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Published August, 1924. 

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THE limitations of this little book are so obvious that 
an apology for its publication is perhaps more necessary 
than a warning to those who may read it against regarding 
it as in any sense authoritative. It would be easy to write 
many volumes about the Catholic movement in modern 
France, and no comprehensive account of it, no matter 
how judiciously it were compiled, could be contained in a 
single book. Even M. Georges Goyau, with the personal 
experience of a lifetime spent in the service of the move- 
ment, has by no means written his last word about it. On 
the contrary, his daily articles in the Figaro, as its reli- 
gious correspondent, do not suffice to say anything like all 
that there is to be said. Obviously, therefore, no foreign 
journalist, with at. best a few years' first-hand acquaintance 
with life in France, can hope to do more than indicate the 
main lines of the movement and the probabilities of its 
future development. But the Catholic movement in 
France is so full of inspiration and of practical lessons for 
Catholics in other countries, and represents forces that 
play so vital a part in the immediate history of France, 
that the temptation to write of it is strong enough to 
overcome the many excellent reasons against venturing 

Having made the attempt, it remains only to leave no 
false impression in the mind of any one who reads it, as 
to the status or the qualifications of its author. He is an 
Irish Catholic, who has been working in France as a 


journalist for the past three years, and who is interested 
in the Catholic movement both because of its achievements 
and its prospects, in the way of Catholic organization, 
and because of the very important bearings which are 
probably largely ignored, outside of France of the 
Catholic revival upon the future of France in the next 
few critical years. 

No easily accessible account of the Catholic movement 
in France since the war exists in English, so far as I am 
aware. Nor indeed is there any single account of it in 
French. If there were, the obvious course would be to 
make some such work by an authoritative French writer 
available to English-speaking readers, by translating it. 
Such books, however, as exist on the subject are not well 
suited for translation. Probably the most complete ac- 
count of the various Catholic activities of modern France 
is contained in the series of annual Catholic almanacs 
which have been published under the supervision of Mon- 
seigneur Baudrillart since 1920. They each contain a mass 
of valuable information in a single volume from the 
private addresses of distinguished Catholic laymen to 
accounts of pilgrimages to Lourdes, combined with spe- 
cially written articles on subjects of topical importance. 
But one might as well think of translating the "Daily Mail 
Year Book," as it stands, into French as contemplate 
producing these Catholic almanacs in English. Nor is 
there any one volume, even among those which have 
been more or less directly prepared for propaganda 
purposes, which is suited to translation. Lectures 
which have been delivered to French audiences naturally 
take for granted a great deal that requires explanation to 
those who are not familiar with French politics or per- 
sonalities; while those which are prepared for foreign 
audiences usually deal only in the broadest way with sub- 


jects that are vaguely known already among Catholics 
abroad. In any case, such propagandist utterances, 
whether they are prepared with the object of stimulating 
enthusiasm and effort among Catholics, or whether they 
are the speeches of patriotic Frenchmen anxious to make 
their country appear in the most favorable light abroad, 
cannot be expected to deal critically with the subjects they 
discuss; nor would they criticize from the detached point 
of view that is of most interest to a foreigner. 

This little book is therefore to be regarded as a frankly 
journalistic attempt to present, from the point of view 
of a foreign but sympathetic observer, a fairly intelligible 
account of the most important phases of the Catholic 
movement in France since the war. It obviously makes 
no attempt at offering a complete picture in any respect. 
It is no more than an honest attempt to answer, as far 
as my own information goes, some of the obvious ques- 
tions that have interested me most since I have lived in 
France, and that I have most frequently been asked 
myself by Catholic visitors whom I have met in France. 
I have tried to answer them by stating facts, and quoting 
official documents or speeches; or, if opinions had to be 
offered, by quoting the opinions of competent French 
authorities. The arrangement of such a book has 
naturally presented considerable difficulty, since it must 
necessarily touch upon a great many questions each of 
which would require a large volume to itself if it were 
treated in detail. On the whole, I believe that each chap- 
ter will be found to cover one of the most important ques- 
tions that I have been most usually asked, and -that I 
have tried to answer for myself. 

Thus, the first chapter attempts to discover approxi- 
mately what is the actual proportion of modern France 
that can be regarded as definitely Catholic: a question 


which is as impossible to answer precisely as it would 
be to define how much of modern England can be said 
to adhere faithfully to the Church of England. Having 
produced whatever evidence I have been able to obtain 
in order to dispose of this first question, I discuss in the 
next chapter the influences that since the war have 
tended to popularize the Church, to remove cold preju- 
dices against it, and so to prepare the way for a rein- 
forcement of the Catholic body. The third chapter 
discusses the present position of the clergy, their recruit- 
ment, the conditions in which they have to live, and their 
present immunity or otherwise from persecution by the 

Throughout the book it has been impossible to avoid 
a certain amount of overlapping. Thus, the later part 
of the third chapter is to some extent concerned with the 
relations between the Church and the State, which I have 
made the special subject of the fourth chapter, but in a 
different aspect of it. I have reserved this fourth chapter 
for as full a discussion as possible of the actual political 
relations between .the Church and the French govern- 
ments since the war; which naturally resolves itself 
chiefly into an account of the diplomatic relations with 
the Vatican and the efforts by the French Catholics to 
repeal the legislation directed against the religious orders. 
In the following chapter also, questions of politics- figure 
largely, but they are different questions from those dis- 
cussed in Chapters III and IV. In the fifth chapter I have 
tried to explain roughly how far it is true that the 
Catholics of France have allowed themselves to become 
identified with reactionary politics, and what their associa- 
tion with the reactionary or conservative parties in France 
may involve for the future of the Church if the parties of 
the Left should come back to power. As the education 


question is sure to be the main bone of contention between 
the Church and all future governments in France, I have 
dealt with it in this chapter also. 

The three remaining chapters deal separately with dis- 
tinct problems that may be of special interest to Catholic 
students. Chapter VI gives a general account of the 
Catholic trade unions, both industrial and agricultural, 
and explains their relations to the working class move- 
ment throughout France. I should .point out here that, 
while the Catholic trade unions represent the most 
ambitious part of the Catholic movement in its social 
organization, they do not involve at all so large an amount 
of Catholic activity as do, for instance, the Catholic 
schools. But their possibilities are very far-reaching, and 
of their work little is known in detail outside of France. 
Similarly the Catholic press is only one more branch of 
Catholic activity, but it has been so highly developed and 
organized that a full account of it may be of particular 
interest to Catholic workers in English-speaking coun- 
tries. The final chapter deals with another special phase 
of the Catholic movement, which may at first sight not 
seem to be sufficiently important to require a full chapter 
to itself. I believe, however, that this question of Catholic 
teaching in regard to family limitation involves the whole 
position of the Church in every modern country. It is 
commonly supposed by people outside of France that the 
French clergy acquiesce in artificial family limitation 
because it is so widely practised throughout France. 

A candid examination of whether or not the French 
Catholics do uphold the strict Catholic moral teaching 
in this respect should, I believe, be of some general in- 
terest in itself. Needless to say, the evidence all shows 
that the modern French Catholics not only refuse to 
acquiesce in the current doctrines of the Malthttsian 


propagandists, but are actually trying to organize a moral 
crusade for .the restoration of large families throughout 
the country. It is still more interesting, to my mind at 
least, to find out how far the preaching of those Catholic 
moralists, both priests and laymen, is acted upon by the 
Catholics in their private lives; and it makes a curious 
contribution to the modern study of population questions, 
to note that in the more Catholic parts of France the 
birth rate is almost invariably higher and considerably 
higher than in the parts where Catholic practice is almost 
extinct. The question has, moreover, an extremely 
important bearing upon the whole future of the Church 
in France; for in practice it means that the Catholics 
are constantly increasing their numbers by having large 
families, while the non-Catholic population is steadily 
dwindling away. If these two processes remain con- 
tinuously at work, they will naturally result within a 
short time in increasing very substantially the propor- 
tion of practising Catholics in the whole of France. And 
if the present missionary efforts of the French clergy 
succeed in winning thousands of new converts among the 
city populations that have grown up without any religion, 
it may be confidently expected that this spread of 
Catholicism in the towns will be followed there also by a 
corresponding increase in the Catholic birth rate, while 
the non-Catholic birth rate shows every sign of declining 
faster than ever. 

Such, then, is the modest, but I trust not altogether 
uninteresting, scope of this book. It will be seen that it 
discusses only practical questions from the detached view- 
point of a newspaper journalist. I have called it the 
Catholic "Reaction" partly in order to avoid any appear- 
ance of writing about theological matters; and at the 
same time because the word reaction seemed to be more 


comprehensive than the word movement, and because 
what is taking place in France is in fact much more 
accurately described as a reaction than as a revival. The 
word revival is nevertheless entirely appropriate to a vast 
chapter of modern French history that I have not at- 
tempted to discuss here. For this Catholic reaction does 
in fact owe its driving force to a revival of religious 
faith. The record of French religious life in the past cen- 
tury is indeed one of the marvels of our time. It is not 
yet a hundred years since Frederic Ozanam founded the 
Vincent de Paul Society among his fellow students at the 
University of Paris, or since Marie Jamet as a girl in 
her teens brought together the first Little Sisters of the 
Poor in Saint-Servan, or since Bernadette saw the miracu- 
lous visions that have since brought pilgrims from every 
corner of the world to Lourdes. 

These, and many other similar stories are outside the 
scope of my own inquiry ; but no account of the Catholic 
movement in modern France could be rightly visualized 
that did not keep them constantly present in the back- 
ground. It must suffice to draw attention to certain facts 
that M. Georges Goyau puts on record in his recently pub- 
lished "Histoire Religieuse de la France" that of the 
eighteen secular priests belonging to the nineteenth cen- 
tury who have already been either canonized or beatified 
or declared Venerable at Rome, nine are Frenchmen, 
while among the members of religious orders of both 
sexes in the same century who have already been declared 
Venerable, there are eight Frenchmen and ten French- 
women; and all .the three nuns of the nineteenth century 
who have already been beatified are Frenchwomen who 
founded new religious orders. Such a record is in itself a 
sufficient indication of the extraordinary intensity of re- 
ligious faith that has revived throughout France during 


the past hundred years, and that is to be found in every 
corner of France, north, south, east and west. 

Each of the following chapters was written with the 
intention that it should form part of the present book. 
Several of them have, however, since been published, 
either in part or in their entirety, as articles in the Ameri- 
can Catholic World and in the Irish Rosary. I am in- 
debted to the editors of both these reviews for permis- 
sion to reproduce those parts of the book which have 
already appeared in their pages. I wish also to acknowl- 
edge a debt of gratitude to the editors of other Catholic 
periodicals and newspapers, particularly Blackfriars, the 
Catholic Times and the Irish Catholic, as well as to the 
editors of Studies, and the Dublin Review, for their en- 
couragement given to me while I was working as a jour- 
nalist in France. 

London, April, 1924. 





THOLICISM; .....-......:. 2O 

III THE CLERGY . -. . .... .. ; . . 43 






MENACE.. -^ : . : ; ., ,. M ,. L . ., . . 161 





THE final revision of the last French census shows 
that the total population of France in 1921, including 
Alsace-Lorraine, was 39,209,766. What proportion of 
these thirty-nine millions can honestly be described as prac- 
tising Catholics? The question obviously cannot be an- 
swered with any approach to exact figures. Nor is it rea- 
sonable at the present phase of the Catholic revival to 
judge the conditions and the prospects of the Catholic 
Church in France by statistics of the number of persons 
who fulfil their Easter duties. The revival is more a 
tendency among the mass of the people, a vague feeling 
towards religion, expressing itself at once in disapproval 
of the former persecutions of the Church, and in a general 
sympathy with and admiration for the self-sacrifice and 
the devotion of the Church's ministers, than a definite 
acceptance of formal religious teaching or a regular re- 
turn to religious observances. Nevertheless, any serious 
study of the Catholic revival in France must take that 
question as its starting point. 

And while comparing the proportion of practising Cath- 
olics in the present time with the proportion of ten or 


twenty years ago it is necessary also to take into account 
the conditions at the beginning of the last century. 

To go back to the Middle Ages, or even to the eighteenth 
century, would be beyond the scope of the present inquiry. 
But what evidence is there available for forming any gen- 
eral judgment regarding the number of practising 
Catholics in the whole of France? The census returns of 
religious groups are notoriously unreliable in all countries. 
The French Registrar-General's office wisely discontinued 
the publication of such statistics concerning religious de- 
nominations forty years ago. In England those who do 
not feel any particular prejudice against the established 
church usually describe themselves, whether in census re- 
turns of the military hospitals or workhouses, or wherever 
else one may be questioned concerning one's religious per- 
suasion, as belonging ,to the Church of England. In 
France it is customary in similar circumstances to de- 
scribe oneself as "Catholic." The only evidence worth 
serious attention is that which is supplied from the 
dioceses themselves; and even such French diocesan re- 
turns and reports as are available are usually vague 
enough in their estimates. M. Georges Goyau, who is 
the most authoritative writer on religious matters in mod- 
ern France, says quite candidly, that "no statistics of re- 
ligious practice in France have been compiled, and it is 
perhaps impossible that even any approximately accurate 
figures could be obtained. In the towns it is obviously 
very difficult, during the period prescribed for the per- 
formance of the Easter duties, to distinguish between the 
solemn annual communions and the innumerable com- 
munions of monthly, or weekly, or even daily communi- 
cants. But whether it be true that in France at the 
present time there are ten million practising Catholics, as 
some people declare, or only five millions, as others say, 


their number is in either case only a minority of the 
whole people." 

The Vicomte d'Avenel, whose close inquiry into the 
state of religious practice in each diocese of France since 
the war is the most complete evidence on the whole sub- 
ject that is available, is equally frank in his admission 
that the practising Catholics of the country are at most 
a considerable minority of the whole. His general con- 
clusions may be quoted at once beside those of M. Goyau, 
leaving aside for the moment any closer examination of 
how he has arrived at them. "We may therefore calcu- 
late," he writes at the end of an elaborate discussion of 
the evidence he has compiled, "that, for the whole area 
included in this investigation leaving out Paris and the 
three departments of Alsace and Lorraine of the 34 
million persons of both sexes who live within our Re- 
public, some 10 millions are practising Catholics, some 
1 6 or 17 millions keep themselves more or less in con- 
formity with the rules laid down by the Church, but only 
by complying with some of the statutory obligations, as 
by an intermittent attendance at Mass on Sundays, while 
only some seven or eight millions, among whom is a small 
group who are definitely hostile, live in total disregard of 
all religious observances, and although they have been bap- 
tized, are in fact Christians only in name. Such, after fif- 
teen years of separation from the State, would seem to be 
the present state of religion in France. It could not be seri- 
ously argued that the country has become 'dechristianized.' 
It would indeed be more reasonable to assert that the 
contrary is the case, and that it is precisely because the 
Catholic faith has gained ground under a'regime of which 
its friends were so much afraid and from which its ene- 
mies hoped for complete triumph it is precisely because 
the feeling of the country has become more favorable to- 


ward the Church that the powers that be have now re- 
stored diplomatic relations with the Vatican." 

Briefly, then, M. d'Avenel would lead us to believe that 
there are some 10 million practising Catholics among the 
34 millions of people living in France outside of Paris 
and Alsace-Lorraine. Even this optimistic estimate ap- 
pears small enough, but M. d'Avenel argues that it is al- 
most certainly much larger than it was before the Catholic 
revival began. He insists repeatedly that the religious 
revival dates from the beginning of the century and not 
from any wave of emotionalism produced by the war. 
He quotes an astonishing estimate made in 1847 by a 
well-known French priest, the Abbe Petitot, cure of St. 
Louis d'Antin, who declared that out of 32 million people 
who then formed the whole population of France, only 
about two million went to confession. Whether or not this 
estimate was unduly pessimistic, it is corroborated by an- 
other famous priest, the Abbe Bougaud, who himself sub- 
sequently became a bishop, who declared that a certain 
bishop of his acquaintance inquired, on being appointed 
to his see, how many of the 400,000 people in his 
diocese had made their Easter duties : he was told that the 
number was 37,000. And in- 1851. the celebrated Mgr. 
Dupanloup, in one of his pastoral letters, deplored the 
fact that out of the 350,000 souls under his spiritual juris- 
diction barely 45,000 went to the sacraments at Easter. 
In 'that particular diocese, of Orleans, the latest returns 
furnished to M. d'Avenel show that there are now over 
100,000 instead of 45,000 communicants at Easter, and 
that the number of frequent communicants is now fifteen 
times as large as it was a few years ago. 

Similarly, in the cathedral of Sens, he is informed that 
there are now 75,000 communions within the year, as 
compared with 35,000 ten years ago; and at Auxerre also 


there are 40,000 more communions every year than there 
were not long ago. Such figures, however, afford no re- 
liable basis for any general estimate. They may merely 
indicate that a -small minority of devout Catholics now 
go to the sacraments more frequently than they did before. 
Nor can isolated parishes, or even dioceses, be taken a's 
representing the state of Catholicism in the whole of 
France. Certain districts of France are well known to , 
be more Catholic than other districts, yet in some parts 
very strict religious departments are found side by side\ 
,with those in which religious practice is more or less ex- 
tinct. In the west, for instance, the whole of Brittany 
and parts of Normandy are still very Catholic; so are 
Belley, Saint-Die, and Chambery in the East, and in the 
South, Rodez, Auch, Mende, Dax, and Cahors. In such 
provinces and districts the diocesan records show a high 
proportion of practising Catholics. It should be noted 
that the political representation of various parts of France 
affords no reliable indication of the prevalence or other- 
wise of religious observance. In many instances devout 
populations have elected some of the most notorious anti- 
clericals in the French Parliament. Jules Ferry, for in- 
stance, represented a constituency in the Vosges in which 
the great majority of the men make their Easter duties, 
and in M. Malvy's constituency 95 per cent of the men 
go regularly to Mass and two thirds of them make their 
Easter duties. 

M. d'Avenel tried to obtain as precise figures as pos- 
sible from each of the French dioceses. He succeeded in 
getting returns from 67 dioceses in all out of a total of 
87. The evidence he has collected in some cases is fairly 
extensive, in others meager enough. Thus he finds that in 
the department of the Aube there were very few parishes 
where one or two men went to the sacraments, while in 


one parish that in which religion is at its lowest ebb 
not one of the four soldiers who were killed in the war 
was even baptized, and less than half of the children born 
in the parish even now are brought to the church for bap- 
tism. This, however, is an isolated case ; and in many of 
the dioceses there are parishes side by side, of which one 
is above, and the next is below, the average. At Digne, 
for instance, in Provence, there are some parishes in 
which no one goes to the sacraments, and others in which 
everybody goes. In the extreme northeast, around Cam- 
brai, it is generally the case that the agricultural popula- 
tion is mainly faithful to religious observance, while 
among the people in the mining districts of the same region, 
practically none of the men and very few of the women ever 
go to the sacraments. In other parts of the country, such as 
the diocese of Aix, which include large extents of moun- 
tain side by side with heavily populated industrial centers, 
the people who live in the mountains generally remain 
devoutly Catholic, while the townspeople are indifferent or 
sometimes hostile to religion. 

But M. d'Avenel rightly insists that it would convey a 
wrong impression to say that the Church retains its hold 
chiefly among the agricultural population and has lost its 
influence everywhere in the towns; or even that "it is rer 
garded with more favor in the mountains than in the low- 
lands, that it has more influence in the grazing lands than 
among the vineyards ; that it is suited chiefly for those who 
have less education, less social influence, less independence 
of mind, and that it makes no appeal to the people of the 
towns." M. d'Avenel goes so far as to assert that "the 
present movement of Catholicism in France proves the direct 
opposite to be the case." M. Georges Goyau indeed 
speaks with more confidence of the towns than of the 
country, and his most serious apprehension for the future 


is caused by the knowledge that in certain rural dioceses 
the minority of practising Catholics is actually diminish- 
ing. Due regard must also be paid to M. d'Avenel's in- 
sistence upon the fact .that the indifference to religion 
which is found in the big towns and cities is nothing new, 
since even in the beginning of the last century it was at 
best only veiled by an outward appearance of conformity, 
imposed by the civil power and the old governing classes 
who found it useful to maintain an officially established, . 
religion "for the people." He speaks scornfully of the , 
"Defenders of the Throne and Altar" under the Restora- 
tion, among whom the aristocracy had very little use for 
religious observance so much so that in so important a 
cathedral town as Amiens there were not twenty men 
of the bourgeoisie who made their Easter duties in the 
time of Charles X. Alike in the country and in the towns, 
declares M. d'Avenel, all the reliable authorities agree 
that the decline of religious practice dates from long be- 
fore the Republic of 1870, while in some dioceses the 
origin of the decline must be traced back to Jansenism. 

M. d'Avenel's conclusions regarding the 67 dioceses 
from which he succeeded in collecting information 
may be set down before proceeding to a closer .ex- 
amination of the state of religion in the towns. The in- 
formation he has collected is for some dioceses much more 
complete than for others. But M. d'Avenel concludes, 
from the evidence at his disposal, that these 67 dioceses 
(other than those of Paris and Alsace-Lorraine) may be 
roughly divided into three groups. His standard of 
values in classifying them is highly significant. The first 
category which he characterizes as "religious" comprises 
27 dioceses out ot 67, or slightly more than a third of 
the whole. In these the majority of the women go to 
Mass and attend the sacraments at Easter, while half of 


the men go to Mass and a quarter of them go to the 
sacraments. The second category comprises 28 dioceses, 
and in these also the majority of the women go to Mass, 
but only half of them go to the sacraments^ while only 
one-third of the men go to Mass and between one-eighth 
and one-quarter go to the sacraments. In the third and 
least religious category there are only 18 dioceses, or 
slightly less than one-quarter of the whole, and in these 
the returns show that only a minority even of the women 
go to Mass and less than one-eighth of the men go to 
the sacraments. M. d'Avenel adds an important post- 
script to this rough classification, emphasizing the fact 
that he describes this last category not as "irreligious," 
but as "indifferent," on the ground that even in these 
dioceses it is still an almost universal practice to bring 
the children to be baptized in the churches, and also to 
have marriages and burials religiously solemnized. Taken 
all together, these returns cover a total population of some 
28 millions of people out of the 39 millions in all France. 
Paris and the immediately adjacent districts which are 
grouped in the department of the Seine naturally consti- 
tute a problem which must be examined separately, and 
this "Greater Paris" includes between 4^2 and 5 million 
inhabitants. But apart from this concentration of people 
in and around Paris, M. d'Avenel's figures may fairly be 
taken as representative of the whole of France, seeing 
that the dioceses comprising some six million people in 
all which have not furnished adequate information in- 
clude districts which must be classed in each of these 
categories. Thus, Nantes in Brittany and Bayonne at the 
foot of the Pyrenees would naturally be in. the first cate- 
gory if the information concerning them were available, 
while Chartres and Limoges would be in the "indifferent" 


Interesting and illuminative as they are, M. d'Avenel's 
calculations cannot, however, be taken as representing 
anything but a more or less accurate survey of the situa- 
tion existing during the year 1921, while the conditions 
were changing rapidly. The most important change, 
which has been greatly accentuated by the war, is, of 
course, the steady migration from the country districts 
to the towns. Combined with the continuous decline of 
the population in many parts of the country the drift 
toward the towns has altered the whole balance of popula- 
tion in France. The census taken in 1921 shows.' 
that there is still a slight preponderance of rural over 
urban population, the proportion being 55 and 45 per 
cent. Since 1861, when the census showed a total of 
37,386,000 inhabitants, the total of France's population 
has remained almost stationary. It had risen to 38^ 
millions on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, but was 
reduced to a little over 36 millions by the loss of Alsace- 
Lorraine. There was a very small increase at each sub- 
sequent census, until the population stood at 39,771,000 
in the year before the great war. The Treaty of Ver- 
sailles gave back Alsace-Lorraine to France, but the loss 
to the population through death in action of nearly ij^ 
million men, and the heavy decline in the birth rate owing 
to war conditions, was so great that even the addition of 
some two million people in the restored provinces did not 
suffice to bring back the total for the whole country to 
the pre-war figures. At the present figure of, roughly, 
39,219,000, the population stands at almost the same level 
as it (was twenty years ago, and only about a million 
higher than it was before the Franco-Prussian War. 

But in the intervening fifty years there has been a 
continuous and increasingly rapid gravitation of the people 
from the country into the towns. Even in the past decade, 


in spite of the destruction of a number of large towns in 
the invaded districts, the number of people living in the 
largest towns alone those with more than 30,000 in- 
habitants in each has increased by more than a quarter 
of a million. The latest French census report gives 
comparative figures showing the number of inhabitants in 
each town with a population of over 30,000 at every five 
years since 1881. There are now 88 towns with popula- 
tions exceeding that figure, compared with only 47 in 
1 88 1 ; and the increase between the populations of these 
towns forty years ago and at the present time is in many 
cases extraordinary. Paris may be set on one side; it 
had 2,270,000 people then within its city walls, as against 
2,900,000 now, and while it now has sixteen suburbs with 
over 30,000 people in each, it then had only one. And 
this enormous growth of the principal suburbs is only 
symptomatic of the general movement of population to- 
wards the department of the Seine, which has increased 
within the same period from 2,800,000 to 4,410,000. And 
the small department of the Seine itself is only the center 
of a much larger agglomeration of people in all the 
country surrounding the metropolis. But apart from this 
marked gravitation towards Paris and the districts that 
lie all round it, there has been a scarcely less marked 
migration of the population into other important indus- 
trial centers. In the Alpes-Maritimes, for instance, 
Cannes and Nice between them include nearly 190,000 
people now as compared with some 85,000 in 1881. Mar- 
seilles has grown from 360,000 to 586,000 within the 
same period. Bordeaux and Toulouse, on the other hand, 
which are commercial rather than industrial centers, while 
they have gone on steadily increasing, have grown com- 
paratively little, although they are respectively fourth and 
seventh in size among all the towns of France. But the 


growth of the industrial centers has been extremely rapid. 
The department of the Nord, where this tendency to .the 
industrial towns was most marked, has been so ruined 
by the war that it is necessary to take the figures for 191 1, 
and even with the thirty years left for comparison they 
show an astonishing increase in a group of busy factory 
towns. Douai increased from 26,000 to 36,000; Lille 
from 178,000 to 218,000; Roubaix from 92,000 to 123,- 
ooo; Tourcoing from 52,000 to 83,000, and Valenciennes 
from 28,000 to 35,000. In the adjacent department o| 
the Pas-de-Calais there was an even more notable ad- 
vance, Boulogne growing from 45,000 to 53,000; Calais 
from 47,000 to 72,000, and Lens from 10,000 to 32,000 
within thirty years. In the southern industrial area there 
was a similar increase in the industrial population. Lyons 
grew from 377,000 in 1881 to 562,000 last year, and 
Villersbonne from 11,000 to over 56,000. Limoges, in 
the southw.est, grew from 64,000 in 1881 to 92,000 in 
1911, but had fallen off slightly in 1921 from the fact 
that all the part of France that surrounds it has become 
so depopulated that even this flow of immigration towards 
the towns cannot be maintained. 

Obviously, while the population is shifting so rapidly 
it is impossible to make any precise estimate of the state 
of religious practice in the country. There is no doubt 
whatever that before long the urban population of France 
will have become larger than the rural population, and 
the most urgent 'problem for the clergy is to keep pace 
with the growth of the large cities. So far as the country 
is concerned the situation is hopeful enough. The de- 
cline of the French population as a whole is mainly caused 
by .the gradual depopulation of large areas of agricultural 
land, but this tendency towards depopulation is by no 
means general throughout the country. Broadly speaking, 


the statistics show that in those parts of France like all 
Brittany, a large part of Normandy, the regions around 
the Pyrenees and the Alps, and other mountainous on 
primitive districts where the Catholic tradition remains,/ 
strong, there is either a much smaller tendency towards 
depopulation or else there is an actual increase from year 
to year. In these parts of France the future of Catholi- 
cism is fairly secure, and the general spread of a re- 
ligious revival throughout France can find in them all 
the conditions for a favorable development. They are 
moreover for the most part more heavily populated al- 
ready than the wide plains that stretch across the center 
of France or the rich vintage country inland from Bor- 
deaux. It is in these areas where the population is dwin- 
dling rapidly, partly through deliberate restriction of the 
birth rate and partly through emigration towards the 
towns, that the Catholic Church has least influence and 
is in some parts actually losing the small number of faith- 
ful adherents that remain. But in whole tracts of France, 
where such conditions exist, it would seem that a sort 
of creeping paralysis has overtaken the life of the people. 
It is true that the Catholic Church is apparently dying 
out in these parts, just as all life is apparently dying out. 
It is difficult to see what will have happened by the end 
of another twenty or thirty years in these districts if the 
present process of depopulation continues, and there is 
no apparent means of arresting the process except by a 
complete revolution in the social habits of the people. 
One might argue without any fantastic exaggeration that, 
as the Catholic teaching is the only effective preventive of 
family limitation, these districts in which Catholicism has 
lost ground most may be for that very reason doomed to 
extinction by race suicide until they have become Catholic 
again. It may be that the systematic resettlement by 


State intervention of these districts, which has already 
begun, by colonists from the surplus population of Cath- 
olic Brittany and other parts of France, which while re- 
maining Catholic have kept up their natural increase of 
population, will itself lead to the restoration of Catholi- 
cism in the parts of France where its abandonment has 
resulted in the depopulation of whole countrysides. 

The problem of the towns, however, remains to be 
solved. So long as industrial capitalism lasts, and if the 
impending bankruptcy of Central Europe does not result 
in a complete collapse of capitalism like that which has 
come about in Russia, we must expect that this process 
of migration from the country to the towns will continue, 
and that the population of France, like .that of England, 
will more and more abandon the life of the fields for the 
congested and morbid life of the towns. Whether such 
conditions could ever become general throughout Europe, 
or could conceivably endure through the lifetime of an- 
other generation, may certainly be doubted. While the 
process is at work, however, the French clergy find them- 
selves obliged to keep pace as best they can with the rapid 
growth of the large towns, and to deal with conditions 
that in many respects make religious organization ex- 
tremely difficult. In some ways undoubtedly the cities of 
France have afforded a wonderful training ground for 
the more zealous of the younger clergy, and the indus- 
trial centers of the north, and Paris itself, have given 
a new energy and a new discipline in action to many of 
the most active members of the episcopate. It was, for 
instance, a great acquisition to the Church in Brittany 
when Mgr. (now Cardinal) Charost, still a^comparatively 
young man, who had been tried in the severest school as 
Bishop of Lille before and during the war, came to Rennes 
to succeed to the Primacy of the most Catholic province in 


France after the death of the aged Cardinal Dubourg. 
And throughout the country the benefit of this direct 
contact with the problem of missionary work in the in- 
dustrial towns is felt wherever clerical appointments are 
made which transfer priests from the towns to the country 

But while this advantage is considerable, the difficulties 
of religious organization in the big modern towns in- 
crease much faster than the existing clergy can deal with 
them. The industrial suburbs of Paris had grown so 
fast with the last quarter of the nineteenth century that 
several of the outlying parishes had attained such dimen- 
sions that no clergy could possibly cope with them. Thus, 
when the separation of the Church and State was decreed 
in 1905 the parish of Notre Dame de Clignancourt com- 
prised 121,000 people, while the parish of Sainte-Mar- 
guerite comprised 96,000, and that of Saint-Pierre-de- 
Montrouge 83,000. The largest cathedrals in Europe 
could scarcely find room for such vast congregations if 
they had wanted to go to church, and the churches which 
were available in these parishes were in most cases little 
more than small chapels. Even at the present time the 
church of St. Jacques-St. Christophe at La Villette has 
seating accommodation for no more than 580 people, 
and only 750 more could find room in .the two auxiliary 
chapels out of a total population of 70,000 in the parish. 
And in the parish of St. Germain-des-Charonne, with 
62,000 people of all ages, there is room for only 400 
people in the church itself and less than 400 more in the 
auxiliary chapel. At Levallois-Perret there is only one 
church altogether, without any auxiliary chapel, and it has 
to serve for all purposes for a population of 72,000. The 
provision of new churches throughout the nineteenth cen- 
tury was utterly inadequate to meet the requirements of 


the growth in the population of Paris. M. Goyau makes 
the comparison all the more striking by contrasting the 
figures at the beginning and at the end of the Concordat. 
In 1801, when the Concordat was concluded by Napoleon, 
there were not .quite 800,000 people in the diocese of 
Paris,; which counted 125 parishes and 422 priests. In 
1906, just after the rupture of the Concordat, the popu- 
lation of Paris had risen to four millions, or about five 
times the former total, while the number of parishes had 
increased only to 147^ and the number of priests to 765. 
The shortage of priests was made more serious by tlie 
fact that the number of curates in each parish had ceased 
to bear any relation to the size of .their congregations; 
one parish with less than 30,000 people had eleven curates, 
while Notre Dame de Clignancourt, with 121,000 people, 
had only nine. 

The late Cardinal Amette took in hand this question 
of providing more adequate facilities for the overcrowded 
modern suburbs. Within six years from the beginning 
of 1906 he had so increased the number of parishes in 
the city itself and in the suburbs that he had brought 
within reach of nearly 650,000 people a reasonable pos- 
sibility of religious observance. It had previously re- 
quired considerable self-sacrifice of time to attend a 
church, to say nothing of the desperate overcrowding if 
they had gone in large numbers. The work that Cardinal 
Amette began has been zealously carried on by his suc- 
cessor, Cardinal Dubois, and by the end of 1921 the 
number of parishes in the city itself has increased from 
69 ,to 81, and those in the suburbs from 78 to 95. Of 
these 29 new parishes 19 have been established in dis- 
tricts where no sort of parish had existed previously. In 
addition to this increase in the number of parishes, 30 
new chapels have been built within the same period of 


twelve years four of them in Paris itself and 26 in the 
suburbs. Even yet the work of extending the religious 
organization of Paris is far from complete. Twenty- 
eight of the parishes in the diocese still include more than 
40,000 people in each, and plans for the construction of 
15 more new churches to reduce the overcrowding in 
the others are already prepared. Nor is this all. Canon 
Couget has published a report, based on the last census 
returns, which estimates a need for 100 additional 
churches and 500 more priests to complete the missionary 
work that remains to be done if the religious life of Paris 
is to be reestablished. 

And in the other large towns which have grown with 
a rapidity similar to Paris the clergy are showing a simi- 
lar energy in forming new parishes and undertaking every 
form of missionary activity. Sotteville, an important 
suburb of Rouen, in Normandy, had one new church 
in 1913, and a second in 1920. In Lyons the third town 
of France in point of size, and one of those which have 
grown most rapidly 20 new parishes have been organ- 
ized within the past 15 years, notwithstanding the 
heavy drain on the priesthood that was caused by mobili- 
zation in the war. Some 50,000 people have thus been 
brought within range of constant missionary effort, and 
the result may be seen already in such a parish as that of 
Oullins, which had only three practising Catholics out of 
a population of 2,000 fourteen years ago, and which now 
has more than 800 people attending Mass on feast days 
and 400 communicants at Easter; This parish, which is 
cited by M. Goyau as a brilliant example, is, of course, 
exceptional, and its conversion which has incidentally 
transformed its politics from those of a violently anti- 
clerical to those of an "Union Sacree" constituency is 
largely due to ,the personality of its cure, who is himself 


the son of a workingman: barely seven years after he 
had founded his new parish in such unpromising sur- 
roundings, he was called to military service and could not 
return till the war ended, when he rejoined his congrega- 
tion with the red ribbon of a chevalier of the Legion of 
Honor. In another southern center of industry, St. 
Etienne, the success of a similar adventure has been, if 
less overwhelming, still certainly remarkable. The new 
parish of Monthieux was created there just before the 
war, and at the end of seven years the number of mar- 
riages celebrated in this church had trebled, while one- 
tenth of the families now make some contribution towards 
the upkeep of the church. Most remarkable of all is the 
achievement of the Bishop of Versailles, Mgr. Gibier, 
whose diocese includes a population of 800,000. He 
made up his mind that 50 new churches were needed 
to overtake the immense immigration of an industrial 
population into what was in the early part of the last 
century a more or less completely rural department. Eight 
years after he issued his first appeal in 1907 for the money 
to commence this ambitious program no less than 30 
new churches had been built and were already in use, while 
the remainder of the 50 are welfon their way towards 
construction, if not actually towards completion. 

Yet, hopeful as these statistical comparisons may be, 
the progress that they record in opening up new fields of 
action to the missionary clergy is less remarkable than the 
clear evidence they give of the almost complete extinction 
of religious practice in the more recently formed suburbs 
of the industrial towns. Undoubtedly the impression that 
emerges most clearly from an examination^) f .the facts 
is that, while there is at once more vitality and more en- 
ergy on the part of the clergy in the towns than in the 
country, and at the same time a readier response to their 


efforts toward a revival of religion, the proportion of , 
practising Catholics is extremely small in relation to the 
whole population of these large urban centers. The pro- 
portion, of course, varies both as between towns and as 
between particular districts in the same towns. In the 
aristocratic quarter of the Boulevard St. Germain in Paris 
the churches are crowded all day on Sundays and are 
never empty on week days, while the number of churches 
in the quarter is quite astonishing. In Menilmontant, on 
the other hand the most overcrowded working-class dis- 
trict in Paris, and the headquarters of revolutionary trade 
unionism in the city the proportion of practising Catho- 
lics is very small, and the total population in the parish 
whom the clergy can reasonably regard as being in every 
way accessible to their ministrations is probably not one- 
tenth of the whole. There is a similar contrast between 
conditions in different cities. The personality of some 
great prelate who gave his people a splendid example of 
courage and devotion during the war as did Mgr. Julien 
of Arras or Cardinal Lugon of Reims often increases 
the extent of sympathy upon which the clergy can count, 
even if it does not actually increase the number of prac- 
tising Catholics. In cities like Bordeaux or La Rochelle, 
remote from the war area, such opportunities were not 
given to the senior members of the clergy. It is in the 
northeast above all, partly because of its proximity to 
Paris, and still more because of the vast field for mis- 
sionary activity offered by its many industrial cities, and 
above all because of the opportunity for social action 
offered by the demands of reconstruction in the devastated 
area and seized by the clergy with such magnificent pa- 
triotism, that the religious revival is most active. But 
it is also in the northeast that the Church has most ground 
to recover. In the northwest and the extreme southwest 


the Church has always retained its hold upon a primitive 
and religiously minded people. It is in the center and the 
south in those parts of France where the population is 
most steadily declining and where the density of popula- 
tion is already below the average for most of France 
that the practice of religion is still gradually declining in 
some places, and at best little more than holding its 
ground. But it may be that in these parts of France, 
which appear now to be doomed to gradual depopulation 
through the deliberate refusal of a listless and self-indul- 
gent people to undertake the burden of families, the 
Church will yet find its greatest opportunity. For no 
other social force seems capable of introducing that sense 
of moral discipline without which so large a part of 
France seems doomed to decay the decay which results 
inevitably from the moral sterility of materialism and 
the practice of deliberate family limitation. 




IF we accept the Vicomte d'Avenel's general estimate 
of the number of practising Catholics in France as more 
or less accurate, we may assume that roughly one-third of 
the whole population of France may be considered as 
being definitely Catholic that is to say, mote or less 
scrupulous in religious practice, while openly professing 
Catholicism and supporting Catholic activity and Catholic 
policies. The remaining two-thirds of the people are by 
his account either indifferent or hostile. But the old 
hostility diminished rapidly during the early days of the 
war, and there is no doubt that the reaction against the 
anticlericalism of Emile Combes and his colleagues has 
been gathering strength ever since. The mass of the 
people are now on the whole friendly to the Catholic 
Church in much the same way as the mass of English 
people are well disposed towards the Church of England, 
even if most of them never go to church and a consider- 
able number regard clergymen with a certain degree of 

But whereas the general attitude towards the church 
in both countries may roughly be compared, the war has 
done much more in France to revive the prestige of the 
Church than it did in England. There have been obvious 
explanations of this difference. The whole clergy of mili- 



tary age in France were mobilized with all the rest of 
the male population at the first outbreak of war, and 
they remained mobilized to the very end of it. For them 
it was no question of volunteering to act as regimental 
or divisional chaplains attached to the headquarters staff 
and praised by every one for having shown great public 
spirit in volunteering for active service at all even under 
such conditions. Most of the French priests who were 
mobilized went into the ranks and served in the trenches 
as common soldiers, at any rate for a considerable period 
of the war. They remained, undistinguishable from the 
rest of their comrades-in-arms except in so far as their 
own personal example marked them out in each case. 
And it is a splendid tribute to the French clergy that they 
bore themselves under the test thus placed upon them 
with such dignity and valor that they did more in that 
way than they could have done in years of missions to 
restore public respect for their profession all over France. 

Fighting as common soldiers, they distinguished them- 
selves everywhere by ' doing far more than their duty. 
Their discipline, their personal bravery, their indomitable 
courage, and their unquestioning patriotism were re- 
marked upon again and again. M. Clemenceau, one of 
the most hardened veterans of the anticlerical persecu- 
tion, found himself obliged, not by formality but by 
sheer necessity of recognizing virtue, to decorate Catholic 
soldier priests time after time ort the field of battle after 
a successful attack or defensive action; and many of his 
last utterances since his retirement have been devoted to 
congratulating the Catholic priesthood on the way that 
they responded to the claims of patriotism in the war. 

This personal valor of the French clergy was all the 
more impressive because it came as a surprise. The 
clergy had been ridiculed so long as being effeminate 


and sanctimonious, they had been calumniated for so 
many years as the agents of a church which was alleged 
to be the most dangerous enemy of the Republic, 
that at best they were not expected to be more than 
passable soldiers. The war showed how false these cal- 
umnies had been. The bare figures of the official statistics 
are eloquent enough. Practically 32,700 French ecclesi- 
astics were mobilized for active service in the war, of 
whom 4,618 were killed and 10,414 were mentioned in dis- 
patches, while their military decorations included 9,378 
Croix de Guerre, 1,533 Medailles Miltaires, and 895 re- 
ceived the Legion of Honor. 

The brief records of each diocese given in the first 
volume (1920) of Mgr. Baudrillart's Almanack Catho- 
lique are worth studying in connection with a table show- 
ing the comparative population of each department. Each 
diocese corresponds roughly, since the establishment of 
the centralized civil administration by Napoleon, to the 
department of which it is the religious center, and the 
average population of each department in the whole of 
France is considerably less than half a million. It is im- 
possible to make more than a superficial comparison be- 
tween the different dioceses, but the bare facts give a 
clear indication of how wide an influence the war work 
of the clergy must have exercised. Take the first diocese 
in the alphabetical order of the list for instance that of 
Agen, in the relatively unimportant department of Lot- 
et-Garonne, whose population has fallen steadily from 
some 330,000 sixty years ago to less than a quarter of a 
million to-day. With some 450 parishes, the diocese had 
1 80 priests mobilized on active service, and eight of these 
were killed in action. One was decorated with the Legion 
of Honor, six with the military medal, 40 with the Croix 
de Guerre, and they had between them 62 mentions in 


dispatches. The dioceses of Aix-en-Provence and Mar- 
seilles, both in the department of the Bouches-du-Rhone, 
afford a very different picture. Here, although the popu- 
lation has risen with astonishing rapidity, from some 500,- 
ooo sixty years ago to nearly 850,000 now, .there are only 
214 parishes a conspicuous instance of the shortage of 
priests in an industrial area that is growing very fast. 
But the 129 parishes of the diocese of Aix furnished 80 
priests on active service, as well as 30 seminarists, and 
they received 40 Croiyc de Guerre between them; while 
that of Marseilles sent 127 priests and 67 seminarists, of 
whom 21 never returned. 

In Corsica, with 420 parishes but a population of less 
than 300,000, some 90 priests were mobilized. In the 
diocese of Albi, in the department of the Tarn, where 
the population is scarcely larger than in Corsica there 
are 509 parishes 349 priests were mobilized, of whom 
17 were killed in battle. 

The diocese of Amiens, capital of the department of 
the Somme, is one of those in which the clergy have had 
the finest chance to show their patriotism. Two-thirds 
of the parishes have been left in utter ruins, and almost 
300 churches were destroyed or seriously wrecked, while 
the presbyteries and other buildings used for religious 
purposes suffered equally. It was one of the most impor- 
tant dioceses in France, and although its population was 
barely half a million before the war, it had 750 parishes. 
Two hundred and forty of its priests fought through the 
war, while 23 of them were killed, and 75 of them won 
the Crolx de Guerre. But it is in the reconstruction of the 
Somme, even more than on the battlefields, that the clergy 
of this devastated area of France have won a new influ- 
ence in the lives of ,the people for whom they have striven 
with utter devotion. Many of the clergy have since the 


war worked as common laborers at the rebuilding of their 
churches and their presbyteries. The department of the 
Nord, which is the most crowded part of France outside 
of Paris, had two dioceses those of Cambrai and Lille 
with nearly 800 parishes between them. The two dioceses 
had 132 priests killed in action, while the diocese of Lille 
alone had nearly 180 mentions in dispatches. On the 
coast of the Bay of Biscay, where clerical influence has 
generally waned, the diocese of La Rochelle counts 220 
priests who have come back from active service, while 
the memory of the 34 who were killed has given a con- 
clusive answer to those who formerly decried the Church 
for its lack of patriotism. The diocese of Bordeaux had 
14 priests and 1 1 seminarists killed, out of 400 mobilized, 
which compares very favorably with the 480 who were 
mobilized from the diocese of Paris. 

A cursory examination of these records shows how 
complete must have been the penetration of all parts of 
France by the effects of mobilization. And apart from 
the priests and seminarists who left their parishes to join 
the colors, those who remained behind everywhere gave , 
an example of splendid patriotic service. In the remote 
southwest, the late Cardinal de Cabrieres of Montpellier, 
who was already nearly ninety years of age when the 
war broke out, could scarcely have been expected to un- 
dertake any active personal service himself. But he 
showed his spirit by volunteering at the outset of the war 
to act as a night orderly in the local hospital, and on 
several nights every week he was regularly at his post to 
encourage and minister to the wounded and the sick, and 
to help keep the rest of the night staff awake during the 
small hours. 

Away at the other extremity of France, in the north- 
east corner which the Germans had invaded and overrun, 


another priest some fifty years younger than the Cardinal 
was showing the same spirit of patriotism in a different 
way. The Abbe Pinte was a professor of electrical en- 
gineering in the technical institute at Roubaix, behind 
Lille, and with a small band of men who shared his in-, 
domitable courage and spirit of enterprise he baffled for 
more than three years every attempt of the German au- 
thorities to track down and suppress the local sheet, the 
Oiseau de France, which they printed to keep the French 
people under their occupation in touch with what was 
really happening on the other side of the barrier made by 
the German trenches. The paper was printed privately 
by a hand press which was constantly moved from place 
to place to escape detection. But its concealment was less 
difficult than another task which the Abbe Pinte made 
his own. 

Behind a secret door made in the wall of his laboratory 
at the technical institute, he had a private wireless re- 
ceiving station erected at which he listened every evening 
at the time when the allied military communiques were 
issued from the Eiffel Tower. Time after time the in- 
stitute was raided and ransacked from top to bottom, 
every plank of the floor being torn up to discover his 
hiding place. Sentries were placed in the corridors night 
and day, and the French priest several times sat listening 
for the message in his hiding place while the sentries 
tramped up and down outside his room. In the end the 
pursuit became so hot that he had to accept the services 
of a girl who volunteered to undertake his work at the 
listening post while on successive days he ostentatiously 
walked out in the streets of Roubaix at the hour when 
the communiques were being sent out, to show that it was 
not he who was intercepting them. In the end he was 
caught, as the result of a successful raid by German spies, 


disguised as Dutch policemen, who broke into one of the 
Allied spy headquarters at Rotterdam and discovered 
secret documents which enabled them to gain the pass- 
word and to forge the documents necessary to win the 
confidence of the Abbe Pinte. He and his colleagues 
were caught red-handed and arrested, in the last year of 
the war, and were all sent to punishment cells in German 
prisons. One of them died, but the Abbe Pinte was able 
to return after the liberation of Roubaix to his former 
duties as a professor. But the'story and I quote it only 
as one of hundreds of true stories of the wonderful daring 
shown by the French priests during the war has since 
become known all over France. Incidentally it has helped 
to restore confidence in the relations between priests and 
people in an industrial part of France when religion had 
become all but extinct. 

These are only two instances selected at random from 
the annals of the French clergy during the war. In every 
part of the country, priests showed the same wonderful 
self-sacrifice and activity, giving an example of heroism 
in the trenches and of untiring energy among the civilian 
population. That example alone would have gone a long 
way towards restoring .their prestige it effectively de- 
molished the old idea that effeminacy and cowardice were 
the natural characteristics of the priesthood. The clergy 
simply showed that they asked no more than to under- 
take the ordinary duties of every citizen, and they proved 
that even under a regime which deprived them of many 
of their civil rights, they were more public-spirited, more 
proud of their national heritage as Frenchmen, and de- 
termined to uphold the rights of that heritage, than any 
other class in the whole country. This in itself was much, 
but this example of civic patriotism was only a minor 
part of the contribution that the French clergy made 


towards France's victory in the war. A special' responsi- 
bility was thrown upon them, to support the morale of 
the civil population, to console and encourage the be- 
reaved, and to sustain the faith of the whole people in 
their power to drive the invader out of the country. Liter- 
ally millions of people who had ceased to practise their 
religion before the war returned instinctively to find at 
least an echo of the faith of their childhood in the churches 
which for years before they had never entered. Chapels 
and shrines all over the 'country, no less than famous 
centers of pilgrimage such as the Church of Our Lady of 
Victories in Paris, were crowded with women and chil- 
dren who came to light candles for the safety of their 
husbands or fathers or brothers in the trenches. The 
clergy had a supreme opportunity to welcome back those 
who had lost .the faith within the doors which had al- 
ways been open to them except when anticlerical govern- 
ments had deliberately closed down churches or evicted 
religious communities and sold their chapels for commer- 
cial purposes. 

All over France the war brought back a sudden revela- 
tion of what the churches had meant throughout the 
centuries that they had stood as the center of each com- 
munity. In remote parts of the country where the Ger- 
man invasion could never have been expected to reach, 
the constant anxiety of families whose men folk were all 
with the army brought, thousands of unbelievers back, if 
only for a few weeks at a time, to a sympathetic contact 
with the Church. But it was in the devastated area that 
the churches made their strongest appeal to the people. 
Sometimes it was not until after they had been destroyed 
that the people could discover how empty the life of the 
villages had become without them. "Out of 572 churches, 
large and small, in the department of the Meuse," writes 


Mgr. Ginisty, Bishop of Verdun, "325 have suffered from 
the war, and 160 of them have been completely destroyed. 
The people of the villages, even those who were indiffer- 
ent in the past, have felt the loss of their churches and 
remember sadly how all the chief events of their lives 
have been connected with them their baptisms, confirma- 
tions, marriages, funerals since the church is the meet- 
ing-place at once for joyful celebrations and for sad 
farewells." There are more sad than joyful memories 
attaching to the churches in these days, but they are mem- 
ories that have made an indelible mark upon the present 
generation and that will not be forgotten by the genera- 
tion which comes after them. Mgr. Ginisty describes his 
own diocese as "one vast cemetery, where sleep our French 
soldiers, our allies, and our enemies more than a million 
men whose tombs, for the most part unidentified, reach 
along the whole front around Verdun." Among all these 
graves before long a vast ossuary will be raised the third 
in the series of four colossal sepulchres which will mark 
the whole Allied line from the Channel to the Swiss 
frontier, one on the Vimy Ridge, one on the Marne, one 
at Verdun, and one at Hartmannsweilerkopf, overlooking 
the plain of the Rhine. On each of these will be a tower 
with a perpetual light shining out far overland, and the 
people all around will know that devout monks and nuns 
are praying there ceaselessly night and day in perpetual 

Such monuments cannot but produce an incalculably 
deep impression on the minds of the people among whom 
they stand. The money with which they are being built 
the money with which the 2,000 ruined churches of the 
devastated area are being rebuilt is being raised in every 
parish in France, and the committees that issue the appeal 
for subscriptions are representative of every part of the 


country. The pride of the people in their churches as 
national monuments has been aroused, and they are re- 
sponding 1 generously ,to the appeal at a time when ap- 
peals of desperate urgency are being made to them from 
every side. And with this pride in the churches them- 
selves there is combined a feeling that the Germans de- 
liberately tried to destroy the churches, in the belief that 
by destroying religious life they would break down the 
moral resistance of the people more quickly. Mgn 
Chollet, Archbishop of Cambrai, claims quite definitely 
that the war of economic destruction was accompanied by, 
and intensified by, a relentless war against religion by 
the Germans. He declares that they considered that "re- 
ligious faith involved the virtue of patriotism,, and the 
priests supported the moral courage of the people. Then 
the Germans knew that the priests were men of intelli- 
gence and bravery, that they were as active as they were 
devoted, and they were accordingly suspected as spies. 
That is why the practice of religion was hindered in every 
possible way, and why our unfortunate parish priests 
were constantly being punished by imprisonment and by 
fines. One of them went one day into his own sacristy 
while a Protestant service was being conducted by the 
Germans in his church, creeping close to the walls and 
walking on tiptoe to fetch his breviary which he had 
forgotten to bring away. The German clergyman im- 
mediately denounced him for his audacity, and he was 
obliged to pay a fine of 1,000 marks. The Archbishop 
himself was not once allowed to leave his town, even to 
give confirmation less than three miles away. We were 
practically left without any means of communication with 
the Pope, who was monstrously deceived as to our fate. 
Our sanctuaries were commandeered; and at the gates of 
Cambrai a German officer even violated the tabernacle, 


plunging his hands into the ciborium, full of consecrated 
hosts. Our churches were used as shops in one place 
as a powder magazine and in another as a pork-butcher's 
they are, indeed, worthy sons of Luther, who be- 
queathed to them all his own hatred of Catholicism." 

Detached from its context, this last sentence seems a 
grotesque exaggeration. It cannot be denied that there 
were probably more practising Catholics among the Ger- 
man armies than there were on the French side of the 
trenches, and the persistent representation of the war as a 
conflict between Protestant Germany and Catholic France, 
which is still diligently maintained by many French 
nationalists, is quite obviously untrue. But the clear and 
damning evidence of great French ecclesiastics like Car- 
dinal Luc,on or Mgr. Chollet or Mgr. Julien when they 
gave testimony of the deliberate and wanton destruction 
of religious monuments and the interference with religious 
life by the German armies during the war is too often 
overlooked. The facts are as incontestable as are the facts 
of the wreckage of Louvain and Ypres by Germany in the 
first months of the war; and they have branded deep 
scars upon the memories of some five million French 
people whose homes were in the devastated districts, as 
well as upon the whole manhood of France who saw these 
horrible things with their own eyes in the country that 
lay around the battlefields. 

And so, especially in the devastated districts, the whole 
people have rallied around the Church as one of their most 
venerable national institutions which has been attacked. 
How much this sort of support is worth from the point 
of view of real religious revival, it is not easy to say. It 
may indeed have involved very little in most places, so far 
as any actual increase of religious practice is concerned. 
But it is an immense gain to the Church in France, in the 


present stage of its struggles towards recovery, that many 
of its former enemies have now not only ceased to be its 
enemies but come forward with alacrity to fight its 
battles and to lend their services in its cause. One of the 
most remarkable and most impressive results of the war, 
so far as the devastated districts are concerned, has been 
the general popularity of the clergy and the conversion of 
most of the inveterate anticlericals to friendship with 
them. .Any one who remembers the intensity of bitter feel- 
ing that existed between the anticlerical and the Catholic 
parties in France before the war must have been amazed 
at the way in which public men all over the devastated 
area, who were formerly bitter enemies of the Church, 
have given active support to the projects for raising money 
to rebuild the ruined churches. The explanation is of 
course quite obvious. The whole appearance of the coun- 
tryside in the Somme or the Pas-de-Calais, in the Aisne or 
the Meuse, is completely changed by the loss of its innu- 
merable little village churches dotted over every few miles 
of ground still more by the destruction of the magnifi- 
cent old cathedrals. People of every class and of every 
shade of politics realize that the country can never again 
be what it was before the war until the old churches have 
been restored that no village, however small, can be com- 
plete or recover its old sense of civic life until its church 
stands in its midst. And so it is that Radkal senators like 
M. Jonnart or'M. Clemenceau who voted for all the anti- 
clerical legislation before the war, and countless local poli- 
ticians and administrators who in the old days vied with 
one another in their efforts to extirpate the influence of 
the Church from their own districts, now give their names 
and give handsome subscriptions to the committees which 
are being formed to raise funds for the churches. In 
Amiens not long ago the bishop presided at a meeting of 


some two hundred mayors many, if not most, of whom 
were old anticlericals, who had come specially to give their 
support to his scheme for floating a reconstruction loan 
to rebuild the churches in his diocese. 

Each of the twelve dioceses which were devastated has 
by this time either floated a separate loan of its own for 
the reconstruction of its churches or has taken part in the 
joint loan which was issued in the spring of 1922 (and 
subscribed in full within less than a week) . Two names 
may be specially mentioned in connection with the pro- 
posal, not only for their great achievement in carrying out 
so large a financial experiment but for their general work 
in the reconstruction of their own areas. The idea of 
raising these loans was first suggested by .the Chanoine 
Thouvenin of Nancy, who has since the war been the most 
active organizer of economic reconstruction in his own 
department. He had with conspicuous success founded 
cooperative reconstruction societies of the type which has 
been generally adopted throughout the devastated districts 
for the rebuilding of villages and rural communities. He 
conceived the idea of applying to the ruined churches the 
privilege granted to all large groups of claimants under 
the Reparation Law, of issuing loans on the guarantee of 
the yearly installments with which the French Government 
has pledged itself to pay off .their established claims to 
compensation. The idea was quickly adopted by the other 
departments as well, and in the Pas-de-Calais the secre- 
tarial work was undertaken by the Abbe Leroy, who had 
been playing the same part in the reconstruction of all 
the region around Arras as the Chanoine Thouvenin had 
around Nancy. 

The names of both priests and they are only two of 
the most conspicuous out of a large number who have 
been toiling with equal energy and ability since the end 


of ,the war will go down to history as those of the men 
who did more than any others to bring back to life the 
districts which the Germans had done their utmost to 
destroy. Not only have they found the means of restor- 
ing, or at least commencing to rebuild, the churches which 
have for centuries been the life and soul of the villages, but 
all over the country that they have covered day after day 
in pilgrimages on foot, on bicycles, in motor cars, they 
have helped the exiles to come back, they have helped to 
find the materials to build houses, and to get together the 
implements and the seeds with which to bring their land 
back into cultivation. Wherever they have gone they have 
founded or reconstructed cooperative societies of every 
kind for the purchase of building materials and agri- 
cultural requirements, for the assessment and valuation of 
reparation claims, for floating important loans. Above 
all, they have brought back faith and courage among the 
people who had to return to a wilderness of desolation 
where their homes had once been. In every corner of 
their departments ,the names of these priests and of others 
like them have brought confidence and hope. Their labors 
may even be measured in terms of material achievement 
they have rebuilt and brought back to cultivation whole 
countrysides. But the moral results of their indomitable 
energy and faith are less easily calculated. At the very 
least they have made thousands of people admire and even 
love the Church who hated it before. They have estab- 
lished a tradition of confidence and sympathy and un- 
bounded respect between themselves and a people which 
was largely hostile to the clergy in the days before the 
war. It may well be that they have already actually 
increased the number of real Catholics in their own 
corners of France. 

It is probable indeed that most of ,the younger and 


more zealous of 'these French priests, especially in the 
devastated areas, are far from regretting that they were 
mobilized for service as ordinary soldiers. Their experi- 
ence of the trenches gives them a supreme advantage over 
the more fortunately placed who managed to escape active 
service, and while it finally silences all taunts against their 
patriotism, it has in itself given them a closeness of com- 
radeship with other men which could never have been 
gained otherwise. But apart from the priests who served 
as simple soldiers, some mention must be made also of 
the military chaplains many of whom were exiled mem- 
bers of religious orders (there were 55 Jesuit chaplains 
alone) who obtained permission to come back for such 
service with the army in the field. The Law of Separa- 
tion in 1905 had automatically brought to an end all reli- 
gious celebrations in the army; but in the colonies a cer- 
tain number of military chaplains were kept on and were 
supported and were recruited by the (Ewure de I'Aib- 
monerie Militaire Coloniale founded by Mgr. Leroy. 
In peace time no military chaplains whatever remained 
with the army at home, and it was only in time of war 
that the law of 1880, which permitted ministers of various 
religions to be attached to the troops, became operative/ 
When war broke out, therefore, all was in confusion; 
some obsolete lists of names that had been kept for refer- 
ence in the War Office were brought to light, while certain 
generals and colonels, without waiting for any official 
authorization, took priests who had volunteered as chap- 
lains with then! to the field of action. But the number of 
chaplains available was hopelessly inadequate, and it was 
not until the Comte de Mun issued his famous appeal in 
the Echo de Paris that the question was seriously ap- 
proached. Within a few days more than 120,000 francs 
had been received in subscriptions and within a few hours 


several hundreds of priests had sent in their names as can- 
didates for chaplaincies. With this conspicuous begin- 
ning the Comte de Mun organized a "Bureau" to recruit, 
direct, and maintain the military chaplains whom he 
obtained permission from the War Office to send to the 
front as auxiliaries to the small number of official 

M. de Mun literally killed himself by his labors on 
behalf of their organization. The first group of chap- 
lains was sent to the , front on August 27, 1914, and on 
the 6th of October lie died suddenly from exhaustion. 
But his work was carried on without interruption by his 
friend, M. Geoffroy de Grandmaison, who had been inti- 
mately associated with him in the original enterprise, and 
from the first month of the war until the definite demobili- 
zation of the chaplains in July, 1919, the work of the 
organization never relaxed. It supplied more ,than 400 
chaplains in all, of whom 270 were secular priests and 135 
members of religious orders. Seventy *of them were 
killed in action, and about thirty were taken prisoners; 
while between them the 400 chaplains received some 1,100 
mentions in dispatches. And now that these soldier 
priests whether they served in the ranks or as army chap- 
lains have returned to their ecclesiastical duties, the old 
gibes against them are silenced. The custom in France 
of wearing in one's buttonhole the thin ribbon of the 
Croix de Guerre or Medaille Militaire or the Legion of 
Honor is shared by the clergy; and there are few able- 
bodied priests who do not wear at least one ribbon fas- 
tened to their cassocks. On patriotic festivals they wear 
their medals as well as at their religious ceremonies. Many 
of them carry an empty sleeve, or limp with a wooden leg, 
and it was a priest blinded in the war, the Abbe Bridoux 
of Boulogne, who celebrated the solemn mass on the 2ist 


of May last year for the ceremonies which consecrated the 
ossuary in which a hundred .thousand soldiers have all 
been buried in one grave, overlooking the battlefields 
where they were killed around Notre Dame de Lorette. 

But apart from the demonstration of patriotism given 
by the French clergy, the French Catholic revival owes an 
incalculable debt to the personal example of devout piety 
given by many of the great Catholic generals who gradu- 
ally filled the more important commands. The army had 
been rotten with politics when the war began. The War 
Office, like most of the other ministries, had been captured 
by the anticlerical Freemasons. The religious devotion 
which is the strongest personal characteristic of Marshal 
Foch and many others who now hold the highest 
positions in the army was under the pre-war conditions a 
definite barrier to advancement. Foch himself had been 
actually deprived of his position as Chief of the Staff 
College by an anticlerical War Minister. There were 
many such points of acute conflict in those days, when the 
Government was ordering its officers to take charge of the 
expulsion of religious orders from their own establish- 
ments. Literally thousands of Catholic officers had re-^ 
signed during the ten years before the war rather than 
obey orders of this kind, and have had to live in poverty 
ever since. The friction thus created between the War 
Office and the traditions of the service had naturally 
resulted in a careful selection of anticlerical officers for 
the higher commands. But the war showed at once how 
disastrous an effect these political appointments could have 
upon the direction of the army in the field. Marshal 
Jofff e, being a soldier who regarded politics in their right 
perspective, set himself ruthlessly to supersede all those 
senior officers who showed themselves incompetent or 
lacking in energy in the first months of the war, regard- 


less of the fact that he was a conspicuous Freemason. 
Nearly 200 generals were dismissed or placed on the 
retired list before the end of 1915; while the rise of 
others, who were ultimately to lead France to victory, was 
very remarkable. 

Among these generals who rose rapidly from the com- 
mand of divisions or even of brigades' to the control of 
army corps, or armies, or army groups, there was a closely 
united band of soldiers of a type which is eminently char- 
acteristic of modern France. Generals Pau and Castelnau 
belonged to an older generation, and Marshal Foch had 
himself reached the age for retiring. But among the 
younger generals, such as Mangin, Gouraud, Franchet 
d'Esperey, Weygand, the same ascetic and deeply religious 
type was soon seen ,to predominate. Old General Pau, 
who commanded the Southern Army Group in the first 
critical phases of the German attack never went anywhere 
without bringing his personal chaplain with him, who said 
Mass for him wherever he might be. General Castelnau, 
who commanded the second army around Nancy and 
soon afterwards commanded the Southern Army Group, 
stretching from east of Verdun to the Swiss frontier, was 
no less devout and unashamed in the practice of his reli- 
gion. He has since been elected to the Chambre des 
Deputes and is perhaps the most symbolic and picturesque 
figure among the Catholic conservatives. And Marshal 
Foch, whose promotion was extremely rapid between the 
battle of the Marne in September (where he commanded 
an Army Corps) to the first battle of Ypres in November, 
when he had been placed in command of the whole 
northern sector, including Sir John French's Expedition- 
ary Force, was as pious in his own unostentatious way as 
either Pau or Castelnau. 

These things became known in course of time as the 


newspapers filled column after column of print with de- 
tails about the personal lives and military records of the 
army commanders, and while the great generals never 
obtruded their own religious principles upon any one under 
their command, it was impossible not to recognize that 
their religious convictions were to an extraordinary extent 
essential to their character, and were, in their own belief, 
the main source of their strength. No one ever accuses 
Marshal Foch of being in any way a. poseur, and when to 
the people who went to see him on political or diplomatic 
business and who asked him how he thought the war was 
going, he used to answer habitually, with that severe 
economy of words that every one in France associates 
with him, that "we are not doing too badly : I believe that 
Christ will save us," they not only realized that he meant 
what he said, but began to feel that such intense convic- 
tion must have something real behind it. And as every 
detail in the career of all the great generals was naturally 
discussed and talked over again and again, month after 
month, it was recalled .that Foch had a brother who was 
a Jesuit, a member of the greatest teaching order in 
France which had been broken up and expelled, while he 
himself had been deprived of his position as Chief of the 
Staff College solely because he was disliked by an anti- 
clerical government, although he had occupied the post 
with a distinction that had made its mark upon the whole 
generation of staff officers whom he had trained. 

It may indeed be said that the personal prestige of Mar- 
shal Foch and the example of his simple, unflinching 
Catholic faith has been one of the most important factors 
in discrediting the anticlerical governments which ruled 
France before the war. And so long as the memories of 
the war remain clear in the minds of Frenchmen, there 
will be a deep popular repugnance towards any resumption 


of the old anticlerical persecutions. The name of Foch 
alone stands like a bulwark between the Catholic Church 
in France and her persecutors ; and beside him there is a 
whole group of the most brilliant, the most fearless, and 
the most successful generals in the French army, who have 
given within their own sphere a scarcely less impressive 
example of their faith in and devotion to their church. 
Marshal Lyautey in Northern Africa is not only re- 
garded by his troops and his officers with the respect that 
men will always feel for a great man who leads an in- 
tensely ascetic life, but is loved by them all and recognized 
as one of the men who have done most in the past fifty 
years to consolidate the waning prestige of France in the 
world. And the same must be said of General Gouraud 
in Syria the one-armed hero of Gallipoli who has estab- 
lished for himself throughout the Middle East the reputa- 
tion of a successor of the early Crusaders, inspired by the 
same love for his Church and devotion to his country, and 
with the gentleness and charity of a missionary Saint. 

These Catholic soldier-statesmen of France have -in- 
evitably shed a new luster upon the principles to which 
they have devoted their lives. They may not have con- 
verted other Frenchmen to their own ideas, but all those 
who have served under them speak of them not only with 
appreciation of their complete tolerance for opinions and 
conduct different from their own, but with a profound 
respect and admiration for the masters whom they have 
been. proud to serve. They recognize and do not hesitate 
to proclaim, in every sphere of French society and politics, 
that these devout soldiers have done more for France than 
any of the politicians who tried to debar them from ad- 
vancement in the past. And .this much at least can be 
counted as definite gain : that the old anticlerical feuds are 
now recognized as having been the chief cause of France's 


weakness, both by sowing the bitterest dissensions among 
Frenchmen while Germany was preparing to attack 
France, and by actually depriving France of the services 
of some of her noblest and most gifted children. With- 
out taking any active part whatever in politics, without 
making speeches or entering into any discussions, apart 
from the purely military or administrative questions 
which fall within their own province, but simply by per- 
forming the tasks allotted to them with great ability and 
with generous devotion, these Catholic soldiers of France 
have within the past eight years done more than all the 
political propagandists to confound and discredit their 
former persecutors. They have convinced the mass of 
people all over France that the persecution of Catholics 
for their faith was not only unjust but criminally stupid. 
More than this, their example has had a profound moral 
influence upon the young, and not only in the army, for 
the whole youth of France came under their influence 
during the war. All that is most patriotic in France has 
rallied behind them. In France, as in all belligerent coun- 
tries, a large proportion of the young men have become 
instinctively pacifist through seeing too much of the hor- 
rible realities of war ; yet they have none the less kept all 
their respect and admiration for the generals who saw as 
much of it as they did themselves, and who bore the 
enormous burden of responsibility throughout those un- 
ending years. Among the numerous leagues of ex-service 
men, which are usually regarded as the most militarist 
organizations in French politics, there is at least as full 
an appreciation of the work of Henri Barbusse or of the 
Breton war poet, Henry- Jacques, in depicting the atro- 
cious brutality of war as there is in any other section of 
French public opinion. I have seen M. Henry- Jacques 
publicly embraced at a dinner party of literary "intel- 


lectuals" by one of the principal founders of the Ligue 
des Anciens Combatants, for having helped to bring back 
that "amour entre frangais" which had been almost killed 
before the war; and if Marshal Foch had been present, 
even in that gathering of intellectuals and pacifists, he 
would certainly have received an ovation at that moment, 
whereas M. Clemericeau would probably have been treated 
with scorn. 

For the great soldiers have won the hearts of the young 
generation in a way that the politicians can never achieve. 
They have the supreme advantage of being able to show 
an unbroken record of disinterested and honest public 
service. They can claim real achievement. And during 
the war they had on their side all the spontaneous impulse 
of youth towards action. They were ,the acknowledged 
and beloved leaders of hundreds of thousands of young 
men who trusted them with their own lives and with all 
they cared for most. And it is not surprising that their 
attitude towards the Catholic Church was directly influ- 
enced by that of the great soldiers whom they adored. 
An extraordinarily large proportion of the young men 
who made their names immortal by acts of heroism in 
the war were proud to proclaim themselves devout Catho- 
lics. The aviator Guynemer, for instance, a pupil of the 
College Stanislas in Paris which has been kept in being 
by old friends of the Marist Fathers who founded and 
conducted it until their expulsion under the persecution 
drove them to found a similar college in Tokyo has 
become almost a heroic figure in all the Catholic schools 
of France. He has become the type of the youthful war- 
rior, fearless of all danger; and his name is much more 
widely remembered (.there is an important street in the 
students' quarter of Paris named after him) than is that, 
for instance, of the English aviator Captain Ball. The 


young poet Ernest Psichari also, who_holds the same 
place in French memories of the war as does Rupert 
Brooke in England, was not only a devout and practising 
Catholic, but a religious mystic in his- poetry. Both of 
them might have taken as their epitaph the motto of the 
College Stanislas, inscribed upon its own fine monument 
to more than a thousand of its former pupils killed in the 
war, "frangais sans peur et chretien sans reproche" 

There can be little doubt that when the war ended there 
was a strong tendency towards Catholicism among the 
young men who had been through it. It remains to be 
seen how far that tendency has since become organized 
and consolidated. Much of it was, quite naturally, 
aroused by the unusual emotionalism that war will always 
produce. But even though emotionalism may have been a 
large factor in producing the revival, that need not imply 
that the movement will not have gathered new and much 
more permanent sources of inspiration as it progressed. 
In any case it has had the effect of educating the young 
generation of France in a violent repugnance towards the 
anticlerical persecutions of the years which preceded the 
war. It has taught them to believe that, even though in- 
ternal dissensions among Frenchmen may be inevitable, 
they must not be allowed to grow out of sectarian perse- 
cutions. Above all, they must not be caused by any 
renewal of that wholesale proscription of religious men 
solely because they believed in the Church, which before 
the war drove Foch from the Staff College and drove the 
religious orders from the schools that trained so many of 
the mos,t devoted and heroic of the young men of France. 



IN one of the local weekly magazines which are 
published by many of the 'dioceses of France, I have 
before me an appeal to all young Frenchmen. It opens . 
with the question : "Do you know, young man, that there 
is a shortage of priests in France?" And it proceeds by 
giving statistics which at first sight appear overwhelming. 
In twenty-five dioceses, it declares, one-third, or even 
one-half, of the parishes have no priest at all, and in 
sixty-nine dioceses the parish priests who are already over 
sixty years of age, are one-quarter, or one-third, or even 
one-half, of all the clergy. Closer examination makes 
the picture look even darker than it appears at first. For, 
if the priests who are over sixty make up so large a 
proportion of the whole clergy,^ the shortage will in- 
evitably be much more acute in ten or twenty years' 
time, when practically all of them will be in their graves. 
More than 4,600 ecclesiastics were killed, in the war, and 
this has naturally reduced the number of young priests 
very severely. Even apart from this terrible death roll, 
there are not nearly enough young priests to take the 
places of the senior priests, whose numbers will inevitably 
diminish rapidly before long a fact which is quite 
evident to any one who frequents French churches. And 
the outlook is made apparently still more gloomy by the 
fact that the war killed off so many young men that the 



number of young Frenchmen from whom the priesthood 
would naturally have been recruited during the past eight 
or ten years is much smaller than it ought normally to 
be. _ 

Yet the amazing fact remains that the Church in 
France is far more confident of being able to maintain 
the numbers of its clergy now than it was before the 
war, even though there are few countries in the world, 
apart from those which are given over to famine, in 
which the clergy are so desperately ill provided for. 
After ten years of persecution and -violence during the 
Revolution, the Church regained most of its liberties 
under Napoleon, who regarded the clergy as an indis- 
pensable adjunct to the "high police" of the State. "The 
People," he declared, "must have a religion, and this 
religion must be in the hands of the Government." For 
him, as the Vicomte d'Avenel expresses it, the priest was 
"a holy policeman, robed in a soutane, who was a much 
more effective agent of law and order than the policeman 
whose business was to repress sedition by force, and who 
took an oath of allegiance to the Government." Napoleon 
was determined to utilize the services of the clergy and 
of the police to supplement one another, and he had all 
French children taught in their catechisms that "we owe 
to Napoleon I, our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, 
fidelity, military service, and the tributes that are de- 
manded for the defence of the Empire and of his throne. 
For it is he whom God has raised up . . ." This concep- 
tion of an identity of social purpose between the Church 
and the State was, of course, not new, but Napoleon 
failed in his attempts to secure cooperation between 
them because he himself did not believe in the Church. 
Whereas Richelieu could say of the Pope that "we must 
kiss his feet and tie his hands," Napoleon failed because 


he shared neither the spirit of the people nor that of the 
Church, and so had not the instinct necessary to arriving 
at a working agreement between both. The Church in 
France, on its side, naturally never regarded the complete 
toleration for all religions which became the accepted 
principle after the Revolution as reinstating it in its own 
former prerogatives. The property of the Church re- 
mained confiscated, and the State 'did no more than 
guarantee a bare living wage for the clergy. 

When by the Law of Separation in 1905, the State 
finally repudiated even this last responsibility towards the 
Church, there were many,, among laity and clergy alike, 
who believed that the anticlericals had at last given the 
Church in France its death blow. It was not any senti- 
mental affection for the Church that had maintained this 
policy of subsidizing the clergy, even in Napoleon's time. 
He had made no secret of his own attitude when he de- 
clared that "a State has no more than a precarious 
authority so long as there are within its jurisdiction a 
body of men who exercise a great influence over the 
minds and the consciences of the people, and who do not 
belong to the State." It was only because the State 
believed the Church to be no longer formidable that it 
decided in 1905 to cease paying the subsidies which had 
previously been intended as a bribe to assure the loyalty 
of the clergy. The State was to find that the Pope, who 
had since Napoleon's time been shorn of all temporal 
power, had in fact become a far more formidable oppo- 
nent than he had been a hundred years before. Freedom, 
and the strengthening of spiritual force and authority, 
that had resulted from the liberation of the Papacy from 
all temporal ties, were before long to have the same effect 
in strengthening the clergy in France after the separation, 
as they had after the loss of the temporal power in 


Rome. The antidericals who were so elated at their 
success and the clericals who despaired of the future were 
alike mistaken. "Rid of her shackles," as the Vicomte 
d'Avenel has finely said, "free, poor, and thrown upon 
her own resources, the Church appeared to the twentieth 
century democracy with the same appeal as it had ap- 
peared to Jerusalem on the morrow of the first Pentecost, 
when Peter, on the steps of the Temple, with no financial 
subsidies behind him, preached the Gospel for the first 

A hundred years earlier the State had thought to 
starve the religious orders to death by confiscation and by 
depriving them of their revenues, and within a century 
Orders which had been left without homes or members or 
resources had been reestablished and recruited as before. 
Louis-Philippe had ceased all subsidies to the smaller 
seminaries, and since 1885 the great seminaries have 
received none. After the withdrawal of these subsidies, 
the State completed its work by confiscating all the 
property and legacies that the Church had either acquired 
or received as endowments during the nineteenth century, 
with the result that many of the dioceses were dispos- 
sessed of their seminaries both large and small. To start 
new seminaries, they were obliged either to lease houses or 
to build new ones, and this was done with indomitable 
determination according to the resources of the different 
dioceses. The necessity of providing new buildings 
naturally caused dislocation and delay, which inevitably 
reduced the number of seminarists. 

That the church has been able to keep its seminaries 
alive at all under such constant persecution, and in spite 
of such chronic insecurity, is indeed a marvelous tribute 
to the fidelity of the Catholics of France. But even apart 
from these persistent attacks, and this paralyzing un- 


certainty as to whether each fresh attempt to keep the 
seminaries in existence would not be frustrated by sonre 
new measure of anticlerical legislation, the financial 
position of the clergy in modern France is so precarious 
as to deter all but the most saintly. The standard wage 
of a parish priest is no more than 900 francs a year (or 
roughly i a month in EnglisK money at the present 
rate of exchange), less, as M. d'Avenel points out, than 
that any sort of workingman, or of an artisan, or of a 
domestic servant ; and even this scale of salary cannot be 
guaranteed in many of the dioceses. M. d'Avenel has 
collected some extremely remarkable information as to 
the payment of the clergy in a number of dioceses. He 
quotes the case of the Bishop of Dax, who had to call his 
parish priests together not long ago and tell them that he 
could not promise them more than 300 francs (about 4) 
a year in future. Not one of them murmured a protest, 
and were it not .that their parishioners assist the clergy 
with gifts of food and the other necessaries of life, and 
that they receive assistance from other more fortunate 
dioceses, they would all have to live on dry bread and 
water. In several other dioceses the stipends of the 
clergy are scarcely larger than in that of Dax. In the 
diocese of Mende they receive only 475 francs a year, in 
Tulle 500 francs, in Cahors 600. 

Taking the reports of all the dioceses from which he 
obtained information, M. d'Avenel finds that in fifty-one 
of them the clergy are still able to count upon the tradi- 
tional stipend of 900 francs a year, which was paid to 
them by the State after Napoleon's Concordat, while in 
seventeen they are paid between 800 and 850 francs, and 
in seven, between 700 and 750. In ten dioceses they 
receive only 600 francs or less. These starvation wages, 
says M. d'Avenel, are therefore the exception, "and con- 


sidering the difficulties that have to be surmounted in 
every reorganization, how long it takes to change the 
habits of a people to whom appeal has now to be made 
to levy a voluntary tax upon themselves, considering the 
utter destitution in which the Church was left at first, 
we are justified by what has already been accomplished 
in saying that she will in future be able to support the 
clergy as well as to maintain their numbers." Inevitably 
the destitution with which the clergy were faced after the 
Law of Separation had a powerfully deterrent influence 
upon parents who would otherwise have consented to let 
their sons enter the priesthood. People had good enough 
reasons for imagining that the clergy would in future 
have to go about begging for their daily bread; and 
particularly among the middle classes there was a general 
objection to allowing their sons to become priests. Signs 
of such a panic had already become apparent after the 
Law of Separation appeared likely to be enacted, and it 
was noticeable right up to 1909. The result was a serious 
shrinkage in the number of students in the seminaries, 
and the number of ordinations during the subsequent 
years diminished correspondingly. Nearly all over 
France the middle classes refused to allow their sons to 
enter the priesthood, and M. d'Avenel estimates that nine 
out of every ten young priests are still the sons of 
working-class families sons of artisans or agricultural 
laborers, or even of the most destitute. 

But many of these vocations were not thwarted al- 
together, and all over France the seminaries report the 
arrival of an unusually large proportion of seminarists 
of an age above the average. At the end of the war the 
seminaries began to fill up with young men who had held 
high rank in the army or had won exceptional decorations 
for valor. Some of them had been seminarists before 


the war, and returned to be ordained like the "flying 
padre" who was one of the "aces" of the French air 
service and! had brought 'down a record number of 
German captive balloons, who not long ago left France 
after his ordination to join the French missions in the 
West Indies. There were older men also, like the late 
Colonel the Abbe de -Coursan, who became ordained at 
the conclusion of a long, distinguished military career. 
But these soldier ecclesiastics were mostly young men still 
in their twenties. The large Parisian seminary at Issy 
(which takes the place of the old seminary of St. Sulpice) 
had fifty-five young officers among the eighty new aspir- 
ants for ordination at the opening of the academic year 
in October, 1920. 

The report of the same seminary which is still the 
principal training center for all the most promising ec- 
clesiastical students in France for the following year 
was equally remarkable. The seminary is now divided 
into two sections, one in the Rue du Regard, and the 
other at Issy. In the Rue du Regard there Vere fifty-seven 
pupils, of whom twenty-one were due for ordination to 
join the clergy of Paris. They were drawn from the prov- 
inces and from foreign countries as well as from Paris; 
but among the "belated" vocations of the Parisians there 
were a former sublieutenant, a naval engineer, twelve who 
had won the Croix de Guerre, one who had the Medaille 
Militaire, and one with the Legion of Honor, as well as a 
university fellow, a doctor of laws, and two bachelors 
of laws ; while among the others were four sublieutenants, 
eight holders of the Croix de Guerre y and two of the 
Medaille Militaire, besides two bachelors of law and 
two bachelors of art, and an engineer from the school of 
Arts and Manufactures. At Issy there were pupils 
from the higher colleges, four from the Artillery School, 


one from the Military College, one from the Naval 
College, and several from other professional colleges. 
The universities were also strongly represented among 
these candidates for ordination at Issy, with fellows, med- 
ical and legal doctors, bachelors of arts and of science, 
engineers and historical research students; while from 
the army there came a lieutenant colonel, two captains, 
five full lieutenants, twenty-three sublieutenants, besides 
various ex-officers from the Navy. The total of pupils 
in October, 1921, was 280 for Issy alone. As for the 
Catholic Young Men's Association, its annual report 
showed that 523 of its members had gone to be either 
priests or members of religious orders in the years 1921 
and 1922. 

Apart from this remarkable number of religious voca- 
tions among the men who saw military service in the 
war, there was a rapid influx of boy students into the 
seminaries while the war was still in progress. The re- 
ports quoted by M. d'Avenel are extremely interesting. 
Scarcely half of all the seminarists, he notes, usually 
become priests at the end of their studies, but their entire 
education and maintenance, which cost about 400 francs a 
year before the war and must cost more nearly 1,000 
francs a year nowadays, has to be borne by the bishop of 
each diocese. The recent increase in the number of 
seminarists consequently involves a very heavy drain on 
the diocesan funds. But these new aspirants to the priest- 
hood are welcomed with open arms. Even before the war, 
the number of clergy in France was far short of the 
requirements of the parishes. Many parishes indeed have 
no priest at all, or have only one; but most often this is 
the result of an amalgamation or rearrangement of small 
parishes which was the natural result of the depopulation 
of certain districts, whether through family limitation or 


through emigration into the towns. The shortage of 
priests in the towns is particularly acute, but it is felt 
almost everywhere, since the war has killed off so many 
of the clergy and since the recruiting for the seminaries 
fell off so seriously about the time of the Law of Separa- 
tion and after it. The effects of these losses will be felt 
for some time to come, but the large influx of new 
students into the seminaries during and since the war will 
gradually lessen the strain as the increase in the number 
of ordinations becomes noticeable. 

In 1915 the important diocese of Amiens, for instance, 
had received so many new seminarists that it could count 
upon supplying even the smallest parishes with a priest. 
The diocese of Angers, which has to provide a large 
number of priests for the important Catholic secondary 
colleges and for the Catholic University of the West 
which is situated in the town, could even look forward to 
having more priests than it needed for all purposes. In 
Auch the small seminary which had only been established 
two years before the war, already had 60 pupils. Peri- 
gueux, Soissons and Langres had each doubled the 
number of their pupils within three years. Pamiers had 
100 pupils in place of 35 ; Cahors,-Perpignan and Valence 
each had 100 pupils, Pigne and Nancy had 125, Belley 
had 132, and Versailles 320. Reims was full up with 150 
pupils, and Albi was full up also. Nevers could count 
itself as self-supporting. Rennes was full to overflow- 
ing, Rouen had more students than ever before, and V 
Marseilles was doing extremely well. At Toulouse the 
two recently restored small seminaries promise to supply 
all the local need for priests. At Orleans, Poitiers, Aix, 
Saint-Die, Sees, Viviers Tarbes> and Saint-Flour, the 
number of vocations had regained its pre-war figure. 
Autun reported that it would soon have a very large 


number of ordinations, and Lyons, with 45 ordinations a 
year, had recovered its average at the time of the Con- 
cordat. Laval complained that it had only just enough 
priests for its local needs, but this diocese is well-known 
as a recruiting ground for the missions and the religious 

Such a consensus of optimism gives reason to hope that 
in most of the French dioceses there will be no further 
lack of priests within a few years. In the meantime a 
large proportion of the clergy all over France come from 
certain districts where the Catholic tradition has always 
remained most strong. Western Brittany, the small 
diocese of Tarentaise in Savoy, and the diocese of Mende 
in the Limousin provide a constant surplus of priests who 
go out to assist in other dioceses. In the center, par- 
ticularly around Tours and Troyes, there are little more . 
than half the number of priests and seminarists needed, 
but there are signs of improvement even in such districts, 
where the Church had been reduced to the sorest plight. 
Thus, at La Rochelle, when the large seminary had to be 
closed down after the Law of Separation had led most 
prosperous families to refuse their permission to boys 
who desired to become priests, there were already over 
70 pupils in the small seminaries in 1915. 

These results are, of course, partly attributable totRe 
earnest appeals for recruits to the priesthood which have 
been issued repeatedly in recent years by nearly all the 
members of the hierarchy. And while devoting them- 
selves to the teaching of young men with religious voca- 
tions, the bishops have had to intensify their efforts to 
raise the funds out of which the clergy have to be 
supported, and which must offer some sort of hope of a 
reasonable, if very modest, standard of life for the 
clergy in future years. When the State ceased to pay its 


previous subsidies to the various religious denominations, 
each church had to organize its own collection of funds 
for the payment of its clergy. The French Protestants 
formed 850 associations to collect for the support of 
their clergy, who number rather less than a thousand in 
all, and were able to raise over three million francs a 
year, as compared with less than two million which they 
formerly received from the State. 

The Catholics, it must be said, have not contributed 
on at all so generous a scale. The explanation consists 
partly in the fact that the French Protestants are mostly 
concentrated in important towns, and that many of them 
are very rich and have great political and social influence. 
But it remains true that the Catholics have not yet be- 
come accustomed to giving largely to the support of their 
clergy, and it is a constant astonishment to any foreign 
visitor to French churches to see how little is put in the 
collection plate during mass even by the well-to-do. In 
the country churches, it is only exceptional persons who 
put even a half-franc note in the plate, and one very 
frequently sees expensively dressed shopkeepers with their 
children giving only a few pence or even halfpence. 
Even in Paris, the usual contribution to the collection is . 
in sous, and anything more than a franc note is seldom 
to be seen. This reluctance to give freely in the weekly 
collections is in fact a national habit: it contrasts very 
remarkably for instance with the crowded English 
Protestant Church attached to the British Embassy in 
Paris, wherein the Sunday collection five-franc notes are 
almost the smallest offering that any well dressed person 
habitually gives. There is, of course, a wide 'difference 
between the prosperity of the English congregation at 
the Embassy Church, and even of the most fashionable of 
the Paris churches. Most of them indeed are frequented 


by very poor congregations, and even the comfortable 
French bourgeois are less in a position to be generous 
than are the English colony in Paris. It is undeniable, 
however, that the practice of the well-to-do French 
families in regard to these church collections is. anything 
but generous. The result is of course that in many 
dioceses the clergy are left very poor indeed. An inter- 
diocesan fund has been founded to relieve the extreme 
indigence of some of the poorer dioceses for a large 
population in a diocese most often means a very poor 
congregation and very heavy expenditure. A number of 
the bishops have nowadays adopted the custom of pub- 
lishing a diocesan balance sheet every year, and this has 
usually encouraged larger subscriptions. The amount 
collected varies enormously in the different parts of the 
country. In the diocese of Digne it was only 70,000 
francs before the war; it was 700,000 in Arras and 
600,000 in Saint-Brieuc. Bourges, which is in the anti- 
clerical center of France, used to collect 400,000 francs a 
year, which was considerably above the average, but 
300,000 francs a year collected at Orleans was below the 
average. But all over the country the amount collected 
for this "denier du culte" as it is called, was increasing 
more or less steadily in the ten years before the war. In 
La Rochelle, for instance, the collections mounted from 
160,000 francs in 1906 to 194,000 in 1909, and to 232,- 
ooo in 1913. 

The cost of living and the varying prosperity of dif- 
ferent parts of France have altered so much since the war 
that the more recent figures are scarcely worth quoting 
since they can convey no standard of comparison. The 
proportion of practising Catholics in each part of the coun- 
try is so variable, and their social or economic position 
also, that it is useless to calculate any average for the 


whole of France. Some dioceses where ,the congregations 
contribute considerably more per head than do the richer 
congregations elsewhere, are so weak in numbers that 
they have to be heavily subsidized from the interdiocesan 
fund. But in any case as M. d'Avenel points out, these 
collections for the maintenance of the clergy have at 
least done no injury to the finances of the various good 
works throughout the country. They are in most cases 
fully as well provided for as they were at the time of the 
Concordat, while many new works of charity have been 
established and maintained in the meantime. There are 
dioceses in which the collections for the "Propagation of 
the Faith, of the Holy Childhood, and of Peter's Pence 
between them raise more than 100,000 francs a year, while 
there are others which support at least 400 Catholic 
schools, although the stipends of the clergy have had to 
be reduced by nearly half. 

In almost every diocese these Catholic schools usually 
several hundreds of them are maintained out of the 
money collected in the diocese, which would otherwise be 
available for the clergy. Consequently, the wages of 
the clergy are only a part of the general expense of 
religious organization.- They are, however, often assisted 
in various ways by the gifts of ~f ood or clothing or fuel . 
or furniture from their parishioners which in most places 
are made regularly at certain important festivals of the 
year, in accordance with long-standing tradition. Another 
important subsidy is in some places paid to them as well, 
in the form of camouflaged charges upon the rates for 
alleged services in connection with the upkeep of ceme- 
teries or of the church bells, or other services which 
figure in the municipal records as civil charges, but 
which every one knows to be a recognized form of subsidy 
to the clergy. Such subsidies are naturally infrequent, 


and it is only in districts where the popular desire to 
support the clergy is very strong, that the prefects dare 
not interfere to stop the practice. Of course, the priests 
also have their regular fees for Masses and for the 
various religious ceremonies. The fee for Masses, which 
before the war was i^ or two francs, has now been 
raised by an agreement among the hierarchy to four or 
five francs. Even so, the clergy of modern France may 
well say as M. d'Avenel puts it that they practically 
have to take a vow of poverty as though they were all 
becoming monks. "They live in a miserable way," he 
continues, "but they live as free men, devoted to their 
apostleship; and their voluntary acceptance of such mis- 
erable conditions of life gives them a halo of which they 
may well be proud among our countrymen who have little 
taste for a regime of dry bread." 

In the more Catholic parts of France the clergy can 
now even say that the Church is actually in a stronger 
financial position than it was before the Separation : they 
are no longer regarded as public officials whom the State 
is obliged to pay, and a sense of direct responsibility for 
their maintenance makes their congregations subscribe and 
give much more liberally than of old. The State is more- 
over under present conditions the landlord of all the 
churches, so that the clergy as tenants have no taxes or 
rates to pay for their sacred buildings, -and can insist 
upon the necessary repairs being paid by the State in its 
capacity as landlord. This advantage has been of enor- 
mous value in the case of the old churches and cathedrals 
which are classed as historical monuments and are placed 
under the jurisdiction of the Ministry .of Fine Arts; and 
the fact that. the State has been obliged to pay for the 
upkeep and the restoration of many magnificent old 
buildings like the Benedictine Monastery on the Mont St. 


Michel (the State is of course able to raise the money in 
such cases by charging a fee for admission which the 
religious orders could never have exacted) may yet be 
an immense blessing in disguise, even though it has in- 
volved their being temporarily closed to public worship. 

In the matter of endowments, however, the clergy are 
still at a terrible disadvantage. But even here the in- 
genuity and the devotion of the Catholic population have 
gradually found means of circumventing the law, so that 
legacies and donations are actually made to the bishop or 
to the religious orders in devious ways. Once the present 
negotiations for the establishment of diocesan associa- 
tions under the jurisdiction of the bishops have been 
successfully conducted to accomplishment, this paralyzing 
disability of the clergy will also be removed. 

Indeed, by one of the most curious evolutions of 
modern jurisprudence, the Church has already acquired, 
as a direct result of the Law of Separation, a practical 
sanction for her authority in religious matters such as 
no priest -and least of all the authors of the Law of 
Separation would ever have thought of proposing. The 
late Professor Bureau has examined, with , full docu- 
mentary evidence, the effects in practice of the Law of 
Separation, and the result of the law in every case where 
it has been tested until there can be no further question 
of testing it has been, in M. Bureau's words "al- 
most comically unexpected." "These investigations," he 
wrote, "all lead to the same ultimate result, that in every 
sort of case the rights of orthodoxy and of the hierarchy 
obtain rapidly and without difficulty the most complete 
ratification, and nowhere 'do we find any undesirable in- 
fringement whatever on the part of the secular power in 
the litigation which has come before the courts. This 
ratification of , the Church's rights is so spontaneous and 


so unequivocal that I might almost have given as a 
subtitle to this book 'A Record of the Invariable Successes 
That the Catholic Church Has Won in the Courts of 
France.' The cause of religion emerges victorious every 
time that it has real right on its side, and even in some 
instances in which an abuse of the Church's power could 
be suspected or even demonstrated. It overcomes alike the 
resistance of the unbelievers, of those who are in revolt 
against it, and of those among the faithful who go astray. 
At no time is its constitution imperiled. And in par- 
ticular we have to note that the recognition, for the 
benefit of the faithful, of a personal and distinct right to 
the free use of the churches has had no undesirable re- 
action upon the relations between the faithful and their 
clergy. The politicians and publicists who were a few 
years ago so anxiously insisting upon the danger of in- 
troducing lay influences into the Church would seem to 
have taken too little account of the power of those forces 
within the Church itself which would always have pre- 
served it from such influences, no matter how strong 
were the sympathies or the encouragements that they 
received from outside. History indeed will have to 
decide whether their excessive apprehensions of this 
remote danger have not actually been responsible for ex- 
posing the Catholic Church to other more serious and 
more fatal suspicions." 

M. Bureau, it will be seen, was convinced from his own 
investigations of the operation of the Law of 19x35, that 
the vehement opposition with which the proposal for the 
"associations culturdes" was received, was not only ex- 
aggerated but deplorable in its results. The facts as he 
presents them are so remarkable that they deserve to be 
briefly noted. He shows how, in the isolated cases in 
different parts of France where an attempt was made to 


found the diocesan associations provided for by the Law 
of 1905, in defiance of Pope Pius X and of their ab- 
solute repudiation by the French bishops, the French 
courts actually upheld the Church in every case against 
these schismatic associations. The most striking instance 
occurred in the diocese of Arras, when early in 1909 the 
Abbe Jouy, who had been parish priest of the Church of 
Sains-le-Pressin since 1889, joined with the mayors of 
two communes in his parish and formed a religious as- 
sociation in conformity with the act of 1905. The priest 
was first suspended and then deprived of his faculties by 
the bishop, who at once appointed the Abbe Galoin to 
take his place. The newly appointed parish priest found 
himself shut out by his predecessor from the church, and 
the bishop had to appeal first to the two mayors (who 
naturally refused to give him satisfaction), then to the 
prefect, and finally to the Conseil d'Etat to have the 
suspended priest removed in favor of the Abbe whom he 
had appointed to take his place. 

Naturally this became a test case, for the insurgent 
priest could not have been in a stronger "position, and the 
bishop's case was simply a plea that he alone had the 
right to decide who was the duly accredited clergyman 
in charge of a parish in his diocese. After prolonged 
consideration the Conseil d'Etat delivered its judgment 
in August, 1911, deciding emphatically in favor of the 
bishop. A whole series of similar judgments, including 
several instances in which priests suspended for one 
reason or another by their bishops had tried to invoke 
the Law of Separation to justify their remaining in 
charge of parishes, after forming these associations pro- 
vided for by the law are cited in detail by M. Bureau 
and they all result in the same way. Each court of appeal 
recognizes in favor of each parish priest the "right of 


internal discipline" over his church, and the right of the 
recognized ecclesiastical authorities to decide who is or 
who is not to be regarded as the properly appointed parish 
priest. This effect of the law was so different from 
what its authors had intended that M. Briand, as the 
responsible minister in the Cabinet, wrote to the Supreme 
Court of Appeal to ask them to reconsider their judgment. 
By their very determination to create an absolute separa- 
tion between Church and State, the authors of the law 
had compelled the courts to consider themselves as power- 
less to challenge ecclesiastical authority within its own 
sphere. They had reduced all such issues to the simple 
test question of whether any individual Catholic, be, he 
priest or layman, was or was not acting in conformity 
with the requirements of his superiors. If he was in 
revolt, then no matter how arguable his case might be 
he was ipso facto no longer to be counted among the 
body of the congregation. Unless the priest has actually 
exceeded his powers and interfered in civil matters, his 
authority can no longer be questioned. By the first article 
of the Law of 1905 "the Republic guarantees the free 
exercise of religion," which means, as M. Bureau puts it, 
that "we are free either to adhere to the Catholic Church 
or not to adhere to it ; but we are not free if we do adhere 
to it, to repudiate any essential principle of its organic 

The protection of the Church is all the more effective 
because any religious congregation assembled for public 
worship naturally constitutes a public meeting, and the 
right to protection from interference at such meetings 
applies absolutely to religious celebrations, alike against 
those who take part in them and against any outsiders 
who may choose to attend. What is more, this legal 
recognition of the incontestable supremacy of religious 


discipline within the Church must now apply not only to 
the laity in their relations with the clergy but to the 
clergy in their relations with their bishops arid even to 
the bishops in relation to the Pope. It is an astonishing 
paradox, but the literal truth, that if any one of the 
French bishops should decide to repudiate the edicts of 
the Pope, even if he were to attempt the establishment of 
the religious associations expressly designed by the Law 
of 1905, the French courts would be obliged to regard 
him as being no longer a bishop and to recognize his 
successor appointed by the Pope. The police, and if 
necessary the military, would have to be sent down at the 
request of the Pope's nominee to drive out any bishop 
who tried to disobey his instructions, even if he were 
acting according to the Law of 1905. "It is a surprising' 
situation," says M. Bureau, "to find that in deference to 
orthodoxy itself, arid to the ordinances of the hierarchy, 
our magistrates actually exclude from the free use of the 
churches all priests who are in revolt against their bishops, 
and all freethinkers who hold no religious belief, while 
they do not even attempt to inquire whether these very 
principles of orthodoxy or these instructions of *the 
bishops have been scrupulously respected by the religious 
authorities who claim to apply them." 

The truth is, as M. Bureau insists, that this absurd 
paradox is the fault of the anticlericals themselves, who 
tried in sheer vindictiveness against the Church to create 
an artificial separation under the laws of France between 
the administration of the Church and the ordinary life 
of the people, with which it is inextricably interwoven. 
Their policy broke down in practice simply because it 
was out of all conformity to the facts of French life. 
The clergy are fast winning back their position as one of 
the recognized social authorities, in France. Their in- 


fluence has grown enormously, instead of dying out. 
There are few official ceremonies in any part of France to 
which the clergy are not nowadays expressly invited, and 
the prefect or mayor who failed to invite the bishop or 
any important local ecclesiastic on an important occasion 
would soon regret his incivility less from the natural 
resentment of the clergy than from a sense of outraged 
decency among his own people. Cardinal Dubois and the 
other bishops in Paris are nowadays regularly included 
in the invitations to the Palace of the President of the 
Republic. The great churchmen are regarded as, and 
honored among, the most illustrious sons of France. And 
while the clergy are now invited everywhere to take 'part 
in public and national celebrations or gatherings, the 
civil authorities on their side freely assert their sympathy 
for the work that the clergy are doing. It was an in- 
cident that scarcely attracted comment the other day, but 
which would have probably brought down the ministry 
before the war had it even been thinkable in those days 
when M. Bonnevay, as Garde-des-Sceaux and second 
in command in the Cabinet, went to distribute the school- 
boys' prizes at the College Stanislas in Paris a school 
which was founded and conducted by the Marists, until 
they were forbidden to teach in France since when they 
have had to transfer their activities to Tokyo. 

Such are the conditions under which the clergy have to 
face their immense task of bringing back vitality to the 
Church in France. The spirit that animates the hierarchy 
to-day has changed considerably with the gradual disap- 
pearance of older memories, since the proposed civil 
constitution of the Church contained in the Law of 
Separation eighteen years ago was met with an absolute 
refusal. Like every other religious community, the 
Church in France has found that the freedom it gains 


by disestablishment is much more than worth the price. 
The clergy have acquired a new inspiration, they have 
gained even new material resources as well as a vast 
increase in their moral prestige and authority, by going 
out bravely into the wilderness. It may be doubted 
whether the majority of them would now accept their old 
dependence upon the State, or even contemplate sacri- 
ficing their complete independence in exchange for the 
material security that they had of old. A new generation 
of priests views the world with a different outlook, and 
is inspired by a renewed apostolic zeal. Most of them 
belong by birth to the poorest classes in the nation and 
they are consequently, as M. d'Avenel wisely remarks, 
"in a strong position for going out among the people, 
that people that is so defiant, so passionately attached to 
its desire for equality; and for working their healing in- 
fluence among them in the near future when the mis- 
understandings that have divided Democracy and the 
Church shall have disappeared." 

That indeed is the vision that inspires the great 
majority of the leaders in the Catholic social movement in 
France. Like the late Professor Bureau, they point to the 
times of anticlerical persecution within the past century 
and a half as the periods which have brought a new zeal, 
a new consciousness of the apostolic mission, to the 
Church. They almost dread a return of prosperity for 
fear that the new energy and vitality may -slacken once 
the need for it is removed. M. Bureau looks above all for 
a return to the gospel of "la morale integrate" 3 ' of early 
Christianity. He deplores the traditional estrangement 
between Democracy and Religion, and bases all his hopes 
upon their reconciliation. "Rarely," he wrote in the end 
of his brilliant study of the first fifteen years' experience 
of the Act of Separation, "has, there been a time more 


favorable for an apostolate devoted to the revival alike of 
the Church and of France; if the Catholics will only be 
ready to understand the conditions of its success and to 
undertake the joyful tasks that it implies above all if 
they will have the wisdom to hold aloof from political 
combinations and from the fallacious pretenses of a 
conservatism that is derived from selfishness or from 
fear." And he quotes with special emphasis the words 
of the late Cardinal Farrata, a former Papal Nuncio in 
Paris, which have for obvious reasons received little 
publicity in France. "In France," wrote the Cardinal, 
"the mass of the people are indifferent in all but a few 
of its departments ; and to hope for a popular rising of 
these indifferent masses on any religious question has 
always been, and always will be, an illusion. If such a 
revolt on behalf of religion is ever to be hoped for and 
deserved, it can only be done through care for the soul 
of France, by devoting the attention of the clergy to the 
masses, by going among them, by uprooting the prejudices 
against religion, by bringing the healing influences of 
religion down to the deep lairs of the common people." 



THERE is, I believe, a general impression outside of 
France that the attitude of the Government towards the 
Church has completely changed, and that instead of being 
fiercely anticlerical, the French Governments since the 
end of the war have been and still are definitely pro- 
clerical. It should be said at once that any such impres- 
sion is a gross exaggeration of the facts. Little more 
can be said than that the old anticlerical persecutions of 
the Church have ceased since the beginning of the war, 
and that during the past eight or nine years the Catholics 
have been organizing and consolidating their defensive 
positions in every direction. They have even secured one 
or two definite and important gains, the most conspic- 
uous of them being that diplomatic relations with the 
Vatican have been restored. Since 1921 there has been 
a Papal Ambassador in Paris in the person of Mgr. 
Ceretti, who is one of the most gifted diplomats in the 
Church. There has likewise been a French Ambassador 
at the Vatican, in the person of M. Jonnart, Senator for 
the Pas-de-Calais and a former Governor of Northern 
Africa, who is also the Chairman of the Suez Canal Com- 
pany. Like Mgr. Ceretti, M. Jonnart is one of the most 
distinguished figures in contemporary diplomacy. His 
reputation stands exceptionally high in France, and he 
is always spoken of as a man who, had it not been for 


one accident or another, was obviously 'destined to be- 
come President of the Republic. His selection for the 
Vatican Embassy shows therefore that the position is 
regarded with fitting respect by the French Government. 
On the other hand, Mgr. Ceretti has automatically re- 
sumed the traditional position of the Vatican's Ambas- 
sadors in Paris as doyen or leader of the diplomatic 
corps. When a new Government is formed, or on the 
national festivals and other occasions when all the 
foreign Ambassadors in Paris go in state to present their 
respects to the President of the Republic, it is Mgr. 
Ceretti who acts as their spokesman by virtue of his 
traditional seniority of rank. 

All this indeed appears excellent, and the official prop- 
aganda of the French Foreign Office has been busy in 
utilizing such facts and such ceremonies to create the 
impression that all friction or misunderstandings between 
the Church and the State in France are at an end. M. 
Jonnart's own personal record, for instance, is cited as a 
remarkable proof of the changed attitude of French 
politicians. For M. Jonnart was one of these who voted 
with Emile Combes for the severance of diplomatic 
relations. M. Briand, who appointed M. Jonnart, is 
quoted as a still more dramatic instance of conversion. 
For M. Briand was the "rapporteur" or draftsman of 
the Law of Separation which terminated the old diplo- .. 
matic relations with Rome, and it is he who, as Prime . 
Minister after the war, has carried the law to reestablish - 
them. Obviously times have changed greatly when such 
things are done in defiance of the politician's natural 
desire to vindicate his political consistency. And as for 
Emile Combes, he is no longer there. He died on the 
very day that his former supporter, M. Jonnart, set put 


for Rome from Paris, to assume his duties as Ambas- 
sador to the Vatican under the new regime. 

There is no denying the dramatic significance of all 
these facts. But what have they actually meant for 
the Church in France? The death of M. Combes, in his 
quiet retirement at a very advanced age, was overdue 
in any case. The restoration of relations with the Vatican 
may mean little or it may yet mean a great deal. The 
mere establishment of an Embassy in each city is a com- 
paratively small matter. But the '^conversion" of men 
like M. Jonnart' and M. Briand may be an enormous 
advance if their conversion is really genuine, and if it is 
not a mere concession to a temporary reaction of public 
opinion in favor of the Church. That is the crucial 
question. Undoubtedly there was a strong wave of 
public sympathy with the clergy after the war. The 
Bloc National, which swept the country at the elections 
of November, 1919, was a union* of all those parties and 
tendencies in politics which pledged themselves to a pro- 
gram of "reconstruction and reconciliation" in France. 
And reconciliation meant primarily a truce on all ques- 
tions affecting the Church. The pre-war dissensions, 
which had left France unprepared for war through pre- 
occupation with internal controversies, were mainly the 
result of the fierce vendetta against the Church that was 
being pursued by the parties of the Left. And when the 
war ended, every one except a certain number of pro- 
fessional politicians hoped devoutly that the old feuds 
were never to arise again. The heroism of the clergy 
was generally recognized, and most people, who felt a 
deep personal gratitude to the mobilized priests and to 
the army chaplains for the consolation that they had 
given, in risking their lives tinder shell fire, to the dying 



and wounded during four years, were honestly ashamed, 
and frequently said so, of the persecution that had driven 
so many of the clergy into exile before the war. So the 
vast majority of the freshly returned deputies after the 
elections of 1919, among whom were nearly 250 who 
had never sat in Parliament before, came to the Chamber 
either, as convinced proclericals or with the knowledge 
that their constituents were overwhelmingly in favor of 
reconciliation with the Church. 

Such was the atmosphere in which the present Chambre 
des Deputes assembled, more than three years ago. That 
it would vote for a resumption of diplomatic relations 
with the Vatican was a foregone conclusion. The ques- 
tion would probably have been more doubtful if there 
had been no immediate necessity to deal with it. But it 
presented itself as an urgent problem in foreign politics. 
The Vatican had become one of the most important 
diplomatic centers in the whole world, in the closing 
years of the war and during the Versailles Peace Con- 
ference. Every other important country was represented 
there except France. Even Protestant countries like 
England and the United States had found it indispensable 
to have a spokesman at the Papal Court. 
. Of all countries France had most need of direct rep- 
resentation there. The dissolution of Germany's colo- 
nial empire, and the distribution of the Middle East 
between England and France intimately involved the 
question of protection for the Christian missionaries who 
were the main agents of European civilization both in 
Asia and in Africa. If France alone persisted in refusing 
to acknowledge the Papal court, she could not expect 
that the Pope would support her claims to territories 
which she desired to administer. So, when General Cas- 
telnau and his ex-soldier fellow novices in the Chamber 


began to press for this formal reconciliation with the 
Vatican, in the name of all the French army chaplains and 
soldier priests who had fought or died for France, their 
pleading was reinforced by the purely political arguments 
of a new generation of politicians like M. Loucheur, who 
cared nothing for what the old anticlericals might have 
said or believed in the past. They demanded as a matter 
of plain common sense that France should not be excluded 
from a diplomatic nerve center where all France's rivals 
and enemies were actively engaged. Others like Senator 
de Monzie argued that France ought to be represented 
everywhere, merely as a matter of self-defence: that she 
should have an envoy at the Vatican and another in 
Moscow without delay. M. Briand, interpreting this 
general consensus of opinion, brought forward and 
carried the law restoring the diplomatic connection with 
the Vatican, and explained that the Papal Court must now 
be regarded as one of the "most important listening posts 
in the world's diplomacy. And partly from reasons of 
self-interest, partly out of gratitude for what the clergy 
had done in the war, partly with a sense of making 
amends for past injustice, the Chamber passed the bill, 
and sent M. Jonnart to the Vatican. 

Mgr. Ceretti, who had already been able to prepare the 
ground when he was in Paris for a considerable period as 
the Pope's special private representative during the Ver- 
sailles Conference, now came back as Papal Ambassador. 
The new regime began to show results almost at once. 
Very soon after his arrival the Pope had to appoint a 
new Archbishop of Bagdad, where French missionaries 
have for centuries succeeded to the See, but where a 
delicate situation had arisen since the war through the 
political changes that have now placed Mesopotamia 
under English jurisdiction. Had France persisted in 


refusing to restore diplomatic relations, it would scarcely 
have been surprising if the Pope should take the new 
situation thus created into account in appointing the 
new Archbishop. As it was, Mgr. Ceretti was able to 
inform the French Government that the See was to be 
filled by a French Dominican, Mgr. Berre. He had been 
for years one of the outstanding missionary figures in 
Syria and during the war had been made a prisoner 
by the Turks and had kept the spirit of his community 
alive by exemplary devotion under the severest trials. 
It was a fortunate and timely instance of what friend- 
ship with the Vatican might be worth to France. Other 
incidents followed rapidly, and on each occasion the 
masterly and speedy diplomacy of Mgr. Ceretti, inter- 
vening directly at Rome with tact and decision, either 
produced an unexpectedly gratifying appointment to some 
vacant position or else some felicitous settlement of an 
incipient controversy that in pre-war days would have set 
all the Press in a storm. 

The French Government was delighted at finding how 
much more quickly and smoothly questions could be 
settled by this personal contact with the Vatican, while 
the friendly dispositions of the Pope could not be 
doubted. One incident after another showed his friend- 
ship not least, for instance, the Cardinalate conferred 
upon Mgr. Charost, although he was one of the junior 
members of the French hierarchy. He had gained a 
unique popularity in France for the protests which he 
issued while a hostage in German hands against the 
shameful deportation of girls and children from Lille. 
And in Rome itself the personal relations between His 
Holiness and M. Jonnart could not have been more 
cordial. M. Jonnart has testified to his great benevolence 


towards France again and again, and has repeatedly de- 
clared that the more completely the decision of diplomatic 
questions concerning France rests with the Pope's per- 
sonal direction, the more confident will he be of a 
settlement satisfactory to France. 

M. Jonnart's statements in this sense have usually been 
made with special reference to the negotiations which are- 
now nearing completion, for the new constitution of the 
Church in France. As the negotiations have generally 
been enveloped in secrecy and an official dementi has 
always been issued whenever indiscreet revelations of 
their progress have been made by "inspired" journalists in 
the French press, I cannot venture here upon any dis- 
cussion in detail of the new "Statut de I'Eglise" which 
has been elaborated during the past two years. It is 
generally known, however, that the final draft of the agree- 
ment drawn up between Mgr. Ceretti and the French 
Government's representatives was ready last summer for 
transmission to Rome. An early decision was indeed 
expected soon after the dispatch of this document, but 
there has been considerable delay over it. The Pope has 
felt it necessary to take the final decision largely into his 
own hands, having first received a report made after 
thorough investigation by the Extraordinary Commission 
for Ecclesiastical Affairs at Rome. The technical com- 
plications of the question made it impossible for His 
Holiness to master all its details without proper attention, 
and his work at it has inevitably been interrupted several 
times by more immediately urgent preoccupations. If M. 
Jonnart's frequent declarations are to be taken seriously, 
however, as well as the recurring statements in an im- 
portant provincial newspaper in his constituency with 
which he is known to have close personal relations, there 


is little doubt that the agreement formulated by Mgr. 
Ceretti and the Government will be adopted substantially 
as it was sent to Rome. 

Broadly speaking, it provides for the creation of 
"diocesan associations" in each diocese of France, upon 
which would be conferred the legal status that the Church 
at present lacks. At the time of the Laws of Separation 
the anticlerical Government proposed to constitute a 
system of diocesan corporations which were to control 
the civil rights of the Church in France. This proposal 
was absolutely and irreconcilably opposed by Pope Pius X 
on the ground that they were of a nature incompatible 
with the maintenance of authority within the Church. 
They were to be formed more or less on the same lines 
as any democratically elected body in political affairs, and 
the real control of the Church's property and legal rights 
as well as the appointment of the clergy, would thus have 
been vested in the hands of a lay assembly in each diocese. 
Obviously the principles of such a constitution could 
never have been made acceptable, and as the Church re- 
fused to accept it, the Church has been left without any 
legal status ever since. Mgr. Ceretti has set himself with 
a zeal and a capacity for rapid work that has filled his 
anticlerical opponents with fury, to remedy this anoma- 
lous situation by securing a constitution for the Church 
once and for all. As the nature of the proposals now 
under consideration at Rome is an open secret, it may 
be said roughly that the diocesan associations which it is 
now proposed to set up are based on a fundamentally 
different principle. Instead of being compulsorily estab- 
lished democratic bodies controlling the clergy, the new 
associations will be more in the nature of cooperative 
societies, each formed under the presidency of the bishop 
in a diocese. The bishop is not even obliged to set up 


such an association. But if he does so, he is ex-officio to 
become its president, and the association will be subject 
to his authority in all essentially ecclesiastical matters. 

While these negotiations have been in progress, the 
Government has been making small concessions here and 
there in the direction of restoring religious liberty in 
France, and has followed up the resumption of relations 
with the Vatican by itself showing a certain amount of 
sympathy towards public demonstrations of a Catholic 
nature. Perhaps the _most significant of them was the 
decision to take part officially in the religious celebrations 
on the festival of Ste. Jeanne d'Arc. Here also the 
obviously popular appeal of a great Catholi: festival left 
the .Government in a ludicrous position if it continued 
to hold aloof "from them. Before the war, when the 
royalists of the Action Frangaise had first organized 
these patriotic demonstrations throughout the streets of 
Paris, they were forbidden by the police to hold them, 
and many of the young Camelots du Roi went to 
prison after violent conflicts with the troops or the police 
in their efforts to reach the statue of Jeanne d'Arc. But 
when Jeanne d'Arc was canonized at Rome, and all over 
the world people prayed to her as the most romantic of 
all patriotic saints, it was scarcely possible "for the French 
Government to persist in its former attitude of disdain. 
The Bloc National voted that the Government was to take 
part officially in the celebrations ; and so the President 
now lays his wreath at the foot of the golden statue in 
the Rue de Rivoli, and the public buildings of the city are 
all illuminated at night on her festival day. 

The decision that the President of the Republic should 
take part officially in the celebrations dates only from 
1921; but, as M. Maurras, the political editor of the 
Action Frangaise, points out, it was M. Poincare who 


first reestablished the right to hold the demonstration, 
when he was Prime Minister in 1912. "Until then," de- 
clares M. Maurras, "when we tried to do what we do 
now, when we went publicly and in a regular procession 
to lay wreaths and crowns at the statues of France's 
Patron Saint, we had to fight for it. And it was not with 
criminals and anarchists that we had to fight ; it was with 
the police that the young men had to deal, and they 
were sentenced altogether to some 10,000 days of im- 
prisonment, getting nothing but calumny for their 
patriotism in performing this public duty. Jeanne d'Arc 
had arranged against her the whole constituted authority, 
all the public bodies and all the official forces of the 
country! Such was the conception of France's history 
that was held by MM. Fallieres, Briand, Caillaux, and even 
Clemenceau for it was against M. Clemenceau that we 
had to fight in 1908-1909. The whole world has moved 
on since then. But it is M. Poincare who must be given 
the credit of having been the first to repudiate that party 
policy which could take account of everything but France. 
Other significant events may be noted that show a 
similar spirit to that which induced the Government 
to take part in the Jeanne d'Arc festivals. There have 
been various minor incidents in which for special reasons, 
and always keeping scrupulously within the laws passed 
against the Church, the Government has made small 
concessions. One of the most remarkable of these con- 
cessions occurred last autumn when it decided to throw 
open the ancient monastery, built by the Benedictines 
many centuries ago, on the Mont St. Michel for religious 
ceremonies on certain days of the year. Here also the 
Government could scarcely have done less; and only an 
appreciation of how much it dreads a revival of the old 
anticlericalism, will explain why the Government did not 


go very much further. The Mont St. Michel is one of 
the marvels of western Europe. At the innermost corner 
of a great land-locked bay that has one of its sides in 
Normandy and the other in Brittany, there rises a 
solitary rock more than a mile out from the shore which 
is accessible only at low tide. On this rock, one of the 
early Breton solitaries built a little primitive shrine in 
honor of St. Michael in the eighth century, and the shrine 
before long gave to the lonely rock the name of St. 
Michael's Mount. It /became a place of pilgrimage for 
all Normandy and Brittany, and the Benedictines, settling 
there, built on it out of red sandstone one of the most 
perfect of Norman monasteries. Its beauty, as a master- 
piece of architecture, became known far and wide, and 
added greatly to the popularity of the pilgrimages that 
constantly flocked to it. 

Throughout the Crusades the Knights used to come and 
ask St. Michael's blessing there before they set out to the 
East, and throughout the Middle Ages it was the center of 
continuous pilgrimages from all parts of Europe. The 
Benedictines remained in the monastery even when the 
rock became turned into a fortress, which was many times 
besieged. When the French Revolution came, the monks 
were driven out, and the monastic buildings were con- 
verted into a public prison. To this day the Benedictines 
have never been allowed to go back to it. On several 
occasions, however, the church itself has since that time 
been restored to public worship, and the present Govern- 
ment has now once more thrown it open for ecclesiastical 
ceremonies, but only on certain days of the year. Other- 
wise it is preserved as a national monument, which is 
visited by literally hundreds of thousands of tourists every 
year. The traditional pilgrimages to it have never ceased, 
especially on the festival days associated with St. Michael; 


and when Mgr. Ceretti came to inaugurate its solemn 
restoration to religious worship on last Michaelmas Day, 
dense crowds for miles around thronged across the sandy 
stretches that surround it as they have done in pilgrimages 
for twelve centuries. 

Yet even this small concession to religious sentiment 
was not granted by the Government without considerable 
trepidation and much consultation beforehand. Any one 
who knows the intensity of popular affection for the 
Mont St. Michel pilgrimages throughout Brittany and 
Normandy is astonished at the fact that a central gov- 
ernment in Paris should have been able to frustrate a 
popular demand for so long. And the jubilation through- 
out the Catholic press at the mere concession of the right 
to use the ancient church on a few solemn occasions each 
year shows how severe has been the tyranny under which 
the Church in France has now suffered for long years. 
No less remarkable, and indeed pitiful, is the chorus of 
anticipatory pleasure that has found expression in the 
Catholic press at the Government's proposal which has 
not even yet become law to hand back the old buildings 
of the St. Sulpice seminary in Paris to the Archbishop 
of Paris. Here too, the measure of restitution offered 
appears grotesquely inadequate. The Sulpicians, who 
had created one of the most celebrated centers of eccle- 
siastical learning and education in the whole world, were 
banished from their homes. Their buildings were de- 
clared State property, and the Government has since used 
them to house a section of the overgrown Treasury De- 
partment. The Church has for long agitated lo have 
them returned not as a mere matter of right but as an 
exchange for other buildings elsewhere which would suit 
the Government just as well, and perhaps better. A re- 
fusal of such offers of exchange by definitely anticlerical 


Governments was intelligible enough. They knew. the 
sentimental value of the old buildings to the Church, and 
they were determined for that reason to keep the Church 
from getting them back. But a government which is sup- 
posed to be friendly to the Church might surely be ex- 
pected to act differently. Yet M. Poiricare's Government 
has not dared to take any such responsibility. After long 
negotiation it has gone to its entire length of concession 
by introducing a bill into Parliament to obtain sanction 
for the exchange of .property, which it formally pro- 
poses and recommends. That much alone is regarded 
by the Catholics in contemporary France as being an 
immense achievement. And there has been such a fury 
of controversy over the mere proposal, in the anticlerical 
press, that the Government's hesitation can be readily 

Even in this question of granting permission for the 
seminary of St. Sulpice to be reopened, so that the semi- 
narists who have been temporarily housed at Issy may 
come back to the center of University life in Paris, the 
Government has had to be powerfully urged to show 
benevolence towards the Church by the exigencies of 
foreign politics. Naturally the Vatican and behind the 
Vatican, the whole Catholic opinion of the world has 
been making strong representations as to the desirability 
of accepting Cardinal Dubois' offer of an exchange of 
buildings. And Mgr. Ceretti has shown that the friend- 
ship of the Vatican can be a very substantial asset in, 
international affairs, well worth the price of making 
restitution for injustice, still more worth while consider- 
ing when it is only a question of accepting a favorable 
business deal. But besides this naturally interested pres- 
sure from the Vatican there has been a 'further consider- 
ation, which affects the whole policy of the French Gov- 


ernment towards the teaching orders and which is gradu- 
ally forcing it to face some little risk of unpopularity 
with the anticlericals for higher reasons of French pres- 
tige throughout the world. The preamble to the Govern- 
ment's bill proposing the return of St. Sulpice to Cardinal 
Dubois sets forth in detail the representations made by 
Cardinal Bourne and by the Scottish hierarchy who pro- 
tested that the existing facilities for ecclesiastical educa- 
tion at Issy are not what they used to be when the clerical 
students lived in the heart of the students' quarter of 
Paris, within immediate reach of every important public 
library. Like other extremely influential Church digni- 
taries in different parts of the world, Cardinal Bourne 
is himself a former pupil of St. Sulpice, and he made 
representations to the effect that he would be reluctantly 
obliged to send fewer of his students to Paris in future 
if the present conditions are not so remedied as to give 
equal facilities to those which are enjoyed by ecclesias- 
tical students in other capitals. The Scottish bishops 
went so far as to ask that the bursaries which they have 
held for centuries, at St. Sulpice should pay back the 
funds held in trust for them. It is not difficult to believe 
that such grave representations, made for no political 
purpose but made from a strict attention to the require- 
ments of clerical education, and coming simultaneously 
from the heads of the Catholic Church in various coun- 
tries, have had a profound effect upon the attitude of 
the French Government. As M. Rene Pinon, the politi- 
cal editor of the Revue des Deux Mondes puts it very 
clearly, Paris is no longer one of the great centers of 
the world's religious education. Cardinal Gibbons was 
an old student at St. Sulpice; but the future Cardinals 
will be old students of colleges in Rome, in Louvain, or 
in German centers like Cologne. The loss of influence 


that this means for France is easily imagined. The 
Government is in fact beginning to realize that, at a 
time when France is being misrepresented throughout 
the world, and when propaganda to meet her accusers 
is urgently needed, the continued proscription of her re- 
ligious orders is depriving her of the most successful 
and the most devoted of her own propagandists. It 
is moreover giving France a bad name throughout the 
countries that are friendly to the Church; while the 
supply of novices for the missionary orders is actually 
beginning to run short. 

A belated recognition of the invaluable services to 
French prestige and influence abroad that has been, and 
is still, rendered by these teaching orders has induced 
the Government to bring forward a number of bills 
for their partial reinstatement. In January a bill was 
introduced by M. Poincare's Government, with his chief 
colleagues in the Cabinet as its sponsors, as well as the 
former Radical Socialist, M. Millerand, who indorses 
it in his capacity as President of the Republic to enable 
the Christian Brothers to found novitiates in France for 
the supply of recruits to their schools abroad. The 
bill expressly explains that it involves no thought of 
allowing the Christian Brothers to reoperi their former 
schools in France. It aims only at authorizing the 
foundation in France of a new Order, under the 
title of "Missionary Institute of the Christian Brothers' 
Schools," whose purpose shall be to work only in the 
French colonies and protectorates abroad. In France 
they are to be expressly restricted to such establish- 
ments as may be necessary to maintain and develop their 
missions outside of France. It is proposed that they shall 
be permitted in sixteen towns, and the municipal author- 
ities have been consulted in each case. Three of those 


municipalities have actually 'declared themselves hostile 
to their admission, but the Government considers that 
Parliament should decide whether or not ;these local 
objections are to be overruled. This attempt tc over- 
ride the opposition of local politicians in three important 
towns is to the credit of the Government. But certainly 
their proposals cannot be regarded as generous. Even 
this niggardly concession is justified by recalling a 
clause in the Decree of 1903, which disbanded them, in 
which a stipulation was inserted that their claims might 
be reconsidered under .the conditions that have now 

It seems amazing that such great pains should be neces- 
sary even to allow French missionaries to develop their 
educational activities abroad, which every government 
has admitted to be of priceless service to France. The 
bill was sponsored not only by MM. Poincare and 
Millerand but by M. Manoury, Minister for Home 
Affairs, M. de Lasteyrie, the Minister for Finance, 
M. Berard, the Education Minister, and M. Sarraut, 
Minister for the Colonies. In the preamble to it, they 
point out that "the Christian Brothers had 515 schools 
outside of France in 1900; they have 774 schools to-day, in 
which 8,130 masters give a French education to 193,337 
pupils with a devotion and a success which the Govern- 
ment of the Republic acknowledges gratefully. But 
owing to the inadequacy in numbers of his staff the 
Superior General is obliged to keep on active duty men 
of seventy-nine to seventy-five years of age; he has to 
refuse pupils by hundreds, and even to suppress a large 
number of classes as for instance in the important and 
flourishing college of Kadi-Keni, which has 1,100 pupils 
of various religions, of whom scarcely ten per cent are 
Catholics. The Treaty of Versailles, by its 438th article, 


which banishes the Xjerman missionaries from certain ter- 
ritories, places upon the Allied or Associated Powers the 
obligation to safeguard the interests of these missions, 
in other words to give them the means of recruiting a 
new personnel. 

"So it is that on all sides, in the United States, in Italy, 
in Spain, in Switzerland, in Ireland, as well as in Ger- 
many, a large number of local novitiates have been 
established and it is their recruits who will reap the 
harvest that has been, sown so lavishly for centuries 
by French missionaries, unless France takes the steps 
necessary to secure the upkeep of her own missions. The 
Christian Brothers especially find themselves nowadays 
under the necessity either of jeopardizing their work 
the glory and the benefits of which are the admiration 
of all the nations, or else of appealing to foreigners and, 
in so doing, denationalizing their order and their schools." 

Among the tributes to the work which this particu- 
larly successful teaching order of the Christian Brothers 
has called forth, perhaps the most remarkable is a letter 
from that veteran and impenitent persecutor of the 
Church, M. Ferdinand Buisson, deputy for Paris and 
President of the League for the Rights of Man. In an 
appendix to the recently published "Life" af one of their 
most gifted pioneers, Brother Justinius, there is printed 
among a mass of other tributes from eminent public 
men and men of letters the following letter from 
M. Buisson: "On my return to Paris," he writes, "I 
have just received the notification of Brother Justinius's 
death. Had I been in town I would certainly have at- 
tended his funeral. Only a few weeks ago Brother 
Justinius wrote me a letter which touched me very deeply, 
for I found in it once again that intensely moving note 
of Christian charity combined with an absolute sincerity 


of religious conviction. I would not wish that this good 
man, from whom I was divided by so many differences 
of opinion, should depart this life without my paying 
to his memory the tribute of the regard which for thirty 
years I have constantly felt for the nobility of his char- 
acter, the dignity of his life, and the moral elevation of 
which he gave so much evidence." 

Yet even with the support of all the leading figures 
in the Cabinet and with such confirmation as is offered 
by tributes like those of M. Ferdinand Buisson, the Gov- 
ernment dares not to go beyond invoking the provision 
contained within the Law of 1904 to claim, on behalf of 
these incredibly faithful propagandists of French civili- 
zation among foreign peoples, the right to recruit for 
their foreign missions in France itself. And in a day 
of very small mercies the French Catholics are glad 
to get even so little. The Government has indeed de- 
veloped this first step by introducing other similar bills 
for the recruitment of other missionary congregations 
but always with the same ignominious caution, in dread 
of arousing old controversies that might sweep the Con- 
servatives out of office and bring back a Liberal Govern- 
ment which would inevitably be anticlerical. So in each 
of the bills for the benefit of these Missionary Congre- 
gations, the number of their houses and the places in 
which they may be formed are strictly defined. Thus, 
the Society of Franciscan Missionaries is to have per- 
mission (always assuming that the bill is not success- 
fully held up by the Senate, with its pre-war anticlerical 
traditions) to form twelve new establishments in France, 
with a maximum of 180 members in all unless the 
Council of State allows this number to be increased. 
Similarly, the Society of Missionaries of the Levant 
is to be allowed twenty new houses, with 290 members 


in all. The Society of African Missionaries at Lyons is 
to have twelve new houses with seventy-one members, and 
the Congregation of the White Fathers is to have twenty- 
seven new housesr most of them in Africa with 159 

It is something gained at least that the French Gov- 
ernment should have undertaken to secure the legislation 
necessary to enable these missionary societies to found 
new centers for recruiting their missions and their 
schools. It will be a solid gain however contemptibly 
ungrateful the French Government may appear for hav- 
ing refused to go further in restoring the liberties of the 
religious orders to the Catholic revival in France. But 
it is the 'deplorable truth 'that even these concessions are 
not sure of passing through both Houses of Parliament, 
and that if the present Parliament falls in hopeless dis- 
credit through its inability to restore France to financial 
stability, then not only these modest proposals but every 
other measure that has been taken, since the war ended, 
for the reinstatement of the Church in France may be 
swept away in an avalanche of Liberal reaction. 

Foremost among the protagonists of the teaching 
orders after their expulsion from France was the late 
Baron Denys Cochin, deputy for Paris -and member of 
the French Academy, who through the years that fol- 
lowed the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Vati- 
can was generally spoken of as the "lay Nuncio" in Paris. 
His personal experience of what expulsion of the old 
teaching orders meant to hundreds of thousands of 
French .Catholic families found expression in many im- 
passioned articles in the closing years of his life. "My 
two sons," he wrote in a characteristic article in the 
Figaro, "were educated by the Marists at the College 
Stanislas; the elder of them had already made a name 


for himself as a writer, and the School of Mapmaking 
was proud of him : the second of them was an excellent 
captain who had just left St. Cyr. Both were killed in 
the war. And now my grandson will never be able to go 
to the Marists at Stanislas, who formed the character 
of his uncles and of so many others of Guynemer for 
instance; for they have been proscribed, dispersed, ex- 
pelled from France, to be regarded with toleration only 
in Tokyo, according to the promises of our Ambassador 
M. Jonnart. The street down which Guynemer used 
to run to school as a boy now bears the name of the 
schoolboy whom they taught; but they themselves have 
been driven out of their colleges to which the Rue 
Guynemer leads. So now the Guynemer family and the 
Cochin family are no longer in a position to urge on 
their behalf: 'We were well satisfied with these masters 
and there is no cause for complaint against them; leave 
them alone.' But instead, under Article II, if a family 
unites in daring to complain of the scandal of having 
to send its children to be taught by a master who has 
never heard of Darwin, they will be told that Article II 
forbids all such complaints. The indignant father will 
have to hold his tongue and the judge will refuse to hear 
any complaint. ..." 

Yet it is the common jargon of French politics that 
these laws concerning the banishment of the teaching 
orders are "unalterable," and that in no conceivable cir- 
cumstances may the question of recalling them be re- 
considered. "These fantastic laws," as Denys Cochin 
called them, "at a time when schoolmasters cannot be 
found; these ungrateful laws when the teaching orders 
and their pupils gave their lives in hundreds of thou- 
sands; these laws that were passed as an insult and a 
challenge to so many families which chose thes,e exiled 


priests as their masters and who have now to watch the 
continuance of their banishment while they themselves 
mourn the loss of their sons who 'died for France." And 
in another article he comments upon the polite astonish- 
ment of a brilliant French officer who on a recent visit 
to the monastic colony of Mount Athos was asked by a 
pious Greek monk whether many of the priests in France 
could read and write. What would the good monk have 
thought, asks Denys Cochin, if he had been told that 
while many of them , were very learned men it was 
counted a crime for them to teach in France, especially 
if they happened to be members of the teaching orders? 
M. Jonnart, the French Ambassador to the Vatican, had 
just made a speech in which, while emphasizing the ex- 
cellent results that had been gained for France by the 
resumption of diplomatic relations with the Pope, he 
issued a solemn warning to the religious orders that they 
must not base upon these happy results any hopes of 
being allowed to return and teach in their own country. 
"It is being said," wrote JDenys Cochin, "that some 
of the religious orders are coming back to France. Was 
it so fine an achievement, after all, to have driven them 
out? The State was free to remain absolutely unde- 
nominational in its own teaching institutions; but was 
there any sort of reason for prohibiting teaching by mem- 
bers of religious orders as though it were something 
dangerous and criminal? Here we find members of re- 
ligious orders Brothers of the Christian schools or 
Sisters of Charity for whom the State has expressly 
authorized the privilege of living and possessing prop- 
erty in communities. Yet they are still to be deprived 
of the right, possessed by any other French men or 
women who have the proper university degrees, to teach 
in a free school. Nothing, it would seem not even the 


blood that the members of the religious orders shed for 
France in the war can redeem them from the taint of 
belonging to religious communities. 

"A thousand young Jesuit fathers, who flocked from all 
parts of the world to serve France, were killed in the 
war. The others are now coming quietly back, not to live 
in ostentatious establishments or even to live in com- 
munities; and they are hoping that they may be able 
to resume their proper vocation of teaching. They had 
such splendid records of patriotic service in the war 
that it might be thought that those who devote them- 
selves to the inquisition against this new crime of teach- 
ing might be expected to pursue their investigations less 
rigorously against them. But no: they are to be left 
under no illusions. The ideas of M. Combes, in spite 
of M. Tardieu's bold repudiation of them the other day, 
still rule. They are not to be allowed to teach, and their 
university degrees count for nothing in their case for 
no more than 'does the blood that they shed for their 
country. It is M. Jonnart himself, our Ambassador 
to the Pope, who rushes out from the Vatican to the 
French frontiers to ask them to go back from where 
they have come . . . The Jesuits have witnessed many 
strange things in their long history, and they have the 
reputation of being difficult to astonish. But such a 
greeting as this must amaze even them!" 

Whenever the Government attempt to deal with any 
of these deep grievances of the French Catholics, which 
can obviously be remedied only by a repeal of the anti- 
clerical legislation, they are immediately accused of vio- 
lating the conditions upon which the Union Socree was 
based. But such charges are the necessary corollaries 
of every Coalition, and a strong Government must be 
prepared to meet them fearlessly. So in the meantime 


the Catholics are redoubling their pressure, not by direct 
demands for repeal of anticlerical laws, but by concen- 
trating upon such questions of obvious injustice and false 
policy as this treatment of the religious orders. - An ex- 
cellent example of the hard hitting that is being 'done 
by the Catholic leaders on this question is provided by 
the letter addressed last autumn by Cardinal Charost, the 
Archbishop of Rennes, to the Superior of the Franciscans 
in his diocese after the refusal by the local authorities to 
allow the order to resume its former activities in the 
town : 

"This blind decree of banishment which is inflicted on 
you," wrote the Cardinal, "and which seems to be in 
no way modified either 'by the example of your own 
heroism in the war or by the bitter disillusionments 
which have succeeded it, leaves me stricken with a great 
grief and deep sense of humiliation. A great grief, 
inasmuch as I was myself the bishop and the hostage of 
a great town 'during the occupation by the Germans. I 
was obliged in that time to study at close quarters the 
designs of the enemy. Before the war, in whatever 
countries possessed natural riches which he coveted or 
whose opinion he was anxious to convert, he was no 
more sparing in his efforts to counteract the peaceful 
penetration of our religious orders and of their mis- 
sions than in trying to forestall what he believed to be 
the intentions of our military leaders. During the war 
he constantly exploited the lamentable reputation of 
France as an infidel and materialistic country which we 
had obtained through so many laws of spoliation and so 
many decrees dissolving the religious communities. It is 
therefore no mere apprehension on my part but a matter 
of certain knowledge that he will be no less prompt in 
exploiting and publishing broadcast, with a perverse sat- 


is faction, the decision that has now been made against 

"The decision is for me also a bitter humiliation. For 
the name of the town of Rennes will be attached to this 
vote against you. It will give an impression of our city 
that is none the less pernicious because it is ill-founded. 
Its ancient parliamentary liberalism, the traditions of 
moderation and of dignity among its citizens, their deep 
and secure attachment, however little ostentatious and 
demonstrative it may be, to the faith of their fathers, 
their reserved but acutely sensitive good feeling, should 
all alike have protected Rennes from any such measure 
as this. Without the smallest pretext and without any at- 
tempt at alleviation, it affronts every instinct that is as- 
sociated with delicacy and honor. I still hope that these 
considerations may yet be given -their due weight on re- 
flection, and that the local and public authorities will 
come together in their solicitude which must be grave 
enough at the present time! for the common good and 
for our moral reputation, which itself is also one of the 
assets of the country." 



THAT the Church has enormously strengthened its 
position in France over the one held by it before the 
war is admitted on all sides. Anticlericals in France will 
tell you bitterly that the Jesuits are now in power every- 
where; but those who are not obsessed by the mania 
of seeing Jesuits on every backstair will say that the 
reactionaries, and especially the royalists, have been 
unscrupulously exploiting the passing sentimental wave 
of reaction towards religion, for the benefit of their 
political schemes. On the other hand, foreign critics fre- 
quently declare that the French Cathdlics have been 
making various undesirable alliances with disreputable or 
untrustworthy politicians in order to further their own 
programs. From either point of view, the continuance of 
the undoubted increase of the Church's influence in 
France would appear to be precarious. 

It is indeed impossible to form any clear idea of how 
secure the recent consolidation of Catholic influence is 
in fact. In France the material security of the Church 
is obviously a matter of politics; and no one, however 
experienced, and least of all a foreign observer, can 
hope to predict with any certainty even the probabilities' 
of the- various political elections that are to be held in 
1924. Obviously the success or failure of the French 
occupation of the Ruhr will have a profound effect upon 
the future of the politicians who have been committed 



to that policy, and who have since the war, shown 
themselves more or less friendly to the Church. If 
M. Poincare and his colleagues fail badly in the Ruhr, 
there is no doubt at all that his adversaries will gain 
very largely at the next elections; and there is scarcely 
any doubt that they will be even more anticlerical in a 
few years' time than they are now. So far as party poli- 
tics are concerned, their return to power, or even their 
reinforcement in large numbers in both the Chambre des 
Deputes and the Senate, might easily put an end to the 
renewed diplomatic relations between France and the 
Vatican. That the Bloc des Gauches is still resolutely 
opposed to the policy of reconciliation with the Vatican 
was shown quite clearly in June last, when the Chambre 
des Deputes was compelled by the Radicals to discuss the 
whole question on its merits once more. They challenged 
a debate on the Pope's letter, issued on the anniversary 
of his nomination to the Papacy, in which he appealed 
to the French Government to try to find some other 
means than military occupation for settling her ^quarrel 
with Germany over the question of reparations. The 
actual figures of the division at the conclusion of the 
debate are of small account. What is significant is that 
the Radicals made the Pope's letter the pretext for a gen- 
eral attack upon the policy of having an Ambassador 
at the Vatican, and that all the parties of the Left joined 
without hesitation in voting in favor of a cessation of 
diplomatic relations. 

Equally noteworthy on the other hand was the attitude 
of M. Poincare, who still remains a strong supporter 
of the traditional policies of the Republic, and who dealt 
with the Pope's intervention as a question that did actu- 
ally involve the whole policy of diplomatic relations with 
the Vatican. M. Poincare deplored the Pope's tetter on 


political grounds, but did not regard it as a hostile act. 
On the contrary, he was able to point to the immediate 
success of his own representations to the Pope through 
M. Jonnart, which were followed at once by a communi- 
cation addressed by the Pope to the Papal Nuncio in 
Germany, who conveyed to the German hierarchy the 
opinion that passive resistance in the Ruhr by Germany 
ought to be discontinued. The result of the incident was 
consequently a fresh proof of the value to France of 
having a direct channel of approach to the Vatican. 
Noteworthy, too, was the attitude of the French Cath- 
olics, including some of the most determined supporters 
of the Ruhr occupation. They treated the Pope's inter- 
vention with prof ound ' respect, but turned it to their 
own advantage by pointing out that the Pope insisted 
upon the moral obligation of Germany to pay reparations 
to France up to the limit of her capacity to pay. 

But these political controversies are so transitory, 
and at best reveal only such undependable forces, that 
they can throw little light upon the real strength or weak- 
ness of the Catholic movement since the war. It is, 
however, possible to analyze the real character of the Con- 
servative parties that have given the most important as- 
sistance to the Church in recent years, and to see whether 
or not they are likely to continue that support in altered 
circumstances. Also it is worth while examining to what 
extent the Church has been able to consolidate its posi- 
tion independently of all possible political restrictions and 
alliances. The most usual criticisms of the relations be- 
tween the Church and its political supporters are directed 
especially against the royalists of the Action Frcmgaise. 
The encouragement that is widely given to the young 
royalist movement by many French Catholics is criticized 
on two grounds. In the first place it is urged that the 


leading figures in the Action Frangaise agitation are 
either declared agnostics like M. Charles Maurras, who 
support the Church on purely utilitarian grounds of pub- 
lic policy and social discipline, or else professing Catholics 
like M. Daudet whose career and whose writings are 
regarded as being far from edifying. The complaint 
against the Action FrangaiseJiS that, while it appeals very 
strongly td~young JEirenchnien on patriotic grounds, it 
means in practice that they become enthusiastic disciples 
of two publicists, one of whom is an agnostic possessed 
of dialectic powers such as have scarcely been known in 
France since the days of Jean Jacques Rousseau ; and the 
other is at best a master of objectionable vituperation, 
and at worst the extremely popular author of porno-, 
graphic novels. 

Both of these objections 'deserve brief attention. So 
far as the agnosticism of M. Maurras and some of his 
associates is concerned, it must be admitted that he is 
usually most scrupulous in avoiding any sort of agnostic 
propaganda in his political writings. He is, on the other 
hand, devoted heart and soul to his own program for 
he is the real author of the modern royalist movement 
in France of bringing back France to her old heredi- 
tary allegiance to the Kings and to the Church. I can- 
not enter here into the fascinating and extremely power- 
ful reasoning of M. Maurras as the philosopher of 
reaction against democracy. There has probably been no 
system of political philosophy in France comparable 
to it since Rousseau wrote his Contrat Social, and the 
influence of M. Maurras on modern French thought and 
literature have been incalculable. M. Maurras does not 
believe in Christianity as a creed, but he does believe 
in the social necessity of an established Church, and in all 
his writings he insists upon the need of restoring the 


Church to its old position as the principal support of 
the hereditary monarchy. With his extraordinary didac- 
tic powers of political, exposition, he has probably con- 
vinced as many young men of the social value of the 
Church as a national institution as he has convinced others 
of the salutary influence of hereditary kingship in France. 
More than that, he has been one of the most effective 
critics in all the French press of the disastrous policy 
pursued by Emile Combes and the anticlericals in pro- 
scribing the religious orders and in so dividing French- 
men from one another with the bitterest resentments. 
Considering all the assistance that M. Maurras has given 
to the Church in this way by his unfailing support and 
his deadly attacks upon the old Radical policies, it is not 
surprising that most French Catholics regard him as an 
ally whose aid is to be accepted with gratitude and en- 
thusiasm. Even the Jesuits have pronounced in favor 
of cooperation with him on all matters of Catholic policy 
when he is willing to lend his aid, and this whole ques- 
tion was discussed in all its bearings with remarkable 
lucidity in a large book about M. Maurras and his poli- 
cies, which the Pere Descoqs, S.J., published before 
the war. 

M. Leon Daudet, however, is in a different and much 
more equivocal position. Unlike M. Maurras, he pro- 
claims himself not only a practising Catholic, but a 
convert to the Church. His first marriage, with Victor 
Hugo's daughter, has constantly been charged against 
him as evidence of his insincerity, since there was no 
religious ceremony for it, although he was then con- 
spicuously identified with the Catholic reaction. But 
it is not his private life but his public record that arouses 
criticism. Making- every allowance for the difference 
of French and English habits of speech and writing, it is 


impossible not to regard M. Daudet's daily journalism in 
the Action FrangcAse newspaper as unpardonably in- 
decent. He never misses an opportunity of parading 
some obscene metaphor or of introducing some disrepu- 
table anecdote about the public men whom he wishes 
either to criticize or to praise. And apart from the 
coarseness of his writing, his methods of controversy 
are invariably violent beyond the limits of the barest 
Christian charity. He gave a lamentable exhibition of 
these controversial methods in the early part of this 
year in a series of gross personal attacks upon the Abbe 
Trochu, director of the Catholic daily newspaper, the 
Quest Eclair. It is true that he had been greatly pro- 
voked, for the Abbe Trochu had published a series of 
articles denouncing his more recent novels as blatant por- 
nography. M. Daudet and his colleagues immediately 
replied by pointing out that M. Daudet had made public 
a letter some time previously in which he had replied 
to the representations made to him by Cardinal Dubois 
about his last novel, by announcing that he vhad for- 
bidden the publication of any future editions of it and 
had torn up his contract with the publishers. This let- 
ter of M. Daudet's had attracted considerable attention 
at the time it was made public, but the Abbe Trochu 
disclosed the fact that it was not written until seven 
months after the Cardinal's official weekly periodical had 
protested in the strongest terms about the book, and the 
novel had earned enormous royalties for M. Daudet in 
the meantime ; and moreover, that the publishers had an- 
nounced and put on sale a "final" large edition of the 
book, within the week before M. Daudet wrote his 
edifying letter of submission to the Cardinal's represen- 
tations. Such revelations as these do not inspire confi- 
dence in M. Daudet as a Catholic layman; but his con- 


troversy with the Abbe Trochu (who, it must be admit- 
ted, laid himself open to such a controversy in attacking 
M. Daudet) showed him in a still less edifying light. He 
at once replied by accusing the Abbe Trochu of making 
a fortune out of the sale of indecent postcards, his sole 
justification for so doing being the fact that the manager , 
of the Quest Eclair had some years ago bought up, and 
sold again soon afterwards, a stock of popular local post- 
cards, some of which might conceivably have given of- 
fence. But even this accusation, directed by a man who 
professes to be a champion of the Church in France 
against a priest whose reputation is above reproach and 
who has done prodigious service for the Church, was 
mild in comparison with the insinuations against the 
character of the Abbe Trochu's enterprises that were 
repeatedly made by the editor of the Action Frmgaise. 
So much for the objections on personal grounds to the 
leaders of the royalist movement. But the much larger 
question has to be considered, whether the position of the 
Church has not been seriously compromised by many 
Catholics, both priests and laymen, who have persisted 
in denouncing the Republic as essentially antichristian, 
and in identifying the Church, as far as was possible 
to them, with the agitation to overthrow the Republic 
and to bring back the monarchy. There js no doubt that 
for several generations this suspicion that the Church 
was disloyal to the Republic has hung like a millstone 
around the necks of the Catholics of France. The patri- 
otism of the Catholics in the Great War, and especially 
the wonderful valor of the priests in action, whether 
as army chaplains or as soldiers in the ranks, has gone 
far to vindicate the Church in the eyes of the mass of 
people in France .who are not practising Catholics. 
When the war ended it seemed that, in the new world 


that had arisen out of it, the old prejudices on both sides 
could be forgotten; that the Church in France had de- 
cided to forget the past and to cooperate without any 
sort of mental reservation with the Republic for the 
general welfare of the country. On the other side it 
seemed that the Government would recognize the gener- 
osity and forgiveness of the soldier priests and of all' 
the devout Catholics who had been forced to endure fresh 
insults and injuries from one Government after another. 
It was this very sense of a new world being born that 
in some ways gave the royalist movement its chance, 
and that made young men ready to consider any con- 
structive political program without regard to traditional 
antagonisms. And such support as the royalist move- 
ment has obtained from the young Catholics of France, 
has been probably as much among the sons of convinced 
republicans as among the old nobility. It is easy to 
exaggerate the importance of this royalist agitation, in so 
far as it is a genuine program of restoring the^ monarchy. 
Many of its supporters will admit frankly that they 
do not believe that the monarchical restoration is meant 
seriously even by the leaders of the movement. But 
the influence of this royalist group is quite extraordinary 
in proportion to their numbers in the country. They 
have been the driving force behind the occupation of the 
Ruhr, just as they were the driving force behind the im- 
peachment of Caillaux and Malvy under M. Clemen- 
ceau's war ministry. They have many friends in high 
places, and they include an astonishing number of bril- 
liantly gifted and determinedly vigorous public men. 
And not least important is their organization of young 
men, under the title of the Camelots du Roi, who believe 
in and practise the methods of political direct action that 
have brought the Fascisti into power in Italy. 


Above all, they have been the most active organizers of 
French nationalism, and all over the country patriotic 
young men, arid many patriotic priests among them, have 
given their support to organizations inspired and directed 
by the Action Fr&ngaise. In itself this association of so 
many Catholics with demonstrations organized under 
royalist auspices, or with an appearance of royalist in- 
spiration, means little enough. But if a political re- 
action towards the Left comes at the next elections, 
or at any time in the near future, the royalist move- 
ment has attracted so much Catholic support it has 
in fact become a considerable political force mainly 
through this Catholic support that there is a very real 
danger that the Church will once again be identified in 
the popular imagination with the politics of the extreme 
Right. The retribution for that association with the 
extreme Right may indeed be very vindictive if the Radi- 
cals ever have a chance of accomplishing it. 

An instance of how much support the Action Frangaise 
has obtained, at any rate for its more popular demon- 
strations, was given at the Jeanne d'Arc festival last year. 
MM. Daudet and Maurras are consummate masters of 
the stage management of a popular agitation; and they 
have exploited the Jeanne d'Arc festival to the utmost. 
The official procession in which the President of the 
Republic lays his wreath at the feet of the Jeanne d'Arc 
statue takes place early in the morning and scarcely at- 
tracts attention. But the traditional procession organized 
by the Action Frangaise, which these royalists were the 
first to revive, in the days when they went to prison for 
organizing it, and which has become increasingly popular 
year by year since, is nowadays one of the greatest popu- 
lar 'demonstrations in Paris. Most people in the surging 
crowds that throng the route for several miles wait 


eagerly for the main contingent of the Action Frangaise 
to arrive headed by its royalist banners; but one has to 
wait several hours while the other contingents file past. 
Most of them are definitely Catholic Associations of one 
kind or another, as is only fitting for the religious festival 
of Jeanne d'Arc. At the last demonstrations, for in- 
stance, most of the contingents, apart from the Action 
Frangaise, came from the Young Men's Catholic Associ- 
ation. But besides them, there marched at the head of 
the Catholic Associations, the Scouts de France; behind 
them the Federation Gymnastique et Sportive des Pa- 
tronages de France; then the Association Catholique de 
la Jeunesse Frangaise itself ; then the Cercles Catholiques 
d'Ouvriers; then the Unions Federates Professionelles; 
the Confederation Frangaise' des Travaillewrs Chretiens; 
then the Unions Catholiques Professionelles; then the 
Ligue Patriotique des Fromgaises; then the Unions Pa- 
roissiales; then the Noellistes; then a number of provincial 
associations. The Catholic movement was certainly well 
represented in this vast procession which passed along the 
streets, through which cries of "Vive Daudet" or "Vive 
le Roi" were raised time after time. Probably only a 
small proportion of them all had any royalist sympathies; 
but their association with the royalists was sufficiently 
proved to make the Recording Angel of the Bloc des 
Couches take ample notes of it against the day of retri- 
bution, if it conies. 

But what do all these public demonstrations really sig- 
nify in effective influence in France? Was it more sig- 
nificant that all these Catholic associations rallied for a 
festival organized by ,the Action Frangaise; or that 
Cardinal Dubois in his scarlet robes sat on a throne 
outside the Church of St. Augustin and watched the 
procession pass ? Was it M. Daudet or the Cardinal who 


really counted most? It is easy to decry all this manifes- 
tation of Catholic solidarity, and to say that the Catholics 
of France have simply allowed themselves to be exploited 
by the royalist politicians. It is easy even to explain away 
the genuine impression of M. Charles Maurras that the 
Catholic revival has swept France since the war, and that 
the Jeanne d'Arc festival with its flags in every back 
street arid its throngs of processionists along all the 
main thoroughfares of the city symbolizes the return of 
France to the Church. But why should such an obviously 
important demonstration be explained away? The facts 
speak for themselves. The great majority of these Cath- 
olic organizations have no connection whatever with the 
royalist movement, but they have an unquestionable con- 
nection with Cardinal Dubois as Archbishop of Paris. 
And there is probably much more truth in the contrary 
interpretation of the Jeanne d'Arc procession by the 
Radical press, which regards it as a scandalous demon- 
stration of how the Church is able to consolidate its 
forces even when it is proscribed by the laws of the 

As a survey of the immense Catholic organization that 
has been built up within recent years in France, I know no 
account more illuminating than that given in an elaborate 
compilation entitled Le P.eril Jesuite by M. Maurice 
Charny, one of the most painstaking and capable of anti- 
clerical investigators. M. Charny is a typical Jesuit 
hunter, and his determination to regard every one associ- 
ated with Catholic organizations in France as a Jesuit in 
disguise becomes at times almost grotesque. But he has 
devoted much industry to his compilation of what he de- 
scribes as Jesuit activities, and it is interesting to follow 
out their many ramifications. Even M. Charny will admit 
that the Jesuits have no control, however indirect, over 


certain Catholic organizations, and he consequently leaves 
out many of the most vigorous and important of Catholic 
activities such as the Maison de la Bonne Presse, with its 
newspapers and its cinema-shows, or the Vincent de Paul 
Society, with its Conferences in every town of France and 
in most of the important colleges. But such as it is, the 
network of organizations that M. Charny attributes to the 
Jesuits is impressive enough; and it gives some idea of 
how vigorously the Catholic movement is being conducted. 
M. Charny divides the activities to which he wishes to 
draw attention into three categories : the works of organi- 
zation and of general propaganda; the works of recruit- 
ment for Catholic action; and the professional and 
"social" organizations. 

In the first category M. Charny deals first with the 
Catholic Committee of Religious Defence, which has its 
headquarters in the Rue d'Assas in Paris, and is more or 
less an arsenal of information for all Catholic activities 
offering advice as to the best means of forming new asso- 
ciations, recording the successes or failures or progress of 
existing activities, and supplying every sort of informa- 
tion useful for their development arid extension. It com- 
prises a general secretariat, a legal advisory committee, an 
editorial department, and a service of public lectures. It 
publishes leaflets and pamphlets on topical questions and 
issues a weekly bulletin that is supplied gratis to 500 news- 
papers. Before the war it had a staff of about forty lec- 
turers, drawn from the disbanded religious orders or from 
militant Catholic laymen, and since the end of the war they 
have returned to their labors with renewed energy. Be- 
sides these principal activities it has organized a series of 
special associations for various purposes, such as the Sun- 
day Observance Society, the Jeanne d'Arc Society, and 
the Soldiers' and Sailors' Society. It receives and collects. 


donations for the benefit of the exiled religious orders and 
for victims of the religious persecution such as the many 
families of Catholic officers who have been impoverished 
through resigning to avoid taking part in the active pro- 
ceedings against the churches after the Law of Separa- 
tion. "In short," as M. Charny puts it, the Committee 
"serves as a sort of general staff whose labors are directed 
by the Jesuits." 

In the same building in the Rue d'Assas (which is just 
beside Mgr. Baudrillart's Catholic University of Paris) 
there is another Catholic Defense Committee, entitled the 
General Education and Teaching Society, which was 
founded in 1868 to counteract the propaganda of the anti- 
clerical Teaching League. It has a complete organization 
for the support and defence of all the Catholic educational 
establishments primary or secondary or for advanced 
studies ; and its special business is to supervise the prepa- 
ration of books used in the schools, to warn the teachers 
against undesirable authors or books, to be vigilantly on 
guard against all encroachments upon the rights of the 
Catholic schools or against the activities of anti-Catholic 
teachers; to give every legal assistance to the Catholic 
schools and especially to the religious orders in trying to 
circumvent the laws which are directed against them ; and 
also to collect funds by every possible means for the sup- 
port of Catholic education. 

Working on parallel lines there is the Action Populaire , 
which was founded in 1902 at Reims as a sort of Labor 
Research Department to provide information and expert 
lectures on all questions of interest to the Catholic Social 
movement. It publishes six periodicals and a huge num- 
ber of pamphlets, of which 1,200,000 are distributed 
every year as well as posters, almanacs, and miscella- 
neous publications. "Let us admit frankly," says M. 


Charny, "that the modest publications of the Ligue de la 
Republique make a very poor show beside this prodigious 
output." The Action Populaire has moreover constituted 
its publication department into a publishing house with a 
capital of one million francs. In addition to this mass 
of documental literature, the Action Populaire offers ad- 
vice and interviews on any conceivable subject. Its pro- 
spectus declares that "these lectures, classes and visits, 
which are solicited from all sides and which almost over- 
whelm our resources, are addressed to every class : to em- 
ployers, farmers, workingmen, laborers, shop-girls, young 
men from the Lycees and colleges, trade union leaders of 
both sexes, the audiences at the Semaines Sociales and 
Congresses, young ladies, pupils of the seminaries, and 
the clergy." The Action Populaire had to be closed down 
during the war. After the Armistice it was reorganized, 
in Paris, and it now is located at Vannes, outside Paris, 
where its library is open ,to all students of social questions^ 
and its experts are available for interviews at any time. 
Its work is, furthermore, carried out all over the country 
by about twenty auxiliary secretariats which act in organ- 
izing centers of information for wide areas of France. 
Its efforts are also seconded by the Ecole Normale S oriole, 
-founded in 1912, for women interested in social work; 
which encourages the formation of women's trade unions, 
and which has given rise to a new and still more ambitious 
organization called the Women's Association for Social 
Study and Action. 

While these various societies exist to provide the 
Catholic movement with information, the most important 
of all the Catholic organizations is ,the Association Catho- 
lique de la Jeunesse Frangaise, which also v has its head- 
quarters in the Rue d'Assas. Before the war it had some 
4,000 groups, 55 diocesan associations, 36 local federa- 


tions, ii provincial federations, and 4 in the colonies, 
with a total membership of 150,000. Its work was in- 
evitably broken up by the war, but has been resumed since 
with marvelous activity all over France. It already 
counted 3,000 groups by the beginning of 1921, with a 
membership of 120,000, while the number of its periodical 
publications had risen from 47 to 58. Its activities are 
without number, and it is continually gathering momen- 
tum. Last April alone for instance, besides its national 
congress, it held at least 17 other congresses, in addition 
to its constant series of lectures, study circles, committee 
meetings, retreats, and innumerable other activities. 
What the A.C.J.F. is for the Catholic laymen the Ligue 
Patriotique des Frangaises is for the Catholic women. 
It also fell into abeyance during the war but it has 
already got back approximately to its pre-war membership 
of 350,000, distributed through 24 dioceses, and with a 
complete organization on the same lines as the N.C.J.F., 
which serves constantly as its model, and the two organi- 
zations were naturally recruited largely from the same 

These are, of course, the principal organizations of the 
Catholic movement in France. But apart from their own 
activities, there is, as M. Charny points out with real con- 
cern, a constant intensive effort to obtain new recruits 
both for them and for other Catholic works. There are, 
for instance, in almost every parish what are known as 
the patronages, or boys' and girls' clubs, which are usually 
run in connection with the local Catholic schools. But 
they have also been organized still further into a more or 
less militant force, mainly under the auspices of two vast 
associations, the Scouts de France, which are much like 
the English Boy Scouts, and the still larger Gymnastic 
and Sports Federation of the Patronages of France 


popularly known as the F.G.S.P.F. This membership is 
certainly not less than 200,000, and it is constantly organ- 
izing congresses and festivals of its own, besides taking 
part with its bands and other spectacular effects, in all the 
local popular demonstrations. The Scouts de France, 
however, are probably the more promising organization 
of ,the two. They were founded after the war, in 1920, 
to counteract the anti-Catholic tendencies of the previ- 
ously existing Boy Scout organizations, which. were be- 
coming extremely popular but which were naturally under 
the influence of the English organizations and shared the 
Broad Church principles of the Y. M. C. A. The first 
president of the Catholic Scouts was General de Maud'- 
huy, one of the heroes of the war, who like Foch and 
Castelnau and Lyautey and so many more was a very 
fervent Catholic. One of the higher grades in their 
semi-military organization is to become an "Homme 
d'CEuvres" or social worker, which involves membership 
of a social study class, and passing an examination in-social 
work. The influence of these Scouting Societies, with 
their annual camps and their attractive uniforms, and con- 
stant participation in the affairs of the local churches, can 
scarcely be exaggerated. 

Besides this intensive organization of the boys and 
girls from an early age, it is necessary to note the corre- 
sponding work of organization among the young men and 
women who have left school for the universities or tech- 
nical colleges. With the social work of the Catholic trade 
unions, both industrial and agricultural, which deserves 
special attention, I deal separately in the following chapter. 
But apart from these distinct groupings of Catholic 
workers in their own occupations for purposes of social 
and economic defence, the young men and women who 
are completing their training for their future careers are 


made the special object of Catholic propaganda. Thus, in 
the Engineering and Scientific Colleges, the Central 
School of Arts and Manufactures, the Legal and Medical 
Faculties of the State Universities, priests are constantly 
engaged in finding recruits for their study clubs, for the 
Vincent de Paul Society, and for every sort of layman's 
work. At the Mining Institute, for instance, a priest suc- 
ceeded in obtaining 150 recruits in one day at a ceremony 
he organized for them in the Church of St. Sulpice in 
March, 1921. Two years later their number had doubled. 
The Social Union of Catholic Engineers has its own per- 
manent headquarters, with an employment agency, an in- 
quiry office, and its own periodical. Two-thirds of its 
members are pupils, past or present, of the Ecole Poly- 
technique. The Ecole Polytechnique has naturally re- 
ceived particular attention, and a separate organization 
has been founded for them by one of the Jesuit war-chap- 
lains who was formerly an important capitalist, the Pere 
Pupey-Girard. At the series of conferences that are held 
specially for them there are now some 2,000 pupils of the 
Ecole Polytechmque more or less continually in attend- 
ance. Similarly there has been a determined effort to 
evangelize the military and naval colleges. At least four 
of the ten present Marshals of France Foch, Fayolle, 
Franchet d'Esperey, and Lyautey are former pupils of 
the Jesuit colleges and have remained their faithful 
friends. They have naturally shown favor to the attempts 
to introduce "Catholic influences into the military acade- 
mies and at St. Cyr Catholic influences flourish among the 
young men training to be officers in the French Army. 
As for the universities, even in the Ecole Normale Supe- 
rieure there are at least fifty zealous Catholic propagan- 
dists. The Sorbonne is full of Catholic associations and 
lecturers, which the prevalent anticlerical atmosphere is 


unable to prevent, even though the Catholics are gradually 
gaining ground through every field. 

Everywhere the organizers of the Catholic movement 
are thus concentrating, at the top upon the natural leaders 
of public opinion, and below upon the formation of char- 
acter in the schools. And they have succeeded so far, 
operating through .the influence of the elites in every 
direction through the Catholic generals in the army, 
through the Catholic members of the French Academy, 
through the Catholic scientists in the colleges and scien- 
tific institutes that they have gradually undermined the 
old anticlerical system that was created to drive religious 
life out of the country. The Catholics have won their 
way through to positions of such influence in every field 
of social life, their individual efforts have been powerfully 
organized and coordinated, and they are well represented 
already in every part of the political administrative 
machine which was designed to crush them. Whatever 
the results of the next elections, or of~ future elec- 
tions, may be, the Catholic opposition to anticlerical legis- 
lation is now so firmly consolidated that its enactment 
would be extremely arduous, and its administration in 
practice would be still more difficult. They are continu- 
ally exerting their combined pressure all along the line for 
the repeal, or the gradual repudiation, of the various anti- 
clerical laws. But even while those laws remain on the 
statute book, they are shown to be powerless to prevent 
the Catholics from securing their own interests in spite o'f 
the laws, and even from extending their influence from 
day to day. M. Charny, as an embittered anticlerical, 
shows how large a part the Jesuits have unquestionably 
played in organizing the Catholic movement, notwith- 
standing the fact that they are expressly forbidden to 
exercise corporate influence in France or to live in any 


community. Professor Bureau, himself one of the leaders 
of the Catholic revival, shows how the Law of Separation 
has defeated its own object through sheer excess of zeal 
on the part of the anticlericals, by actually guaranteeing 
the authority of the bishops in France within their own 

These are the questions that really concern the leaders 
of the Catholic revival, and to identify them with the 
royalist reactionaries is obviously a grotesque exaggera- 
tion. There will undoubtedly be more fierce conflicts, 
before the relations of Church and State have been set- 
tled in France, for matters obviously cannot remain as' 
they are. The conflicts of the immediate future will un- 
doubtedly rage once more over the question of education, 
in which the Catholics are still fighting desperately hard 
for their elementary rights, of which they have been 
deprived. Napoleon insisted upon taking the whole edu- 
catpnal system of the country into his own hands, and 
it was not till after long years of protracted struggle that 
the Catholics won the fight, first to establish their own pri- 
mary schools, then their own secondary schools, and 
finally their own universities. With the work of the 
Catholic universities I can deal only very briefly here. 
They were founded, like all the educational establishments 
in France, with the object of providing centers of teaching 
in which Catholic doctrine could be expounded, and anti- 
Catholic doctrines could be challenged. .* Within a few 
months after the law was altered so as to enable Catholics 
to found their own separate universities, Cardinal Richard 
in Paris convened an assembly of the French bishops and 
with them launched an appeal for funds to establish a 
Catholic University in the old Carmelite monastery close 
to the Palais du Luxembourg. Mgr. d'Hulst was ap- 
pointed its first rector, and although it was soon after- 


wards forbidden to use the title of university and was not 
allowed to confer any academic degrees, its work has pro- 
gressed magnificently, first under Mgr. d'Hulst, and since 
his death under his chief disciple Mgr. Baudrillart. 

Other Catholic universities were founded very soon 
afterwards in cities chosen with a view to covering each 
main region of France at Lille, Lyons, Strasbourg, Tou- 
louse, and Angers. Each of these universities has become 
a focus of Catholic activity and a training center for 
young Catholic workers, both priests and laymen, in its 
own part of the country. But the Catholic university of 
Paris naturally remains the most important of them all, 
and its staff includes many of the most brilliant scientists 
and most distinguished professors in every department of 
learning. Supported solely by voluntary subscriptions, 
living from hand to mouth year after year, and crippled by 
inadequate accommodation and lack of funds, it has yet 
exerted an enormous influence upon contemporary thought 
in France. Mgr. Baudrillart was fully justified in claiming 
not long ago that within the past .thirty years it has suc- 
ceeded in training a generation of young Frenchmen to 
realize the essential value of Catholic philosophy, and to 
learn for themselves that the pursuit of knowledge for its 
own sake and without prejudice is more incompatible with 
agnosticism than with the doctrine of the Church. Above 
all, it has helped to train a generation of social workers, 
of teachers, of writers and professional men, who have 
already forced their way to the top in each of their own 
spheres of action; and their influence has already suc- 
ceeded in effectively destroying the ascendency of that 
agnostic and German-made philosophy with which Renan 
dominated two generations of Frenchmen: 

But while the Catholic universities have thus made 
good their position so successfully that, even without the 


government recognition, which they claim as their right, 
they can look forward confidently to maintaining and 
extending their influence, the position of the Catholic 
schools throughout France is much more precarious and 
even more scandalously unfair. All over France the 
Catholics who dislike the State schools and distrust 
their teachers, and who want to have their children given 
religious instruction as part of their daily lessons, are 
obliged to create and maintain schools of their own 
whether primary or secondary for which they receive 
no assistance whatever from the State. On the other 
hand they are obliged to pay taxes for the upkeep of 
the State schools which are of no use to them. In the 
more Catholic parts of the country State schools are 
to be found by no means infrequently, in which the 
schoolmaster and schoolmistress have literally not one 
pupil. Their salaries are none the less paid to them 
regularly by the Government, and they are not bad sal- 
aries, as incomes go in France. The teachers of the Cath- 
olic schools, which are attended by all the children of the 
district and which are entirely supported by voluntary 
subscriptions paid to the clergy, receive salaries varying 
from 100 to 200 francs (or roughly 27 to 50 shillings) 
a month for desperately hard full-time work. 

It is not surprising that the parents who have to main- 
tain these Catholic schools if they want their children 
to receive any religious education, are deeply resentful 
of the system that forces them to pay taxes for the up- 
keep of schools in their own district which no children 
attend. They demand vainly, as the barest minimum of 
their civic rights, that they should receive the same con- 
sideration as is granted for instance to the Catholic 
schools in London, where, if the Catholics can show that 
a certain number of children are being educated at their 


school, it receives the usual subsidy out of the 'rates. In 
Catholic Brittany the anomaly of these empty State 
schools being maintained at the expense of the ratepayers, 
while the crowded Catholic schools receive no grant what- 
ever, is an outrage against every principle of popular 
government. The situation in Brittany is of course ex- 
ceptional. Elsewhere in France the practising' Catholics 
are usually in a 'decided minority: in some parts and 
particularly in the Center, they are a mere handful, un- 
able to support schools of their own. In such places the 
clergy have to arrange as best they can to have the chil- 
dren taught their religious knowledge by voluntary 
teachers on Sundays and the weekly holidays. But 
wherever it is at all possible to do so, the Catholics have 
founded, and maintained from year to year out of their 
own pockets, what are known as the "free" schools. The 
contest in which they have had to engage is, judged by 
all human standards, utterly hopeless.. Against the na- 
tional organization, the unlimited financial resources, and 
the statutory privileges of the State schools they have 
been able to oppose only inadequate buildings, teachers 
who have accepted a life of starvation for the good of the 
cause, and the constant disadvantage of being excluded 
from legal recognition of their teaching. To find the fi- 
nancial resources to keep the free schools in existence, 
apart from the many other calls upon their capacity for 
raising money from their congregations, has been an ap- 
palling burden upon the clergy. In the old half moribund 
town of Saint-Servan, for instance, the clergy have to find 
40,000 francs a year for the schools alone, from a total 
population of some 40,000 inhabitants of all ages, who 
are already overtaxed and find it hard enough to sup- 
port the clergy without any question of supporting 


It is a magnificent testimony to the zeal and the self- 
sacrifice of the Catholic minority in France that they 
not only have founded and kept alive these Catholic 
schools but have also produced enough men and women 
willing to risk their health and to spend their youth in 
teaching in them for a starvation wage. And it is even 
more to their credit that one fifth of all the children at- 
tending primary schools in France are now on the books 
of these Catholic schools, while in secondary education, 
there are as many in the Catholic schools as in all the 
State secondary schools put together. Such is the actual 
state of affairs ten years after the teaching orders were 
banished from France. The schools and colleges in which 
formerly their gifts as teachers secured the attendance 
of scores of .thousands of children from non-Catholic 
homes, have moreover either been obliged to close down 
altogether, or else kept alive by former pupils or priests 
who have become secularized so as to escape the ban upon 
their activities as members of teaching orders. When 
the ban fell upon the teaching orders, the whole organ- 
ization of the Catholic schools had to be revised. Priests 
or laymen had to be found to take over the work that had 
previously been carried on by the congregations and 
financial responsibility for every school, whether primary 
or secondary, . fell upon the bishop of each diocese. In 
some places the burden thus laid upon the bishops de- 
mands herculean effort. In the archdiocese of Rennes, 
which is the most important in Brittany, Cardinal Charost 
has to provide not only for a Catholic school in every 
parish, which is everywhere attended by the great ma- 
jority of the children, but also for five secondary schools. 
Two of these, with some 500 boys in each, are situated 
in Rennes itself, and there are about 300 boys in each 
of the other three institutions, at Saint-Malo, Redon, and 


Chateau Gironde. Most of these pupils come from the 
immediate neighborhood of the colleges, but many come 
in from a distance. At the college at Saint-Malo, for in- 
stance, nearly half are boarders. 

These struggling but flourishing Catholic colleges are 
faced by the competition of the State secondary schools, 
of which the Lycee at Saint-Servan, with its immense 
modern buildings and its splendid equipment for scientific 
and other teaching, is a characteristic example. The 
teachers in these State schools are moreover fairly well 
paid, at least in comparison with the salaries which the 
Catholic colleges can pay. The State schools have also 
an immense advantage in that they are open free of 
charge to the sons of all French civil servants or soldiers 
or other persons in government employment, while the 
Catholic schools obviously can make no concession on 
their bedrock scale of fees. Yet the unendowed Catholic 
college at Saint-Malo has more than twice as many pupils 
as go to the government Lycee at Saint-Servan only a 
mile away. 

l The Saint-Malo college has an illustrious tradition in 
that it was founded, within a few years after the right 
to establish free secondary colleges was vindicated by the 
Catholic reformers in 1850, by the Abbe Jean Marie de 
Lamennais, less celebrated than his brilliant but unfor- 
tunate brother. The intellectual 'distinction of its 
founder, as well as the local importance of the Lamen- 
nais family, gave it a high reputation from its earliest 
days, and its standard of teaching has been well main- 
tained. But, like all the Catholic secondary schools, it 
can grant no diplomas and can hold no public examina- 
tions. The State absolutely ignores their existence and 
only permits them to send up their pupils for the State 
examinations. Yet against an average of only two or 


three boys who obtain their baccakmreat from among the 
pupils of the Saint-Servan Lycee every year, there are be- 
tween twenty and thirty bacheliers from the Saint-Malo 
college. In discipline and for its finances, the college 
"Is directly responsible to the archbishop of the diocese, 
who of course appointed a priest specially to take charge 
of all educational questions. Financially, each college 
is supposed to be self-supporting, since it is run for 
boys whose parents can afford to give them a more ex- 
pensive education than can be had in the primary schools, 
where education is necessarily given free of charge. In 
these, secondary Catholic schools the pupils' fees are in- 
tended to cover the expenses of each college. The fees 
charged in fact vary, according to the age of the boy, 
from between the preposterously low levels of 1,200 and 
i, 600 francs each term for boarders (at present rates 
roughly $72.00 and $96.00), and between 250 and 500 
francs a term for day boys. This standard scale for fees 
is for the moment increased by the temporary addition 
of ten per cent for day boys and five per cent for boarders, 
to meet the high cost of living. Small as they are, these 
fees are probably as much as most Catholic families in 
the country can afford to pay for their children's educa- 
tion, especially since they are obliged to pay taxes to keep 
up the State schools which are of no use to them. But 
this low level of fees inevitably" means miserable wages 
for the priests w,ho do all the teaching. In addition to 
having a room and being given their food at the college, 
the professors all receive the same, stipend of 700 francs 
a year, the only exceptions being a few senior members 
of the staff who receive 800 francs a year! 

That priests should be found in sufficient numbers to 
give up their lives to such work under such conditions, 
and that the seminaries should not be empty, shows in it- 


self how marvelous is the vitality of the Church in 
France. And when people in other countries speak as 
though Catholicism were moribund in France, they 
would probably change their minds if they knew that the 
great majority even of those Catholic families which, 
through being in the employment of the State, are entitled 
to free secondary education, prefer to forego- their privi- 
lege. They pay for having their sons taught at the 
Catholic colleges, even though they are all the time be- 
ing taxed for the upkeep of expensive government 
schools which offer them facilities in many ways superior 
to those of the Catholic "free" schools. And when critics 
talk of the Catholic revival as being no more than the 
exploitation of religious sentiment by a group of poli- 
ticians, they must be entirely unaware of the enormous 
sacrifices undertaken both by priests and by laity to keep 
religion alive among the children of France. 



To judge by the complaints that may be read almost 
daily in the clerical newspapers and reviews in France, 
one might imagine that the work of creating and organiz- 
ing a Catholic press had been entirely neglected. Yet these 
complaints are most often to be read in the publications 
issued by one of the most highly developed and success- 
ful organizations in all modern journalism. The Maison 
de la, Bonne Presse in Paris would alone even if there 
were no other journalistic activity in the Catholic move- 
ment in France deserve the closest study by Catholics 
in other countries who are engaged upon the very ardu- 
ous and extremely technical business of building up a 
Catholic press and conducting it in a way to defy the 
competition of non-Catholic papers. The Maison de la 
Bonne Presse with its vast industrial organization, from 
its own printing and photographic works to its own 
cinemas and theater, and with the immense circulation 
that it has obtained for its daily newspaper and its nu- 
merous periodicals, challenges comparison with Fleetway 
House or with any of the largest newspaper enterprises 
in England. Yet the Maison de la Bonne Press is only 
one factor in the general organization of a Catholic 
press in France. Great as its influence is, there are many 
zealous pioneers in the Catholic movement who not only 
believe that it might have done better and larger 



work, but consider that it has done real mischief in an- 
tagonizing non-Catholic readers by its defiantly clerical 
tone. In estimating the extent arid the power of Catholic 
influence in the contemporary press of France it is essen- 
tial to emphasize this contrast between two opposite 
one might almost say, conflicting methods of propa- 

The contrast may be illustrated by quoting an article 
which was published last summer in the Correspondences 
Religieuses, which are a series of weekly bulletins issued 
by a Catholic propagandist institution known as the Mai- 
son de la Presse, which syndicates Catholic articles and 
news for distribution among the French newspapers. In 
the issue of August 6th last there is a characteristic ar- 
ticle under the heading "When Will the French Catholics 
Have a Catholic Press ?" It begins by asking how many 
Catholics realize, when they open their newspapers every 
morning, that "every day six million copies of newspapers 
either prejudiced against or definitely hostile to their re- 
ligion, are distributed throughout France." "The Matin," 
it continues, "the Journal, and 'the Petit Parisien alone 
have a combined daily circulation of more than four mil- 
lion copies; the Petit Parisien has a circulation of i^> 
million. Do Catholics realize that their own daily news- 
papers have a combined circulation of barely 600,000 
copies? Six million against six hundred thousand, ten 
against one: such are the proportions of the opposing 
forces." The article goes on to point out that French 
Catholics contribute 30 million francs a year for the 
upkeep of the Church, and still more largely for the 
Catholic schools and boys' clubs, and the various works 
of Catholic charity: is it possible that they will fail to 
provide the millions necessary to subsidize the Catholic 
press ? What papers, in fact, thus require these sub- 


ventions? "The Bishops," continues the writer, "have 
shown in each diocese which papers deserve support. At 
the end of 1919, an organization was brought into being, 
with the encouragement of the Holy See and the Cardi- 
nals of France, which must be made sufficiently powerful 
to guarantee to the Catholic press the place to which it is 

This organization is called L'CEuvre du Franc de la 
Presse, and it was approved last March and recommended 
to the Catholics of France by their Cardinals and Arch- 
bishops in solemn assembly in Paris. "The task before 
it," concludes the article, "is enormous. It is necessary 
to subsidize the needs, and to intensify tenfold the prop- 
aganda, of 500 Catholic local newspapers, of a score of 
great provincial papers, and three or four with national 
circulations. Catholic news agencies abroad of every 
sort must be established as well as Catholic advertising 
agencies. Paper factories will have to be founded to 
place us on an equal footing with the Petit Parisien, and 
a number of other indifferent vor hostile dailies; we 
must organize the sales both among direct subscribers 
and for general purchase, and have in every small locality 
in the country our own agents and salesmen, while we 
must see that our own papers arrive ahead pi all the 
others. We must, moreover, secure for the Catholic 
press all the best possible brains for their editorial and 
advertising staffs and for their news services." 

This statement gives a fair idea of the vast general 
program of the Maison de la Bonne Presse. It is open 
to the obvious criticism, that it appeals to Catholics, as 
Catholics, to support, and to assist in distributing, a press 
which is recommended to them pjincipally because it is 
Catholic and without any apparent guarantee that the 
newspapers will be as competently edited and produced 


as their rivals. The fact that the Bonne Presse, working 
on these lines, has built up a daily circulation of nearly 
400,000 copies for La Croix is, however, a sufficient refu- 
tation to any charge of incompetency in the technical 
organization of the paper. It would be difficult to im- 
agine any newspaper of its kind more thoroughly organ- 
ized or more skillfully conducted. Pope Pius X even told 
its director, M. Feron-Vrau, in a private audience, that 
he read La Croix every day and "could imagine nothing 
better as a great Catholic newspaper." Yet, great as the 
compliment was, it implied a certain character in the 
newspaper which must inevitably be a severe handicap in 
competition with non-Catholic newspapers. 

To put the matter bluntly, is a newspaper which the 
Pope declares to be exactly what he himself wants to 
read, likely to appeal to the ordinary Frenchman, unless 
he happens to have a strongly religious temperament? 
The Croix is quite obviously a clerical newspaper. Its 
principal shareholder, it is true, is a very important pri- 
vate capitalist, and its editor M. Jean Guiraud is also 
a layman. But since its foundation the paper has been, 
and continues to be, controlled with an unrelenting grip 
by the Assumptionist Fathers whose energy and determi- 
nation created it and made it a great national success. 
Under their guidance it has become an admirably or- 
ganized clerical newspaper published and distributed 
promptly every afternoon with the other evening papers 
of Paris. Like them, it is dated for the following morn- 
ing, since its principal sales are in the country districts, 
which it thus reaches with the first delivery. It contains 
all the principal news of the day, supplemented by special 
correspondence which is usually very competent from 
most of the principal cities in the world. Its leader page 
publishes articles dealing with the topics of the day ; and 


its commercial and agricultural pages give as good expert 
information as is to be found in other papers. 

There is, however, one obvious difference between the 
Croix and the other newspapers. Its whole interests are 
clerical, and its selection and presentation of news are 
naturally colored by this outlook. While other newspapers 
are discussing boxing matches, or women and fashions, or 
murder trials, it treats these matters with as little atten- 
tion as possible, and fills columns with admirably written 
reports of Catholic congresses or diocesan news. This 
detachment from current events that occupy the minds 
and dissipate the energies of ordinary newspaper read- 
ers, leads also to an indifference to rapidity of publica- 
tion, which is characteristic of most of the French news- 
papers, but carried to incredible lengths in La Croix. It 
is indeed seldom that any of its special articles are pub- 
lished within three weeks, or even a month of their be- 
ing written, and the directors think so little of immediate 
topical values that they do not trouble even to suppress 
the dates of these belated contributions. Apart from this 
slowness in publication, the principal criticism that any 
American or English journalist would have to make on 
the Croix is that it devotes a large proportion of its space 
to very long articles about classical literary subjects or 
to heavy philosophical or theological matters. 

It is necessary to make these criticisms upon La Croix 
from the standpoint of modern newspaper journalism, 
to emphasize both its disadvantages in competing with 
the .lay press, and the extraordinary success of its na- 
tional circulation throughout France. With all its short- 
comings as a modern newspaper, the Croix does rank as 
one of the most widely read in all France. You will 
find it in every department, however remote, and in Cath- 
olic districts like Brittany you will see it more often than 


almost any other Paris newspaper. This remarkable 
success must, it is true, be attributed rather to the vast 
organization with which its circulation has been built 
up than to the merits of the paper itself. So far as dis- 
tribution is concerned, the Croix has a unique advantage 
over the other daily papers. It is universally recognized 
as the official Catholic newspaper in France, even though 
many Catholics who dislike its frankly reactionary poli- 
tics and who do not care for its selection and treatment 
of news consider its monopoly in this respect as some- 
thing in the nature of a national calamity. Many zealous 
Catholics, for instance, disagree violently with its scarcely 
disguised distrust of the Republic, and accuse it of being 
still royalist in its whole political outlook. They object 
also on principle to its display of a crucifix at the head 
of its front page, and generally, they complain that the 
Croix, by its success in making itself more or less the 
official organ of the French hierarchy, has identified the 
policy of the Church and the very name "Catholic," with 
its own reactionary and anti-Republican tendencies. 
There is undoubtedly some truth in these criticisms, and 
the propaganda of the Bonne Presse has-certainly not 
assisted those who have been striving through the past 
generation as Catholic Republicans to live down that 
distrust of the Church's loyalty to the Republic, which 
has been the chief cause of the anticlerical persecutions. 
But the fact remains that the Croix is essentially the 
official clerical organ in France, and its wide distribu- 
tion is directly due to the support that it has received in 
all parts of the country from the bishops and the majority 
of the clergy. Whenever the bishops in their pastorals 
or the clergy in their sermons fulminate against the "bad 
press" and appeal for support for the "Catholic press," 
in terms very similar to the article which I have quoted, 


they almost invariably have the Croix and its subsidiary 
\ publications in mind as the papers that they wish Cath- 
olics to read. And by persistent organization they have 
persuaded an immense number of people throughout 
France ^to read them. It is a modest estimate to say that 
the Croix- itself has a million readers every day, while 
the net sales of its chief weekly publication, the illustrated 
Pelerin (which was the first journalistic venture of the 
Bonne Presse, and will this year be fifty years old) ex- 
ceed half a million copies. That figure would probably 
be too small for the average net sales of each volume of 
its popular Lives of the Saints, while the Pelerin 3 s annual 
almanac sells over 600,000 copies. The list of its mis- 
cellaneous publications is very long, and many of them 
have regular circulations that easily reach six figures. 
As for the publicity department, its small "Life of Jeanne 
d'Arc" vhas already sold more than two million copies 
alone; while the aggregate sales of its series of popular 
novels are also in the third million. 

It must be remembered that the circulation of the Croix 
itself, which in England would not place it in the first 
rank of daily newspapers, is phenomenal in France. The 
conditions of newspaper distribution in the two countries 
are very different A London daily paper can count upon 
a population of some ten million people all living within 
at most an hour by train from its London office; while 
if it sets up another printing plant in Manchester it has 
fully ten million more people within the same immediate 
radius of distribution. The. whole of England and the 
Lowlands of Scotland can be reached by either of the 
two offices before noon. But in Paris the available public 
is incomparably smaller. There are certainly not more 
than ten million people within the whole area from Paris 
to the Belgian and German frontiers and northwest to 


Le Havre, while the communications, whether by road 
or by railway, are not nearly so well organized as in Eng- 
land, even for covering the district nearest to Paris within 
this much larger area. About one-tenth of the popula- 
tion of France lives in Brittany, which is so distant that 
the Paris newspapers cannot be delivered there till late 
at night ; while the large populations in the south around 
Lyons and Marseilles and Saint-Etienne, which represent 
a considerable potential public for any newspaper, are 
much further still. And even if all the principal centers 
of population could be brought within reach of Paris by 
organization of rapid transport, they still represent less 
than half of the whole people of France. A country in 
which more than half the people still live in rural com- 
munities presents insuperable obstacles to regular news- 
paper distribution. It implies also that a large propor- 
tion of the people have not acquired the habit of reading 

Here indeed the Croix has a substantial advantage. 
It aims largely at catering to an old-fashioned public that 
has not yet got the newspaper habit. Its public consists 
very largely apart from the clergy and the most zealous 
Catholics of peasants scattered throughout the whole 
country. A very large proportion of its readers consists 
of direct subscribers, and the paper is probably justified 
in claiming that it has more direct subscribers than any 
other daily newspaper in the world. Its system of distri- 
bution is based to a great extent upon direct subscriptions. 
With the backing of the clergy it has got together a 
whole army of some fifty thousand voluntary salesmen, 
organized in 18,000 committees, all over France. One 
of the most recent developments of its inexhaustible re- 
sources is the employment of Catholic boy scouts as sales- 
men for the Croix. Naturally they can do no more than 


increase the casual sales; but there is another still more 
efficacious method, in which even bedridden invalids have 
played a very successful part. The Croix is supplied at 
specially reduced terms whenever a dozen or more sub- 
scribers combine together; and all through France zealous 
workers who are thus collecting batches of subscriptions 
at reduced rates, never cease from their efforts to extend 
their number. 

"I wish," declared M. Feron-Vrau, the proprietor of 
the Croix, at the last annual meeting of the shareholders, 
"that we had not only an organization to develop the 
Good Press but also an organization to destroy the Bad 
Press." Certainly few men living have done so much 
for the development and the success of Catholic journal- 
ism in their own country. The story of the Bonne Presse 
will always be inseparably associated with his name. It 
was th& Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption who 
made a modest beginning with the enterprise of the 
Bonne Presse when they founded the weekly Pelerin in 
1873. I* 1 !88o they founded a new and more ambitious 
venture entitled the Croix, which began as a monthly 
magazine, and three years later became a daily newspaper. 
When the anticlerical prosecutions began to rage the 
Assumptionists were forced to abandon their direct con- 
trol, and M. Feron-Vrau assumed the responsibilities of 
its proprietorship in 1900. In 1908 the anticlericals, 
who regarded the Maison de la Bonne Presse as a very 
formidable enemy since its violent campaign during the 
Dreyfus trial, succeeded at last in shaking his position as 
well. At the beginning of that year he was suddenly dis-" 
possessed of his title-deeds to the site and the plant of the 
establishment, and he found himself obliged to issue an 
urgent appeal to all the Catholics of France to finance a 
new company, with a capital of loo-franc shares, for the 


purpose of saving his own property from the liquidators. 
He appealed for two million francs, and within a fortnight 
three and a half millions had been subscribed. The new 
company was thus formed under the name of the Soci&te 
Jeanne d'Arc, and it is now the actual proprietor of the 
Bonne Presse. 

But while every credit is due to M. Feron-Vrau and 
his collaborators ^f or creating this magnificent organiza- 
tion, so powerful that it is now, in a position to give 
indispensable support to the many local editions of the 
Croix in various parts of France, the vital question re- 
mains for all those who are working for the same ends 
in different countries how far has the Bonne Presse in 
France really succeeded in counteracting the anti-Catholic 
press? How many of the million 'daily readers of the 
Croix would be readers of anticlerical or non-Catholic 
papers if the Croix were not published? How far is it 
preaching only to the converted? How far is it read 
not by ordinary newspaper readers but by people who 
either buy other newspapers as well or take no interest 
in newspapers at all ? That the Pelerin and some of the 
other publications have acquired great popular circula- 
tions on their own merits is beyond question. They chal- 
lenge competition with any other publications of the same 
kind and they undoubtedly have prevented millions of 
French boys and girls from becoming familiar with the 
vulgarity and the materialism of the typical children's 
papers in other countries. As for the Croix itself, I can 
only venture the personal opinion that it appears to be 
too strictly clerical to appeal to the ordinary newspaper 
reader. Whether it is true or not, as its critics allege, 
that its reactionary politics and its aggressively clerical 
tone have hindered rather than assisted the recovery of 
the Church in France, I do not presume to judge. 


An outside observer may, however, express some aston- 
ishment at the persistent complaints among French Cath- 
olics as to the absence or backwardness of their Catholic 
press. A glance at the Almanack Catholique published 
by Mgr. Baudrillart's "Comite des Amities Frangaises a 
FEtranger," shows a very imposing list of newspapers 
and press associations, most of which are entirely Cath- 
olic, and the rest decidedly friendly to the Catholic move- 
ment. To talk of popular newspapers like the Petit Pari- 
sien or the Petit Journal, which are chiefly newspapers 
with no very definite political tendencies, or even the 
Matin, as hostile to the Catholic Church seems to the 
foreign observer unjustified. Compared with the English 
press, for instance, they devote an immense proportion 
of space to Catholic activities to reports of episcopal 
promotions, to the Pope and the Vatican generally, or to 
the work of distinguished French ecclesiastics. During 
the elections of the new Pope, however, the whole French 
press, with the exception of the definitely anticlerical 
organs like the Socialist CEuvre or the Bolshevist Hu- 
manite, gave all their principal space to it day after 
day. It is certainly true that, with the exception of the 
Echo de Paris, none of the half-dozen most important 
daily newspapers in Paris are definitely pro-Catholic. It, 
however, not only publishes regular Catholic news from 
its special correspondent M. Charles Pichon every morn- 
ing, but very frequently devotes its special articles to 
Catholic subjects. The Journal des Debats,. which ranks 
almost among the leading group of national dailies, is no 
less friendly to the Church. The Figaro, with its select 
aristocratic public, and the Gaulois, with its considerable 
circulation among the intellectuals, both make a special 
feature of their religious correspondent's articles every 
morning. The Libre Parole, which was founded in the 


violently anti-Semitic atmosphere some thirty years ago, 
has a comparatively small circulation, but it is the rec- 
ognized organ of a very important section of the Cath- 
olic movement, arid its weekly supplement, giving a lucid 
chronicle of the principal Catholic news of the week, is 
an indispensable guide to foreign students.- Violently 
opposed to the republican sympathies of the Libre Parole, 
is the royalist daily the Action Franqaise, which has 
created for itself a very vigorous, a widely distributed, 
and well organized following throughout France. Most 
of its principal editors are Catholics of an extremely 
truculent type, arid even its political director, M. Charles 
Maurras the real author of the modern royalist move- 
ment in France while persisting in his own convictions 
as an agnostic, is an out-and-out supporter of the Church, 
which he regards as the chief pillar in any stable consti- 
tution for France. 

With such varied support in the press, the Catholics 
of France can hardly claim that they are badly repre- 
sented, even apart from the Croix and its subsidiary local 
newspapers, which flourish in some seventy of the ninety 
French departments. Two of these provincial organs, 
which are generally called the Croix de Province, are 
daily newspapers, one in France's largest northern factory 
town, Lille, and the other in the south, at Grenoble. A 
third appears every second day in Blois, and so covers a 
large area of central France, while two appear twice a 
week. The remainder are all weekly editions, modeled 
largely upon or borrowed from the weekly edition of the 
Paris Croix. The war severed their close connection 
with the Paris headquarters, and they are now self-sup- 
porting. Before the war their combined net sales reached 
600,000 copies, and although this figure has not been 
fully maintained since the recent development of provin- 


cial editions published by the leading Paris dailies, they 
remain in most cases the most widely read of local papers 
in their own departments. 

The organization of these various newspapers is con- 
siderably assisted by Catholic news agencies and syndi- 
cates. The Maison Ae la Bonne Presse is the most im- 
portant of these, and it also is closely connected through 
the personality of M. Feron-Vrau who is president of 
both Societies with the "Presse Regionale," a company 
formed with a capital of 3^ million francs, which owns 
about a dozen fairly important provincial newspapers 
which are all connected by special wires with its head 
office in Paris and are supplied by it with syndicated in- 
formation and articles.. Another central organization 
which deserves special mention is the "Action Populaire," 
founded at Reims before the war arid now rapidly re- 
suming Its old activities in Paris, which aims at providing 
the Catholic press with an armory of facts and informa- 
tion, on the same lines as the program of the Research 
Department of the Labor Party in London. And apart 
from these central organizations and newspapers, there 
are nearly a hundred Catholic weekly and monthly re- 
views, including widely read magazines of general 
interest like the Revue Universelle, one of the most bril- 
liant of the French literary monthlies; a group of care- 
fully edited and well documented literary and critical 
reviews like Le Correspondent (one of the oldest re- 
views in France), or the Jesuits' Les Etudes, the Revue 
des Jeunes or Les Lettres; propagandist political organs 
like M. Marc Sangnier's Democratie Nouvelle, or the 
Christian Social UAme Frangaise; and a variety of theo- 
logical and controversial periodicals. 

Only the insatiable zeal of such an apostle of the mod- 
ern press as M. Feron-Vrau could find inadequate so 


comprehensive an organization as I have here roughly 
indicated. It would seem more natural to feel that there 
exists already an ample nucleus for the future develop- 
ment of a really formidable Catholic press ; and certainly 
most of these organs and agencies give constant proof of 
their determination to expand. The enterprise of Les 
Lettres for instance, in organizing for the past two years 
a Catholic Journalists' Week in Paris, and its plans for 
developing its own very conscientious propaganda, are 
but one symptom of this widespread vitality in the Cath- 
olic press. But the avowedly Catholic organs themselves 
are only part of the general press campaign that has done 
so much to consolidate the Catholic movement. These 
more or less official Catholic newspapers and periodicals 
have served to train a whole school of brilliant and well- 
equipped journalists and writers who have gradually won 
for themselves a wider field. On the staff of almost 
every important newspaper or review in Paris, Catholic 
journalists are now to be found. In some cases, as in 
the Revue des Deux Mondes, for instance, Catholic 
writers have come to hold an unchallenged hegemony. 
Many of the most celebrated modern French writers have 
either been Catholics since their first entry into literature, 
like M. Rene Bazin of the French Academy or M. 
Charles Le Goffic, recently elected President of the na- 
tional Societe des Gens de Lettres. Others, like M. 
Henri Lavedan or M. Maurice Barres in the French 
Academy, or M. Leon Daudet in the Academic Goncourt, 
have reverted to Catholicism after the vagaries of their 
youth, and are now conspicuous figures in all Catholic 
literary activities. And it may be questioned whether 
the influence of these popular writers, who have won 
their reputations among a far wider public than is in- 
cluded in the Catholic movement, is not more effective 


as an agency of Catholic propaganda than is that of the 
strictly clerical writers, the limitations of whose interests 
naturally confine the extent of their appeal. 

The conviction that strictly proclerical propaganda 
can never reach the widest public is perhaps the most 
characteristic feature of a different, and magnificently 
successful enterprise in another part of France. To my 
own mind the founders and organizers of that great Cath- 
olic newspaper which circulates all over northwestern 
France, the Quest Eclair, not only have worked along the 
lines that promise the widest success, but have created an 
enterprise that may well serve as a model to organizers 
of the Catholic press all over the world. There is no 
other daily paper quite like the Quest Eclair in France. 
To the casual reader it appears simply as an extraordi- 
narily well produced, comprehensive and admirably 
edited provincial daily paper. It would be difficult to 
imagine any provincial paper more capably edited. As 
a general newspaper it contains no less of the important 
topical news from day to day than any of the big news- 
papers in Paris. Its news is moreover selected with a 
real sense of news values from the point of view of the 
ordinary reader. Its standard of reporting, as well as 
its whole special correspondence, is remarkably high, and 
gives dignity to the paper. From a technical point of 
view it is, moreover, far superior to the great majority 
of French newspapers. Its type is much clearer, and its 
printing is unlike that of most provincial papers in 
France clean and firm. Instead of being a loosely com- 
posed, unwieldy sheet of four or six pages, it is of a 
smaller size, and there is never room for a spare line on 
any page. It has never less than eight pages ; on Sundays 
it runs to twelve, and I understand that in the near future 
this is to be its minimum size. It is, in short, one of the 


three or four really first-rate provincial dailies that exist 
in France. It differs from the others in the fact that it 
was founded, nearly a quarter of a century ago now, 
expressly as a Catholic newspaper. It has remained ever 
since in the hands of the zealous Catholics who founded 
it as a serious experiment, intended to challenge the non- 
Catholic newspapers on their own ground. Its whole 
staff is definitely Catholic, and consequently its whole 
policy and outlook upon the world is not only implicitly, 
but actively Catholic. 

The Quest Eclair is in fact the realization of a dream 
that has inspired many minds in many countries. If 
France may well be proud of the Bonne Presse, she has 
perhaps even greater reason to be proud of the Quest 
Eclair. I can imagine no enterprise of the kind achiev- 
ing a more complete and unqualified success. Founded 
as a small but ambitious venture by a small group of 
young pioneers, with utterly inadequate resources at their 
disposal, it has become one of the principal daily news- 
papers in France. It has literally driven the great Paris 
dailies out of the field in the remoter parts of its own 
wide area of distribution, while it has acquired an influ- 
ence and a circulation that defy all comparison with those 
of the other local papers of the same region. It has be- 
come a great popular institution, supported by people of 
every sort, including thousands of families to whom no 
other daily newspaper would make any appeal. It is true 
that the northwest corner of France in which it circulates 
offers exceptional scope for a great provincial paper. Ex- 
cept for the densely populated area around, and to the 
north and east of Paris, France is so thinly populated 
that there is no considerable public for any important 
local newspaper, and neither sufficient volume of business 
nor sufficient enterprise, to offer any possibility of obtain- 


ing the large advertising revenue which is indispensable 
to any newspaper's expansion. Journals like the York- 
shire Post, or Liverpool Courier, or the Manchester 
Guardian in England could never have been built up ex- 
cept on the basis of overcrowded industrial populations 
and vast industrial wealth. In France such conditions are 
nowhere to be found on a large scale outside of Paris 
and the northeast. But the northwest, while it contains 
no great industrial cities, does include a very considerable 
population. ' The five, departments running out into the 
Atlantic, which constitute the province of Brittany, are 
all thickly populated with small farms and fishing vil- 
lages, and a number of fair-sized ports; while the adjoin- 
ing province of Normandy, with its great economic 
advantages for producing food for the English markets 
only a few hours away across the Channel, is also both 
rich add heavily populated all along the coast. South 
of Brittany also, along the coast from Nantes to La 
Rochelle, there are more people than in most parts of 
France. And of the whole of this region, reaching west 
to Brest and Lorient, north to Saint-Malo and Cherbourg, 
east to Le Mans and even as far as Le Havre, south to 
Nantes and La Rochelle, the geographical center is the 
old town of Rennes. If it had been chosen after a delib- 
erate study of the map with a view to organizing the dis- 
tribution of a modern newspaper, its situation could 
scarcely have been improved. 

Yet it was sheer accident that made. Rennes the birth- 
place of the Quest Eclair. Its first number appeared one 
morning in August, 1899, at a time when Rennes which 
had been selected -for the second hearing of the great 
Dreyfus trial as the town in France most likely to afford 
a reasonably quiet political atmosphere ?was filled with 
an extraordinary collection of journalists, diplomats, sol- 


diers, and politicians, from every part of France and 
every country in the world. The courage and the instinct 
for dramatic moments which have made the subsequent 
success of the Oldest Eclair are shown in the choice of 
that occasion for its first appearance. It had not, how- 
ever, come into existence, as so many other, journals did 
at that time, to add yet another voice to the babel that 
roared around the name of the little Alsatian Jew. Its 
directors had a much more ambitious program, but they 
saw in the moment of public excitement their opportunity 
for making a favorable start. The real authors of the 
venture who remain still its two principal directors 
were then two young men, the Abbe Trochu, who was a 
junior curate in the diocese of Rennes, and a young naval 
officer, M. Emmanuel Desgrees du Lou, who had re- 
signed his commission in the navy in order to become a 
barrister in Rennes and, still more, to be free to devote 
himself to the propaganda of the Catholic social program 
enunciated in the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII. The 
Abbe Trochu had the same ideals, and the two men had 
met at various congresses in connection with the Catholic 
democratic movement. They had become friends, and 
together conceived the idea of founding a provincial 
daily newspaper which would be devoted to the develop- 
ment of the Christian democratic program. They inter- 
ested others in their project also, and by the time that 
the Dreyfus trial was to take place in Rennes they had 
got together a capital of 80,000 francs (in those days 
roughly $16,000) with which as they saw no hope 
of increasing the amount they determined .to make 
their great adventure. As might have been expected, 
the money was all spent within a few weeks, and the 
paper was faced with the necessity of closing down unless 
more was forthcoming. It had attracted a good deal of 


attention, but no new capital came to their assistance. 
Determined not to abandon their experiment, the original 
shareholders each agreed to mortgage a considerable part 
of his private resources ; and so the Quest Eclair carried 
on. The first year's balance sheet showed a formidable 
deficit. But what ambitious modern newspaper has fared 
otherwise at its inception? It had at least become clear 
that, if its directors did not lose courage, it would win 
through. Its history, even if considered merely as a 
provincial newspaper, is full of interest for the student 
of modern journalism. 

It was directed from the outset with an altogether ex- 
ceptional talent for newspaper organization. When it 
was first launched, the original idea had been, naturally 
enough, that M. Desgrees du Lou should undertake the 
chief administrative responsibilities, while the Abbe 
Trochu was to act as editor-in-chief, and inspire the gen- 
eral policy of the paper. But it was found almost at once 
that their respective positions would have to be changed. 
M. Desgrees du Lou had no training in business affairs 
and very soon realized that he had no aptitude for them; 
while the young priest discovered himself to be pos- 
sessed of organizing qualities and a financial instinct that, 
if he had devoted himself to making money, would have 
made him one of the greatest industrial organizers in 
France. So gradually the_two directors changed the 
roles that had been allotted to them; and at the present 
time M. Desgrees du Lou remains the political director 
of the paper, while the Abbe Trochu is its administrative 
head. It would be impossible to say which contributed 
more largely to making the paper a success. It was in 
every sense a new and bold departure. In politics it 
adopted a line which in Brittany was at that time re- 
garded with bitter hostility. Most Catholic of the French 


provinces, Brittany had remained more or less stead- 
fastly monarchist even to the end of the last century. 
The old idea that no good Catholic could also be a Re- 
publican was still widely accepted among the people, while 
the political leaders, and to a large extent the clergy also, 
openly proclaimed it as an indisputable fact. But the 
group of pioneers who founded the Quest tLclair were Re- 
publicans not only because they considered that the mon- 
archy in France was irrevocably overthrown, but be- 
cause they really believed in the Republic as the most 
suitable form of government for their country. They 
came before the people of northwestern France as 
avowed Republicans, whose chief object in life was to 
advance the cause of Catholic democracy. 

It was only to be expected that, in the beginning at 
least, they should to some extent fall between .two stools. 
The Catholics of the old school regarded them as apos- 
tates; the parties of the Left regarded them as Jesuits in 
disguise, attempting to capture the Republican movement 
in Brittany. Both parties watched their development with 
jealousy and with suspicion. Soon the indignation of the 
old Catholic politicians could contain itself no longer. 
Within the second year of its existence the Quest Eclair 
was confronted with a rival Catholic newspaper, the 
Nouvelliste de Bretagne, founded by the reactionary 
Catholics with the express object of driving the Repub- 
lican organ out of existence. The new paper commanded 
greatly superior resources. It had a capital of a million 
francs, and it had the most powerful political backing in 
Brittany. But it had no personality to guide it, and above 
all it was utterly devoid of any organizing genius fit to 
compete with that of the Abbe Trochu. At the end of 
two years the Nouvelliste had exhausted its resources, 
and the company that founded it went into liquidation. 


It was bought up and revived by another group, of similar 
tendencies, who ran it for five years more until they too 
had to quit the field, having lost another million francs. 
Yet a third company then intervened which still keeps 
the Nouvelliste in existence, and has established it as a 
fairly stable provincial paper. But it is no longer in any 
sense a serious rival to the Quest Eclair. 

The competition with the reactionary Nouvelliste was 
probably one of the chief factors in the success of the 
Quest Eclair. It freed it once and for all from the at- 
mosphere of suspicion that had prevented it from win- 
ning the confidence of the democratic parties ; and instead 
of being regarded as a Conservative organ, it gained 
a new popularity, not only for its astonishing journalistic 
enterprise, but as a courageous and progressive organ of 
opinion. Politicians who had hitherto ignored its ex- 
istence sbegan to give it encouragement, and still more, 
began to find it an invaluable platform for their own 
purposes. It acquired a definite position in politics. But 
while it was thus consolidating its political influence, it 
was gaining ground every day by its enterprise as a pro- 
vincial newspaper. There had been nothing of the kind 
in Brittany and the northwest before. Two of the Paris 
dailies, the Petit Parisien and the Petit Journal, had be- 
gun to send special editions there, which arrived late at 
night or on the following morning; but the provincial 
newspaper was a wholly new idea. The Quest Eclair 
not only concentrated on questions of local significance 
and Brittany has many such interests that scarcely con- 
cern the rest of France but began to organize a rapid 
news service from its own special correspondents in every 
important center. It has gone on developing this service 
to such an extent that it now publishes eight separate 
editions. The leading page and the principal news page, 


as well as the advertisement pages, remain the same in 
each, but the main part of the paper, which gives a sum- 
mary of all the local news of any importance or interest, 
varies according to the district for which it is intended; 
so that its readers in Rennes find the principal columns 
devoted to their own local news, while those in Le Mans 
or in Nantes or in Brest find the same columns filled with 
reports concerning their own affairs. All this develop- 
ment of the local news service, as well as the whole organ- 
ization of its supply of information the installation of 
a private wire from Paris, the selection of special corre- 
spondents, the enlistment of well known writers, has 
been mainly the work of the Abbe Trochu. To him, too, 
is chiefly due the credit for the enormous development 
of the paper's advertising revenue, and the magnificent 
organization of its system of distribution. 

In an enterprise which has assumed the proportions of 
the Quest ftclair, with its immense daily circulation, with 
its dozen weekly newspapers for each of the departments 
in which it circulates, and with its various subsidiary 
enterprises, it is not possible to apportion the measure 
of success that is due to each of the directing personal- 
ities. The war, throwing the whole weight of responsi- 
bility upon the Abbe Trochu's shoulders, revealed in him 
a genius for rapid and versatile organization which 
would entitle him to rank among the most brilliant or- 
ganizers of industry in any country. By 1914 the 
continued success of the paper was amply assured. It 
had even paid a small dividend at the end of the second 
year ; and in the succeeding years there were very con- 
siderable profits a great part of which was set aside 
to build up substantial reserves. The expenses required 
to meet the growing development of the paper, had, how- 
ever necessitated further calls upon those who had sub- 


scribed the original capital, and it had before long been 
raised to the figure of 560,000 francs (at present ex- 
change more than $30,000) which remains the present 
capital of the company. Considering that the actual 
paper used in any one day's editions of the Quest 
Eclair costs 10,000 francs at least, to say nothing of 
wages and salaries and rents and the vast expenditure 
that has been involved in the magnificent modern ma- 
chinery and equipment of the newspaper offices and 
works, the capital seems ludicrously small. For the 
shareholders, however who are still the original pio- 
neers and the actual creators of the enterprise it has 
meant handsome dividends; and it is no secret that the 
annual gross profits frequently exceed the capital upon 
which the dividends have to be paid. Its prosperity was 
fairly established when the war broke out, and during 
the war its circulation increased prodigiously. In the 
absence of the managing director and most of his prin- 
cipal colleagues on the administrative side, the Abbd 
Trochu had to undertake their work as well as his own, 
besides facing unprecedented demands upon the resource- 
fulness of all newspaper proprietors. The Abbe Trochu 
rose magnificently to every emergency. He organized 
and developed his service of war news to such an extent 
that his circulation increased within a -very short time 
from 80,000 to 400,000 copies a day. 

Then he was suddenly confronted with the impossi- 
bility of obtaining paper. To get paper from Scandinavia 
to France was impossible: America was the only source 
of supply that could be considered. But all the available 
shipping accommodation was already commandeered. 
Single-handed as he was, the Abbe Trochu decided to 
add to his crushing burden of work a new enterprise. 
With no more knowledge of shipping than he had had 


of printing or of advertising when he founded the Quest 
Eclair, he bought four ships, found them crews (at a 
time when every able-bodied man was engaged on war 
work) and commissioned them to bring him back paper 
from the other side of the Atlantic. Having embarked 
upon this new adventure, he realized that it also had 
great commercial possibilities if it was courageously han- 
dled. Not content with becoming a shipowner for a 
specific purpose, he planned out a complete itinerary for 
them by which they went first to England with a French 
cargo from Saint-Malo, then to Lisbon with an English 
cargo, thence with a Portuguese cargo to Newfoundland, 
and from there with yet another cargo to the United 
States. Large profits were to be made by those who 
cared to risk their fortunes on the seas in those days, 
and when the four ships found, on their arrival in Amer- 
ica, that part of the paper supplies were not yet ready 
for delivery, they cabled for permission to sail back to 
France, and set out on the same round again. Two of 
the four ships were sunk by submarines on their second 
homeward journey, but the other two brought their car- 
goes of paper safely to Brittany. These ships still remain 
the property of the Abbe Trochu, who being unwilling 
to sell them at the low prices that prevailed after the 
war proceeded to develop his first experiment by send- 
ing them out to Newfoundland to catch cod. This in its 
turn has led to yet another enterprise, for the Abbe found 
that there was no factory for curing cod in Brittany, and 
that the fish had to be taken to Bordeaux. So once again 
he ventured, and his various enterprises now include a 
fish-curing business which he has established at Saint- 

I give the details of this episode as an illustration of 
the enterprise arid the powers of swift organization that 


have gone to make the Quest Eclair, what it is today. 
Among other instances of the same qualities I should 
mention yet another development that originated likewise 
in the Abbe Trochu's herculean administration of the 
newspaper during the war. At the same time that paper 
supplies were running short, while the circulation of the 
Quest Eclair was leaping upwards, the distribution of 
the newspapers was becoming paralyzed by the curtail- 
ment of railway services and by the difficulty of main- 
taining any regular motor transport system. With its 
wide area of action, the Quest Eclair was threatened by 
the loss of the huge sales it had built up in distant towns 
like Brest or Nantes or Cherbourg unless it could assure 
absolute regularity of delivery. The Abbe Trochu ran- 
sacked the whole department of which Rennes is the cap- 
ital to obtain an adequate fleet of motor cars. To find 
reliable 5 vehicles was difficult enough: to find drivers for 
them was all but hopeless. Once again he 'decided to get 
the whole organization into his own hands. He estab- 
lished a special garage in Rennes for the Quest Eclair, 
which by the end of the first year had cost the paper little 
short of a million francs. But the garage still remains. 
It has become one of the most important in the city, and 
its commercial business for private firms now brings in 
nearly half a million francs of profit to the newspaper. 
The same story could be told about the utilization of 
waste products. All the discarded and unused ends of 
paper are turned into stationery or sold for bookmaking, 
and the large bookshop and stationery office attached to 
the newspaper is yet another flourishing business, which 
helps to swell the profits of the whole enterprise and to 
strengthen and extend its development. 

It will be seen that in its own way the Quest Eclair has 
been an even greater financial success than the Bonne 


Presse. Restricting its activity to a provincial sphere, 
and relying solely on its own merits as a newspaper, it 
has achieved a solid prosperity and established an invin- 
cible influence in the public life of northwestern France. 
The Bonne Presse has worked on other lines. Its success, 
which could certainly never have been secured without 
consummate organizing ability, has been assisted to a 
very large extent by the systematic support of the clergy 
and by the fact that it has undertaken to become the prin- 
cipal religious publishing house in France. No real com- 
parison of the two ventures can therefore be made ; and 
it is not for a foreign observer to start such invidious 
controversies. But it is of vital importance for those 
who are working at the organization of a Catholic press 
in other countries to discover as far as possible what has 
been the effective influence of both types of Catholic 
journalism. It may be said that France, with the Bonne 
Presse and the Quest Eclair actually affords an almost 
ideal model of each type. It is unfortunate that the polit- 
ical differences that set both papers in opposition to one 
another have led in northwestern France to a determined 
rivalry between the republican Quest Eclair and the reac- 
tionary Nouvelliste (of which M. Feron-Vrau, the pro- 
prietor of the Croix, is now the principal 'director). And, 
whether it be due to political reasons or to a decided pref- 
erence among the French peasants for one sort of jour- 
nalism rather than another, the fact has to be' noted that 
the Quest Eclair has at least ten times the circulation of 
its rival. It caters, it is true, for a much wider public, 
and its magnificent organization enables it to supply dis- 
tricts where the Nouvelliste can scarcely penetrate. But 
it can hardly be doubted that with its progressive politics, 
its much more comprehensive news service, its brilliant 
special articles by writers who are not only of the very 


highest distinction, but are alert and practised journal- 
ists, with its popular competitions, and its pages of sport- 
ing news it must naturally appeal to a far wider public 
than its rival, which concentrates chiefly upon more or less 
ecclesiastical information. 

Whether this deliberate catering to the modern public 
taste in journalism is to be recommended in preference 
to the more sober and serious journalism which the Bonne 
Presse has brought to a fine art, is another matter. But 
it is difficult to resist the argument constantly put for- 
ward in their own justification by the directors of the 
Quest Eclair that they have not only created a news- 
paper which has throughout treated as its first object the 
fulfillment of its original mission to popularize and ex- 
tend the doctrines of Christian democracy, but has so 
securely established its own position that no anticlerical 
newspaper could now be founded in Brittany. That is, 
of course, a point of immense importance. Overwhelm- 
ingly Catholic as Brittany still remains, there is no doubt 
that if it had not been for the Quest Eclair there would 
have been a free field either for the non-Catholic Paris 
newspapers or for the creation of a definitely anticler- 
ical provincial newspaper in support of M. Briand and 
his socialist colleagues in the northwest. And this neces- 
sity to prevent the formation of an anticlerical press is 
still greater in other parts of France where Catholic in- 
V fluence is neither so strong nor so well organized. But 
while the Quest Eclair has in this respect achieved what 
the directors of the Bonne Presse, working on their more 
restricted lines could never have done, it must be remem- 
bered that the success of the Quest Eclair is of a kind 
that requires the rarest genius to produce. The Abbe 
Trochu stands in the front rank of the great newspaper 
creators of his generation; and such men are unfortu- 


nately hard to find. The work of the Bonne Presse re- 
quires less highly specialized ability, and can always rely 
upon organized support on a national scale. But while 
the Bonne Presse offers a model of Catholic press organ- 
ization that is more susceptible of imitation in other 
countries, the Quest Eclair is so magnificent an achieve- 
ment that of the two enterprises its study is likely to 
provide more fruitful lessons. 



IT is upon the Syndicats Chretiens, or Catholic trade 
unions, that the leaders of the Catholic movement in 
France have concentrated their most determined efforts. 
If it were possible to estimate the extent of their real 
influence in the world of French labor politics, we would 
have a fair measure of the social and political importance 
of the Catholic movement itself. But any such estimate 
is unfortunately impossible. The French trade unions, 
of all sorts, are so different from the analogous working- 
class organizations in other countries that even a com- 
parison of numerical strength is of no real value. At no 
time has there been in France anything like the same 
weight of trade union membership as in England or in 
Germany or in the United States. While in most other 
countries since the war in Italy as in Germany and 
Great Britain, or in Central Europe as in Scandinavia 
there has been a steady and enormous increase in the 
number of organized workers, in France on the other 
hand there has been such a diminution of membership 
in the principal old trade union organization, the Con- 
federation Generate du Travail, that it has all but ceased 
to have any effective influence in France. Before the war 
it was one of the most vital and formidable trade union 
federations in Europe. It had introduced "sabotage" as 
a recognized method of industrial warfare, which was 



beginning to strike terror among the big employers of 
every country. It was also bringing about a new phase 
of the industrial movement throughout Europe, which 
tended to supersede the old gospel and the old methods 
of Marxian socialism by the doctrines of Syndicalism and 
the weapon of the "sympathetic strike." 

During the war, trade unionism became suspect in 
France owing to the pacifist tendencies of many of its 
former leaders. Public opinion among all classes in 
France was so overwhelmingly concentrated upon the 
war, as long as the German armies were still fighting on 
French soil and so near to Paris that the sound of bom- 
bardments could be heard on most nights in the capital 
itself, that the revolutionary tendencies which .asserted 
themselves elsewhere in Europe could obtain no serious 
hold. Immediately after the war, and during the years 
of demobilization, there was a brief period in which the 
trade unions experienced a revival. But the ferment of 
revolutionary unionism rose too quickly, and by precip- 
itating a gratuitous general strike on the railways in the 
summer of 1920, the revolutionaries stampeded orthodox 
French trade unionism into sheer catastrophe. The rail- 
way strike broke down in ignominious and abject failure 
and resulted at once in a landslide away from the Con- 
federation Generate du Travail. Its membership fell 
within a few months afterwards from somewhere about 
two millions (it is impossible to obtain exact or reliable 
figures concerning the old trade union movement in 
France) to well under a million. It went on falling till 
it was little more than half a million. Then this remnant 
of disillusioned unionism split violently into two contend- 
ing factions, over the question of affiliation with Moscow. 
A bare majority voted against any such affiliation partly 
through genuine dislike of Bolshevism, but still more 


through the knowledge that all France was overwhelm- 
ingly anti-Bolshevik. The minority thereupon refused to 
accept the decision of the majority and seized the C.G.T. 
headquarters; and for some time afterwards there were 
violent conflicts between the two sections. And the 
split naturally led to a still further decline in the mem- 
bership of the C.G.T., from which it is only now very 
slowly recovering. 

Such a situation obviously gave unrivaled opportunity 
to the organizers of ,the Catholic trade unions, and they 
have availed themselves of it to the utmost. But before 
discussing the remarkable record of their recent suc- 
cesses and their continuous growth, it is necessary first 
to explain how there came to be such organizations at all. 
Trade unionism, until the Catholic social movement be- 
gan to grow throughout Europe under the inspiration of 
Pope Leo XIII's encyclicals, was generally speaking, 
anathema to all devout Catholics in France. The word 
"Catholic" on the other hand was equally obnoxious to 
the great majority of the town populations who <vere 
susceptible to industrial organization, and who had for 
several generations more or less completely lost touch 
with the Church in France. In such conditions the social 
revolutionary movement, as it spread from Germany into 
France, naturally assumed a strongly anti-Catholic ten- 
dency. Marx and Engels and its principal authors in 
Central Europe were mostly Jews, preaching a passionate 
gospel of republicanism and class warfare. Their dis- 
ciples in France naturally regarded as their irreconcilable 
enemies the Catholics, who were generally suspected of 
an impenitent royalism, and their Church, which con- 
demned all teaching of class hatreds, which refused to 
regard poverty as a thing disgraceful in itself, , which 
actually encouraged congregations of men and women 


to adopt poverty as a permanent condition of life, and 
which taught obedience to the laws as one of the civic 
virtues. This fundamental incompatibility between Cath- 
olic teaching and that of the revolutionary socialists led, 
particularly in France, to a rooted distrust of the Church 
by the industrial working classes, while the traditional 
prejudices of the French clergy ranged them among the 
strongest opponents of the trade unions in the begin- 
ning. Inevitably the trade union ^movement became not 
only anti-Catholic but definitely and avowedly anticler- 
ical; and when great Catholics like the Comte de Mun 
and the Marquis de la Tour du Pin sought to devote 
themselves to a practical realization of the social doctrines 
of Leo XIII, they found themselves regarded with deep 
suspicion on the part of the working classes, while the 
anticlerical revolutionary leaders did all in their power 
to discredit their efforts on behalf of the workers. 

Such conditions gave rise to the Catholic trade unions. 
On the one hand the Catholics found themselves par- 
alyzed by this universal suspicion of their motives, when- 
ever they desired to play an active part in improving the 
material conditions of life among the poor. They were 
shut out from the confidence of the working classes and 
must either join the rising forces of trade unionism, or 
create new working-class organizations for themselves. 
At the same time they found that the many legitimate 
and well-founded grievances of the working classes were 
forcing them to throw in their lot with the revolutionary 
agitators, and to support men who made violently anti- 
clerical propaganda part of their stock in trade as trade 
union organizers. For in France more than elsewhere, 
the typical trade union organizer was always proud of 
his fanaticism ; and the familiar "trade union diplomacy" 
of the English trade unionists has always been treated 


with contempt. In France the trade unions, with their 
small but select memberships, are not composed of ordi- 
nary working-class men but for the most part of intel- 
lectuals or professional agitators; and the French trade 
unions have consequently always been associated with 
direct action, with a decided inclination to exploit the 
dramatic possibilities of street conflicts, "les eventuoH- 
tes de la rue! 3 Such an attitude towards social prob- 
lems, apart from all question of anticlerical propaganda 
conducted by the socialist trade unions, was contrary to 
the whole social training and the political philosophy, 
not only of aristocratic reformers like de Mun or Mon- 
talembert, but of all devout Catholics. 

The latest figures which have been issued by the French 
Ministry of Labor do not go further than the first day 
of 1920. At that time there were in France 5,076 em- 
ployers' associations with a total membership of 379,855 ; 
.and a slightly larger number (5,283) of workers' unions, 
with an aggregate membership of 1,083,967 (of whom 
239,000 were women) ; as well as 175 "mixed" associa- 
tions of employers and employed with 31,806 members; 
while the largest group of trade unions though many 
of them cannot be strictly described as such, since they 
more nearly resemble what we would call cooperative 
societies are the agricultural "syndicats" of which there 
were 6,519 with a total membership of 1,083,967. Since 
that date, however, these totals must have been pro- 
foundly modified. The former secretary general of the 
C.G.T. declared at Mulhouse in August, 1921, that, since 
the split broke up the old organization, its aggregate 
membership had declined from two millions in 1920 to 
700,000 at the time he was speaking. The "unified" or 
definitely pro-Bolshevik section of the C.G.T. almost 
certainly does not include more than a hundred thousand 


members, and very little credence is given to the state- 
ments by its official organ that it has more than treble 
that membership, and that their personnel is greatly su- 
perior in every respect to that of the old C.G.T. 

The familiar complaint laid by the socialists against 
the Catholic trade unions in recent years is th?t they 
are no more than artificial creations, brought into being 
and supported by the Catholic conservatives as a means 
of safeguarding their own vested interests, whether as 
employers or as ecclesiastics. But the earliest origins of 
these Catholic trade unions knew nothing of the distin- 
guished patronage that is now lavished upon their suc- 
cessors all over France. They were unquestionably 
inspired and directed by religious influences in the begin- 
ning, but it was the humblest of ecclesiastics working 
among the poor who brought them into existence. It 
was one of the Christian Brothers, Brother Dieron, who 
first got together a handful of seventeen young employees 
in 1887 and persuaded them to constitute themselves into 
a trade union which has since become the nucleus of the 
Catholic trade union movement. And it was a nun* one 
of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, who, fifteen years 
later and only twenty-one years ago now, first gathered 
together in the back premises of a small workshop eight- 
een nurses, fifteen girl employees, and fifteen working 
girls, and set them also on the road to found what is 
now one of the most important women's trade unions 
in France, the Union Centrale des Syndicats Profes- 
sionnels Feminins. Ecclesiastical guidance and encour- 
agement has therefore assisted and fostered the move- 
ment since its inception ; but they were the most modest 
of ecclesiastics, who understood modern France and who 
felt very deeply for the poor and the defenceless. 

Trade unionism in France and in England presents very 


different aspects. In England the ordinary workingman 
is usually a member of at least one trade union. In 
France the trade unionist is in these days almost always a 
rather exceptional person who takes an unusual interest 
in industrial politics. Thus it is that the oldest and most 
important of the Catholic trade unions the Syndicat 
des Employes du Commerce et de I' Industrie, which was 
founded in 1887, quite recently celebrated with great 
exultation the fact that it had reached a total membership 
of 10,000. The Catholic railwaymen's unions are sim- 
ilarly small in numbers ; their combined total is only 
some 20,000, but their influence was sufficient to play 
a determining part in crushing the railway strike of two 
years ago. Almost every sort of trade or profession is 
included in the federation which has grown out of the 
first federation founded in 1913, and which moved into 
its present headquarters at the Rue Cadet two years ago. 
When the original Syndicat des Employes du Commerce 
et de I'Industrie was able to announce proudly in 1889 
that it now counted a hundred members, its treasurer 
had to draw attention to the fact that only three of them 
had paid their subscriptions regularly. When twenty- 
four years later the same union decided to acquire the 
new offices in the Rue Cadet the members subscribed 
little less than half a million francs for this purpose. The 
present Confederation Frangaise des Travailleurs Chr&- 
tiens was the outcome, of a national congress held in No- 
vember, 1919, which was attended by delegates of some 
350 unions, representing an aggregate membership of 
100,000 unionists.- Six months later a second congress 
was called to give formal realization to the proposal for a 
wider Federation, and the number of unions represented 
had risen between the congresses of November and of 
May to 578, representing a membership of 140,000. In 


these totals are included the membership of several special 
federations such as the Federation des Syndicats Profes- 
sionnels Feminins or the Federation des Cheminots de 
France, which would in England correspond roughly to 
national trade unions. Not all the various Catholic trade 
unions scattered throughout France are yet affiliated to 
the Central Confederation, but at the last Congress the 
total membership was announced as including roughly 
750 different unions and an aggregate of some 125,000 
workers. Among the more important trades represented 
in these totals are Furnishing, Building, Jewelry, Cloth- 
ing, Chemicals, Motor Cars, Engineering, and Groceries. 
But how much do all these miscellaneous trade organ- 
izations really stand for? The smallness of their num- 
bers would suggest that they have been organized by 
priests who realize the importance of social reform and 
who have used their influence among devout Catholic 
families to get their women and their younger members 
to join these "syndicatsf That is, of course, what any 
socialist trade unionist in France will tell you that the 
Catholic trade unions are nothing more than "clerical 
propaganda." But it is not even true that the move- 
ment owes its beginnings to such deliberate political strat- 
egy on the part of the French clergy, although it is 
obviously true that the active assistance of the clergy has 
been of enormous assistance to the movement. On the 
question of the eight-hour day, for instance, the Cath- 
olic unions have taken as firm a stand as any one else ; and 
in so doing they have mobilized on the side of labor, in 
one of its most formidable struggles, the whole-hearted 
support of a mass of conservative Catholic influence in 
the Chambre des Deputes and in the Senat which would 
have otherwise been instinctively opposed to the demands 
of labor. To this friendly attitude on the part of the 


conservatives must be attributed a great deal of the solid 
success that in several cases has placed the Catholic trade 
unions in the forefront of labor agitations in France. 
Thus, it was the Federation des Employes Catholiqwes du 
Commerce et de I' Industrie that in 1921 got Parliament 
to grant the clerical workers the same privilege of reduced 
railway fares that was already given to manual workers; 
and the ceaseless instigation of the Catholic trade unions 
had far more effect than all the protests of the C.G.T. in 
forcing the Bloc National parliament to take social re- 
form seriously. Their candidates have moreover suo 
ceeded brilliantly in municipal elections and have attained 
an astonishingly large proportion of representation upon 
official Labor Councils through the whole country. Their 
women's union has intervened very effectively in the 
agitation to enforce a weekly half-holiday, and in nego- 
tiations to regulate conditions of work in the banks, in 
the dressmaking and perfumery trades. In Bordeaux they 
have secured an important agreement concerning work 
in the retail trades. In the southeast a characteristic 
union was formed by a few Catholic women workers to 
protest against a frankly revolutionary strike in the silk 
trade. This union, like so many others, has taken root 
and flourished; and in various parts of the country it is 
now found that most of the workers' representatives 
who form conciliation boards are members of Catholic 
trade unions. 

The Catholic trade unions have in fact demonstrated 
that a social organization which remains devoutly and 
openly Catholic, which carries the banner of the Church 
side by side with that of democracy, can not only survive 
ridicule but become an extremely powerful force. At 
their annual congresses the various unions invariably 
invite their chaplains or some notable ecclesiastic to honor 


them with his presence. The more important congresses 
open their proceedings by sending messages of homage 
to the Pope, while they generally include an apostolic 
blessing from a Cardinal or an Archbishop. At the last 
congress of the national confederation for instance, Mgr. 
Ceretti, the Papal Envoy to France, presided, and every 
one present knelt while he recited the benediction after 
a brief opening speech. It is an extraordinary sight to find 
a trade union congress meeting with a crucifix hanging 
on its walls, and with a large attendance of the most 
celebrated members of the clergy in Paris. 

From the purely industrial point of view the congress 
was of obvious importance. There were more than 150 
delegates present from all parts of France, from Lille 
and Roubaix in the northeast to Saint-Etienne and 
Toulouse in the southwest, from Nantes and Saint-Na- 
zaire and Fougeres in Brittany, to Strasbourg or Mar- 
seilles or Nice. The report on the year's working, pre- 
sented by M. Gaston Tessier, showed that in spite of the 
general discouragement which has depressed the whole 
trade union movement in France, the Catholic trade 
unions' Confederation had consolidated its existing posi- 
tion and made very substantial progress. Forty-five new 
unions had been founded during the past twelve months, 
the number of local or district trade federations had in- 
creased from seventeen to twenty-three; and the number 
of national trade federations is now seven instead of three 
last year. The result of this steady expansion is that 
the federation now represents in all 753 different trade 
organizations and extends to seventy-eight out of a total 
of ninety departments in the whole of France. Even in 
Algeria the movement has taken root, and a railway- 
men's Catholic union was founded there this year. The 
total membership of the federation has now reached 


As for the general activities of the unions, their prop- 
aganda is conducted in every favorable direction. The 
official propagandists of the movement have orders to 
refrain from controversy on any subject not immedi- 
ately concerned with their economic mission, but even so 
the secretary of the federation claims proudly that they 
have on various occasions successfully confronted prop- 
agandists of the communist organizations. This direct 
avowal of the desire to defeat the communist organiza- 
tions is one of the most remarkable features of the Cath- 
olic trade union propaganda, It explains in part the 
bitter resentment felt against it by the older trade union 
agitators. It is not surprising that they have never for- 
gotten the successful efforts of the Catholic unions to 
checkmate the railway strike of 1920, and it is a remark- 
able sign of their self-confidence that the Catholic union- 
ists should persist in boasting openly that they played so 
conspicuous a part in breaking the strike. One might 
have thought that such boasts of having defeated any 
sort of action by organized labor would have done the 
Catholic union movement so much harm as to kill it alto- 
gether. Conditions in France, however, are so different 
from those in England that on the contrary the move- 
ment gathers strength from this open defiance of revo- 
lutionary propaganda. The fact that "its leaders are 
known to be vigorously opposed to any form of extreme 
labor action has strengthened rather than weakened their 
influence. They have inspired their followers with the 
confidence that they will not be led into foolish enter- 
prises, and at the same time they have gone far towards 
convincing the employers that whatever they demand is 
usually reasonable, and will consequently have the support 
of public opinion. 

They have, however, taken an active part in strikes. 


They were prominently concerned in the prolonged strike 
among the textile workers of the district around Roubaix 
and Lille in the autumn of 1921. They played a leading 
part in another important strike in Alsace on a similar 
question of opposing excessive reductions in wages. 
Their record in this respect has been consistent and re- 
markable. When they have set their minds to make a 
stand for any question of labor rights, they" have always 
fought hard and to the end. The capitalists have come 
to regard them as specially formidable once they are 
aroused, because they can generally rely upon the whole- 
hearted and active support of the local clergy, and quite 
possibly of the Bishop, while the whole Catholic press 
throughout France will back them unreservedly. Such 
backing from the most generous and public-spirited sec- 
tion of the French people on any large question of prin- 
ciple may easily involve almost unlimited resources to 
supplement the strike funds of the unions. 

A notable instance of the extent of this general sup- 
port for any clear issue of principle on which the Cath- 
olic Bunions have taken a stand was the question of 
whether or not the law which enforces Sunday closing 
was to be encroached upon. The Catholic trade unions 
immediately gave the lead to the movement of protest 
against certain proposals which had been made by large 
employers in Paris and elsewhere. The attempt to en- 
croach upon the workers' Sunday rest has been already 
carried to lengths which are quite unjustifiable. A clause 
in the act, which permits the local police authorities to 
authorize the opening of shops on certain festival days 
of local character, has been interpreted in many cases 
to cover either the Sunday which falls before a particular 
holiday during the week or even some of the principal 
festivals of the year. A serious attempt was made at the 


end of 1921 to keep the large general shops in Paris open 
by invoking this clause to cover Christmas Day, regard- 
less of the fact that the employees were doubly entitled 
to their holiday because Christmas Day happened to fall 
on a Sunday. Arrangements to keep some of the largest 
stores open had actually been made, and it was only the 
determined intervention of the whole trade union move- 
ment in threatening a simultaneous general strike that 
prevented the plan from being carried out. The incident 
raised the question of Sunday closing in an acute form. 
About the same time another similar issue had to be 
settled. The Postmaster General gave notice that, in re- 
sponse to overwhelming insistence on the part of commer- 
cial interests throughout the country, he proposed to 
resume the delivery of letters on Sundays in the provincial 
towns. The traders had pointed out that they could more 
quickly recover from the prevailing crisis in trade if they 
were given increased postal facilities during the week- 
ends, and the government accordingly decided to meet 
their wishes. There was no question of making the ex- 
isting staff at post offices work overtime. The Post Of- 
fice agreed to take on. a new staff of men and women to 
do the necessary extra work and so to arrange the dis- 
tribution of their time that each employee would have 
to take his turn at Sunday duty and have his holiday some 
other day during the week instead. The number of hours 
to be worked each week would not be increased. But 
the Catholic trade unions were up in arms against this 
proposal at once. They protested with all their force 
to the Government and raised a really notable agitation 
in the country, appealing to the public against it on 
grounds of public economy. It was a striking example 
of the difference between their attitude and that of ordi- 
nary trade unionism. Instead of rejoicing that the 


whole working class would benefit by the fact that the 
government would now have to take on several thousands 
of additional employees, they protested that such a step 
was unnecessary and their main objection to the obliga- 
tion to work on Sunday was essentially religious. They 
attacked the proposal on the ground that it would inter- 
fere with their religious duties and still more that it 
would break up their family life by preventing the work- 
ers from spending their weekly holiday at home among 
their children. The agitation grew quickly. Every Cath- 
olic organization of any importance in the country decided 
to throw in its weight to prevent the new regulations 
from being enforced. Organizations like the Association 
de la Jeunesse Frangaise passed resolutions in every dis- 
trict condemning it and pledging their members never to 
use the posts if they could possibly avoid it on Sundays, 
and to post letters over the week-end only when it was 
absolutely unavoidable. A huge mass meeting was held 
at the SaHle Wagram in Paris, where Cardinal Dubois 
as Archbishop of Paris came and presided, and formally 
promised his support, material as well as moral, in every 
way possible. 

It is significant indeed that this general mobilization of 
the Catholic forces 'did not avail to prevent the post offices 
from being opened on Sundays. Probably the Catholic 
traders felt as much as any one else the need for postal 
deliveries during the week-ends. In any case it is ques- 
tionable whether modern business conditions do not re- 
quire and compel such concessions, just as they compel 
continuous work day arid night in certain factories. But 
the protest which thus grew up out of the initiative taken 
by the Catholic trade unions was eminently characteristic 
of modern France. The speeches made at the meeting in 
the Salle Wagram are well worth studying. No one could 


have fairly said that it was merely a spectacular attempt 
by the Cardinal Archbishop to identify himself with a 
popular cause among his people. Nor could any one who 
listened to the speeches have accused M. Zirnheld, for in- 
stance, of uttering pious sentiments and quoting Pope 
Leo XIII merely to gratify or flatter the distinguished 
ecclesiastics on his platform. The speeches all rang true. 
And when M. Zirnheld declared that they were fighting 
for the preservation of the right to Sunday rest on prin- 
ciple, and that they would accept no other day in the 
week as being a substitute for what they demanded, he 
obviously meant what he said. Equally sincere was his 
declaration that they believed no true social progress to 
be possible or worth fighting for that was not based upon 
the application of Christian teaching. 

There was a remarkable effect of symbolism about the 
whole agitation. Speakers who dealt with the technical 
side of the question protested that, with telegrams and 
telephones and express letter service all available to cope 
with any emergency, there should be no need to keep the 
whole system of postal service at work on a day when 
every one was entitled to take a rest. The argument may 
or may not have been technically sound. It may be that 
capitalism and urban life as it is now constituted does 
involve an intensification of labor and a continuous work- 
ing of the industrial machine which is incompatible with 
Christian teaching. It may be that for cities to continue 
as they are these things are necessary and that many other 
things much more flagrantly unchristian than Sunday 
postal services are indispensable conditions of what we 
know as civilization. But the French Catholic trade 
unions, taking their stand upon Christian principles, re- 
fuse to give way. They protest that there are certain 
fundamental rights in human life, certain fundamental 


decencies which they will never let go without sustained 
resistance. And being logical Frenchmen they will resist 
to the end. This question of the postal deliveries is so 
small an issue that its very significance makes it all the 
more symbolic. But the Catholic trade unions refuse 
absolutely to submit to certain conditions, even though 
in any industrial country they may be regarded as es- 

In other and more far-reaching questions they may be 
expected to adopt a still firmer attitude. The whole trend 
of modern capitalism is towards overproduction in in- 
dustry, towards overwork among men and women. If 
France is to hold her own industrially among the other 
nations she must be prepared to compete with them by 
accepting the same conditions of work. She must either 
be content to fill her countryside with grimy factories 
and to house her urban population in slums, or else she 
must confess defeat. And the question that in these mat- 
ters must determine the future of France is whether or 
not the workingmen of the country are prepared to ac- 
cept such conditions. Are they prepared to accept life 
in industrial areas at all, or will they persist in demands 
which are in terms of capitalism utterly unreasonable, 
like this insistence on regarding Sunday as essentially 
different from any other day of the week? If they are 
then it may safely be said that France has no industrial 
future, or at least that the labor which will work the 
French factories will have to come not from France but 
from other parts of Europe. No one can yet say what 
the future attitude of the French workingmen will be. 
But in so far as the Catholic trade unions are concerned 
it is clear already that for them capitalism in its present 
all-exacting form can never be acceptable, that so long 
as they remain steadfast to their present principles they 


will have conflict after conflict with the capitalists who 
employ them. In some respects indeed they will be even 
less manageable than the revolutionary trade unionists, 
for the C.G.T. at least think primarily in terms of wages 
and of property and are prepared to order their lives in 
accordance with whatever system they can be persuaded 
is most suited to fulfill the needs of a frankly materialist 

Fundamentally in fact the Catholic trade unions in 
France are even more strongly opposed to modern capi- 
talistic organization than are the Socialist trade unions. 
They have shown their power of constructive policy in 
various places, as at Fougeres in Brittany, or at Grenoble 
or in Dauphine, establishing cooperative factories of their 
own rather than go back to work on terms that they 
would never accept from their employers. Their attitude 
is always governed by an amount of caution which often 
appears to workingmen or to sympathizers with the 
labor movement as altogether excessive. But M. Zirn- 
held, the president of the Confederation, met this accusa- 
tion finely in his speech at the congress in Paris last 
Whitsuntide, when he referred to the attitude of many 
employers who "regard the devout Catholic workingman 
as an ideal prey for their exploitation. They regard him 
as a good fool who is usually stupid and" who has been 
so well brought up in ideas of discipline by his own 
Church that he can be counted upon to remain satisfied 
with his position and his wages, however small they may 
be." That is undoubtedly the idea held of Catholic trade 
unionists in many parts of France, and the general 
criticism that is brought against them by the intellec- 
tuals of the country. But the successes in raising wages, 
in subsidizing and prolonging apparently hopeless strikes 
which the Catholic unions have achieved are ample testi- 


mony to their value to the class which they have arisen 
to assist. The fact remains that not only are the Catholic 
trade unions increasing their membership when trade 
unionism otherwise is literally dying out in France, but 
that no other trade unions have at any time had so much 
direct and effective influence upon Parliament or have 
worked together in such complete harmony. 



No other social or economic problem in France sends 
its roots so deep, or is so full of real danger for the 
future of the country, as is that of the steady decline 
in the French birth-rate. It is not surprising that on 
patriotic as well as on moral grounds the leading French 
Catholics are continually crying out against the evil 
results of the depopulation that has within a generation 
reduced the status of France almost to that of a second- 
rate Power, while all the other principal countries in 
Europe are rapidly outdistancing her. The war has in 
fact made the French birth rate a matter of immediate 
concern to the whole of Europe. For nothing gives 
more reality to the talk of a German war of revenge 
as soon as the period of chaos is over, than the knowledge 
that France, by the refusal of her people to increase 
the number of their children, is year by year losing 
her place among the other nations of the Continent. 
M. Clemenceau himself in a speech in the Senate in 
October, 1919, made the remarkable declaration: "If 
France refuses to have large families, it will not 
be of the smallest -use to insert in the Peace Treaty the 
most perfectly framed clauses imaginable ; you may seize 
every gun in Germany, you may 'do whatever you please, 
but France will have been lost, because there will be 
no Frenchmen left." 



The statistics of France's steady retrogression in re- 
lation to the other great powers are very striking. 
Taking the year 1871 as a starting point, they show 
that between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and 
the year of the outbreak of the last war, the popula- 
tion of Germany had risen from roughly 41 millions 
to 68 millions, that of Great Britain from 27 to 42, that 
of Italy from 26 to 36, that of the United States from 
39 to 99, that of Japan from 33 to 53, while the popu- 
lation of France, which had been 36 millions after the 
loss of Alsace-Lorraine, had remained almost stationary, 
increasing only to 39 millions. Since the war, these totals 
and their relation to each other have altered considerably. 
The population of the United States has continued to 
increase at an amazing rate even in spite of the cessa- 
tion of immigration from Europe, and in 1920 (the 
latest year for which complete comparative statistics are 
yet available) the American population was already at 
1 08 millions, far ahead of all other powers. Germany 
which, in 1871 and still on the eve of the great war 
had a far larger man power than any other nation out- 
side of the United States, still comes second on the list 
with a total of 60 millions, in spite of the loss of Alsace- 
Lorraine and of the Polish provinces. Japan comes third 
with 58 millions, Great Britain fourth with 42 millions, 
Italy fifth with 39 millions, and France, which fifty 
years ago had a larger population than any other great 
Power but Germany and the United States, now comes 
last with 37 millions a smaller population than before 
the war, even though she has regained Alsace-Lorraine 
in the interval. 

So decisive a loss of ground in relation to the other 
countries would alone be serious enough, but the situ- 
ation is in reality much worse than these statistics in- 


dicate. The other great Powers are regularly increasing 
their population from year to year, while the population 
of France, having at last shown signs of a temporary 
recovery from its long decline, in reality seems likely 
to decrease still further at the end of a few years, or 
perhaps even sooner. What is still more alarming, there 
are reasons for believing that the decline will be con- 
stantly more rapid than in the past, if the social customs 
of the country are not revolutionized. 

It is admitted on all sides that the root cause of 
France's failure to keep pace with the increase of popu- 
lation in other countries is her low birth-rate. There 
are ominous signs that this refusal to have large families, 
which has kept the population of France more or less 
stationary during the past fifty years, will in the future 
produce a positive decline which may gain momentum 
as the years pass. The death-rate in France is high, 
and a great deal is being done already to reduce it, espe- 
cially among young children. But the same progress in 
the arts of medicine and hygiene which is helping to 
save the lives of infants in France is being applied to 
other countries as well, and the gain to the population 
in this respect cannot do more than keep pace with a 
corresponding gain elsewhere. Tuberculosis also, which 
is a serious factor in the death-rate in France, is being 
combated there as in all other countries, and/ so is the 
abuse of alcoholic drink, which is by no means a negli- 
gible factor. But these remedies for the high death-rate 
do not affect the main problem, which is simply the fact 
that the average number of children to each family in 
France has for years been becoming smaller. Is there 
any reason to believe that the size of the typical French 
family will be increased? 

The annual total of births in France had fallen 


steadily to little more than 900,000 in the eighties ; it fell 
to about 850,000 in the nineties; to about 800,000 in 
the first decade of the century; arid in the three years 
immediately preceding the great war it averaged under 
750,000 a year. During those last years, the total of 
children born in Germany was more than double the 
number of French children. France's loss of ground 
in the race is thus easily explained, and the war has 
added in a frightful way to the loss that had thus taken 
place already before it. France lost nearly 1,400,000 
men killed in battle, and at least as many more are 
maimed for life or made incapable, by illness or by the 
result of their privations in German prisons, of sup- 
porting families of their own. Apart from this loss 
directly attributable to the war, there is the enormous 
loss due to the falling off of the birth-rate in the war 
years. Before the war, the births had fallen to less than 
750,000 a year, but during it they fell off to less than 
400,000 a year. And even in the first year of peace 
the population declined to an alarming extent : the deaths 
in France in the year 1919 exceeded the births by a quar- 
ter of a million. 

Since then there has been an appreciable recovery, and 
in the statistics for the following years a substantial in- 
crease in the population is recorded. In 1920 there was 
a total surplus of 160,000 births over the deaths, in 1921 
there was a surplus of 117,000, and in 1922 a surplus 
of 70,000. Unfortunately almost the whole of this sur- * 
plus is accounted for by the immense increase in the 
number of marriages since the war. In the eighty-seven 
departments other than Alsace-Lorraine there were 
597,500 marriages in 1920, as against an average of 
306,000 a year in the period just before the war. This 
total of nearly 600,000 marriages works out at a ratio of 


159 for every 10,000 of the whole population, whereas the 
normal rate was roughly between 75 and 80 per 10,000 
for the past century. Assuming that these early re- 
cent marriages nearly all produce children within the 
first year, the temporary revival in the birth-rate since 
the war is thus accounted for almost in full by the 
increase in the number of marriages. The excess of 
marriages over the average for normal years is so 
great that it leaves only the smallest margin in the 
statistics for an increased birth-rate among those who 
were married during and before the war; although it 
might reasonably have been assumed that a considerable 
number of those who were married before or during the 
war would have wanted to have at least one more child 
when they were able to resume their family life after it. 

It cannot, therefore, be argued that France, like Ire- 
land, has a low birth-rate because its marriage-rate is 
low. The marriage-rate after the armistice was higher 
than that of any belligerent country. Its ratio of 159 
to 10,000 of the whole population is amazingly high 
even when compared with the corresponding rate 
for the same year of 101 in England and Wales, 96 
in Scotland and in Holland, 88 in Denmark and 77 in 
Germany. Even in the year following the Franco- 
Prussian War the marriage rate rose to only 101. If 
these marriages could only be counted upon to be fruit- 
ful they would go a long way to repopulate France, even 
though the number of marriages has diminished very 
rapidly. It fell from 624,000 (including Alsace-Lor- 
raine) in 1920 to 456,000 in 1921, and there were only 
383,000 marriages in 1922. Even the second half of the 
year 1920 showed an appreciably smaller total of births 
than the first half, and the figures have shrunk rapidly 
since. All the signs now point towards a return to the 


decline in the birth-rate which had been proceeding un- 
broken since the year 1831. The total of births has 
steadily declined in the past three years. It was 834,000 
in 1920, as compared with 790,000 in 1913 (including 
Alsace-Lorraine) ; but there were only 813,000 births in 
1921 and only 760,000 in 1922; so that the number of 
births last year was considerably smaller than before 
the war. 

In the first thirty years of the last century the popu- 
lation of France steadily increased, and the average birth- 
rate from year to year was 32 for every thousand of the 
whole people. In the period between 1831 and 1851 the 
population for the first time began to decline in several 
districts, in the valley of the Garonne, in Normandy, and 
in the mountainous regions of the Center and the South. 
Eight departments in all were affected by this shrinkage, 
and the decline in them was sufficient to reduce the 
average birth-rate for the whole of France from 32 to 
28.2 per thousand. In the next twenty years the ratio 
fell still further to 26.3 per thousand, arid the decline 
spread to forty-nine departments. The areas affected 
included a wider range around the regions which had 
shown a decline in the previous twenty years, while it 
made itself felt also in the east. A decline, due largely 
to emigration into the towns, had also taken place in 
the Central Plateau, and in the regoins of the Pyrenees 
and of the Alps. The twenty years which followed the 
conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War showed a certain 
measure of recovery, in so far as only forty departments 
were affected by the decline instead of the previous forty- 
nine, the drain due to emigration from the mountainous 
regions having more or less ceased ; but the extension of 
birth-control in Normandy and in the valley of the 
Garonne was so rapid that the birth-rate per thousand 


fell still further from 26.3 to 24.6. In the twenty years 
from 1891 to 1911 the decline spread with really alarm- 
ing swiftness. Sixty departments were by now affected 
by it and the ratio per thousand fell from 24.6 to 21.4. 
The only departments which had remained immune from 
it were either those, like the industrial areas between 
Paris and the Belgian frontier and the north coast, which 
were constantly receiving an influx of workers from 
other parts of France or from abroad, or else those like 
Brittany and the region at the foot of the Pyrenees which 
had preserved a strong religious tradition, and in which, 
the law which compels the subdivision of agricultural 
holdings did not operate. The net result of this steady 
decline in the birth-rate for eighty years had been to 
reduce the average number of children to each marriage 
from 4.5 in 1831 to 2.5 in 1913. In 1921 the average 
had fallen to 1.7 for every marriage, and although the 
ratio improved slightly in 1922 it was still less than two 
children to each marriage. 

Such, therefore, is the present problem with which 
France is confronted in the face of her rivals all over 
Europe. Not only is she losing her former position of 
strength in regard to man power in the event of Ger- 
many's planning a future war of revenge, but she is 
already beginning to feel the paralyzing effect of a short- 
age of labor both in her industries and on the land. In 
all the devastated area of northern France at present 
a large proportion of the labor that is employed in re- 
building the ruins, and restoring the land to cultivation 
is foreign labor. Everywhere in the devastated districts 
colonies of laborers from Poland, from the Baltic prov- 
inces and from across the Belgian border are doing the 
greater part of the work of reconstruction. And in 
agriculture the position is similar. 


While the decline in the French birth-rate certainly 
cannot be attributed, as is the case in Ireland, to a low 
marriage-rate nor even to a custom of late marriages, it 
cannot be attributed either to racial sterility. There is no 
evidence to show that the French as a race have become 
incapable of producing large families, while there is 
definite evidence to the contrary, quite apart from the 
well-known fact that a great proportion of the country 
had adopted birth-control as a regular practice, to show 
that the low birth-rate could be increased at once if there 
existed the will to increase it. The late Dr. Bertillon in 
his book on ".Depopulation in France," gives the results 
of an inquiry which he undertook among five hundred 
of his professional colleagues. One of them, whose evi- 
dence was typical of many others, told him that in a 
certain part of the valley of the Garonne it was already 
considered a disgrace for a woman to have a second 
child, while another doctor said that any man who has 
children is regarded with contempt by women as much 
as by men. M. Auburtin quotes an instance of a certain 
village in the South where, after an epidemic had caused 
the death of fifteen children in fifteen different homes, 
they were all replaced in the following year by new births 
in the same homes. One of the organs of the French re- 
population movement, Pour la Vie, recently gave the 
instance of a small commune where within the past year 
there had been three marriages: in each case the bride 
had insisted beforehand on obtaining a promise from her 
husband that there were to be no children. 

The causes of France's depopulation are well known. 
How far are they preventable? Economic forces which 
have gained new strength since the war have undoubtedly 
increased the practice of voluntary sterility in the urban 
centers, where the high cost of living particularly in 


the industrial northeast has made it much more diffi- 
cult for the laboring classes to support children. In his 
circular inviting delegates to attend the third National 
Birth-rate Congress in Bordeaux M. Auguste Isaac, 
deputy for Lyons and a former Minister of Commerce 
who has taken a leading part in the campaign to educate 
public opinion as to the danger to France's status in 
Europe if the country is not repopulated, explained that 
the aim of all social reformers must be to create such 
conditions of life as will enable ordinary men and women 
to have children "without requiring the exercise of a 
heroic virtue." The phrase is not too strong to describe 
the conditions in all the industrial towns of France, and it 
is even more applicable in England ; and the acute short- 
age of houses has added enormously to the difficulties 
of the working classes, whose standard of living prevents 
them from even contemplating submission to the frightful 
conditions of overcrowding which the poor are willing 
to tolerate. The housing shortage has practically made 
the maintenance of large families an impossibility. It is 
not surprising that the working classes also are revolting 
against conditions which not only compel them to pay 
exorbitant rents but even drive them to pathetic efforts 
to conceal from their landlords the number of their chil- 
dren. Such conditions are indeed rarer in France than 
in England, although they are the rule in the great 
cities, but their effect in encouraging the habit of sterile 
marriages is already recognized with profound alarm. 

France still remains, and is likely to remain, a pre- 
dominantly agricultural country. More than 55 per cent 
of her people still live in rural communities, and of the 
few large towns that she possesses, fully half owe their 
prosperity to the fact that they serve as outlets or dis- 
tributing centers for the agricultural products of the 


surrounding country. Moreover France, in so far as 
she is an agricultural country, has prospered since the 
war and is at least not menaced by the uncertainty that 
must always darken the outlook of an industrial popula- 
tion. The cost of living in rural France is not so high, 
and can never involve the same degree of privation as 
among the people who live in large cities. Nevertheless, 
an extremely powerful economic factor has probably 
had more than anything else to do with the introduction 
of birth control in France. The movement began, as 
the statistics show, not in the industrial areas, but in the 
agricultural southwest, and it was directly due to a cause 
which legislation could easily remove. A senseless adap- 
tation of the doctrine of "equality" to all political insti- 
tutions led to the alteration of France's traditional system 
of hereditary law, and since the French Revolution, all 
estates must be equally divided between all the children 
of their proprietors. No measure could have struck so 
deeply at the roots of family life in agricultural France, 
and the result has been that wherever the law is applied 
in full force, the conservatism of the peasantry who have 
inherited their small properties intact for generations, 
has refused to allow any subdivision of the holdings upon 
which each succeeding generation has spent its life's work. 
M. Auburtin is so much impressed with the importance 
of this aspect of the question that he devotes the greater 
part of his book to a detailed analysis of the system of 
land-tenures in each part of France. His analysis of the 
statistics for each 'department shows that in those regions, 
as in Brittany and certain parts of the south, especially 
in mountainous Lozere, where the people have succeeded 
in maintaining the old custom of handing on their prop- 
erties undivided to the eldest son, the birth-rate has 
invariably been higher than elsewhere in France. 


A long succession of French writers and thinkers have 
denounced the subdivision of properties on this same 
ground. Le Play declared that it had "done more to 
weaken France than defeat in a hundred battles," and the 
same view has been eloquently urged by Comte, Balzac, 
Michelet, Montalembert, and a host of other Frenchmen 
who had wide experiences of French social problems. In 
twenty-five departments the struggle to resist the subdi- 
vision of properties which is compelled by the Code Civil 
has never ceased to continue with success. M. Auburtin 
concludes with the definite assertion that "the fall in our 
birth-rate is, above all, the response of agricultural 
France to the system of subdividing properties." 

For the repeal of this part of the Civil Code, a long 
agitation has been conducted, and it is steadily gaining in 
strength. The four National Congresses of the Birth- 
rate which have been held since the war have all passed 
resolutions demanding a fundamental alteration in the 
law. A bill is now before the Chambre des Deputes, 
sponsored by M. Isaac and M. Duval-Arnould, which 
proposes a reform of the law of inheritance, and which, 
while leaving entire freedom of choice to the testator, 
would allow him to bequeath two-fifths of his property 
to any one of his children. But hitherto all attempts to 
carry new legislation have failed. It is morally certain 
at least that an alteration in the hereditary laws would 
remove what is probably the most powerful economic 
factor that has helped to extend the practice of birth con- 
trol in France. Other remedies, designed chiefly to re- 
lieve the sufferings of the urban population, have been 
urged, arid in some cases adopted. Subsidies, on a very 
inadequate but unavoidably small scale, have been offered 
for the construction of houses to be available only for 
large families and for providing direct relief to large 


families who are in want. All sorts of political remedies 
have been discussed, especially a remission of part of 
the military service period for the children of large fam- 
ilies or those who become fathers of several children at 
an early age; the concession of several votes in the elec- 
tions to parents of large families; and the lower scale of 
taxation for them. The most important privilege that 
has yet been given is the concession of heavy reductions 
upon railway-tickets for large families, rising to 70 per 
cent of the usual fare when there are seven children. To 
show its general sympathy with the demand for an in- 
creased birth-rate, Parliament has voted that all mothers 
of five, eight, or ten children should be given motherhood 
medals in bronze, or silver, or gold; but such measures 
border on the ridiculous. 

The most effective encouragement to large families has 
been given by private people who have made yearly do- 
nations to assist deserving large families. M. Cognacq- 
Jay has given a magnificent endowment of four hundred 
fifty thousand dollars a year to provide ninety prizes, one 
for each department in France to the most deserving fam- 
ily with nine children, all of whom must be either still 
living or else have been killed in the war. The philan- 
thropy of the same donors has created a number of ex- 
tremely handsome foundations for various purposes, in 
Paris the outcome of the prodigious Wealth they have 
amassed during the half -century since M. Cognacq-Jay 
started work in Paris as a friendless errand-boy, who 
eventually opened a small shop of his own with his young 
wife, which their combined thrift and industry has since 
developed into the colossal business of the Magasins de la 
Samaritaine. Early in 1922 they made a second munifi- 
cent donation for the encouragement of large families 
the gift of 25,000 francs a year each to twenty young 


married couples who had three children before they 
reached the age of twenty-five. These two principal do- 
nations are made without any condition as to the religion 
of their recipients, the only stipulation being that the 
families who fulfill the necessary qualifications must be 
either "poor or in difficult financial circumstances" and 
that they must "show by the dignity of their lives that 
they are likely to make good use of these donations." 

Some of the other similar donations by Catholic philan- 
thropists specify that the families m\ist be Catholic as, 
for instance, the "Foundation H. H. H." which gives 
5,000 francs a year to a "Catholic large family of French 
peasants." The Fondation Etienne Lamy offers two 
prizes of 10,000 and one of 20,000 francs for "families 
of French peasants who must be poor and Catholic, who 
have the most children and shall have proved themselves 
to be the most Christian in their faith and the most pure 
in their morals." The magnitude of .such donations, even 
more than the conditions attaching to them, show how 
intense is the patriotism of these French Catholics. 
These donations are fairly numerous and have nearly 
all been given by devout patriots, in many cases with the 
special . condition that they must be applied to families 
distingushed for their piety as well as. their industry. 
A still more important encouragement has been given 
by employers, mostly devout patriots, who have agreed 
to pay additional wages to those of their workers who 
have large families. This initiative, coming from the 
side of the employers (arid largely in response to appeals 
from the leaders of the patriotic revival) goes some way 
towards counteracting the disastrous effect in lowering 
wages that has been produced by the workers' own re- 
fusal to have children. 

Unfortunately, however, all these .proposed economicf 


remedies, even the proposal to restore the old hereditary 
law, fail to reach below the surface. Fifty years ago, 
such reforms would almost certainly have prevented or at 
least retarded the spread of the practice of birth-control, 
for they would have removed the economic motive which 
has become recognized all over France, tacitly and often 
openly, as the justification of family limitation. But in 
those past fifty years the habit of birth-control has be- 
come so widespread that it is now established as one of 
the most deeply rooted customs in the social life of 

The late Professor Paul Bureau whose sudden death 
is a sad loss to Catholic sociology in France in his ruth- 
lessly outspoken and solidly documented study on 
f( l' Indiscipline des Mceurs," refuses to regard any other 
aspect of the question as more than secondary to this 
main habit of selfishness and self-indulgence which he 
holds responsible for the entire decline in the population 
of France. Granted that his devastating analysis of the 
social tendencies of modern France is correct (and it is 
written in a spirit of intense patriotism in the belief that 
only by fearless candor can public opinion be aroused, 
and the truth honestly realized among Frenchmen at all 
costs, even though the process of exposure may discredit 
France abroad) ; then the individual motive for birth- 
control in each case is of minor importance. Whether it 
is due to a reluctance to subdivide farms or to live in an 
overcrowded tenement, or to sheer refusal to be troubled 
by children, the result is the same. He summarizes the 
whole problem as the outcome of a social system in which 
the following principles are all generally admitted : "Un- 
controlled license for bachelors in the near future, for 
unmarried women, resting upon the aid of prostitution, 
of contraceptives and of abortion; marriage regarded 


from a strictly individualistic point of view and relying, 
either for its support or for its dissolution at will as the 
case may be, upon the collaboration of abortion and 
adultery, or of divorce: all these practices, all these in- 
stitutions are in fact interdependent parts of a perfectly 
coherent system, in which each part is enforced by all 
the others, and itself gives back to the whole the greater 
support because of the strength that it 'derives from the 
others. It is useless, therefore, to isolate any single part 
of the system, or to try a separate treatment for any 
one section of the appalling problem." 

These. strong words are the conclusion_of an exhaustive 
analysis which ought to be read in full.. But a few words 
must be said here regarding the evidence which he com- 
piled concerning the spread of Malthusian practices, the 
.amazing prevalence of abortion, and the rapid growth of 
divorce. M. Bureau describes the persistent efforts of the 
new Malthusian propagandist to increase among all sec- 
tions of the people a knowledge of contraceptive prac- 
tices, and shows what an immense commercial enterprise 
the production and sale of contraceptives has become. He 
gives the names of various important syndicalist organi- 
zations which have made Malthusian propaganda a reg- 
ular part of their activity as trade unionist organizations, 
and as an instance of their success he quotes the cases 
of five industrial towns in which an intensive propaganda 
of birth-control has been undertaken (almost invariably 
during a strike or in some other circumstances when so- 
cialist feeling ran high) with calamitous results. Rou- 
baix, in the industrial northeast, had 3,837 births in 
1897; in 1908 the number had fallen, after a steadily 
progressive decline, to 2,568. In Tourcoing the number 
of births declined from 2,445 ' 1A i&9& to 1,675 eight 
years later. Fougeres in eastern Brittany is a typical 


small manufacturing town, whose population is continually 
being increased by immigration from the surrounding 
districts : but the number of children born there fell, year 
by year, as a result of birth-control propaganda, from 
650 in 1903 to 409 in 1909. In the commune of 
Le Creusot there was a similar decline from 855 births 
in 1893 to 592 in 1904, although the people were in- 
creased by immigration. At Montceau-les-Mines the 
people were increasing rapidly from immigration, but 
the number of births fell off from 812 in 1899 to 386 
in 1912. 

There is no secret as to how this reduction in the birth- 
rate has been brought about. Although the French Par- 
liament has since the war passed legislation forbidding 
every sort of direct Malthusian propaganda, the shop- 
windows in most of the large towns openly display con- 
traceptive appliances of every kind. What is amazing 
in face of this universal prevalence of the knowledge of 
contraceptive methods is the extraordinary frequency of 
abortion throughout France. M. Bureau declares, after 
examining an amount of evidence which would appear 
to be irrefutable, that the knowledge of methods for pro- 
ducing abortion has become so widespread that it is 
performed as often as not by the persons concerned 
themselves, without even invoking the services of profes- 
sional abortionists. ' It is obviously impossible to give 
any reliable statistics of the frequency of abortion in 
the whole of France, but M. Bureau estimates the num- 
ber at somewhere about 300,000 abortions a year. In 
some parts of France medical evidence would suggest 
that the number of abortions actually exceeds the num- 
ber of births. Professor Lacassagne, for instance, esti- 
mates that in Lyons the number of abortions every year 
is 10,000, as against an average of between 8,000 and 


9,000 births. Dr. Robert Monin declares that there are 
100,000 cases of abortion in Paris alone every year. If 
such figures are even remotely near the truth, we must 
accept Professor Bureau's statement that the discoveries 
of Pasteur in the science of antiseptics have in fact been 
utilized by a 'decadent society to provide a safe method 
of effectually defeating such accidents as contraceptive 
methods have not been able to avoid. 

The divorce statistics of France, which have a direct 
bearing upon the birth-rate question, provide no relief 
from the revelations made by Professor Bureau. The 
pioneers of divorce in France used to maintain that the 
introduction of divorce legislation would in reality stabi- 
lize marriage as an institution, by clearing off quickly the 
accumulation of unhappy marriages, and by removing the 
grievances of the unhappily married. Alexandre Dumas 
fits and his colleagues in the agitation even declared that 
the number of divorces in France would decline almost 
at once after the first arrears had been cleared away. 
That plausible prophecy was completely falsified. In 
1884, the year when divorce was first granted in France, 
the total of divorces was 1,657; in 1894 it had risen to 
nearly 8,000; in 1904 it was n,ooo; in 1913, it was 
16,335; a 11 ^ since the war the yearly total has nearly 
doubled. In 1920 the number of divorces granted was 
29,156, in 1921 there were 32,557, and in 1922 there 
were 27,684. There were twenty departments in which 
the divorces amounted in 1920 to more than 90 for every 
hundred thousand inhabitants, the largest ratio of di- 
vorces being in the Aube, with 166 per 100,000; the 
great majority of these departments are in the north 
and northeast of France, which comprise- most* of the 
urbanized population of the country. Those departments 
in which there are fewest divorces form a number of 


groups in 'different parts of the country, one being in 
Brittany, but the most important being in the center and 
southwest. It is impossible to draw any direct deduc- 
tions from these figures, partly because they show no clear 
results and partly because the practice of divorce is only 
now becoming popular. But the evidence of learned 
sociologists like M. Auburtin and Professor Bureau con- 
firms the perfectly obvious argument that an extension of 
divorce inevitably reduces the birth-rate, because people 
who enter upon marriage as a terminable contract are 
naturally more unwilling than are those who regard it as 
a contract for life, to encumber themselves with respon- 
sibilities that will impede their liberty of action after- 

The only real hope that exists in France of a return to 
the old tradition of large families consists in the religious 
revival which had already begun before the war and 
which has been undoubtedly strengthened and consoli- 
dated since. In an extremely interesting analysis of the 
French birth-rate statistics, M. G. Gallon has made a de- 
tailed examination of the statistics for each department 
during the year 1920, which proves how closely the high 
birth-rate coincides with the preservation of the Catholic 
tradition in different parts of France. The aggregate 
birth-rate statistics showed a substantial increase during 
the year, though it had by no means kept pace with the 
extraordinary increase in the number of marriages in 
France after the war. But in the same year the birth- 
rate in England and Wales was 254 for every 10,000 in- 
habitants, in Denmark 281, in Holland and in Scotland 
281, and in Germany 285, as compared with only 211 
per ten thousand in 'France. Small as this French in- 
crease is, in contrast with the great increases in the other 
countries, it would have been much smaller if it had not 


been for the Catholic provinces of France which have re- 
mained devoutly Catholic. Of the eighty-seven depart- 
ments, twenty-one had the comparatively high birth-rate of 
more than 220 per 10,000 inhabitants, with a maxi- 
mum of 288 in the very Catholic department of Finisterre. 
Twelve of these twenty-one departments form a more or 
less solid block in the Catholic northwest, including most 
of Brittany .and western Normandy, while three of the 
others are situated in the industrial area of the north- 
east. On the other hand the twenty-three departments 
in which the birth-rate is lowest, all of them below 190 
per 10,000, and with a minimum of 154 in the 
department of Gers, all belong without exception to the 
center and the south of France, where large families 
are very rare; and the principal group of these depart- 
ments with low birth-rates is in the valley of the Garonne. 
It is of course futile to base any definite conclusions 
upon the statistics of one year, but M. Gallon's analysis 
confirms the evidence that has been accumulating for 
years to show that the parts of France in which Catholi- 
cism has lost most ground are those which are most 
seriously threatened with depopulation, while those in 
which the Catholic tradition remains strongest are those 
which have preserved the highest birth-rate. 

Monsieur Gallon's analysis of the statistics for 1920 
bears out very remarkably the results of the investiga- 
tions which he published in a small volume in I9I8. 1 In 
his previous study he found that, taking the birth-rate 
statistics for the five years before the war, the twenty de- 
partments which figured at the head of the list with the 
highest birth-rates were almost all those which are noto- 
riously the most Catholic; and that among these twenty 
best departments there was at any rate not one which 

1 L'Effondre ment de la NataKte FranQaise. 


could be 'described as being either hostile or even indif^- 
ferent to the practice of religion. His investigation 
showed that, whereas certain departments which are well 
known for their Catholic piety, do appear rather low 
down in the list, there was in almost every case some 
obvious explanation such as persistent emigration. His 
researches disclosed the fact that, even if all the religious 
departments were not among those with the highest birth- 
rates, at any rate those which had the highest birth-rate 
were almost all departments in which the practice of 
religion is very strong. M. Gallon pursued his investi- 
gations still further in undertaking the laborious task of 
finding out as far as possible within each department 
how the birth-rate varied as between those cantons which 
were Catholic and those which were either indifferent or 
hostile. This involved an immense amount of research, 
and he succeeded in obtaining full returns for only sixty- 
seven out of eighty-seven departments. Nevertheless the 
results that he obtained covered so much of the country 
that they may be considered as typical of the whole of 
France. In the sixty-seven departments for which he 
was able to obtain sufficient information to tabulate the 
Census reports according to the religious tone of each 
canton, the birth-rate among the more Catholic popular 
tion was higher than that of the less Catholic in sixty- 
two, and lower in only four, departments. The net result 
of his statistics, as summarized at the foot of an elaborate 
table, shows that in the sixty-seven departments for which 
information could be obtained, the total average birth- 
rate among the most Catholic districts was 212 per 
10,000 inhabitants, and only 186 for those which were 
less Catholic. 

The fact that the Catholic parts of France are those 
in which the fear of depopulation is least is so well- 


known that it is generally admitted throughout France 
even by those who are least willing to acknowledge the 
existence of any higher standard of civic responsibility 
among Catholics. A paper so definitely anti-Catholic 
as Le Radical wrote not long ago on the question of de- 
population -and the quotation could be paralleled from 
almost any other anticlerical organ in France that "we 
must have the honesty to recognize that the real source 
of the evil does not consist in the difficulties of modern 
life. To bestow decorations on the mothers of large 
families, to give them money, to tax bachelors and child- 
less marriages are all idle remedies. Have you ever 
taken the trouble to study on a map of France which are 
the districts in which children are most numerous? And 
among the middle-classes have you ever remarked which 
are usually the families that have most children? The 
brutal truth is plain enough to see and I must take my 
chance of being stoned for telling the truth: the parts 
of France in which there are still most children are 
those which are generally described as the most "back- 
ward" in other words, those which have remained de- 
voutly religious. And the same is true of tfie middle- 
classes. Let this be a warning to us! The problem of 
the birth-rate is above all a moral question. It can be 
solved only in the light of the ideal which we set be- 
fore ourselves, and in accordance with one's own con- 
ception of life and human responsibility." 

But even more remarkable than these admissions in an 
anticlerical paper is the fact that the French Govern- 
ment has found itself obliged to recognize the national 
value of the large families of a Catholic province, in de- 
liberately organizing a settlement of the j depopulated 
southwest by subsidizing the migration of peasant fam- 
ilies from Brittany to the region around Bordeaux, in the 


valley of the Garonne. It was in this part of France 
that depopulation first set in, and it is worth while set- 
ting down the facts about the departments concerned, 
taking the departments in the order on the map. In the 
department of Charente-Inferieure the average annual 
birth-rate fell steadily from 293 per 10,000 inhabi- 
tants ninety years ago to 167 before the war; in Cha- 
rente, from 272 to 172; in Dordogne, from 288 to 177; 
in Correze, from 334 to 180; in Cantal from 275 to 181 ; 
in Lot, from 266 to 147; in Lot-et-Garonne, from 239 
to 136; in Gironde, from 271 to 147; in Landes, from 
323 to 178; in Gers, from 239 to 130; in Tarn, from 
310 to 160; in Tarn-et-Garonne, from 254 to 146; in 
Haute-Garonne, from 298 to 148. The result of this 
tremendous fall in the birth-rate is that the population 
is gradually disappearing from nearly all this part of 
France. Last year alone for instance, there were roughly 
three deaths for every two births in the department of 
Lot, and four deaths to every three births in Tarn-et- 
Garonne, in Gers, and in Haute-Garonne. Such is the 
situation which the younger sons of the large families 
in Brittany have been called upon to remedy. Most of 
them are, of course, landless men who have grown up on 
small farms along the rugged coast of Brittany, and even 
though land has sunk to a very low value in these de- 
populated districts around the Garonne, they cannot af- 
ford yet to buy their own holdings. Fortunately the 
old metayer system still remains in the southwest under 
which the landlord supplies the implements and the live-, 
stock and seeds and then shares the profits with the ten- 
ant, who merely contributes his own labor. The system 
suits admirably the needs of these agricultural laborers 
from Brittany, and they have been migrating there in 
considerable colonies, with the assistance of the Ministry 


of Agriculture, and aided by grants from the local coun- 
cils, who pay their expenses and give them small allow- 
ances to help them to establish their new homes. 

It may be asked whether these colonies of Breton peas- 
ants and fishermen will be content to remain in a part of 
France which differs so much from their own in climate 
and in natural surroundings, or whether they also will 
gradually follow the drift away from the southwest 
which has accentuated the depopulation resulting from 
birth-control. The hot unchanging glare of the summer 
suns south of Bordeaux must at times seem to them suf- 
focating as they remember the swiftly changing skies of 
western Brittany, where there is seldom a day even dur- 
ing the summer that rain does not fall. They will find 
it strange too to be surrounded by a country of old vine- 
yards, and they will miss their orchards and their home- 
made cider. These solidly prosperous old vine-growers 
will think them outlandish people, with their mediaeval 
traditions of merry-making on saints' days, with their 
extraordinary costumes which they are accustomed to 
wearing almost every day, and above all with, their unin- 
telligible Breton language, and the scarcely less compre- 
hensible Breton accent of those who can speak French. 
But they have no alternative, for the present at least, to 
living where they have thus found everything provided 
for them, and where they have every prospect of eventually 
acquiring the land they begin to cultivate. Some of them 
may drift back to the life of the sea, but times are bad 
for the old fishing-fleets that used to spend half of every 
year around Iceland or moored off the sandbanks to the 
east of Newfoundland. The steam trawlers have made 
it impossible for them to maintain their old trade; 
for they get nearly all the fish, and they can come and 
go so much more quickly. The days of the pecheurs 


d'Islande are nearly finished, and though the Breton will 
always hanker after the sea, he is being more and more 
thrown back upon the land. And as a terrien his amazing 
industry and simple virtues should insure his prospering 
rapidly in a country where labor is desperately scarce. 

Moreover these colonies of immigrants into the south- 
west have been organized on a scale sufficiently large to 
prevent them from feeling homesick or forlorn. A few - 
months ago the Bishop of Quimper sent one of his priests 
down to Dordogne to accompany a new colony of settlers 
who were going south, and instructed him to report 
faithfully on the condition of those who had already es- 
tablished themselves there. In his report 2 he describes 
the devotion with which they all clamored for news of 
their old homes and how they used to accompany him 
as far as they could, harnessing the mare or ass they had 
brought from Brittany, to take him to the station or to 
the nearest Breton's house. "Their general condition," 
he declares, "is satisfactory, indeed excellent. There are a 
few families who went there without being adequately 
equipped for their undertaking, either because they had 
not collected sufficient capital to last them through the 
first year, or for want of sufficient labor, a few others 
whose courage failed them from the outset, or where one 
or other of the heads of the family has been addicted 
to drink. These have either given up their farms al- 
ready or will have to leave them. But all the rest are 
well on the road to prosperity. In some cases where 
everything has not gone well, the fault is on the side 
of the landlords, and it is only a question of transfer- 
ring them to another farm. All of them are counting 
upon finding their feet after the next harvest. They 
have dug the ground well, and have manured it heavily, 

a Published in the Nowvelliste de Bretagne. 


and are full of hope. Their fruit, their trees and their 
animals have all done well and, if things continue thus, 
the experiment will be a great success. 

"Have they remained steadfast as Bretons ?" continues 
this zealous ecclesiastic. "For the present at least there 
is no ground for fear on that score. They are still talk- 
ing Breton everywhere. Their fields have all been chris- 
tened with Breton names as though they were still at 
home. The oxen at the plow are beginning to respond 
to Breton exclamations, arid the farmyard watch-dogs are 
bewildered at never ' hearing a word of the patois of 
Perigord. Friends of the Breton language, you need 
have no misgivings here! As for the metayer system, I 
found it to be the best possible scheme for making a start. 
Once these Breton peasants have grown accustomed to 
the country, to its climate and to its special cultivation, 
they will become independent farmers; whereas many 
of them must be bitterly regretting already that they 
insisted on their independence from the beginning. As 
for their religious practice, those who were devout Cath- 
olics before they left home remain so still;. those who 
were neglectful before have not improved. In nearly 
all the families, every one, including the young children, 
goes to confession and to the general -communion . . . 
Many of the parishes are without priests and in any 
case there are few with two masses on Sundays. The 
Catholic schools are very rare. There are not many fairs 
or markets; commerce is not easy, except in the imme- 
diate neighborhood of the towns. The houses are far 
from comfortable, with rare exceptions, but the barns 
and stables are immense; the interior of the house is 
very bare except for those who had the happy thought 
of bringing their furniture with them; among them one 
might fancy one's self back in Brittany. There have 


so far been three deaths, including two children, and three 
marriages. I saw four Breton babies less than a week old. 
I visited in all no families, comprising 632 persons, and 
there were two other families whom I could not reach, 
and five other families have left their farms to go into 
the towns. In the department of Dordogne there are 
in all nearly 120 families, comprising between 650 and 
700 Bretons." 

This report was written late in 1922. Since then, the 
movement has progressed steadily. This picture of the 
gradual infiltration of Breton Catholic peasants, with 
their large families and their primitive ways, to take pos- 
session of the land that has had to be abandoned by a 
sophisticated people who have lost the faith without 
which no generation can even maintain its own numbers, 
may yet have a historical interest. For it is the record 
of the beginnings of a migratory movement that may in 
the end redeem France by repeopling her with a popula- 
tion that has lost neither the primitive virtues of a simple 
peasantry nor the living daily contact with the Church. 

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