The Year in France

THE political year in France may be reviewed conveniently from May, 1906, when the new parliament was elected, to May, 1907, when government and Parliament together were brought face to face with the uprising power of the confederate labor unions. During these twelve months there was practically but one administration. M. Clemenceau was named as head of the government only in September, but he had been the real head all through the preceding Sarrien ministry; and to him had fallen the task of “doing” the elections, which left the Radical-Socialist Bloc undisputed master in the Chamber of Deputies. This year’s review fulfills the closing words of a year ago: “The coming year will show how so tremendous a majority will deal with church and social questions.” These questions and no others have stirred the whole world’s interest in France.1

The successive attempts of government and Parliament to apply new laws separating the churches and the State to Roman Catholic public worship are of universal importance, because they imply principles which reach to the foundations of all society. The revolutionary tradeunionism, which is growing steadily, cannot yet receive the same special consideration; it has not yet arrived at its natural limit. But its summons to society as now constituted is already so clear and imperious that the republic’s danger from the church is in comparison but an electioneering song in the night.

The Church Separation Law has failed to do the particular work for which it was voted by the preceding parliament. Catholic citizens have chosen to undergo its penalties, with new pains and reprisals voted by the present Parliament, rather than accept that civil reorganization of their religion which it imposed on them. The result has been to deprive French Catholics, not only of the church property which had been restored to them after the confiscations of the Revolution, but also of all church property of whatever kind, even such as had since been gathered together by their private and voluntary contributions. It is impossible to foresee how they are legally to constitute new church property for themselves. By the automatic working of separation. Catholics, so far as any corporative action might be intended, are left quite outside their country’s laws.

The Associations Law had previously suppressed their religious orders and congregations, that is, all those teaching and other communities which combined individual initiatives into a working power for their religion. In virtue of that law, their convents and colleges and the other properties of such religious associations have “reverted” to the State, which is gradually liquidating them for its own purposes.

No example of temporal sacrifices for religion’s sake on such a scale has been seen since Catholics in the France of the Revolution chose to lose all, in many cases life itself, rather than accept the schismatical civil constitution of their clergy, which was accompanied by a like nationalizing of all their church property. Those who reprobate the Catholic religion, or despise the French Catholics’ understanding of what it demands of them, should at least acknowledge the extent of the sacrifice.

Even the provisional use of their own parish churches for their own worship all that is now left to French Catholics of their former church property — is not a matter of legal right, but of government tolerance under civil supervision. The legal right of the State to turn over such churches to the civil communes for other than religious purposes (les désaffecter), or to throw them open to non-Catholic religions, is fully established by the new laws and has already been exercised. All other property of the former parishes, and all property connected with religion and the church, even to the superannuating funds contributed by the clergy for themselves, have been handed over for communal uses.

The French State has not thus taken possession of church property on the ground that the State originally built the churches or contributed the funds for the other properties. Such an idea may have been spread abroad, but it is contrary to the most obvious facts; and it has been explicitly disclaimed by government. (Further on, see extracts from speeches of M. Briand, Minister of Public Worship, in Chamber of Deputies.) The right claimed by the State in disposing of such property for its own purposes is based, like the expropriation to the State of the properties of religious communities by the previous Associations Law, on principles which may be extended indefinitely to all property-holding for religious purposes, if not to property-holding by corporations of any kind whatsoever.

This experiment, by which the French Republic officially undertakes to regulate religion by political action, was bound to have its effect in universal opinion, even in the United States, where the contrary experiment was supposed to have worked satisfactorily for more than a hundred years. The American experiment was not considered, nor apparently known in its working details, by those who have voted and are carrying out the Separation Law in France. Rather it has been an object of distrust. This is not a compliment to the present extent of our moral influence in the world, especially when compared with the constant reference and appeal of the French Republicans of 1848 to the American exemplar.

Americans, who seek sincerely to know what is going on in France, must have the patience to keep certain things carefully in mind. The two republics are built upon fundamentally different systems of government. In the United States definite constitutions fix the principles of political and religious liberty for associations of citizens as well as for individuals, and limit the powers, not only of government, but of the people. In England long habits of freedom and strong judicial traditions work to the same end. The Third French Republic, without a detailed constitution of independent judiciary, develops logically from the one principle of “the omnipotence of universal suffrage,” of which Parliament is the sole representative; the liberty of the press and frequent elections form the only checks to this absolute rule of a majority of Parliament.

Moreover, it is religious ignorance quite as much as political party feeling which has so constantly condemned, unheard, one set of citizens for refusing to do what their sworn adversaries are trying to force them to do. Finally, a debauch of anonymous information, snowfalls of petits papiers and picturesque irrelevancies, are produced as authentic and decisive arguments, in the press and in Parliament itself; and it has been easy to wrap up confessed facts in legal subtleties.

In such conditions, one must judge for himself from reasons which he is able to control. Even then he may have to come to John Stuart Mill’s conclusion that religious tolerance is possible only where there is indifference to religion. In their own government Americans had hoped to substitute liberty for tolerance.

In reality, the present conflict of Parliament and government with their Roman Catholic citizens does not bear on the fact of separation, that is, the breaking asunder of that which had been united. To understand how and why Catholics have refused the law, and deliberately chosen to suffer the foreseen consequences of their refusal, it is necessary to have some accurate knowledge of their previous religious situation.

The union of Church and State, as it existed in France when the Separation Law was voted, was not peculiar to Roman Catholics, nor did they legally form a privileged body by themselves. Within limits of number and internal arrangement, it was equally applied to the French Lutheran body, numbering roughly 65,000 members; to the Reformed or Calvinist Protestants, something over 500,000; and to the Jewish religious communities, under 100,000. But the Separation Law was aimed at none of these, as the Radical chronicler of the year confesses: “When the legislators were working out the law, it was not this slight minority of Protestants and Israelites which they had in mind. On the contrary, the question was — What attitude will be taken by Catholics, what counsels will come to them from Rome ?” 2

In fact, the immense majority of French citizens was made up of nominal Catholics. The uncertain number of more or less practicing Catholics was, rightfully or wrongfully, supposed to be rooted by family tradition in the political as well as in the religious past. And the law was made and voted by their declared religious and political adversaries with a view to regulating all their public activities for the future.

With the political temperament of the French people, with the inveterate habit of all their governments of whatever name, and with the known temper of the parliamentary majority, it should have been easy to foresee what has happened. All measures to separate the Roman Catholic Church from the French State were sure to end in a Norman law which, while separating, would separate without separating. Harduin, the wit of the ministerial journal Le Matin, found the predestined formula: The State is determined to separate itself from the Church; it is equally determined that the Church shall not be separated from the State.

Perhaps this is the real meaning of the new formula, invented for the occasion by the Protestant Socialist Deputy, M. de Pressensé, and adopted by M. Sarrien when prime minister: “The free Church in the sovereign State.” In the United States, separation of Church and State has no precise meaning, our consecrated form of words from the beginning having been “religious liberty.” This meant, if it had any meaning at all, freedom from state interference; and it was supposed to indicate a constitutional limit of the powers of the lawmaking as well as of the executive authorities. American citizens were to be free to found, continue, propagate, and organize their religions for themselves; neither Congress nor state legislatures, neither President Roosevelt nor Governor Hughes, would have “civil supremacy" over the internal organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The journal founded by Horace Greeley has reproached French Catholics for not bowing to the civil supremacy which threatened their church’s essential existence.

The Roman Catholic Church was not an established church in France, as it had been before the Revolution and as the Anglican Church still is in England. It was not a state church at all in any proper sense of the term, since there was no state religion.

Its clergy had no representation in the legislative body as bishops have in the English House of Lords. The French bishops were even subject for their nomination to the government of the Republic, and their political origin followed them as a shadow. Each bishop’s action was limited to his own diocese, which was itself a civil division of the country. The bishops were forbidden to meet together in council, or otherwise to consult together for the discussion of common church interests, according to the practice current in the United States and elsewhere. For all public action they had to report to the Government Minister of Cults, who of late years was never a Catholic and was often some leading antiCatholic. In all public ecclesiastical affairs government alone dealt with Rome, either directly or through the nuncio resident in France.

Parish priests had neither civil magistracy nor privilege; and they too were not allowed to unite for action in common. Before the civil law they were not even ministers of valid marriage for their parishioners; their own religious celibacy was not recognized by the State as an impediment if they should themselves choose to marry. The administration of parish properties was carried on by fabriques (vestries) of local laymen, whose nomination, operations, and accounts were subject to the supervision and control of the state authorities; and church properties were not exempt from civil taxation.

Priests had no legal right to enter state schools, hospitals, or prisons. They, and the theological students of seminaries, were exempt from military service only within the limits of all other liberal professions; like all citizens of the Republic they had to serve their time in barracks. There were no army or navy chaplains whose functions were not regulated or suppressed at will by the civil administration ; and no evangelizing of either soldiers or sailors was tolerated, even in the shape of Catholic reading-rooms or clubs.

By the Associations Law the members of Catholic religious communities, if they were priests, were forbidden to engage in that preaching of “missions” which in other countries is a main instrument in the revival and propagation of their religion. Members of such communities. — congréganistes, — priests, brothers and sisters, were all forbidden to teach in France, even in the separate Catholic schools which had been built by private contributions and existed, under the common law then in force, without government subsidy or privilege or civil incorporation. For more than twenty years before the Associations Law had discriminated against them, such communities and teachers had not been regularly allowed in any of the state schools which existed in every commune.

Catholic schools and colleges could neither confer university degrees, or teachers’ certificates, or certificates of study, nor could their professors, even for their own pupils, take part in those examinations which all students must pass in France if they are to enter on any professional career. Not only were Catholics without civil privilege; they were exposed to all the constantly growing disfavor of politicians in power.

Such was the legal existence of the Roman Catholic Church in France while the Concordat between State and Pope was still in force. A useful comparison may be made with the situation of the same church in America, where religion is free from state interference; or in England, where, along with a Protestant established church, other religions, the Roman Catholic included, enjoy practical liberty.

In spite of these fundamental facts, perhaps because of them, the Church as an individual entity — l’Eglise — is still, as it has been all through the Third Republic, the scarecrow of political campaigns. In like manner, during the forty years’ effort which M. Henri Brisson, as the leader of radical anti-clericalism, has devoted to the political suppression of the religious communities, he has invariably lumped them, with all their multitude of independent property-holdings and rival activities, into one mystic and supremely dangerous personality,— la Congrégation. Many of the arguments which determined Parliament in the Associations and Separation laws have their force in this idea of a personal church handling mysterious and irresponsible millions under foreign direction.

Whatever may be the political possibilities of the Roman Catholic religion in France, a practical reductio ad absurdum of such a theory in present circumstances has been furnished during the year in what seems to have been an attempt at reprisals against Catholics. Government unexpectedly seized all the private and confidential papers of Monsignor Montagnini, who had been secretary of the last papal nuncio and remained on in Paris after the Combes Ministry had broken with Rome. Among the thousands of documents, official and personal, there is evidence of anything and everything except financial or political unity either among the clergy themselves, or among laymen and clergy, or of either or both with the Pope.

In any case, it is certain that French Roman Catholics were not united into one body civilly; and no such body was recognized by Parliament when it came to legislate concerning the Roman Catholic religion of French citizens. The hierarchy was one only in its common dependence on one and the same state administration. The religion was one only by clergy and laymen being united in faith and practice with the Pope of Rome. Inevitably, when the situation created by the Concordat came to an end, the past experience of the bishops would make them only uncertain organizers. Inevitably the Catholic people would have to look to the Pope alone for guidance.

Separation was ostentatiously carried through without counsel or consent of priests, bishops, or Pope, although the Concordat was technically a bilateral contract. The Separation Law itself carefully ignored the existence of a clergy or religious organism distinct from the local associating together of citizens of the communes. Whether by ignorance, as is probable, or by design, as Catholics and the Pope himself seem to think, it is certain that the makers of the Separation Law directly exposed their Catholic fellow-citizens to the alternative either of ceasing to be Roman or of refusing a law of the Republic.

The refusal of the law was, in reality, a refusal to accept a brand-new civil reorganization of their religion, — an organization which was in no wise rendered necessary by the mere rupture of the bonds which hitherto had united Church and State.

These positive bonds may be reduced to three: first, money subsidies paid by the State; second, property rights, and third, official functions, both also recognized and secured by the State.

In the first place, so far as the Roman Catholics were concerned, the French State paid its subsidies to the bishops and parish priests whom it recognized. In the last years before separation the total annual sum appropriated by Parliament for Roman Catholics amounted to a little less than $8,000,000 (for the very last year exactly 39,801,903 francs). Of this sum nearly $700,000 went for repairs and other expenses connected with church buildings. Sums actually paid to the clergy, which the party in power affected to regard as “salaries of State functionaries,” amounted to an annual average of less than $2000 per bishop and about $180 for each officially recognized priest in the majority of the 40,000 parishes of France. Some 3500 irremovable curés received as much as 1200 or 1500 francs ($240 to $300) a year. Ecclesiastical pensions to the amount of $135,000 were distributed yearly by the State.

These subsidies, especially in the case of country priests, might be eked out from land sometimes attached to the parish house or from other more or less direct subventions of the commune. The bishops’ menses and many of the jabriques had moderate revenues of their own, often accumulated from private sources. Assistant priests, a necessity in towns, were entirely supported by the faithful; and there were more or less voluntary receipts from the chairs in churches, from marriage and funeral splendors, and from hand-to-hand gifts constituting the casuel.

Frugal as the standard of living is among the French clergy, the state subsidies can never have furnished more than a fraction of their entire support, even in the poorest and smallest parishes. Even so, the state appropriations of recent years had been a full third larger than the annual average for the whole century under the Concordat. This is very different from the accredited idea of a state-supported and all but state-purchased French Church.

At the signing of the Concordat it was understood that such subsidies were due from the French State to Catholics as compensation for the complete confiscation of their church property and revenues during the Revolution. It is difficult to explain otherwise the sequence of Articles 13 and 14 in the Concordat as it was signed. In return the Pope agreed, for himself and for French Catholics, to abandon all claims to other restitution. The Separation Law now takes it for granted that all such subsidies were a free gift of the State, to be stopped short at will of a majority of Parliament without reference to the other party, the Church. In the agitation following the separation, the question has not been raised except in purely formal protestations against the Republic’s “repudiation of the signature of France.”

In the second place, the French State restored and guaranteed for the religious uses of Catholics certain essential properties, such as churches, priests’ and bishops’ houses, and seminary buildings, which had survived the Revolution and had not been definitely acquired by private citizens or appropriated by the State to its own uses. On the same principle of restitution, the obligation of the State to leave such property in the hands of Catholics was supposed to bind in perpetuity.

Here, too, by the Separation Law, Parliament has finally adopted the revolutionary contention that all such property is national or communal; and that the State (in practice a majority of Parliament) may dispose at will of all property of the kind, even to the extent of depriving Catholics of all religious use of it and selling it or otherwise applying it for purely secular uses of the communes or nation.

This has not only been enforced with respect to buildings existing before the Revolution, when the real union of Church and State might be made a ground of confusion in property rights. During the century of the Concordat the private and voluntary contributions of Catholics had made substantial additions to the old and built up many new churches, priests’ houses, and seminaries, often without any subsidy whatever from either State or commune. The seminary properties were even held separately from the parish and diocesan bodies. Yet all these, with all their contents, pious presents of church ornaments and sacred vessels, legacies and endowments and funds, even to the superannuation pensions of the clergy accumulated in mutual aid from personal contributions of their own, have now become the legal property of the State.

The principle which is held to justify this complete change of property rights by act of Parliament, against the expressed will of those who constituted the property and of the actual holders, and without compensation to them, is not the same as that recognized in the previous Associations Law.

In the latter case, communities of individuals living together in convents or schools had built up their properties by combined effort and held their title deeds, each community by itself, under the law then common to all French citizens. When the police force was brought in to oblige the Ursuline nuns of Nantes to quit their convent, the mother superior explained the situation from the Catholics’ point of view: “We can understand that you forbid us by law to teach school; but we cannot understand a law that takes from us the property which we have earned ourselves, cent by cent, by our own labor and economy.” The reporter of the Matin newspaper formulated the Parliamentary view: “The nuns refused to submit to the law and leave their house.”

The property of such religious associations “reverted” to the State on this principle: The associations have been dissolved by the State; as they no longer exist they cannot hold property; therefore their property is without any legal owner and, like all bona vacantia, must belong to the State. By the same principle no indemnity was due as a matter of justice to the individual members of communities thus deprived of their common property, since they were without any individual title to it.

This principle had its logical application in the exposition of a bill presented to Parliament by a Radical deputy, M. Gustave Hubbard; he proposed the taking over of the petroleum refineries as a state monopoly, in which case no indemnity would be due to present refiners according to legal precedent in the case of the religious associations. The alcohol industry is also agitated by projects of law for a like state monopoly, to be established without indemnity (May, 1907). In neither of these cases, however, has that actual expropriation of refining plants been demanded which was executed with the property of religious communities.

It is another and further development of the State’s power over property held collectively by groups of citizens which is at the base of the Separation Law. The principle has consistently directed the application of the law by government during the year. It may be formulated thus: The community as a whole (that is to say, the State; that is, in France a majority of Parliament) has eventual rights over all property accumulated collectively by a group of citizens.

This conception of the rights of the State, at least over religious property held corporately and without individual title on the part of the members of the religion, was taken for granted by the majority of Parliament from the beginning. The possibility of a “church,” or “religious denomination,” or “congregation” (in the English sense), holding property with the legal guarantees of other property has never been familiar to the French mind.

M. Aristide Briand, in the name of government, has given explicit utterance to the principle in Parliament. As committee reporter he did his best, before the Separation Law was voted and against the efforts of Radical leaders, to reduce the compulsion of the law to terms compatible with Catholics remaining Roman Catholics, just so far as he understood the situation. As Minister of Cults, charged with the difficult task of applying the law, he persevered in the same policy of reducing the law to its lowest terms. In the Chamber of Deputies, on January 29, 1907, when the penalties of the law had already been applied to Catholics, and all their church property had been turned over to the communes, he pleaded successfully that the use of the parish churches at least might still be left to Catholics as a matter, not of law, but of expediency. M. Maurice Allard, with many others, demanded that the communes should be left free at once to use the church buildings for any purpose they might choose, like any other communal property. M. Briand replied (Journal officiel, Jan. 30, 1907):

“You speak of the Catholic collectivity and you defy us to define it legally. Evidently it is difficult to define, and we need not try it. You say — The church belongs to the collectivity and consequently to the commune. This is true; but it was built for a definite purpose and with a well-defined intention. You know it, but you object: Such a collectivity is so misty, so without consistence, that it does not admit, of legal definition. We acknowledge that the church cannot have a particular owner (être possédée par tel ou tel).

“You say — We will dispose of the church, because it belongs to a collectivity which we cannot get hold of; and you add — But then Catholics will always be able to have their prayers, they can still assemble together — they will buy new places and build.

“But these new places, Monsieur Allard, with your theory, these too may be taken away from Catholics in a few months or years and for the same reasons.

“(On different benches) That’s evident!

“ M. Maurice Allard. No, no!

“M. Briand. No? Why not? That is the way the churches were built. The new churches would have to be built in the same way by a collective effort of the inhabitants of the commune, and naturally they would still have a sort of stamp of the commune on them; it would be impossible to discriminate exactly the juridical personality which had built them.”

A year almost to a day before (1st February, 1906), M. Briand, not yet minister, spoke somewhat differently, but with the same underlying claim of the State to change property right at will. His words were intended to reassure Catholics excited by the sudden government inventorying of all their church properties.

When a public establishment has been dissolved, there has to be a settlement of the property. For this an inventory is necessary. The property does not belong to certain ones: it is the property of the faithful taken together. It is necessary to say to Catholics that the object of the inventory is to guarantee their own interests, to make sure of transmission to the public worship associations.”

To these associations cultuelles of its own creation Parliament, by the Separation Law, had forcibly transferred the church properties without the consent of the owners. When Catholics refused to form such associations, as being essentially destructive of their religion, the State at once exercised the further right created by the new law and finally transferred the properties which had been inventoried to itself and to the communes.

Not all professional legists in France have felt able to adopt the Parliamentary formula for this power of the State. A judge at Troyes, in an official court decision, justified certain action of the “separated” clergy, not on the ground of a “dissolution of their establishment,” but because “the State had taken possession (s’est emparé) of their property.” The government prosecutor appealed and demanded a reprimand for the judge, first, because his decision virtually criticised a law of Parliament as “seizing” property; and, secondly, because the property had never belonged to “the clergy.” In the United States the property would have belonged to the “church” or “religious denomination,” or “congregation,” comprising, according to some free internal organization of its own, both the French judge’s “clergy" and M. Briand’s “faithful;” and only in case of the utter disappearance of both would it be possible to talk of the property escheating to the State.

The Pope naturally used yet other formulas to express the French Republic’s compulsory transfer of property rights. His refusal to allow Catholics to form the associations demanded by the Separation Law was not based on the property question alone or in the main; but the loss of the property as an immediate and foreseen consequence caused him to be reproached with “having abandoned the goods of the church.” “To declare church property ownerless by a certain time if, before that time, the Church has not created within herself a new organization; to subject this creation to conditions which are directly opposed to the divine constitution of the Church and which the Church is therefore obliged to reject; then to assign the property to a third party, as if it had become goods without a master; and finally to assert that, by such action, the Church is not despoiled, but only property that she has abandoned is being disposed of — all this is not only to reason like a sophist, it adds derision to the crudest spoliation.” (Encyclical, January 6, 1907.)

To the world at large there is something in all this which may prove more important than its religious bearing. By the Associations and Separation laws, the French Parliament has done something more than continue what the bourgeois Revolution began at the close of the eighteenth century. In the limited field of religious corporations, it has enforced legal principles concerning the State’s power which are ready for application to all property-holding, and prelude the social revolution that is to come. A leading Socialist writer, M. Henry Bérenger, summons Parliament defiantly: “All this eating of priests on the stage so that you may protect financiers behind the scenes, is cold victuals since the Separation ! ”

It was the rupture of the third bond which really counted most with both parties. In consequence of it, the Church has lost her property; but it is doubtful if the State (in the French sense) has gained. The “sovereign State” was to control the “free Church” through the civil associations cultuelles. In default of these, the Roman Catholic clergy, ignored by the Separation Law and henceforth freely named by Pope and bishops, can be touched legally only as “functionaries of a foreign potentate”!

By the Concordat the French State recognized the Roman Catholic Church for what it is, an organized religion with the Pope of Rome as its head and the French bishops and clergy as its official ministers in France. Civilly there was no legal existence of priest or parish church or chapel or church property without the French bishop; and there was no legal bishop in France without the Pope of Rome. Since the State paid this legally recognized clergy while guaranteeing their official position, those who look at things exclusively from the political point of view came to consider the ministers of the Catholic Church as little more than “salaried functionaries of the State.” They have legislated accordingly, and are shocked that Catholics should declare themselves unable to accept the brand-new civil constitution voted by Parliament for their religion.

From his place in Parliament, in words that offended many fellow-Catholics because they expressed confidence in the sincerity of their adversaries, the priestdeputy, Abbé Lemire, traced out the haphazards of the Separation Law.

“You [M. Briand] say that you did not wish to make a civil constitution of religion as your ancestors made a civil constitution of the clergy. How then does it happen that, both at home and abroad, the misunderstanding may be said to be general ? It comes from this: when you worked out your law you began by legislating about property to be transferred, and you thought of creating a special organization to receive privileged property; and then, in Article 20, you defined the organization — the publicworship association. Now you have not only attributed to this association the office you first proposed, namely, to be an instrument of property transfers; you attribute to it even the exercise of public worship. That is the text of the law.

“You, my colleagues, may object that you had no intention of legislating about the internal organization of the Church. I believe you. When Article 4 was voted (providing that the associations should conform to the general rules of the religion to which they profess to belong) we said, The organization of the Catholic religion is respected in law (juridiquement); the property will go to those to whom it belongs. Unhappily, when we came to Articles 18 and the following, we clogged our law with a definition that stops short those who hold strictly by the written word, because they feel that good intentions pass while the text of the law remains.” (Chamber of Deputies, January 15, 1907.)

The last great debate (January 30, 1907), ending in the present provisional status quo of parish churches only, put the whole matter in a nutshell. M. Paul Meunier noted that the “Republican majority had voted and exacted Article 8” (by which the Government Conseil d’Etat, and not the respective religious authorities, was to decide whether public worship associations conformed to their religious rules). ... “ We carefully avoided mentioning the word bishop in the text of Article 4.” Prime Minister Clemenceau observed, “I combatted Article 4.” Minister Briand retorted, “I have the right to say that when we came to Article 4 it was difficult for me to foresee Article 8.”

M. Clemenceau: “ Nous sommes dans l’incohérence! ”

This incoherence of the law seems to justify, in fair logic, the order given by the Pope nearly six months before: “The public worship associations, such as the law imposes, cannot be formed without violating sacred rights belonging to the very life of the Church” (Encyclical, August 10, 1906).

Property was only the material side of the question. Civil public worship associations, once in possession and without responsibility either to clergy or even to the practicing Catholics of the parish, might limit religion to the quod justum est of their own ideas; they might sustain a priest suspended by his bishop and so cozen the faithful out of their religion; local politicians were likely to be in control, while clergy and practicing Catholics would be powerless to direct the public exercise of their own religion; and, besides the numerous pretexts which the law afforded the civil authorities for dissolving the associations, might not some new and more anti-clerical government use the law against the Catholic religion itself ? Was not separation intended to be dissolution, parcel by parcel, parish by parish ?

In so general a review only two particular incidents demand a word of explanation, if only because of the universal resonance accorded them.

The first is “the Pope’s lie” (le mensonge pontifical of Le Matin) in his Encyclical, August 10, 1906. The Pope declared that his prohibition of the public worship associations “confirmed the all but unanimous deliberation” of the first plenary assembly of French bishops (the Separation Law by ignoring them had left them free to assemble). Two newspapers — the non-Catholic Temps and the anti-Catholic Siècle — made disclosures that the bishops, by at least a majority, had voted to accept the associations.

This was strange. The five French cardinals, before the voting of the law (March 28, 1905, as quoted in last year’s review), wrote plainly to President Loubet that the associations were “in formal contradiction with the principles of the Catholic religion.” The Pope’s first Encyclical, long before the bishops’ meeting (February 17, 1906), declared the associations contrary to the constitution of the Church and even to the words of Jesus Christ (interpreted to Radical amazement by St. Cyprian). What could have happened ?

It is now accurately known that the French bishops began by reprobating the associations unanimously, as the Pope said. Next, they considered a plan for doing with the law what Cardinal Lecot called discreetly s’aménager, and Minister Briand in Parliament described as s’accommoder — both meaning in plain English “to get around” the law. This was to be done by making sure of the members of the association from their first beginnings, choosing them among Catholics having some right to the name, just as New England Congregationalists would choose “professing Christians.” The legal adviser of the Pope (probably a deputy, M. Groussau, professor of law and specialist in French religious technicalities) pointed out that such associations — at once canoniques et légales, as their promoters fondly named them — had not a legal leg to stand on in the Separation Law; at most, they would exist only so long as government’s good will lasted.

It is hard to see why the Pope should have published to the world his rejection of such a project, to which moreover the ordinary parish clergy seem to have been everywhere opposed. The annoyances since created for the clergy by the maires of many communes go far to justify the judgment of the Pope, himself an old parish priest.

The second incident is of importance precisely because its importance has been minimized for purposes of religious controversy.

In the Chamber of Deputies, November 8, 1906, M. Viviani, a Socialist leader who had been made Minister of Labor in the new government, summed up with frank eloquence the successive tasks of the revolutions of 1789 and 1848 and of the Third Republic.

“All together, first our fathers, then our elders, and now ourselves, we have set ourselves to the work of anti-Clericalism, of irreligion; we have torn from the people’s soul all belief in another life, in the deceiving and unreal visions of a heaven. To the man who stays his steps at set of sun, crushed beneath the labor of the day and weeping with want and wretchedness, we have said : ' Behind those clouds at which you gaze so mournfully there are only vain dreams of heaven.’ With magnificent gesture we have quenched for him in the sky those lights which none shall ever again kindle. Do you think our work is over ? It begins.”

By a majority of 368 to 129, the Chamber of Deputies voted the posting up of the speech in all the communes of France. This fact cannot be changed, even by M. Briand’s later reservation that government should be “a-religious,” not irreligious.

During a year so burdened with the solicitude of the churches, the new Parliament found time to attempt certain social legislation which had been long waiting. The law securing a Weekly Day of Rest to laborers and employees (voted July 10, 1906) has caused friction in practice. It forms one of a series of labor victories over capital; and this, rather than religion, which was not considered, guarantees its ultimate success.

At the end of the twelve months, the Syndicalist movement — a sort of revolutionary, as distinguished from political, trade-unionism — has shown itself a power with which the State has to count for the future. The separate labor unions (syndicats), their regional and national federations, and the Bourses de Travail opened by the State for them in large cities, have realized an effective unity among themselves in one vast general labor confederation — Confédération Générale du Travail. This has grown so rapidly that already it directs rather than obeys the Socialist political party, of which indeed it vaunts its independence. It has succeeded in enlisting in its propaganda even the unions of government employees, such as school-teachers and postmen.

The strikes resulting from this syndicalist agitation have again obliged the Radical Socialist government of M. Clemenceau to have recourse to the national army before the first of May, just as bourgeois governments in former days called out the troops against popular demonstrations of the Socialists. The present predominance of the Socialist party in Parliament would naturally be thought sufficient to protect all legitimate interests of labor by purely political action. Yet the same workmen who so well know how to use their votes have been hurried in great numbers into this “direct action” of general strikes, intended to secure ends outside of legislation or politics.

The sudden rise of this new syndicalism precipitates what is perhaps only the inevitable evolution of all Socialism, peaceful or otherwise. It directly threatens the radicalism which has so long monopolized the political power of the French Republic for its own anti-clerical projects. Indeed, the new power is likely to prove of more immediate importance to the Republic than all the conflict of Parliament and government with Roman Catholic citizens, who have never known how to use either their votes or their legal rights of action.

From the 8th to the 14th of May, 1907, the French Parliament satisfied to the full the national passion for logic and oratory in connection with this new irrepressible conflict. During a two days’ speech, lasting in all more than seven hours, M. Jaurès defended the legal right to existence of the General Labor Confederation; the right of “state functionaries” to form unions of their own, and their further right to affiliate them with the other syndicates in the one General Confederation. M. Clemenceau, whose ministry was at stake, would not condemn the Confederation; but he refused to government employees the right to rise up against superior authority. His concession to the Socialist leader did not please the bourgeois Radicals. Minister Briand, who was a Socialist leader, had advocated the general strike and helped to set the Confederation on its way, showed himself the same patient and superlatively effective debater as in previous discussions of Church and State. He saved the ministry for the time being, but only to be excommunicated by most of his fellow-Socialists.

This new majority was a distinct breaking away from the Bloc of Radical and Socialist deputies, which had so long ruled France absolutely. Time will tell if M. Jaurès was right in dubbing M. Briand “the Morny of the reaction!”

  1. The previous “ Year in France ” was reviewed by the present writer in the Atlantic Monthly for August, 1906. This year’s review, having necessarily to deal with the Catholic question in politics, has been delayed for comparison with M. Paul Sabatier’s latest publication (end of May, 1907) : Lettre ouverte a S. E. le Cardinal Gibbons. M. Sabatier, who is a Protestant clergyman, naturally writes in accordance with his own religious views, which hardly concern outsiders seeking only to know the facts in the case. Warning was given last year that such words as “ state ” and “liberty " are not used in the same sense by Frenchmen and Americans. This needs particular attention wherever religious liberty, the liberty and right of association, and property rights in relation to the state, are involved.
  2. Le Vingtième Siècle Politique, par René Wallier.