Priests of the French Revolution: Saints and Renegades in a New Political Era

Hardcover | August 8, 2014

byJoseph F. Byrnes

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The 115,000 priests on French territory in 1789 belonged to an evolving tradition of priesthood. The challenge of making sense of the Christian tradition can be formidable in any era, but this was especially true for those priests required at the very beginning of 1791 to take an oath of loyalty to the new government—and thereby accept the religious reforms promoted in a new Civil Constitution of the Clergy. More than half did so at the beginning, and those who were subsequently consecrated bishops became the new official hierarchy of France. In Priests of the French Revolution, Joseph Byrnes shows how these priests and bishops who embraced the Revolution creatively followed or destructively rejected traditional versions of priestly ministry. Their writings, public testimony, and recorded private confidences furnish the story of a national Catholic church. This is a history of the religious attitudes and psychological experiences underpinning the behavior of representative bishops and priests. Byrnes plays individual ideologies against group action, and religious teachings against political action, to produce a balanced story of saints and renegades within a Catholic tradition.

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The 115,000 priests on French territory in 1789 belonged to an evolving tradition of priesthood. The challenge of making sense of the Christian tradition can be formidable in any era, but this was especially true for those priests required at the very beginning of 1791 to take an oath of loyalty to the new government—and thereby accept...

Joseph F. Byrnes is Professor of Modern European History at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of Catholic and French Forever: Religious and National Identity in Modern France (Penn State, 2005).

other books by Joseph F. Byrnes

Format:HardcoverDimensions:344 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:August 8, 2014Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271063777

ISBN - 13:9780271063775

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part I: Engagement, 1789–1791

1 The Formation of a Revolutionary Priest: Sieyès and Grégoire

2 The Priests in Action: From Estates General to National Assembly

3 Claude Fauchet at the Bastille

4 The Church of Adrien Lamourette and His Allies

Part II: Survival, 1791–1795

5 The Failed Relationship of Revolutionary Church and State

6 The Tragic Convention Years

7 Terrorists and Abdicators: Ultimate Renegades

Part III: Revival, 1795–1802

8 The New Constitutional French Church

9 Stabilizing the Constitutional Church: Claude Le Coz and the Council of 1797

10 Constitutional Irresolution in the See of Paris: Jean-Baptiste Royer and the Council of 1801

11 Constitutional Clergy in the Church of Napoleon’s Concordat

12 The Afterlife of the Constitutional Church: Hopes and Reality

Appendix: Administration of the Constitutional Church and Oath Adherence by Department

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

“In his new book, Joseph Byrnes takes us into the fascinating world of Catholic priests who sought, in different ways, to work with rather than against the French Revolution. Moving beyond a simple narrative of church-state conflict and dechristianization, Byrnes explores the personal and professional dramas of individuals ranging from the abbé Henri Grégoire, who struggled to reconcile Catholicism and the republic through a reformed Constitutional Church, to terrorists such as Jacques Roux, who turned against his past and condemned his clerical colleagues as fanatics and hypocrites. Drawing on their sermons, speeches, letters, and pamphlets, Byrnes allows us to hear a discordant chorus of voices providing a rich commentary on the political and religious history of France during the revolutionary decade of the 1790s. This book will be a valuable resource for historians of France, but it should also draw the attention of scholars interested in the tense and complex relationship between religion and politics that continues to shape our contemporary world.”—Thomas Kselman, University of Notre Dame