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Church and state in France

02 November 2006

September 21st, 1906.

A PASTORAL LETTER to the clergy and the faithful has now been issued by thFrench Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops, as the outcome of the Conference iParis at which the Papal Encyclical was discussed. After an expression ofilial obedience to the Holy See, the letter condemns the Separation Law, othe ground that it ignores the rights of the Catholic Hierarchy. In its presenform, the Law, it is maintained, deprives the French nation of the claim tcall itself Catholic, and robs Catholicism of its liberties. The Bishopexpress the hope that the country may not be involved in a religious war, anthrow upon the State the responsibility of having brought matters to dangerous crisis. They claim the right to use as their own the ecclesiasticaproperties that Catholics have hitherto held, and repudiate, as an act ospoliation, the provision of the Law which gives the properties over to thstatutory Associations cultuelles. These, they urge, are Catholic only in nameand it becomes the duty of priests to submit to any consequences rather thabetray their trust, and the duty of the laity to contribute, according to theiability, to the maintenance of the Church and the clergy. . . It yet remains tbe seen whether the exigencies of circumstances will not compel the Bishops tmodify their policy. They state, in their Pastoral, that none of the faithfuwill join the Associations. But already some few parish priests have expressetheir readiness to form such bodies in defiance of their hierarchy, and, ithis example should be at all widely followed, the hierarchy would be broughface to face with a serious schism. The French Bishops are suffering from thconsequences of the Ultramontane theory of Church Government. If they had thcourage, or the good sense, to resume the episcopal authority which they havtamely surrendered to the Vatican, they could readily arrive at aunderstanding with the Republican Governmen

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