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May 25 , 2008

The Religious Persecution in France 1900-1906


THERE seems to be considerable misapprehension in the United States as to the status of the Catholic Church in France. “One iniquitous arrangement in France,” writes the Central Baptist, “is the support of the priesthood out of public funds.” In receiving stipends from the State the French clergy, however, are no more its debtors, nor its functionaries, than holders of French 3 per cents who receive the interest of their bonds. When that essentially satanic movement, known as the French Revolution, swept over this fair land, deluging it in blood, the wealth of the Church, the accumulation of centuries, was all confiscated by the hordes who pillaged and devastated, and killed in the name of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality, until Napoleon restored order with an iron hand. A born ruler of men, this Corsican understood that the principal feature of the work of restoration must be the reorganization of the Catholic Church in France. Accordingly he concluded with the Pope the convention known as the Concordat. It was not possible in the dilapidated state of the country to restore the millions that had been stolen by those “champions of liberty who,” according to Macaulay, “compressed into twelve months more crimes than the kings of France had committed in twelve centuries.” Still less was it possible to rebuild many noble structures, and recover works of art sold by sordid harpies or destroyed by impious vandals. It was accordingly agreed (Arts. 13 and 14, Concordat) that in lieu of this restitution the State should henceforth pay to the Church, annually, the stipends of so many archbishops, bishops, curates, etc. The Concordat constitutes an organic law of the State. The clergy receive their stipends, not as a salary, but as the payment of a debt due to them by the State. It is in vain, therefore, that efforts are made now to represent the Catholic clergy as salaried functionaries of the State. The act by which Waldeck Rousseau recently decreed the suppression of the stipends of certain bishops was wholly arbitrary, and, moreover, the violation of an organic law. It was the partial repudiation of a public debt, quite as dishonourable as if the payment of interest of three per cent bonds were withheld from certain bondholders.
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