Christians and Pre-War Politics
Since Christianity asserts the total sovereignty of God, Christians have difficulty in maintaining political neutrality where policies contradict their faith. Although the Church has always claimed to stand aside from politics, in reality its involvement in them has been perennial. Throughout the Third Republic and the Vichy years remaining aloof was impossible. Before the war, apart from two brief periods--the Ralliement of the 1890s and a 'second Ralliement' just after the First World War--the hostility between Republican secularists and many Catholics continued unabated.
The conflict, which went back to 1789, was reinforced in the 1880s by the secular education laws, and in the early twentieth century by harsh anticlerical measures. By then the State school had to some extent supplanted the Catholic primary school. Hospitals and even cemeteries had been removed from ecclesiastical control. The clergy became liable to conscription. Without state approval religious orders were banned and the 1901 law on associations allowed the sequestration of their property; appropriation was extended in 1908 to other Church possessions. In 1904 religious orders were forbidden to teach, and their schools were nominally closed, although many continued to function illegally. The formal Separation of Church and State in 1905 abrogated the Napoleonic Concordat; religious affairs were entrusted to the Interior ministry, clerical salaries were no longer paid by the State; episcopal appointments were made by the Vatican alone, although the Third Republic always claimed a 'droit de regard' over them. Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were broken off.
With the advent of the Bloc National government after the First World War, on 18 May 1921 links with the Vatican were restored when Charles Jonnart presented his letters of credence to Benedict XV. A further conciliatory step had been taken when 'associations cultuelles', which had been set up at parish level as a device to administer Church property at one remove, and over which the State had greater control than the bishops, were replaced by 'associations diocésaines', whose