Priest and Parish in Eighteenth-Century France

Priest and Parish in Eighteenth-Century France

Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 366
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  • Book Info
    Priest and Parish in Eighteenth-Century France
    Book Description:

    This book provides a comprehensive collective biography of the parish priests in one diocese--their origins, education, and careers: their relationship with their parishioners; and the process by which they were politicized prior to 1789. The author's analysis uses both quantitative and more traditional historical techniques.

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5714-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    From its inception, the present research into the parish clergy of eighteenth-century France has had two principal objectives. The first has been to learn more about the position and status of the parish priests in society and their relations with their lay parishioners. The important role played by the curés in the local community was widely recognized by the writers and political leaders of the Old Regime itself. A better understanding of this professional group could hopefully give insight into the little-known areas of rural culture and village society at the end of the eighteenth century.

    But the parish clergy...

  7. CHAPTER I The Diocese of Gap in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 9-38)

    In June of 1785, Fraçois-Henri de la Broüe de Vareilles, newly appointed bishop of Gap, returned from his first pastoral visit and immediately recorded his impressions of the diocese: “… the most fertile imagination could never depict, nor the most energetic style express … the horror of the trails over which we have traveled, the narrow paths skirting the base of extremely jagged mountains, surrounded by terrifying gorges.”¹ This description, coming, to be sure, from an urbane aristocrat who had spent most of his life in Paris and Poitou, was not untypical of the first impressions of other visitors to...

  8. Part One: A Career in the Clergy
    • CHAPTER II Entry into the Clergy
      (pp. 41-71)

      A decision to enter the clergy was not surrounded by any aura of mystery in eighteenth-century France. Whenever anyone thought to write on the subject, it was commonly assumed that the family, and particularly the father, “directed” the son into this career. Clergymen themselves made the same assumption. Much of the discussion within the General Assembly of the Clergy of France over the decline in clerical vocations at the end of the eighteenth century centered on the possible ways of persuading more fathers to “consecrate” their sons to the priesthood. But if the importance of the family in the decision...

    • CHAPTER III The Education of the Parish Priest
      (pp. 72-95)

      It was one matter to determine a young man’s vocation to the priesthood; it was another to form and prepare that vocation for active service in the clergy. The central experience in a clergyman’s intellectual preparation was his seminary training. By the middle of the eighteenth century, virtually each diocese had a seminary and every future priest was required to spend time there. But the education of a parish priest was a process that began well before and continued long after his studies in the seminary.

      Preparation prior to the seminary, as all pre-professional education in eighteenth-century France, was exceedingly...

    • CHAPTER IV Career Patterns and the Benefice System
      (pp. 96-117)

      A primary goal for any individual pursuing a career in the secular clergy in eighteenth-century France was to attain a benefice. Several different meanings and social values were combined in the concept of a benefice. For theorists of canon law it was at once a spiritual function to be performed in the service of the church; the right to collect a revenue set aside for the performance of this function; and the revenue itself.¹ One may question the degree to which clergymen actually made these subtle distinctions between the spiritual and the temporal. In point of fact, while every benefice...

    • CHAPTER V Economic Situation of the Parish Priest
      (pp. 118-148)

      The primary sources of revenue for most clergymen in eighteenth-century France were the tithes and the beneficed lands or glebe. But both the absolute value and the mode of exploitation of these revenues varied considerably from region to region. A significant proportion of the ecclesiastical wealth of the kingdom seems to have been concentrated in northern and western France, particularly in the Parisian Basin, Normandy, Picardy, and Champagne. The clergy of Dauphiné, on the contrary, was relatively disfavored economically.¹ A more restricted yield from the land in the Alps, a mean tithe rate that was lower than the overall French...

  9. Part Two: Priest and Parish
    • CHAPTER VI The Curés in Society: A Local Elite
      (pp. 151-169)

      When a new clergyman first arrived in a parish, he possessed qualities that would permanently distinguish him from the parishioners with whom he was to live and work. Typically, he had originated in one of the wealthiest families in his home town or village. His education in a secondary school and the seminary—and perhaps even in the university—was vastly superior to that of most of the other rural inhabitants. The assured revenues accruing to his benefice, while less than in many other regions of France, would still be greater than the income of the majority of his flock;...

    • CHAPTER VII Patterns of Community Rivalry
      (pp. 170-193)

      Important though his functions were in the local society, the curé did not always enjoy an easy existence there. Among the limited number of individuals constituting the parish, confronting one another year after year in the intense concerns of earning a living and raising a family, competition and conflict were endemic; rumor and gossip, suspicion and criticism, envy and fear of envy, were all common fare. Few curés could avoid occasional antagonisms with their parishioners: whether as conflicts of interest, personality clashes, or rivalries based on institutional functions or social status. What is more, the curé was in most instances...

    • CHAPTER VIII Patterns of Religious Rivalry
      (pp. 194-222)

      The basic unit of lay participation within the Church was the parish. Every Catholic, by virtue of his baptism or present residence, was a member of such a unit and was required by the laws of the Church—and sometimes of the State—to fulfill a minimum of religious rites in the presence and through the mediation of the priests attached to that parish.¹ At least since the Middle Ages, the Church had also encouraged the formation within the parish of associations of laymen desirous of expressing religious devotion beyond the basic requirements. The confraternities or sodalities, as the associations...

  10. Part Three: The Revolt of the Parish Priests
    • CHAPTER IX Politicization of the Parish Clergy
      (pp. 225-248)

      In the eyes of bishop Malissoles, the parish priests of the diocese were naturally bound together as part of the same pastoral family, the same spiritual community. But membership in a single ecclesiastical unit was only one, and perhaps the least important, element in theesprit de corpsof the curés of the diocese of Gap. A social as well as a spiritual logic informed the “pious society of thought and affection.”¹ Group ties were favored by the common backgrounds and common experiences of the curés. Most, as we have seen, originated in the diocese of Gap itself. To be...

    • CHAPTER X The Pre-Revolution in Dauphiné
      (pp. 249-268)

      It was a curious coincidence that the province of Dauphiné, which was to become “the admiration, the model for the rest of the kingdom”¹ in the political revolution of 1789, had also given birth to a revolt of the curés that would serve, in a sense, as a model for the parish clergy of France. “The curés of the kingdom … already owe a great deal to their colleagues in Dauphiné”: so stated a memorandum signed in 1788 by a large group of curés from Lyonnais, Forez, Languedoc, Auvergne, and Provence.² To be sure, during the second half of the...

    • CHAPTER XI The Civil Constitution and the Oath of 1791
      (pp. 269-286)

      By the time theCahier des curéswas received in Versailles, momentous events had already begun unfolding in the French capital. The parish clergy of the diocese of Gap watched the opening stages of the Revolution with much the same tense excitement—bordering on religious enthusiasm—exhibited by the lay population. Curés Bonthoux and Escallier of Gap both attended meetings supporting the National Assembly held in the local Penitents’ chapel, and Bonthoux actively participated in the proceedings.¹ In Corps, priest and parishioners assembled before the altar of the parish church to swear a solemn oath of loyalty to the king...

    • CHAPTER XII De-Christianization and the End of an Era: An Epilogue
      (pp. 287-306)

      The religious and political events in the diocese of Gap after 1791 are, for the most part, beyond the scope of the present study. The history of the Revolution and the Empire in Upper Dauphiné remains to be written.¹ Yet our collective biography of the eighteenth-century curés would not be complete without a brief account of their careers through the later stages of the Revolution. In particular, we must focus on the experience of the Terror and the movement of “de-Christianization.” For if the settlement of the Civil Constitution marked at least a partial victory for the citizen curés of...

  11. Sources and Bibliography
    (pp. 307-332)
  12. Index
    (pp. 333-350)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-351)