remaining under state control. Although the Law was compatible with the unity of the church, allowing one association to communicate with another, it violated the Catholic conception of a hierarchical authority descending from the pope down. The Law also repudiated Catholic teachingthat, ideally, church and state should be allied. Pius condemned the Law of Separation in Vehementer Nos and Gravissimo in 1906.
Remarkably, the French church, in obedience to Pius, refused to comply with the Law. The bishops surrendered their palaces, the dioceses their offices and seminaries, the parishes their presbyteries and churches, the cures (now pensioned) their salaries. In practice, the Law was applied with leniency: where religious practice was high, the church continued to use the churches for services and the faithful paid the clergy. But where religious practice was low or the commune was hostile to funding repairs, churches became ruinous or were abandoned. On one reading, therefore, the French church suffered for bad papal diplomacy and papal intransigence. It would never have happened under Leo.
As the state had renounced its authority over the appointment of bishops, Rome acquired sole power to name the French Catholic hierarchy, regardless of politicians, for the first time in history: anticlericalism had delivered French Catholicism into papal hands. The Gallican tradition of autonomy from Rome received its final quietus, the state having abandoned it. More favourably, the pope had reasserted the church's freedom as a supernatural society, throwing off the golden chains which the state had laid upon her. On this view, the pope was asserting the spiritual independence of the church, against any sacrifice which the state might require of her. If this was 'integralism', it was also the crown rights of the Redeemer.
The situation in France was not of Pius's making, and the best writing on this subject balances both sides. Not so with Modernism, also in origin French. The most famous of the Catholic Modernists was the priest, professor and biblical scholar Alfred Loisy. Loisy couched his most celebrated book, The Gospel and the Church, of 1902, as a reply to the Protestant Harnack. What we have in the Scriptures, said Loisy, is a proclamation of the church's faith in Christ, and Protestants have always been wrong, in separating Christ and the Scriptures from the church. Christ preached the kingdom, and the kingdom came as the church, so that an orthodox Catholic could read Loisy's book as saying with tremendous scholarship what every Catholic believes.
Was this article helpful?