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The Napoleon Series > Government > Governments and Politics


Catholic Church
Title 1
Title 2
Title 3
Title 4

Declaration of 1682


Documents upon Napoleon and the Reorganization of Religion.

At the beginning of the Consulate the religious institutions of France were in a state of hopeless confusion. These documents show the general character of the reorganization effected by Napoleon. Document A is the compact between France and the Papacy which still controls the position of the Roman Catholic Church in France. The two dates ascribed to it represent those of its signature by the French and papal envoys and of its promulgation in France. Document B was purely a French legislative act; the consent of the Pope was neither asked nor given. Document D did for the two recognized Protestant sects what the other documents did for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1808 a similar arrangement was made for the Jews.


A. The Concordat.

September 10, 1801-April 8, 1802 (23 Fructidor, Year IX-18 Germinal, Year X).

Duvergier, Lois, XIII, 89-91.

The First Consul of the French Republic and His Holiness the Sovereign Pontiff Pius VII have appointed as their respective plenipotentiaries: . . .

Who, after the exchange of their respective full powers, have arranged the following convention:

Convention Between The French Government And His Holiness Pius VII.

The Government of the French Republic recognizes that the Roman, Catholic and Apostolic religion is the religion of the great majority of French citizens.

His Holiness likewise recognizes that this same religion has derived and in this moment again expects the greatest benefit and grandeur from the establishment of the Catholic worship in France and from the personal profession of it which the Consuls of the Republic make.

In consequence, after this mutual recognition, as well for the benefit of religion as for the maintenance of internal tranquality, they have agreed as follows:

  1. The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion shall be freely exercised in France: its worship shall be public, and in conformity with the police regulations which the Government shall deem necessary for the public tranquility.
  2. A new circumscription of the French dioceses shall be made by the Holy See in concert with the Government.
  3. His Holiness shall declare to the titular French bishops that he with firm confidence expects from them, for the benefit of peace and unity, every sort of sacrifice, even that of their sees.

    After this exhortation, if they should refuse this sacrifice required for the welfare of the Church (a refusal which His Holiness, nevertheless, does not expect), provision shall be made for the government of the bishoprics of the new circumscription by new titularies in the following manner:

  4. The First Consul of the Republic shall make appointments, within the three months which shall follow the publication of the bull of His Holiness, to the archbishoprics and bishoprics of the new circumscription. His Holiness shall confer the canonical institution, following the forms established in relation to France before the change of Government.
  5. The nominations to the bishoprics which shall be vacant in the future shall likewise be made by the First Consul, and the canonical institution shall be given by the Holy See. in conformity with the preceding article.
  6. Before entering upon their functions, the bishops shall take directly, at the hands of the First Consul, the oath of fidelity which was in use before the change of Government, expressed in the following terms:

    "I swear and promise to God, upon the Holy Scriptures, to remain in obedience and fidelity to the Government established by the constitution of the French Republic. I also promise not to have any intercourse, nor to assist by any counsel, nor to support any league, either within or without, which is inimical to the public tranquility; and if, within my diocese or elsewhere, I learn that anything to the prejudice of the State is being contrived, I will make it known to the Government."

  7. The ecclesiastics of the second rank shall take the same oath at the hands of the civil authorities designated by the Government.
  8. The following form of prayer shall be repeated at the end of divine service in all the Catholic churches of France:

    Domine, salvarn fac Rempublicam; Domine, salvos fac Consules.

  9. The bishops shall make a new circumscription of the parishes of their dioceses, which shall have effect only after the consent of the Government.

  10. The bishops shall appoint the cures.
  11. The bishops can have a chapter in their cathedrals and a seminary for their dioceses, without the Government being under obligation to endow them.
  12. All the metropolitan, cathedral, parochial and other non-alienated churches needed for worship shall be again placed at the disposal of the bishops.
  13. His Holiness, in the interest of peace and the happy reestablishment of the Catholic religion, declares that neither he nor his successors will disturb in any manner the purchasers of the alienated ecclesiastical estates, and that, in consequence, the ownership of these same estates, the rights and revenues attached to them, shall be indefeasible in their hands and in those of their assigns.
  14. The Government shall settle a suitable stipend upon the bishops and cures whose dioceses and parishes shall be included in the new circumscription.
  15. The Government shall likewise take measures in order that French Catholics, if they desire, may act in favor of church foundations.
  16. His Holiness recognizes in the First Consul of the French Republic the same rights and prerogatives which the old Government before it enjoyed.
  17. It is agreed between the contracting parties that in case any one of the successors of the present First Consul shall not be Catholic, the rights and prerogatives mentioned in the article above and the nomination to bishoprics shall be regulated, as regards him, by a new convention.

The ratifications shall be exchanged at Paris within the space of forty days.

Done at Paris, 26 Messidor, Year IX.


B. Organic Articles for the Catholic Church.

April 8, 1802 (18 Germinal, Year X).

Duvergier, Lois, XIII, 91-101.


Of The Regime Of The Catholic Church In Its Relations With The Rights And The Police Of The State.

  1. No bull, brief, rescript, decree, injunction, provision, signature serving as a provision, nor other documents from the court of Rome, even concerning individuals only, can be received, published, printed, or otherwise put into effect, without the authorisation of the Government.
  2. No person calling himself nuncio, legate, vicar or apostolic commissioner, or taking advantage of any other denomination can, without the same authorisation, exercise upon French soil or elsewhere any function relative to the affairs of the Gallican Church.
  3. The decrees of foreign synods, even those of general councils, cannot be published in France before the Government has examined their form, their conformity with the laws, rights, and liberties of the French Republic, and everything which, in their publication, may alter or affect the public tranquility.
  4. No national or metropolitan council, no diocesan synod, no deliberative assembly, shall take place without the express permission of the Government.
  5. All the ecclesiastical offices shall be gratuitous, saving the offerings which may be authorised and fixed by the regulations.
  6. There shall be recourse to the Council of State in every case of breach of trust on the part of the superiors and other ecclesiastical persons. The cases of breach of trust are usurpation or excess of power, contravention of the laws and regulations of the Republic, infraction of the rules sanctioned by the canons received in France, attack upon the liberties, privileges and customs of the Gallican Church, and every undertaking or any proceeding which in the exercise of worship can compromise the honor of the citizens, disturb arbitrarily their consciences, or degenerate into oppression or injury against them or into public scandal.

    . . . . . .


Of The Ministers.


General provisions.

  1. The Catholic worship shall be carried on under the direction of the archbishops and bishops in their dioceses, and under that of the cures in their parishes.
  2. Every privilege involving exemption from or attribution of the episcopal jurisdiction is abolished.
  3. The archbishops and bishops shall be able,. with the authorisation of the Government, to establish cathedral chapters and seminaries in their dioceses. All other ecclesiastical establishments are suppressed.
  4. The archbishops and bishops shall be free to add to their name the title of Citizen or that of Monsieur. All other designations are forbidden.


Of the archbishops or metropolitans.

  1. The archbishops shall consecrate and install their suffragans. In case of hindrance or of refusal on their part, they shall be acted for by the senior bishop of the metropolitan district.
  2. . . . . . .


Of the bishops, the vicars general and the seminaries.

  1. No one can be appointed bishop before reaching thirty years of age, nor unless he is of French origin.

    . . . . . .

  1. The priest appointed by the First Consul shall institute proceedings in order to procure investiture from the Pope.

    He cannot exercise any function until the bull declaring his investiture has received the attestation of the Government and until he has personally taken the oath prescribed by the convention agreed to by the French Government and the Holy See.

    This oath shall be delivered to the First Consul; there shall be a record of it drawn up by the Secretary of State.

  2. The bishops shall appoint and install the cures; nevertheless, they shall not make known their appointment and they shall not give them the canonical investiture until after this appointment shall have been agreed to by the First Consul.
  3. They shall be required to reside in their dioceses; they cannot leave them, except with the permission of the First Consul.

    . . . . . .

  1. The bishops shall be charged with the organization of their seminaries, and the regulations for this organization shall be submitted to the approbation of the First Consul.
  2. Those who shall be chosen to give instruction in the seminaries shall subscribe to the declaration made by the clergy of France in 1682 and published in an edict of the same year; they shall consent to teach in them the doctrine contained therein, and the bishops shall address a copy in due form to the Councillor of State charged with all matters relating to worship.

    . . . . . .

  1. They shall not ordain any ecclesiastic, unless he proves that he has property producing an annual revenue of at least three hundred francs, that he has reached the age of twenty-five years, and that he meets the qualifications required by the canons received in France.

    The bishops shall not make any ordinations until the number of persons to be ordained has been submitted to the Government and agreed to by it.


Of the cures.

  1. The cures shall enter upon their functions only after having taken at the hands of the prefect the oath prescribed by the convention agreed to by the Government and the Holy See. A minute of this oath-taking shall be drawn up by the general secretary of the prefecture and collated copies of it shall be delivered to them.

    . . . . . .

  1. They shall be required to reside in their parishes.

    . . . . . .

  1. No foreigner can be employed in the functions of the ecclesiastical ministry without the permission of the Government.
  2. All employment is forbidden to every ecclesiastic, even French, who does not belong to any one diocese.

Section V. Of the cathedral chapters, and the government of the dioceses during the vacancy of a see.

  1. The archbishops and bishops who shall desire to make use of the privilege which is given them to establish chapters shall not do it without having procured the authorisation of the Government, as well for the establishment itself as for the number and the choice of the ecclesiastics designated to constitute it.


Of The Worship.

  1. There shall be only one liturgy and one catechism for all the Catholic churches of France.

    . . . . .

  1. No religious festival, with the exception of the Sabbath, can be established without the permission of the Government.

    . . . . .

    1. All the ecclesiastics shall be dressed in French fashion and in black.

      The bishops can add to this costume the pastoral cross and violet stockings.

    2. Family chapels and private oratories cannot be established without the express permission of the Government, granted upon the request of the bishop.
    3. In the cities in which there are temples set aside for different sects, no Catholic religious ceremony shall occur outside of the edifices consecrated to the Catholic worship.
    4. A single temple can be consecrated to only a single worship.
    5. There shall be in the cathedrals and parish churches a place of distinction for Catholic persons who occupy the civil and military posts.
    6. The bishop shall cooperate with the prefect in order to regulate the manner of calling the faithful to divine service by the sound of the bells; no one can sound them for any other purpose without the permission of the local police.
    7. When the Government shall order public prayers the bishops shall cooperate with the prefect and the military commandant of the place as to the day, hour and manner of carrying into effect these orders.
    8. The formal addresses called sermons and those known under the name of stations of Advent oand of Lent shall be given only by the priests who have received a special authorisation for it from the bishop.
    9. The cures at the sermons of the parochial masses shall pray and cause prayer to be offered for the French Republic and for the Consuls.
    10. They shall not permit themselves in their teaching any direct or indirect inculpation either of individuals or of the other sects authorised in the State.
    11. They shall not make in the sermon any publication foreign to the exercise of worship, except those which shall be ordered by the Government.
    12. They shall give the nuptial benediction only to those who shall prove in good and due form that they have contracted marriage before the civil officer.
    13. In all religious and ecclesiastical documents the employment of the equinoctial calendar, established by the laws of the Republic, shall be obligatory; the days shall be designated by the names which they had in the solstitial calendar.
    14. The rest for the public functionaries shall be fixed upon Sunday.


    Of The Circumscription Of The Archbishoprics, Bishoprics, And Parishes; Of The Edifices Intended For Worship And Of The Stipend Of The Ministers.

    Section I. Of the circumscription of the archbishoprics and bishoprics.

    1. There shall be in France ten archbishoprics or metropolitanates and fifty bishoprics.

      . . . . .


      Of the compensation of the ministers.

      1. The stipend of the archbishops shall be fifteen thousand francs.
      2. The stipend of the bishops shall be ten thousand francs.
      3. The cures shall be divided into two classes:

        The stipend of the cures of the first class shall be fixed at fifteen hundred francs and that of the cures of the second class at a thousand francs.

        . . . . .

      1. The vicars and officiating priests shall be chosen from among the ecclesiastics pensioned in carrying into effect the laws of the Constituent Assembly. The amount of these pensions and the product of the offerings shall form their stipend.
      2. The bishops shall draw up projects for the regulations relative to the offerings which the ministers of the sect are authorised to receive for the administration of the sacraments. The projects for regulations drawn up by the bishops cannot be published, nor otherwise put into effect, until after having been approved by the Government.
      3. Every ecclesiastic pensioned by the State shall be deprived of his pension if he refuses, without legitimate cause, the functions which shall be entrusted to him.
      4. . . . . .

      1. Endowments which have for their purpose the support of the ministers and the carrying on of worship shall consist only of revenues settled upon the State: they shall be accepted by the diocesan bishop and can he carried out only with the authorisation of the Government.
      2. Immovables other than buildings intended for dwellings and the attendant gardens cannot be invested with ecclesiastical titles, nor possessed by the ministers of the sect on account of their functions.


      C. The Declaration of 1682.

      March 19, 1682.

      Debidour. L'Eglisse et l'Etat en France, 651-652.

      Many persons are striving in these times to subvert the decrees of the Gallican Church and its liberties, which our ancestors have supported with so much zeal, and to overthrow their foundations, which rest upon the holy canons and the tradition of the Fathers. Others, under pretence of defending them, are not afraid to excite an attack upon the primacy of Saint Peter and the Roman pontiffs, his successors, who were instituted by Jesus Christ, and the obedience which all Christians owe them, and to diminish the majesty of the apostolic Holy See, which is worthy of respect by all the nations in which the true faith is taught and in which the unity of the Church is preserved. On the other hand, heretics are putting everything at work to make that authority, which maintains the peace of the Church, appear odious and intolerable to kings and peoples, and, by these artifices, to remove simple souls from the communion of the Church, their mother, and therefore from that of Jesus Christ.—In order to remedy these inconveniences, we, archbishops and bishops assembled at Paris by order of the King, representing with the other ecclesiastical deputies the Gallican Church, after mature deliberation, nave decided that it is necessary to make the regulations and the declarations which follow:

      1. That Saint Peter and his successors, vicars of Jesus Christ, and even the whole Church have received authority from God only over things spiritual and which have to do with salvation, and not over things temporal and civil; Jesus Christ himself tells us that His kingdom is not of this world, and, in another place, that it is necessary to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God. That is is necessary to hold to this precept of Saint Paul: that every person should be subject to the higher powers, for there is no power which does not come from God, and it is He who ordains those which are upon earth; that is why he who opposes the powers resists the order of God. In consequence, we declare that kings are not subject to any ecclesiastical power by order of God, in things which have to do with the temporal, and that they cannot be deposed directly or indirectly by the authority of the heads of the Church; that their subjects cannot be exempted from the submission and obedience which are due to them, nor be dispensed from the oath of fidelity; that this doctrine, necessary for the public peace, and as advantageous to Church as to State, ought to be regarded as in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and with the tradition of the Fathers of the Church and with the example of the saints.
      2. That the plenitude of power which the apostolic Holy See and the successors of Saint Peter, vicars of Jesus Christ, have over things spiritual is such, nevertheless, that the decrees of the holy ecumenical council of Constance, contained in sessions 4 and 5, approved by the apostolic Holy See and confirmed by the practice of all the Church and of the Roman pontiffs, and religiously observed of all time by the Gallican Church, remain in their force and vigor, and that the Church of France does not approve of the opinion of those who make attack upon these decrees or enfeeble them by saying that their authority is not well established and that they are not approved or that their provision had regard only to the time of the schism.
      3. That it is necessary to regulate the use of the apostolic authority through canons made by the spirit of God and consecrated by the general respect of all the world ; that the rules, customs and constitutions received in the kingdom and in the Gallican Church ought to have their force and their vigor, and that the usages of our fathers ought to remain unshaken; that it is also for the grandeur of the apostolic Holy See that the laws and customs established with the consent of that see and of the Churches should have the authority which they ought to have.
      4. That, although the Pope has the principal part in questions of faith, and although his decrees relate to all the Churches, and each Church in particular, his judgment is not irreformable, unless the consent of the Church intervenes.

        These are the maxims which we have received from our fathers and which we have ordered to be sent to all the Gallican Churches and to the bishops whom the Holy Spirit has established there to govern them, in order that we may all say the same thing, that we may be of the same sentiments, and that we may all hold the same doctrine.


      D. Organic Articles for the Protestant Sects.

      April 8, 1802.

      Duvergier, Lois, XIII (18 Germinal, Year X). 101-103.

      TITLE I.

      General Provisions For All The Protestant Communions.

      1. No one can conduct the performance of worship except a Frenchman.
      2. Neither the Protestant churches nor their ministers shall have relations with any foreign power or authority.
      3. The pastors and ministers of the different Protestant communions in the recital of their worship shall pray for and cause to be prayed for the prosperity of the French Republic and the Consuls.
      4. No doctrinal or dogmatic decision nor any formulary, under the title of confession or under any other title, shall be published or become matter of instruction until the Government has authorised the publication or promulgation of it.
      5. No change in discipline shall take place without the same authorisation.
      6. The Council of State shall be informed of all the undertakings of the ministers of the sect, and of all the dissensions which shall arise among these ministers.
      7. A stipend shall be provided [by the Government] for the pastors of the consistorial churches; it is understood that the estates which these churches possess and the product of the offerings established by usage or by the regulations shall be utilized towards this stipend.
      8. The arrangements provided by the organic articles of the Catholic worship upon the liberty of endowments, and upon the nature of the estates which can be the object thereof, shall be common to the Protestant churches.
      9. There shall be two academies of seminaries in the East of France for the instruction of ministers of the confession of Augsburg.
      10. There shall be a seminary at Geneva for the instruction of the ministers of the reformed churches.
      11. The professors of all the academies or seminaries shall be appointed by the First Consul.
      12. No one can be elected minister or pastor of a church of the confession of Augsburg, unless he has studied for a determined time in one of the French seminaries intended for the instruction of the ministers of that confession, and unless he brings a certificate in good form attesting his time of study, his capacity and his good morals.
      13. No one can be elected minister or pastor of a reformed church, without having studied in the seminary at Geneva, nor unless he brings a certificate in the form set forth in the preceding article.
      14. The regulations upon the administration and the internal police of the seminaries, upon the number and the qualification of the professors, upon the manner of instructing, and upon the matter of instruction, as well as upon the form of the certificates or attestations of study, good conduct and capacity, shall be approved by the Government.



      Fyffe, Modern Europe, I, 260-265 (Poputar ed., 175-178); Fournier, Napoleon, II, 211-213; Rose, Napoleon, I, 249-262; Lanfrey, Napoleon, II, 153-173; Wells, American Historical Association, Annual Report for 1895, 469-485; Aulard, Revolution Française, Part IV, Ch. III; Lavisse and Rambaud, Histoire Generale, IX, 255-273; Debidour, L'Egise et l'Etat, Part I, Ch. VI.


      Placed on the Napoleon Series 8/00


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