Catholic and French Forever: Religious and National Identity in Modern France

Overview

It is often said that there are two Frances—Catholic and secular. This notion dates back to the 1790s, when the revolutionary government sought to divorce Catholic Christianity from national life. While Napoleon formally reconciled his regime to France’s millions of Catholics, church-state relations have remained a source of conflict and debate throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In Catholic and French Forever Joseph Byrnes recounts the fights and reconciliations ...

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Overview

It is often said that there are two Frances—Catholic and secular. This notion dates back to the 1790s, when the revolutionary government sought to divorce Catholic Christianity from national life. While Napoleon formally reconciled his regime to France’s millions of Catholics, church-state relations have remained a source of conflict and debate throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In Catholic and French Forever Joseph Byrnes recounts the fights and reconciliations between French citizens who found Catholicism integral to their traditional French identity and those who found the continued presence of Catholicism an obstacle to both happiness and progress. He does so through stories of priests, legislators, intellectuals, and pilgrims whose experiences manifest the problem of being both Catholic and French in modern France.

Byrnes finds that loyalties to the French nation and Catholicism became so incompatible in the revolutionary era that Catholic believers responded defensively across the nineteenth century, politicizing both religious pilgrimage and the languages of religious instruction. He shows that a détente emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century with the respect given to priests in arms during World War I and to the work of religious art historian Émile Mâle. This détente has lasted, precariously and with interruption, up to the present day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This attractive mélange of the personal and the professional has led Byrnes to produce an uncommonly good book.”
—Steven Englund, Commonweal Magazine

“Few contemporary authors command the time-transcendent wisdom that enables Byrnes to place in perspective the rich detail provided by years of historical research. Couple that learning with an elegant prose style and one has not only an informative piece of scholarship but a delightful book.”
—Jude P. Dougherty, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly

“This attractive mélange of the personal and the professional has led Byrnes to produce an uncommonly good book.”

—Steven Englund, Commonweal Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271058634
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph F. Byrnes is Professor of Modern European History at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of The Virgin of Chartres: An Intellectual and Psychological History of the Work of Henry Adams (1981) and The Psychology of Religion (1984), and he is a co-author of The Religious World: Communities of Faith (1993).

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Divorce
1 Between church and nation : posing, abdicating, and retracting priests 13
2 National ideas and their failure : festival celebration under the directory 47
3 Religious and secular extremes at the beginning of the nineteenth century : Chateaubriand and Destutt de Tracy 69
Pt. II Defense
4 Piety against politics : pilgrimage to Chartres during the nineteenth century 95
5 Local languages for the defense of religion : Alsace and the Roussillon 121
Pt. III Detente
6 The limits of personal reconciliation : priests and instituteurs in World War I 155
7 Reconciliation of cultures in the third republic : the work of Emile Male 179
Epilogue : between the wars, Vichy, and the new republics 209
App The "nation" conundrum 221
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