In the seventeenth century, the French secular clergy numbered approximately 100,000 out of a total of 18 million inhabitants, a number which would rise in the eighteenth century to approximately 130,000 out of 25 million. Despite the fact that the French parish priest was commonly appointed by an ecclesiastical or lay patron (and more rarely, by the bishop), and despite the considerable presence of chaplains and other priests without cure of souls who occasionally celebrated Mass, there was nonetheless a much enhanced awareness in France of the rights of the parish priests. Such rights had been strongly supported in 1611 by the Gallican author Richer. In addition, the dignity of the priesthood had been greatly exalted during the seventeenth century by Cardinal Berulle, Saint Francis de Sales, and Saint Vincent de Paul. Another characteristic ofthe French secular clergy was the strong presence of companies or congregations of priests, some of whom took simple vows. Examples of such congregations include the Fathers of Christian Doctrine (or the Doctrinaires) who appeared in Italy in 1560 and were established in France by Cesar de Bus; the French Oratory, created by Berulle in 1611 following the Italian model of Saint Philip Neri; the mission priests, or Lazarists, founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in 1625; the Congregations of Jesus and Mary, or Eudists, established in 1643 by Saint John Eudes; and the Sulpicians, founded in 1645 by Jean-Jacques Olier, the vicar ofthe large Parisian parish ofSaint-Sulpice. The Sulpicians, the Oratorians and the Lazarists were all committed to teaching in the seminaries.
The French secular clergy of the seventeenth century clearly had its share of moral and disciplinary irregularities, as can be seen in the numerous abbes
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