to perhaps 1 or 2 per cent of the population. The figures might be a bit higher in cities such as Rome, which had attractive benefices, but overall the male clergy and female religious too were never close to being a sizeable fraction of the population. In late eighteenth-century France, the numbers were even tinier: some 0.6 per cent of the population, including female religious. The figures were smaller still in Protestant regions - perhaps 0.1 or 0.2 per cent of the population, for instance, in parts of Lutheran Germany.
Moving 1 per cent, or at most 2 per cent, of the population to other work would simply not have had much of an effect on the overall economy. And even imagining such a redeployment of the clergy ignores the fact that the clerics were, in many cases, doing precisely what many Europeans wanted. They were preaching or saying Masses or providing solace for the bereaved, and putting an end to their ministry would upset people, as the popular opposition to radical de-Christianization duringthe French Revolution demonstrates. Having the clergy do something else, even if it had been possible, would have left these faithful Christians worse off, and in that sense would have actually set the economy back. In addition, many of the clerics and female religious were already doing work that even the most anti-religious modern observer would have to concede was useful. In Catholic territories, nuns worked in hospitals, and male religious staffed schools. Lutheran ordinands in Scandinavia and Germany served as tutors or teachers. Shifting them to other work would disrupt schools and charity, as it did duringthe secularization of church property in Catholic lands.
Christianity affected labour markets in other ways besides hiring members of the clergy, however. It taught the faithful to honour the Sabbath and not to work on Sundays, and the ban on working extended, at least in the mind of much of the population, not just to the liturgical calendar's major feast days, but to numerous saints' days as well, most of which were usually the occasion for festivals and celebrations. In Bamberg in Germany, for example, there were forty-four feast days on which work was completely forbidden in 1642, and another ten on which work was outlawed for half the day - all in addition, of course, to the fifty-two Sundays of the year. The Protestant Reformation suppressed a number ofthese feast days; so did many Catholic Reformers, who, although they took longer to act than the Protestants, shared their concern with the drunkenness, lechery, violence, and 'superstition' that the festivals and celebrations seemed to cause. For similar reasons, civil authorities also cracked down on the feast days. In 1669, for instance, Louis XIV's finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert exhorted the kingdom's bishops to cut back the number of feast days in their dioceses.
Was this article helpful?