Info

the bitter opposition of the Gallican-Jansenist faction that had devised the Civil Constitution - the deputies in Paris passed a 'toleration decree' in May 1791. This decree permitted non-jurors to continue celebrating Mass and even to share the parish church with the jurors, as long as they did not cause disturbances or attack the Revolution and its policies. The law also specified that no refractories could be dismissed until replacements had been found. In zones where the oath had been massively rejected, it was often impossible to find sufficient substitutes, and local authorities were forced to leave refractories at their posts, sometimes well into 1792.

The strength of the Roman Church in a given diocese depended not only on the number of non-jurors and the support of the laity, but also on the vigour and organization of the ancien régime bishop. By the summer of 1792, all but a handful of the bishops had moved safely beyond the French frontiers. They had to rely on vicars-general or on other appointed delegates who had remained behind to provide local leadership. In most cases, the leadership in question was directed above all at denouncing the revolutionary church and circulating the relevant papal pronouncements. Since, as chance would have it, the initial crisis almost coincided with the Lenten season, many displaced cures made full use of the Easter confessional to attack the 'intruders' who had been sent to replace them.

In strongly juring regions a priest who had rejected the oath might be the target of considerable popular animosity and even violence. A clergyman's refusal to embrace the Constitution was viewed as evidence that he was an enemy and potential conspirator against the Revolution. Yet some measure of lay support for refractories was to be found almost everywhere. In most regions women played a particularly active role in defending the traditional church -even though other women fervently supported the Revolution. Women's religious orders - which widely sympathized with the non-jurors - frequently provided chapels for the celebration of refractory Masses. Contingents of laywomen, sometimes organized through ancien régime confraternities, were commonly at the forefront of those opposing and even physically abusing or rioting against the jurors.

Faced with such opposition, many local revolutionary officials became disillusioned with the policy of toleration imposed from above. Especially in the wake of Louis XVI's abortive attempt to flee the country and his arrest in Varennes on 21 June 1791, officials in several departments began organizing illegal repression against the non-jurors, compelling them to leave their former parishes, and sometimes imprisoning them or deporting them from their dioceses.

0 0

Post a comment