The Church: New Laws
Despite the friction that ultimately developed between Church and State the regime was ready to promulgate legislation that lifted restrictions on its activities as well as giving it considerable advantages. The Third Republic had seriously limited the Church's freedom of action with regard to education, the status of the religious orders, and the management of Church property. New Vichy laws set out to remedy this state of affairs. The main thrust of the flurry of laws and decrees that emerged concerned education, which lies outside the scope of this volume. These were the work principally of Chevalier and Carcopino as Education ministers. However, and not only in education, for its part the Church hoped for a definitive statute regulating relationships with the State. This did not come about.
The question of the recognition of the religious orders, which was a key issue, loomed large. Almost one of the last acts of the Third Republic had been to allow the Carthusian monks to return to their old home, Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble. But since their order was legally 'unauthorised', the return of an advance party of very old monks later in September 1940 to the buildings they had left thirty-seven years earlier was theoretically illegal. It was not until a decree of 21 February 1941 that the situation was regularised by recognition being given, so that the remainder returned. 1 Other orders demanded recognition: in March the Salesians, a teaching order, applied, and its application was favourably received. 2 The more amenable attitude of the regime gave rise to expectations that other oppressive laws would eventually be repealed.
The demand for recognition was taken up by a militant, extremist pressure group, the Ligue des Droits des Religieux Anciens Combattants (DRACS). Founded in 1924 by a Benedictine, Dom Morau, and Abbé Bergey, a priest from St-Emilion who was later accused of collaborationism, the movement had originally been started in order to counter Herriot's policy of secularisation. In 1940 the DRACS put out a pamphlet attacking the law of 1901, which denied religious orders the