagination, she has set up an historical Trinity whose personages are all perceptible to the senses, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Virgin, since the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, has risen to an extraordinary height; her spouse accompanies her in her exaltation;1 between them stands their son, child or man, which forms the Holy Family.2 No worship is more natural and more engaging to chaste celibates in whose brain a pure, vague vision is always present, the revery of a family constituted without the intervention of sex. No system of worship furnishes so many precise objects for adoration, all the acts and occurrences, the emotions and thoughts of three adorable lives from birth to death and in the beyond, down to the present day. Most of the religious institutions founded within the past eighty years devote themselves to meditation on one of these lives considered at some one point of incident or of character, either purity, charity, compassion or justice, conception, nativity or infancy, presence in the Temple, at Nazareth, at Bethany, or on Calvary, the passion, the agony, the assumption or apparition under this or that circumstance or place, and the rest. There are now in France, under the name and patronage of Saint Joseph alone, one hundred and seventeen congregations and communities of women. Among so many appellations, consisting of special watchwords designating and summing up the particular preferences of a devout group, one name is significant; there are seventy-nine congregations or communities of women which have devoted themselves to the heart of Mary or of Jesus or to both together.1 In this way, besides the narrow devotion which is attached to the corporeal emblem, a tender piety pursues and attains its supreme end, the mute converse of the soul, not with the dim Infinite, the indifferent Almighty who acts through general laws, but with a person, a divine person clothed with the vesture of humanity and who has not discarded it, who has lived, suffered and loved, who still loves, who, in glory above, welcomes there the effusions of his faithful souls and who returns love for love.
All this is incomprehensible, bizarre or even repulsive to the public at large, and still more so to the vulgar. It sees in religion only what is very plain, a government; and in France, it has already had enough of government temporally; add a complementary one on the spiritual side and that will be more and too much. Alongside of the tax-collector and the gendarme in uniform, the peasant, the workman and the common citizen encounter the curé in his cassock who, in the name of the Church, as with the other two in the name of the State, gives him orders and subjects him to rules and regulations. Now every rule is annoying and the latter more than the others; one is rid of the tax-collector after paying the tax, and of the gendarme when no act is committed against the law; the curé is much more exacting; he interferes in domestic life and in private matters and assumes to govern man entirely. He admonishes his parishioners in the confessional and from the pulpit, he lords it over them even in their inmost being, and his injunctions bind them in every act, even at home, around the fireside, at table and in bed, comprising their moments of repose and relaxation, even hours of leisure and the time they give to the dramshop. Villagers, after listening to a sermon against the tavern and drunkenness, murmur and are heard to exclaim: “Why does he meddle with our affairs? Let him say his mass and leave us alone.” They need him for baptism, marriage and burial, but their affairs do not concern him. Moreover, among the observances he prescribes, many are inconvenient, tasteless or disagreeable—fastings, Lent, a passive part in a Latin mass, prolonged services, ceremonies of which the details are all insignificant, but of which the symbolic meaning is to-day of no account to people in attendance; add to all this the mechanical recitation of the Pater and of the Ave, genuflections and crossing one’s self, and especially obligatory confession at specified dates. The laboring man, nowadays, does without these constraints as well as the peasant. In many villages, there is nobody at high mass on Sundays but women, and often, in small numbers, one or two troops of children led by the clerical instructor and by the “Sister,” with a few old men; the great majority of the men remain outside, under the porch and on the square before the church, chatting with each other about the crops, on local news and on the weather.
In the eighteenth century, when a curé was obliged to report to the “intendant” the number of inhabitants of his parish, he had only to count his communicants at the Easter service; their number was about that of the adult and valid population, say one half or two fifths of the sum total.1 Now, at Paris, out of two millions of Catholics who are of age, about one hundred thousand perform this strict duty, aware of its being strict and the imperative prescription of which is stamped in their memory by a rhyme which they have learned in their infancy;1 out of one hundred persons, this is equal to five communicants, of which four are women and one is a man, in other words, about one woman out of twelve or thirteen and one man out of fifty. In the provinces,2 and especially in the country, there is good reason for doubling and even tripling these figures; in the latter case, the most favorable one and, without any doubt, the rarest, the proportion of professed Christians is that of one to four among women and one man out of twelve. Evidently, with the others who make no profession, with the three women and the eleven other men, their faith is only verbal; if they are still Catholics, it is on the outside and not within.
Besides this separation from the main body and this indifference, other signs denote disaffection and even hostility.—In Paris, at the height of the Revolution, in May and June 1793, the shopkeepers, artisans and market-women, the whole of the common people, were still religious,3 “kneeling in the street” when the Host passed by, and before the relics of Saint Leu carried along in ceremonial procession, passionately fond of his worship, and suddenly melted, “ashamed, repentant and with tears in their eyes,” when, inadvertently, their Jacobin rulers tolerated the publicity of a procession. Nowadays, among the craftsmen, shopkeepers and lower class of employés, there is nothing more unpopular than the Catholic Church. Twice, under the Restoration and the second Empire, she has joined hands with a repressive government, while its clergy has seemed to be not merely an efficient organ but, again, the central promoter of all repression.—Hence, accumulated bitterness that still survives. After 1830, the archbishopric of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois is sacked; in 1871 the archbishop and other ecclesiastical hostages are murdered. For two years after 1830 a priest in his cassock dared not show himself in public;1 he ran the risk of being insulted in the streets; since 1871, the majority of the Parisian electors, through the interposition of the Municipal Council which they elect over and over again, persists in driving “Brethren” and “Sisters” from the schools and hospitals in order to put laymen in their places and pay twice as much for work not done as well.2 In the beginning, antipathy was confined to the clergy; through contagion, it has extended to doctrine, to faith, to entire Catholicism and even to Christianity itself. Under the Restoration, they were styled, in polemic language, the priest party, and under the second Empire, the clericals; afterwards, confronting the Church and under a contrary name, the anti-clerical league was formed by its adversaries, a sort of negative church which possesses, or tries to, its own dogmas and rites, its own assemblies and discipline; in the mean time, for lack of something better, it has its own fanaticism, that of aversion; on the word being given, it marches, rank and file, against the other, its enemy, and manifests, if not its belief, at least its unbelief in refusing or in avoiding the ministration of the priest. In Paris, twenty funerals out of a hundred, purely civil, are not held in a church; out of one hundred marriages, twenty-five, purely civil, are not blessed by the Church; twenty-four infants out of a hundred are not baptized.1
And, from Paris to the provinces, both sentiment and example are propagated. For sixteen years, in our parliaments elected by universal suffrage, the majority maintains that party in power which wars against the Church; which, systematically and on principle, is and remains hostile to the Catholic religion; which has its own religion for which it claims dominion; which is possessed by a doctrinal spirit, and, in the direction of intellects and souls, aims at substituting this new spirit for the old one; which, as far as it can, withdraws from the old one its influence, or its share in education and in charity; which breaks up the congregations of men, and overtaxes congregations of women; which enrolls seminarians in the army, and deprives suspect curés of their salaries; in short, which, through its acts collectively and in practice, proclaims itself anti-Catholic. Many of its acts certainly displease the peasant. He would prefer to retain the teaching “brother” in the public school and the “sister” in the hospital as nurse or as teacher in the school; both would cost less, and he is used to their dark dresses and their white caps; moreover, he is not ill-disposed towards his resident curé, who is a “good fellow.” Nevertheless, in sum, the rule of the curé is not to his taste; he does not wish to have him back, and he distrusts priests, especially the aspect of their allies who now consist of the upper bourgeoisie and the nobles. Hence, out of ten million electors, five or six millions, entertaining partial dislikes and mute reservations, continue to vote, at least provisionally, for anti-Christian radicals. All this shows that, through an insensible and slow reaction, the great rural mass, following the example of the great urban mass, is in train to again become pagan1 ; for one hundred years the wheel turns in this sense, without stopping, and this is serious, still more serious for the nation than for the Church.—In France, as things are, inward Christianity, through the double effect of its Catholic and French envelope, has grown warmer in the cloister and cooler in society, and it is in society that its heat is essential.
The Budget of 1881. 17,010 desservans of small parishes have 900 francs per annum; 4500 have 1000 francs; 9492, sixty years of age and over, have from 1100 to 13,000 francs. 2521 curés of the second class have from 1200 to 1300 francs; 850 curés of the first class, or rated the same, have from 1500 to 1600 francs; 65 archiprêtre curés have 1600 francs, that of Paris 2400 francs; 709 canons have from 1600 to 2400 francs; 193 vicars-general have from 2500 to 4000 francs.—Abbé Bougaud, “le Grand Péril,” etc., p. 23. In the diocese of Orleans, which may be taken as an average type, fees, comprising the receipts for masses, are from 250 to 300 francs per annum, which brings the salary of an ordinary desservant up to about 1200 francs.
The fees, etc., of the curé of the Madeleine are estimated at about 40,000 francs a year. The prefect of police has 40,000 francs a year, and the prefect of the Seine, 50,000 francs.
As, for example, the monk.
Prælectiones juris canonici, ii., 264-267.
Ibid., ii., 268.
“The Ancient Régime,” pp. 119, 147. (On the “Chartreuse” of Val Saint-Pierre, read the details given by Merlon de Thionville in his “Mémoires.”)
Prælectiones juris canonici, ii., 205. (Edict of Louis XIII., 1629, art. 9.)
The following are other instances. With the “Filles de Saint-Vincent de Paule,” the superior of the “Prètres de la Mission” proposes two names and all the Sisters present choose one or the other by a plurality of votes. Local superiors are designated by the Council of Sisters who always reside at the principal establishment.—With the “Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes,” assembled at the call of the assistants in function, a general chapter meets at Paris, 27 rue Oudinot. This chapter, elected by all professed members belonging to the order, comprises 15 directors of the leading houses and 15 of the older brethren who have been at least fifteen years in profession. Besides these 30, the assistants in function, or who have resigned, and the visitors of the houses form, by right, a part of the chapter which comprises 72 members. This chapter elects the general superior for ten years. He is again eligible; he appoints for three years the directors of houses, and he can prolong or replace them. With the Carthusians, the superior-general is elected by the professed brethren of the Grande Chartreuse who happen to be on hand when the vacancy occurs. They vote by sealed ballots unsigned, under the presidency of two priors without a vote.
The reader may call to mind the portrait of Brother Philippe by Horace Vernet. For details of the terrible mortifications inflicted on himself by Lacordaire see his life by Father Chocarne. “Every sort of mortification which the saints prized, hair-cloth, scourges, whips of every kind and form, he knew of and used. . . . He scourged himself daily and often several times during the day. During Lent and especially on Good Friday he literally scored and flayed himself alive.”
Notes (unpublished) by Count Chaptal.
“État des congrégations, communantés et associations religieuses, autorisées et non-autorisées, dressé en execution” according to article 12, law of Decem. 28, 1876. (Imprimerie nationale, 1878).—“L’Institut des frères des écoles chrétiennes,” by Eugène Rendu (1882), p. 10.—Th. W. Allies, “Journal d’un voyage en France,” p. 81. (Conversation with Brother Philippe, July 16, 1845.)—“Statistique de l’Institut des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes,” Dec. 31, 1888. (Drawn up by the head establishment.) Out of the 121 houses of 1789, there were 117 of these in France and 4 in the colonies. Out of the 1,286 houses of 1888, there are 1,010 in France and in the colonies. The other 276 are in other countries.
Émile Keller, “Les Congrégations religieuses en France” (1880), preface, xxiii., xxviii., and p. 92.
In 1789, 37,000 Sisters (see “The Ancient Régime”); in 1866, 86,000 Sisters (“Statistique de la France,” 1866); in 1878, 127,753 Sisters (“État des Congrégations,” etc.).
Émile Keller, ibid., passim.—In many communities of men and of women the personal expenses of each member are not over 300 francs per annum; with the Trappists at Devielle this is the maximum.—If the value of the useful labor performed by these 160,000 monks and nuns be estimated at 1000 francs per head, which is below the real figures, the total is 160 millions per annum; estimate the expenses of each monk or nun at 500 francs per head and the total is 80 millions a year. The net gain to the public is 80 millions per annum.
“La Charité à Nancy,” by Abbé Girard, p. 245.—The same judgment is confirmed by the Rev. T. W. Allies, in a “Journal d’un voyage en France,” 1848, p. 291. “The dogma of the real presence is the centre of the whole religious life of the Church (Catholic): it is the secret support of the priest in his mission, so painful and so filled with abnegation. It is by this that the religious orders are maintained.”
This question is examined by St. Thomas in his Summa Theologica.
For the past twenty years, owing to the researches of psychologists and physiologists, we have begun to know something of the subterranean regions of the soul and the latent operations going on there. The storing, remains and unconscious combination of images, the spontaneous and automatic transformation of images into sensations, the composition, breaking up and lasting doubling of the moi, the alternate or simultaneous coexistence of two, or more than two, distinct persons in the same individual, the suggestions accomplished distantly and at fixed dates, from within outwardly, and the physical effect of mental sensations on the nervous extremities—all these late discoveries end in a new conception of mind, and psychology, thus renewed, throws abundant light on history.
See in “Herodiade,” by Flaubert, the depicting of these “kingdoms of the world or of the century,” as they appeared to Palestinian eyes in the first century. For the first four centuries we must consider, confronting the Church, by way of contrast and in full relief, the pagan and Roman world, the life of the day, especially in the baths, at the circus, in the theatre, the gratuitous supplies of food, of physical enjoyments and of spectacles to the idle populace of the towns, the excesses of public and private luxury, the enormity of unproductive expenditure, and all this in a society which, without our machines, supported itself by hand-labor; next, the scantiness and dearness of available capital, a legal rate of interest at twelve per cent, the latifundia, the oberati, the oppression of the working classes, the diminution of free laborers, the exhaustion of slaves, depopulation and impoverishment, at the end the colon attached to his glebe, the workman to his tool, the curiale to his curie, the administrative interference of the centralized State, its fiscal exigencies, all that it sucked out of the social body, and the more strenuously inasmuch as there was less to be sucked out of it. Against these sensual habits and customs and this economic system the Church has preserved its primitive aversion, especially on two points, in relation to the theatre and to loaning money at interest.
See St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, ch. i., 26 to 32; also the First Epistle to the Corinthians, ch. xiii.
The First Epistle of John, ii. 16.
Acts of the Apostles, ch. iv., 32, 34 and 35.
Saint Athanasius, the principal founder of Christian metaphysics, did not know Latin and learned it with great difficulty at Rome when he came to defend his doctrine. On the other hand, the principal founder of western theology, Saint Augustin, had only an imperfect knowledge of Greek.
For example, the three words which are essential and technical in metaphysical speculations on the divine essence, λόγος, οὐσια, ὐπόστασις, have no real equivalent in Latin, while the words by which an attempt is made to render these terms, verbum, substantia, persona, are very inexact. Persona and substantia, in Tertullian, are already used in their Roman sense, which is always juridical and special.
Sir Henry Sumner Maine, “Ancient Law,” p. 354. The following is profound in a remarkable degree: “Greek metaphysical literature contained the sole stock of words and ideas out of which the human mind could provide itself with the means of engaging in the profound controversies as to the Divine Persons, the Divine Substance, and the Divine Natures. The Latin language and the meagre Latin philosophy were quite unequal to the undertaking, and accordingly the western or Latin-speaking provinces of the Empire adopted the conclusions of the East without disputing or reviewing them.”
Maine, “Ancient Law,” p. 357. “The difference between the two theological systems is accounted for by the fact that, in passing from the East to the West, theological speculation had passed from a climate of Greek metaphysics to a climate of Roman law.” Out of this arose the Western controversies on the subject of Free-will and Divine Providence. “The problem of Free-will arises when we contemplate a metaphysical conception under a legal aspect.”
Ibid. “The nature of Sin and its transmission by inheritance; the debt owed by man and its vicarious satisfaction; the necessity and sufficiency of the Atonement; above all the apparent antagonism between Free-will and the Divine Providence—these were the points which the West began to debate as ardently as ever the East had discussed the articles of its more special creed.” This juridical fashion of conceiving theology appears in the works of the oldest Latin theologians, Tertullian and Saint Cyprian.
Ibid. Among the technical notions borrowed from law and here used in Latin theology we may cite “the Roman penal system, the Roman theory of the obligations established by Contract or Delict,” the intercession or act by which one assumes the obligation contracted by another, “the Roman view of Debts and of the modes of incurring, extinguishing and transmitting them, the Roman notion of the continuance of individual existence by Universal Succession.”
Cf. Fustel de Coulanges, “La Gaule Romaine,” p. 96 and following pages, on the rapidity, facility and depth of the transformation by which Gaul became Latinized.
The Church of England, in its confession of faith, makes this express declaration.
As called by Joseph de Maistre, referring to the Greek Church.
Duke Sermoneta-Gaetani has shown in his geographic map of the “Divine Comedy” the exact correspondence of this poem with the “Somme” by Saint Thomas.—It was already said of Dante in the middle ages, Theologus Dantes nullius dogmatis expers.
Cf. “L’Empire des tsars et les Russes,” by Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, vol. iii., entire, on the characteristics of the Russian clergy.
Bossuet, ed. Deforis, vi., 169. The Meaux catechism (reproduced, with some additions, in the catechism adopted by Napoleon). “What works are deemed satisfactory?” “Works unpleasant to us imposed by the priest as a penance.” “Repeat some of them.” “Alms-giving, fastings, austerities, privations of what is naturally agreeable, prayers, spiritual readings.”
Ibid. “Why is confession ordained?” “To humble the sinner.” “Why again?” “To submit one’s self to the power of the Keys and to the judgment of the priests who have the power to punish and remit sins.”
Bossuet, ibid., Catéchisme de Meaux, vi., 140-142.
“Manreze du prêtre,” by Father Caussette, i., 37. “Do you see that young man of twenty-five who will soon pass along the sanctuary to find the sinners awaiting him? It is the God of this earth who sanctifies him. . . . Were Jesus Christ to descend into the confessional he would say, Ego te absolvo. He is going to say with the same authority, Ego te absolvo. Now this is an act of the supreme power; it is greater, says Saint Augustin, than the creation of heaven and earth.”—T. W. Allies, “Journal d’un voyage en France,” 1845, p. 97. “Confession is the chain which binds all Christian life.”
“Manreze du prêtre,” i., 36. “The Mother of God has undoubtedly more credit than you, but she has less authority. Undoubtedly, she accords favors, but she has not given one single absolution.”
Prælectiones juris canonici, i., 101. “The power entrusted to St. Peter and the apostles is wholly independent of the community of believers.”
“Cours alphébétique et méthodique du droit canon,” by Abbé André, and “Histoire générale de l’Église,” vol. iii., by Bercastel et Henrion. The reader will find in these two works an exposition of the diverse statutes of the Catholic Church in other countries. Each of these statutes differs from ours in one or several important articles; the fixed, or even territorial, endowment of the clergy, the nomination to the episcopate by the chapter, or by the clergy of the diocese, or by the bishops of the province, public competition for curacies, irremovability, participation of the chapter in the government of the diocese, restoration of the officialité, return to the prescriptions of the Council of Trent. (Cf. especially the Concordats between the Holy See and Prussia, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Baden, the two Hesses, Belgium, Austria, Spain, and the statutes accepted or established by the Holy See in Ireland and the United States.)
The brothers Allignol, “De l’État actuel du clergé en France,” p. 248. “The mind of the desservant is no longer his own. Let him beware of any personal sentiment or opinion! . . . He must cease being himself and must lose, it may be said, his personality.”—Ibid., preface, xix. “Both of us, placed in remotes country parishes, . . . are in a position to know the clergy of the second class well, to which, for twenty years, we belong.”
The principal means of action of the State is the right of appointing bishops. The Pope, however, installs them; consequently, the Minister of Worship must have an understanding beforehand with the nuncio, which obliges it to nominate candidates irreproachable in doctrine and morals, but it avoids nominating ecclesiastics that are eminent, enterprising or energetic; once installed and not removable, they would cause trouble. Such, for example, was M. Pie, bishop of Poitiers, nominated by M. de Falloux in the time of the Prince-President, and so annoying during the Empire; in order to keep him in check, M. Levert, the cleverest and most adroit prefect, had to be sent to Poitiers; for many years they waged the most desperate war under proper formalities, each playing against the other the shrewdest and most disagreeable tricks. Finally, M. Levert, who had lost a daughter and was denounced from the pulpit, was obliged, on account of his wife’s feelings, to leave the place. (This happened to my own knowledge, as between 1852 and 1867 I visited Poitiers five times.) At the present day, the Catholics complain that the government nominates none but mediocre men for bishops and accepts none others for cantonal curés.
“The Ancient Régime,” pp. 171, 181, 182.
M. de Vitrolles, “Mémoires,” i., 15. (This passage was written in 1847.) “Under the Empire, readers were to those of the present day as one to a thousand. Newspapers, in very small number, scarcely obtained circulation. The public informed itself about victories, as well as the conscription, in the articles of the ‘Moniteur,’ posted by the prefects.”—From 1847 to 1891, we all know by our own experience that the number of readers has augmented prodigiously.
An expression by Renan in relation to Abbé Lehir, an accomplished professor of Hebrew.
Th. W. Allies, rector of Launton, “Journal d’un voyage en France,” p. 245. (A speech by Father Ravignan, August 3, 1848.) “What nation in the Roman Church is more prominent at the present day for its missionary labors? France, by far. There are ten French missionaries to one Italian.” Several French congregations, especially the “Petites Sœurs des Pauvres” and the “Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes,” are so zealous and so numerous that they overflow outside of France and have many establishments abroad.
“Manreze du prêtre,” by Father Caussette, ii., 419: “Now that I have placed one of your hands in those of Mary let me place the other in those of Saint Joseph. . . . Joseph, whose prayers in heaven are what commands to Jesus were on earth. Oh, what a sublime patron, and what powerful patronage! . . . Joseph, associated in the glory of divine paternity; . . . Joseph, who counts twenty-three kings among his ancestors!” Along with the month of the year devoted to the adoration of Mary, there is another consecrated to Saint Joseph.
“État des congrégations,” etc. (1876). Eleven congregations or communities of women are devoted to the Holy Family and nineteen others to the Child-Jesus or to the Infancy of Jesus.
One of these bears the title of “Augustines de l’intérieur de Marie” and another is devoted to the “Cœuragonisant de Jésus.”
At Bourron (Seine-et-Marne), in 1789, which had 600 inhabitants, the number of communicants at Easter amounted to 300; at the present day, out of 1200 inhabitants there are 94.
Th. W. Allies, “Journal d’un voyage en France,” iii., p. 18: “M. Dufresne (July 1845) tells us that out of 1,000,000 inhabitants in Paris 300,000 attend mass and 50,000 are practising Christians.”—(A conversation with Abbé Petitot, curé of Saint-Louis d’Antin, July 7, 1847.) “2,000,000 out of 32,000,000 French are really Christians and go to confession.”—At the present day (April 1890) an eminent and well-informed ecclesiastic writes: “I estimate the number of those who observe Easter at Paris at about 100,000.”—“The number of professing Christians varies a great deal according to parishes: Madeleine, 4,500 out of 29,000 inhabitants; Saint Augustin, 6,500 out of 29,000; Saint Eustache, 1,750 out of 20,000; Bellancourt, 500 out of 10,000; Grenelle, 1,500 out of 47,500; and Belleville, 1,500 out of 60,000 inhabitants.”
Abbé Bougaud, “Le Grand Péril,” etc., p. 44: “I know a bishop who, on reaching his diocese, tried to ascertain how many of the 400,000 souls entrusted to his keeping performed their Easter duties. He found 37,000. At the present day, owing to twenty years of effort, this number reaches 55,000. Thus, more than 300,000 are practically unbelievers.”—“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” by Abbé Lagrange, i., 51. (Pastoral letter by Mgr. Dupanloup, 1851.) “He considers that he is answerable to God for nearly 350,000 souls, of which 200,000 at least do not fulfil their Easter duties; scarcely 45,000 perform this great duty.”
“The Revolution,” ii., 390.
Th.-W. Allies, “Journal,” etc., p. 240 (Aug. 2, 1848, conversation with Abbé Petitot): “In 1830, the priests were obliged for two years to abandon wearing their costume in the street, and only recovered their popularity by their devotion to the sick at the time of the cholera.”—In 1843, they had won back respect and sympathy; “the people came and begged them to bless their liberty-poles.”—Abbé Petitot adds: “The Church gains ground every day, but rather among the upper than the lower classes.”
Émile Keller, “Les Congrégations,” etc., p. 362 (with the figures in relation to schools).—“Débats” of April 27, 1890 (with the figures in relation to hospitals. Deaths increased in the eighteen laicized hospitals at the rate of four per cent).
Fournier de Flaix, “Journal de la Société de Statistique,” number for Sep. 1890, p. 260. (According to registers kept in the archiepiscopal archives in Paris.) “Compte-rendu des opérations du Conseil d’administration des pompes funèbres à Paris” (1889): funerals wholly civil in 1882, 19.33 per cent; in 1888, 19.04 per cent; in 1889, 18.63 per cent.—“Atlas de statistique municipale.” (“Débats” of July 10, 1890:) The poorer the arrondissement, the greater the number of civil funerals; Ménilmontant bears away the palm, one third of the funerals here being civil.
Abbé Joseph Roux (curé at first of Saint-Silvain, near Tulle, and then in a small town of Corrèze), “Pensées,” p. 132 (1886): “There is always something of the pagan in the peasant. He is original sin in all its brutish simplicity.”—“The peasant passed from paganism to Christianity mostly through miracles; he would go back at less cost from Christianity to paganism. . . . It is only lately that a monster exists, the impious peasant. . . . The rustic, in spite of school-teachers, even in spite of the curés, believes in sorcerers and in sorcery the same as the Gauls and Romans.”—Therefore the means employed against him are wholly external. (“Vie de Mgr. Dupanloup,” by Abbé Lagrange, pastoral notes of Mgr. Dupanloup, i., 64.) “What has proved of most use to you in behalf of religion in your diocese during the last fifteen years? Is it through this—is it through that? No, it is through medals and crosses. Whatever is given to these good people affords them pleasure; they like to have presents of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. These objects, with them, stand for religion. A father who comes with his child in his arms to receive the medal will not die without confessing himself.”—The reader will find on the clergy and peasantry in the south of France details and pictures taken from life in the novels of Ferdinand Fabre (“Tigrane,” “Courbezons,” “Lucifer,” “Barnabé,” “Mo n Oncle,” “Célestin,” “Xaviere,” “The Vocation”).