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The Roman Catholic Church During the French Revolution
Transcript of The Roman Catholic Church During the French Revolution
French Revolution Background Information The Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in the world.
It is headquartered in Vatican City in Rome.
The Pope is the supreme ruler of the Church and he is believed by Catholics to be infallible.
Below the Pope are Cardinals and bishops and below them are priests and deacons.
The Church is divided into dioceses and archdioceses, these regions of the Catholic Church are administered by a bishop or an archbishop. The Church Before the Revolution During the Medieval and Renaissance times, the Roman Catholic Church was probably the most powerful organization in Europe. Back then, the Church was made up of two parts. Catholicism was a religion, and at the same time the Church was a secular state.
The Pope had much influence over the many manarchies of Europe because most of their citizens were devout Catholics. If the monarchs did not comply with his demands he could threaten to excommunicate them or even the entire country. So the Vatican became very wealthy by being paid taxes from these monarchies.
The Catholic Church was also paid in tithes. Tithes were payments made by farmers to the Church in the form of crops. They accounted for a large percentage of the Church's revenues. The Church also owned large amounts of land across Europe, and the Vatican even govrned its own country, the Papal States.
While the bishops were extremely rich and and lived in luxurious palaces most of the subordinate clegry such as priests were as poor as the rest of the common people.
Heresy against the Catholic Church was a major threat to this power and wealth. So, the Church established the Inquisition. The Inquisition was a department of the Church that was tasked with finding and punishing heretics of Catholicism. Punishment would include intense torture and execution by burning at the stake.
However, the Inquisition could not fully stop the rise of Protestantism, and in the early 1500's the Reformation began. The Reformation was a struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches. The Reformation severly weakened the Catholic Church, and most of England, Scandanavia, the Netherlands, and large portions of modern day Germany became Protestant.
In France, the largest Protestant movement during the Reformation was led by John Calvin who founded the Calvinists, also known as Huguenots. They were a large problem for the Catholic Church in France. However, because the Vatican was allied with the French monarchy, the Calvinists were ruthlessly persecuted and by 1600, almost 200,000 French Protestants had been driven from France, and the threat was quickly eliminated. covenanter.org rcsynopsis.com jspivey.wikispaces.com catholicusanglicanus.wordpress.com The Roman Catholic Church vs. the Enlightenment In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a new enemy of the Roman Catholic Church emerged in Europe: the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a scientific and philisophical movement that changed the way some people thought. People affected by this movement bagan thinking more according to reason and science rather than the traditional "religion explains all." Philosophers and politicians who went against tradition emerged and became famous including Voltaire and Robespierre.
As the reformation had done in earlier years, the Enlightenment posed many threats to the influence the Catholic Church had over Europe. For instance, some scientists began to believe that Catholic Doctrine was wrong and there was no God. Others, mostly philosophers, believed that reason and logic should guide people's lives not just religion.
The Enlightenement also challenged the traditional Ancien Regime system of society which empowered the Church. In the Ancien Regime, there were three main social classes the clergy, the nobility, and the common people. The clergy and nobility were by far the most wealthy and powerful though they only accounted for about 3% of the population. The Enlightenment proclaimed that all men should be treated equal. If this became the way of government the clergy and the nobility would lose much of their power and wealth.
However, probably the largest threat to the Catholic Church was the Enlightenment's support of democracy. Today, the Catholic Church supports democracy but back in the 1700's democracy in Europe could severely weaken the Church's power. Why? Because the Vatican and the European monarchies were very close allies. The monarchies supplied the Church with devout members and money, and the Church would validate their right to rule which their subjects who were mostly devout Catholics would see as a God given right to rule. Democracy threatened to exterminate the monarchies which would lead to a loss in profit and maybe even religious freedom in some of the newly formed republics.
The radical new ideals of the Enlightenment would be a major driving force behind the American and French Revolutions. memo.fr metrolic.com wikipedia getdomainpics.com wikipedia The French Catholic Church under the National Assembly By 1789, the common people of France were tired of their oppressment by the clergy and the aristocracy under the Ancien Regime. Some of the educated lawyers and politicians who were not part of the aristocracy and had been influenced by the Enlightenment felt the same way. Their opposition, combined with France's severe bankruptcy and lack of food, prompted King Louis XVI to call a session of the Estates General. A key figure at the Estates General, Maximilien Robespierre who represented the Third Estate, wanted the clergy and the nobility to pay taxes like the common people had to do. As a result the Third Estate delegates were locked out of the Estates General the next day. This lead to the Tennis Court Oath, which lead to the creation of the National Assembly, which lead to the Declaration of the Rights of Man. At the same time, Paris fell in chaos. Revolutionaries formed the French National Guard and stormed the Bastille. In the confusion a radical anti-monarchist newspaper publisher and politician emereged. His name was Jean-Paul Marat, and he published the newspaper L'Ami du Peuple. Through his newspaper, Marat was able to create even more chaos and violence against the Monarchy. He eventually persuaded the persuaded the people to march on the royal palace of Versailles which resulted in King Louis's signing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
The National Assembly was now in control of France and Robespierre and his radical political party, the Jacobins gain effective control over the Assembly. They quickly use their newly gained power to attack the royalists and the Roman Catholic Church. Legislation passed against the Church included the August Decrees and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy stated that the French Clergy, even including Bishops, were to be elected by French citizens. Even citizens who were not Catholic could vote. The Pope was no longer recognized to have any secular power over the French Church by the National Assembly, and the Assembly would be responsible for the salaries of the French Clergy. The National Assembly also passed legislation against Catholic doctrine. It legalized divorce and also seized all the Church records of birth, marriage, and death in France. Along with Robespierre, another radical anti-Catholic emerged during the Reign of the National Assembly, Jacques Rene Hebert. He believed that the French land that the Church owned which was about a fifth of France should be taken over. And so, the Roman Catholic Church's lands were nationalized, and tithes were banned in France. Violence also occurred against the Catholic clergy. During the September Massacres, three bishops and over two hundred priests were brutally slaughtered along with many more Royalsits and criminals. wikipedia wikipedia The Reign Of Terror Once King Louis and Marie Antoniette were executed, the Reign of Terror began. It would be the low point for the Roman Catholic Church in France.
It was at this point that Robespierre goes crazy and creates a new "religion" the Cult of Reason. It was really just a form of athiesm that embraced reason and virtue.
Once this new cult was created, a system of dechristianization began. Christianity was deemed a superstition, and the clendar was changed so that people would not know which day was Sunday. Streets named after Saints were changed, and Catholic holy symbols such as bibles and crucifixes. Priests were forced to renounce their faith and their obligations as a priest. To make sure this was done, they were forced to marry. Those who did not comply with these orders were exiled or they faced the guillotine.
Fortunately, conservatives in the French government were eventually able to overpower Robespierre and the Jacobins, and Robespierre was executed thus ending the Regin of Terror.
The Roman Catholic Church after the Revolution Once Robespierre was beheaded a more conservative form of government was created. It allowed freedom of religion and the Cult of the Supreme Being eventually lost popularity. However, the laws of the government were still anti-Catholic to an extent.
Napoleon then rose to power and became Emperor of France in 1804. He allowed religious freedom as well, but he ensured that the Catholic Church would never again have any seecular authority over France.
After Napoleon, French Catholic Church began to resemble today's Church.
The most important long term effect of the Franch Revolution was it directly and indirectly destroyed the secular part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church would not again have the amount of power and influence that it had over Europe before the Revolution. Works Cited Wikipedia
A History of Christianity p. 1008- 1012
Mrs. Painter's Notes
Sources for pictures were placed under the pictures in the presentation