Monday, September 2, 2013

Martyrs of the French Revolution

Today is the feast of the Martyrs of the French Revolution. In 1790, the National Assembly passed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which among other things, shuttered religious orders, ended tithing and benefices, and forced clergy-who were now elected!- to take an oath of loyalty to the state which superseded any faithfulness to the doctrine of the Church.

Now, in Paris and a few other cities, the priests mainly took the oath, and became known as 'jurors.' But in the country, a region largely opposed to the revolution, the priests refused to take the oath, and were referred to as 'non-jurors.'

Nuns who refused to leave the monastery were harassed, sometimes physically beaten in public.

For two years the legislature debated the status of non-jurors. Could they preach and say Mass, and celebrate the sacraments? For the most part they were left alone. But in August 1792, those who had refused to take the oath and become schismatics were rounded up and imprisoned in former Parisian monasteries.

On September 2nd, mobs entered the prison for the sole purpose of executing the prisoners. 200 clergy were martyred by the end of September. By the end of the year, 1,500 clergy were killed.

I am no lover of the Bourbon monarchy. The centralization of France in the thirteenth century was a disaster. The aristocracy had no respect for their subjects as people. The clergy had absolutely no clue how to lead the flock, the saints excepted. I hate the rule of Louis XIV, mostly. Read a history book, but lemme say this: feudalism was much, much better.

But, Jansenism wasn't tolerated, and Protestantism had very little freedom too.

It surprised me someone watched Les Mis in tribute. I love the Bishop as portrayed in the film version of the musical. He is not sympathetic to revolution as his counterpart in the book. And, it's a beautiful film, a lovely story.

But those people wanted to restore a government that slaughtered priests, limited monasticism, and basically banned the Christian religion from public and indeed private life! I can't say I much love Louis-Philippe either, but boy, a calm situation for the Church is preferable to revolution!

Mostly I am so aggrieved because I am a history major, and because this is, or something similar, will happen soon enough in the USA. Just watch it and enjoy it in context. :)


  1. St. Gregory the great 09/03/13?

    1. This was posted late on Tuesday so it was still the French Revolution martyrs! And on this blog, St. Pius X was on the third of September. ;)