in all areas of France engaged in more localized acts of religious rioting: they simply broke into their churches, stole back sacred objects, and began to celebrate public rituals without formal permission. The attitudes of local officials towards illicit assemblies varied immensely, but everywhere they felt the pressure of parishioners who did not hesitate to appropriate civil and religious authority. The women of Dollon in the Sarthe compelled their mayor to reinstall their statue of Christ and then forced the mayor's son to kiss the ground before the crucifix. Next, they coerced one citizen Volet to give back the altar he had bought earlier in the Revolution. With each passing day, the local administrators granted more concessions to the women. All across France, just as they had led opposition to jurors in the early 1790s, women played an especially central role in reclaiming sacred spaces, maintaining both public and private worship, and harbouring priests from arrest. This female activism both grew out of and promoted a gradual feminization of religion in France.
Clerical leadership was crucial to these varied attempts to resurrect public rituals. Although they remained leery of offending republican authorities too directly, both constitutional and refractory bishops and priests struggled to reinstate pastoral care and rebuild institutional structures for the church. As these two groups of clergy emerged from hiding or slipped back into France to rejoin their communities, they faced complex conditions and difficult decisions. Each new clerical oath demanded by the national government forced individual cures to wrestle with their consciences: many agonized over the decision of whether to swear loyalty to the republic in order to gain legal access to the use of the village church. The attitudes of local officials were crucial for these re-emerging priests, for their legal status remained perilous. Moreover, in some regions, refractory and constitutional priests competed for the allegiance of lay parishioners. But the scarcity of priests was a more frequent problem, for their ranks had been decimated.
If higher numbers of non-jurors had emigrated or experienced imprisonment, the ranks of the constitutional clergy had been especially hard hit by abdications. Out of 28,000 jurors, some 22,000 had either resigned or abdicated; many others had married, died, or retracted their oaths and decamped to the refractory side. Only twenty-five of eighty-three bishops from 1792 were still serving the Constitutional Church by 1795. Despite its earlier official position, that Church received no support from the Directors, although local authorities in peaceful regions often preferred jurors to non-jurors in the hope that they would be less likely to stir up political opposition. Although the church had lost the support of the regime, its leaders nonetheless worked to regroup
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