took full advantage of their freedom to appoint bishops who shared their reactionary outlook, many of them sympathetic to the extreme right-wing nationalist organisation Action Francaise. At the same time, Rome vetoed the formation of a national assembly of French bishops and thus deprived them of the opportunity to develop a national forum in which to address the particular challenges facingthe church in their own country. Finally, the Vatican cracked down hard on intellectual tendencies within the French church which it regarded with suspicion, condemning as heretical so-called 'modernism'.
All told, the church was undoubtedly the loser in the French culture war. Deprived of the financial support of the state, the clergy now had to be paid for by contributions from the faithful themselves. Income fell, and so too did clerical recruitment (though arguably the calibre of the priesthood rose, given the commitment required from men who often faced lives of real hardship). Above all, the republican state had forever denied the church the central place which it aspired to occupy in national life. Nevertheless, the dream of recatholicising France did not die in the early 1900s: it lived on, for instance, in the ranks of militant social Catholics, who would make considerable headway in the Catholic Action movements of the inter-war period. Catholic nationalists, too, still cherished a Catholic vision of the nation and, as the strongest adherents to the union sacree, were loud in its defence during the Great War. Even at the height of the anticlerical onslaught on the church, most French people continued to receive a Christian burial: in the cemeteries, Thomas Kselman has suggested, 'the French eventually worked out an understanding of death that accommodated Christian belief and symbol with a devotion to family, village and nation'.7 Not even Vichy, however, would undo the undoubted triumph of laicite.
7 Kselman, 'The dechristianisation of death in modem France', p. 156.
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