the school war, or guerre scolaire, as described by Michel Lagrée, was 'the continuation of la chouannerie by other means', a kind of action replay of the conflicts of the revolutionary era.6 At the height of the Ralliement, in the mid-1890s, many of the Breton clergy refused to follow the lead of either Leo XIII or their bishops in their search for accommodation with the Republic and resorted to all kinds of devices - including pressure in the confessional - to prevail on their parishioners to support Catholic schools against state schools. Even before the Ralliement was scuppered by the reverberations ofthe Dreyfus Affair, it failed to make much headway at grassroots level. Prominent rallies like de Mun, Piou and Lamy were all defeated in the elections of 1893, while on the republican side moderates were reluctant to make any concessions to the church, lest they be seen as the dupes of a clerical manoeuvre, as radical republicans alleged the Ralliement to be.
The fall-out from the Dreyfus Affair sealed the fate of the Ralliement. Once again Catholics were seen to be on the wrong side of the political divide, largely because of the high-profile role played by the Assumptionist order and its widely read, and rabidly anti-Semitic, newspaper La Croix in the campaign against the Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus, falsely convicted of treason. In the face of mounting evidence that the conviction was unsafe (enough to convince Leo XIII, for one, that revision was essential) many republicans, spearheaded by Radicals like Georges Clemenceau, came to see in Dreyfus a symbol of the need to vindicate a secular and republican conception of justice and the nation against a raison d'état that ultimately derived from the Old Regime. Rumours of a clerical-militarist plot were absurd, but there was no denying that most Catholic spokesmen defended the army and its honour against what they saw as the political machinations of the left. At the turn of the century, the culture war moved into a new and hotter phase which led to the severing of the ties between church and state which had endured for over a century.
The government of Rene Waldeck-Rousseau, formed in June 1899, brought together a broad coalition of the left which agreed that the church should pay for its anti-Dreyfusard connections. The Assumptionists were dissolved in 1900, and in 1901 a law on associations was passed which required religious congregations to receive authorisation from parliament. But it was Waldeck-Rousseau's successor, Emile Combes, who was to use the new law as an instrument for a general attack on the church. A visceral anticlerical, he systematically denied
6 M. Lagrée in J. Delumeau (ed.), Le diocèse de Rennes. Histoire des diocèses de France vol. x (Paris: Beauchesne, 1979), p. 221.
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