Educational legislation for political security under the Third French Republic, 1879-1880 : the debate over Article 7 in the Chamber of Deputies

Furey, Hubert Thomas (1978) Educational legislation for political security under the Third French Republic, 1879-1880 : the debate over Article 7 in the Chamber of Deputies. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The publication of the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility by the First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church in 1870 had significant implications for democratically elected governments of predominantly Roman Catholic nations; a view held by the members of the Republican government of France in 1879 who used the event to lay the basis for a political argument which found expression in Article 7 of the “Law Relating to the Freedom of Higher Education”, introduced into the French legislature of the Third Republic on March 15, 1879. The introduction of the article, and the furor it raised in the two houses of the legislature and in the nation, provides the background for a study of the government’s objective of Republican security contained within the article, its feelings towards the Roman Catholic Church generally, and its attempts to integrate the two into an ecclesiastical policy which would neither compromise the future of the Republic nor be persecutory, in the opinion of the government, toward the Church. This paper proposes to be such a study and it analyzes Article 7 both for its political objective and its method of achieving that objective through educational legislation, and the interrelationship of both, as perceived by the spokesmen of the government. -- As the latter unfolded their arguments in the Chamber of Deputies during the legislative debate on Article 7, and in their speeches and writings on matters relating to Article 7, they collectively depicted the emergence of a massive coalition of anti-Republican forces in the nation, forces which were in evidence in every level of government administration, and were represented in the Chamber by the parties of the Right – the Legitimists, the Orleanists and the Bonapartists. The leadership and direction of the coalescing forces and the focal point of organization and bond of the alliance, ran the Republican argument, was provided by the non-authorized teaching orders of the Church, especially the Jesuits. Through the publication of papal infallibility they had accomplished their aim of control of the universal Catholic Church as a first step in the plan of world domination in accordance with their doctrine of indirect power. As agents of that doctrine, the Society was seeking to control the national churches in the various Catholic countries through obtaining a pre-eminent place of authority and increasing their numbers of communities, a development which, according to the Republicans, was already well under way in France. In this process of gaining control they were placing the vast power and influence of the Church, as perceived by the Republicans, in the service of the parties of the Right both by using the hierarchy, authority and obedience of the Church to attain the organization and control of the present electorate and by using the educational system of the Church to indoctrinate the youth of France in the political thinking of the Right to ensure control of the future electorate. If the process were to continue, the Republic was certain to be threatened, if not destroyed, by the creation of a second France within its very bosom; a France which would be eternally hostile to the Republic and would only exist in a state of war with it. -- To ensure the future of the Republic and the unity of the nation, the Republican government felt compelled to expel the Jesuits from the nation and secure control of the other non-authorized orders through authorization. Both could be achieved, they felt, and the integrity of Church-State relations preserved, through the implementation of Article 7 which, in their minds, was simply the reapplication of the terms of the Concordat of 1808. The Concordat had provided mutual protections and guarantees for both Church and State through the arrogation to the state of the right to regulate or authorize religious orders, an arrogation which had been set aside through the anti-Revolutionary reaction of the previous three decades. Since the Jesuits and the other orders in question fell within the category of non-authorized congregations, the reviving of the terms of the Concordat to combat their presence and activity placed the Republican government, in the opinion of its spokesmen, in a legal and justifiable position relative to the orders, a position which in their further opinion could be readily identified with the positions of all previous French governments stretching back to the monarchies of pre-Revolutionary days. Also, the reimplementation of the Concordat meant that the government, in its political quarrel with the Jesuits, was not embarking, in its own estimation, on any new, drastic policy towards the Church such as persecution or separation, but was demonstrating its good faith in reverting to a policy of compromise and moderation, a policy which had been in force since the Revolution and had only been permitted to lapse over the previous three decades. Thus, concluded the Republicans, Article 7 was intended to combat a political threat from political forces whose leadership was operating under the guise of agents of education; hence the presence of political objectives in educational legislation. -- This explains the working of the title of the thesis and describes, in capsule form, the thesis itself which the author proposes. It does not attempt to objectively judge the relative strengths or weaknesses of the policy, nor whether the policy was a success or a failure in achieving its political objective. It is merely an attempt to portray the thinking of a government faced, as it believed, with the threat of political extinction in the definitive sense, and its attempt through legislation to remove that threat without prejudicing the very ideals and freedoms they believed they represented. The study of Article 7 is the portrait of a government in a dilemma; in the same legislative breath to remove the Church as a threat without interfering with the Church as a functioning institution. Article 7 was the government’s solution to that dilemma and, given the circumstances of the government which initiated its creation, and the alternative policies which they perceived were available, can be regarded as a genuine attempt to resolve the complex Church-State issue of the Third Republic in 1879 and, relatively speaking, and ecclesiastical policy of the first order.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 1304
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 148-159.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1978
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: France
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Catholic Church--France; Church and education--France; Education and state--France; Church and state--France--19th century

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