Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

4
The Man of Destiny

The shock experienced by Church and State as, like a flood tide, the invaders rolled across France, had had a mobilising effect. Baudouin, Pétain's first Foreign Minister and a practising Catholic, had recently reread Renan's essay, written after the debacle of 1870, La réforme intellectuelle et morale de la France. For him its condemnation of materialist doctrines and demand for 'intelligent' public institutions were just as applicable to the defeat of 1940. 1 General Weygand, a like-minded Catholic and perhaps one of those closest to Pétain at the time, shared Baudouin's concern. He had been a sympathiser with Colonel de la Rocque's Croix de Feu, drawn originally from ex-soldiers of the First World War, whose 1936 programme had proclaimed a mystique based on 'Travail, famille, patrie'. 2 The desire for a spiritual and moral renewal of the nation was strong among prominent Catholics.

As well as the belief that Marshal Pétain could prove the saviour of France, the Church wished to press home the material advantage it could derive from the new situation. In the face of the advancing German armies Cardinal Liénart in Lille and Cardinal Suhard in Paris, like most of their priests, had not fled. They expected their steadfastness to be rewarded. Thus the bishops welcomed Pétain's assumption of power. Already on 27 June Cardinal Suhard had dubbed him 'the unimpeachable Frenchman'. 3

There was no mourning the death of the Third Republic: parliamentary democracy had not favoured the devout; the left-wing dogmas so often associated with it were held to be anti-Christian. Now, in the aftermath of defeat, which many Catholics believed France had merited by turning its back on God, the hour of repentance would prelude a national renaissance. From a negative, or at best a neutral, stance towards secular authority, the Church at last felt it could adopt a more positive attitude.

At first, however, prudence was the watchword. The 'internal migration' of the Church under the Popular Front had bred caution. Meanwhile, the presence of numerous Catholics at Vichy, where the

-45-

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Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Berg French Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • List of Abbreviations x
  • Part I - Christianity in Crisis 1
  • 1 - Introductory 3
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - Christians and Pre-War Politics 15
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - Prelude to Vichy 31
  • Notes 40
  • Part II - Aspirations, Realisations and Disappointments 43
  • 4 - The Man of Destiny 45
  • Notes 65
  • 5 - Christians in Disarray 69
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Church: New Laws 87
  • Notes 92
  • Part III - The Scapegoats 93
  • 7 - Christians and Jews--I 95
  • Notes 110
  • 8 - Christians and Jews--Ii 113
  • Notes 124
  • 9 - Christians and Jews: The Aftermath 127
  • Notes 144
  • Part IV - Friends and Foes 149
  • 10 - Christians and the Allies 151
  • Notes 162
  • 11 - Christians, Bombings and 'terrorism' 165
  • Notes 174
  • 12 - Christians and Germans 177
  • Notes 195
  • 13 - Christians and the Resistance 199
  • Notes 220
  • 14 - Vichy, the Church and the Vatican 223
  • Notes 236
  • Part V - The Church and Society 239
  • 15 - The Church and Economic and Social Affairs 241
  • Notes 265
  • 16 - Youth Policy and the Church 269
  • Notes 284
  • 17 - Youth Movements 287
  • Notes 307
  • 18 - Christians and Deportation to Germany 311
  • Notes 334
  • Part VI - Settling the Accounts 339
  • 19 - Christians and the Collaborationists 341
  • Notes 356
  • 20 - 'Epuration' and the Higher Clergy 361
  • Notes 379
  • 21 - Concluding Remarks 383
  • Notes 388
  • Appendix I Before the War: L'Aube and the Catholic Intellectual Press 389
  • Notes 391
  • Appendix II Bishops and Archbishops by Province 393
  • Bibliographical Note 397
  • Select Bibliography 399
  • Index 405
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