The separation law of December 9, 1905 and its implementation

The separation law of December 9, 1905 and its implementation

  • Separation law of December 9, 1905.

  • Inventory of Cominac near Oust (Hte Ariège) - Reading of the protest by the Curé protected by the bears.

  • Telegram from the sub-prefect of Hazebrouck.

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Title: Separation law of December 9, 1905.

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Creation date : 1905

Date shown: 09 December 1905

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Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: AE / II / 2991

Separation law of December 9, 1905.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

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Title: Inventory of Cominac near Oust (Hte Ariège) - Reading of the protest by the Curé protected by the bears.

Author :

Date shown:

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Technique and other indications: Post card

Storage place: Departmental Archives of Ariège website

Contact copyright: © Ariège Departmental Archives

Inventory of Cominac near Oust (Hte Ariège) - Reading of the protest by the Curé protected by the bears.

© Ariège Departmental Archives

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Title: Telegram from the sub-prefect of Hazebrouck.

Author :

Date shown: 07 April 1906

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Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: F19 / 1974/2

Telegram from the sub-prefect of Hazebrouck.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: November 2004

Curator at the Historic Center of the National Archives

Historical context

A predictable law

The mention of the law of separation of churches and state often results in the singularization of the word churches. But for Catholics, the Separation is a tragedy: the end of a 1400 year alliance between France and the Church (baptism of Clovis, 496); the return to revolutionary dechristianization.

However, the Separation was in germ from 1801 when, preserving the freedom of conscience proclaimed in 1789, the Concordat declared Catholicism only “ religion of the vast majority of French people ”. To liberate the Church, some Catholics wanted it: from the Restoration, Father Félicité de Lamennais; under the July Monarchy, Mgr Affre, Archbishop of Paris. But the intellectual opposition between the Church and "modernity" (Syllabus, 1865) and the alliance of a significant fringe of French Catholicism with the monarchy imposed it on Republicans, even if Leo XIII invited the faithful to dissociate the interests of the Church and the form of government (encyclical In the midst of solicitations, 1892).

Image Analysis

Finding a balance

Émile Combes, President of the Council (June 1902-January 1905), sees the law as a weapon against the Church. But after its fall, it is resumed in a spirit of conciliation. Its editors, including Louis Méjan, last director of worship, and his rapporteur before the Chambers, Aristide Briand, then a simple deputy, want a balanced law which also protects freedom of conscience and freedom of worship (article 1) and which simply affirms neutrality of the State in religious matters: “The Republic does not recognize, pay or subsidize any religion…” (art. 2).

The state's financial withdrawal is not complete: chaplaincies still receive public funds in "high schools, colleges, schools, hospices, asylums and prisons" (art. 2). The former recognized cults retain the enjoyment of the buildings made available by the State or by the municipalities (arts. 13 to 15). Finally, the law exempts cults from the formalities of the 1881 law on the right of assembly (art. 25) and allows outdoor ceremonies, within the framework of the municipal law of 1884 (art. 27).

Misunderstanding and crisis

But coming after the crises of 1902-1904 between the French government and the Church [1] and not negotiated beforehand, the law seems to the Holy See the unacceptable conclusion of a policy of systematic hostility. Pius X condemns it (bulls Vehementer and Gravissimo, February and August 1906).
French Catholics therefore refuse its application. They do not form the "worship associations" intended to "provide for the costs, maintenance and public exercise of worship" (art. 25). They oppose inventories intended to distinguish public goods and goods of the Churches (art. 3). Resistance is generally peaceful (closed or barricaded church, protest reading by the parish priest, ringing of bells, gathering of the faithful saying prayers and hymns), but it sometimes repeats old forms of political and social violence. In a France full of countryside, these troubles recall a long line of peasant emotions, including those due to the arrival of the tax collector. The protection of the collector in charge of the inventory by the gendarmes heightened the hostility. The photograph which shows the defense of the small church of Cominac (Ariège) by faithful "armed" bears illustrates this France still anchored in secular traditions. The costumes emphasize the permanence of rural life. The presence of women and children indicates a community united around the church, home of all. The atmosphere of concern and determination is palpable and representative.

In town, the agitation refers to the protest action of the rights, from the Muscadins of the Revolution to the Camelots of the king of the Inter-War period. This is evidenced by the circumstances of the death, on March 6, 1906, of Ghysel Gery, a 29-year-old opponent, during the inventory of the church of Boeschépe (North), which the sub-prefect of Hazebrouk relates in his dispatch. As the process draws to a close, outside protesters appear and create a mess that causes the tax collector's son to shoot. From a location, such as in Boeschépe, the disorder can spread. Thus, in industrial zones, “Catholic” actions lead to “socialist” workers' responses.

Faced with the turmoil of campaigns already in difficulty (wine crisis) and the risk of workers' riots, the government renounces inventories in the event of opposition. Finally, in 1907, for lack of associations, the property of the Church of France was confiscated. Added to the losses suffered by the congregations in 1901-1904, this “spoliation”, which the legislator of 1905 did not want, aroused an echo among French Catholics of the great “spoliation” of 1789. But the use of churches and the ceremonies being preserved, the conflict subsides. However, the Church of France remains without legal existence and relations with the Holy See broken.

Interpretation

Define and adapt

Faced with the Catholic refusal, the government was forced from the outset to rethink the law. Regularly, since then, the relationship between the State and religions is re-examined and the concept of secularism, not defined in 1905, reconsidered. After the Great War, the government chose to maintain the Concordat in Alsace-Moselle. In 1923-1924, the agreements between Briand, then President of the Council, and the nuncio Ceretti authorize “diocesan associations” to manage the property of Catholic parishes. In 1939, a special worship regime was created for the colonies (Mandel decrees). In 1958, private education under contract was established. Currently, the question of Islam arises. For the secularism of the state does not mean indifference to the presence of religion in the public sphere, but rejection of its officiality and affirmation of limits between public and private, particularities of faith and universality of law.

  • anticlericalism
  • Catholicism
  • secularization
  • Separation law of 1905
  • radicalism
  • Third Republic
  • atheism
  • Clovis

Bibliography

JEUFFROY J. and TRICARD Fr.,Religious freedom and system of worship in French law. Texts, administrative practice, case law,Paris, Cerf, 1996 LALOUETTE J., The Anticlerical Republic, 19th - 20th centuries, Paris, Seuil, 2002 LATREILLE C., After the Concordat: the opposition from 1803 to the present dayParis, 1910 MAYEUR J.-M., The Separation of Church and State, Paris, ed. worker, 1991RÉMOND R., Anticlericalism in France from 1815 to the present day, Paris, Fayard, 1976

Notes

1. Crises of 1902-1904 between the French government and the Church Laws against teaching congregations; repeated condemnations of ecclesiastics for supporting congregations, direct communication with Rome or dissemination of papal acts not received by the Council of State; conflicts of "prior agreement" and of the nobis nominavit on the appointment of bishops; President Loubet's visit to the King of Italy in Rome, while the city has been claimed by the Pope since its loss (1870); rupture of diplomatic relations, after the ad limina visit (visit to the Pope to report on the management of their diocese) imposed on two French bishops.

To cite this article

Nadine GASTALDI, "The separation law of December 9, 1905 and its implementation"


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