Civil Constitution of the clergy
She aimed at reorganizing in-depth the Église of France, transforming the parochial priest S into “ecclesiastical public civils servant”. According to the American historian Timothy Tackett, this constitution introduced a major and durable fracture into the country. The law on the abolition of the monastic vows of February 13rd 1790, removing 100 000 members of the Clergy not attached to a Parish, is two thirds of the clergy of this time considered as not “useful”, was also a cause of this fracture. The criteria of “utility” were the Sacrement S and the care of the heart S.
Charged commission of the drafting
Louis-Alexandre Expilly of Poipe, vice-chancellor of Saint-Martin-of-Fields close to Morlaix, elected appointed Clergy in August 1788, governed the Constituent Assembly the commission which promulgated the civil constitution of the clergy. He was the first constitutional bishop thereafter. Henri Gregoire (the Gregoire abbot) took part in the drafting.
Contents of the civil constitution
The Abbey S and Couvent S were intended to disappear, since, by the law of the February 13rd 1790, the monastic vows were abolished and the regular orders except education and charity works, “without load from heart”, were regarded as “useless”.
The constitution project civil of the clergy itself, which was adopted by the Constituante on July 12th 1790, comprised following measurements:
the old institutions are removed: the cathédraux chapters are deleted, as well as the benefit “without load of heart”.
- the Diocese S and Paroisse S are deeply altered, on the basis of of a Diocèse by department, and a projected reorganization of the Paroisse S (one passes from 130 dioceses approximately to 83).
- the bishop S and the priest S are elected by the Fidèle S, made up in local electorates.
- the bishops surround themselves by Vicaire S episcopal,
- the ecclesiastics - bishops and cleaned - were remunerated by the State.
- All the monks (bishop S, priest S, Monk S, Moniale S) had civic rights which authorized them to leave their monastic stations or their communities.
In this system, the Pape does not have any more a place: it is in relation to the Église of France only via a bishop lately instituted which addresses to him a debenture of unit of Foi and of Communion in the center of the Catholic church.
Before this law, the members of the clergy were subjected to the internal jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic church, which compelled them with the celibacy, and prevented them from bequeathing their goods to their family, to live where good seemed to them and subjected them to special courts, the Officialité S.
Of inspiration gallican E, the civil constitution of the clergy wished to establish the total independence (except out of doctrinal matter) of the Église of France with regard to the Papauté. Its organization was copied on the civil administration, the évêché S corresponding to the 83 departments. In modern French, the law could have been called law to confer a statute of citizen to the members of the clergy .
Reactions to the projectMgr Burgelin: he was opposed to the project before the adoption by the Constituante on July 12th 1790. July 22nd 1790, the pope Pie VI made known its position. The following day, Louis XVI, in spite of his scruples, gave its agreement to back-plate with the project.
Decree on enforcement of a lawThe decree on enforcement of a law spent in November 1790. The king had to sign it on December 26th, 1790. The oath was to be lent 8 days after, that is to say on January 4th.
The oath with the civil constitution
January 4th 1791, the deputies of the clergy gathered at the Parliament had to lend oath, often under the pressure of the platforms. 80 bishops refused the oath. January 7th, the oaths in the provinces started. They were spread out every Sunday of January and February 1791, at dates different according to the Diocèse S. the near total from the bishop S and half of the priests refused them. In Belgium occupied, there were six times more refractory priests than swearers ().
The members of the Clergé who were not attached to a Paroisse, not regarded as not “useful” (a hundred and thousand ecclesiastics and monk, that is to say close to the three fifths of the clergy of the Old Mode), were constrained to take a forced retirement, except choosing to join the rows of the clergy of Paroisse by lending oath.
The France was thus divided into two clergies: constitutional priests, and refractory priests (see low).
Official answer of the Black and white pope VI
The Pape Pie VI made known its official answer by the briefs Quod aliquantum of March 10th 1791, and Caritas of April 13rd 1791. He was opposed on certain points to the civil Constitution of the clergy which he regarded as heretic, sacrilege, and schismatic. He asked to the members clergy not having lent oath yet not to make it, and those which had already lent oath, retract.
The priest S having been put in the embarrassment in the action to be taken compared to the oath, there was a Schisme within the Church of France between constitutional priests, and refractory priests, but also rupture between the Revolution and the Catholic church.
This point makes the subject of debate on behalf of the historians of the religions. Indeed, in a brief dated April 2nd, 1792, Pie VI itself wrote that one had made use of his name to disturb the consciences and to sow the discord in France as a manufacturer of the bubbles which defended to lend oath of fidelity to the fatherland. To three recoveries, by decree, general Inquisiteur of Spain condemned like forgery the brief of March 10th, 1791.
Categories of priests vis-a-vis the oath
The first constitutional bishop was Louis-Alexandre Expilly of Poipe, vice-chancellor (cleaned) of Saint-Martin-of-Fields close to Morlaix, elected appointed clergy in August 1788, and which then chaired the constituent Assembly the commission which promulgated the civil constitution of the clergy. He was crowned bishop Quimper with Paris by Talleyrand, itself bishop, in 1790, before being finally guillotine on May 22nd 1794.
Typologies of reactions; According to the hierarchical position The American historian Timothy Tackett note which the proportion of refractories was much higher in the top Clergé (bishop S) that in the low clergy (priest S and Vicaire S). It notes that the vicars were statistically more refractory the priests. ; According to the geography The outlying areas were more refractory the Paris region and the areas of the center. That was due to the cultural differences, with the regional languages still very present (in Brittany, Alsace or in the South of France) which made more difficult for the low clergy the comprehension of the texts official. A certain mistrust towards the decisions of the capital also could be an explanation. The diffusion of the ideas of the Lumières is certainly also one of the factors of motivation to lend or not oath. The presence of many a clergy gallican and/or Jansenist in the Paris basin is, for certain historians, one of the reasons for which the oath had much success at this place.
Election of new priestsTo replace the priest S refractories, new priests had to be elected: 80 bishops were elected and approximately: 20000 priests were replaced. The 'abbot Gregoire, cleaned and appointed, who had taken part in the civil drafting of the constitution project of the clergy, was elected constitutional bishop, and became the chief of the constitutional church of France.
Consequences of the civil constitution of the clergy and the oathThe majority of the refractory priests took the party of the Contre-révolution and the patriots suspectèrent the ecclesiastics, generating impassioned hatreds. Very many catholics, peasants, craftsmen or middle-class men who had supported the Tiers state, joined the opposition thus. This question divided also whole families. The priests lost their position of Médiateur. The debates agitated in-depth the French company during the first six months of 1791, which started to divide the country in two.
November 29th 1791, a decree required refractory priests a civic oath, and gave to the local administrators the possibility of off-setting them of their residence in the event of disorder (see Décret against the refractory priests).
Measurements of Déchristianisation continued in France in 1793 and 1794, with the development of the Culte of the supreme Reason and Être, and the closing of the catholic churches to the worship of May 31st 1793 until worms November 1794.
The positive points of the laws of 1790 (except civil constitution of the clergy which was reserved for the catholic worship) were measurements of tolerance compared to the Protestants and to the Jewish , granting to the latter the Citoyenneté.
The refractory priests were the object of a severe repression, in particular under the Terreur, and were confused at this period with the others, the constitutional priests (or sworn in, or swearers).
In the the Rhineland occupied by the French forces (1793), the movement of Sécularisation drives out the archbishop of Mainz of his grounds. The desacralization of the symbols and the religious buildings and aristocratic supports the emergence of the middle-class capacity in the Saint Empire.
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