Historical Dictionary of the French Second Empire, 1852-1870

By William E. Echard | Go to book overview
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GALLICANISM, the doctrine that denies sovereignty to the pope within the church and insists that secular matters be reserved to secular authorities. In regard to the question of papal sovereignty, the Second Empire maintained at first a position of neutrality. The struggle was, in fact, unequal. Although the Gallicans within the French church had important centers (the two faculties of theology, the Ecole des Cannes, the seminary of St. Sulpice), they were a tiny minority within a hierarchy that accepted the theocratic ideas of Pius IX. The Vatican Council of 1869-1870 and, in particular, the proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility ( 1870) marked the complete victory of the proponents of papal sovereignty (ultramontanists). This outcome was not particularly welcome to the regime, whose initial indifference perhaps played a role in the triumph of ultramontanism.

The question of relations between church and state was a more complex matter. Napoleon III was influenced in his attitude by two legacies, the Principles of 1789, which he had inherited via his uncle from the Revolution, and the Concordat (treaty) of 1801, which Napoleon I had negotiated with Pope Pius VII and to which he had attached in 1802, without papal approval, certain Organic Articles further restricting the pope's authority within the French church. The Principles of 1789 and the Concordat of 1801 required a clear division between secular and spiritual concerns and rejected all aspects of clericalism (church intervention in such secular areas as government and education). But the Concordat of 1801 firmly subordinated the church to the state and placed the state as an intermediary between Rome and the church hierarchy in France--thus what might well be termed Napoleonic Gallicanism. Throughout the Second Empire, for example, it was customary for Napoleon III to name bishops and then to inform the pope. On the other hand, Napoleon III, while not a religious man, clearly saw the value of the church as a bulwark of order and as a political instrument, particularly in rallying legitimist populations to the regime. As Louis Napoleon he had cultivated church support during the Second Republic and rewarded Catholics for that support with the Falloux law, by which responsibility for education was shared between church and state. Significantly, however, intransigent Catholics had wanted not a share but a monopoly. The church, for


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