The French Church Prior to the Revolution
In the treatment of the preceding topics the general course of events belonging to the present subject has necessarily been anticipated. There are some special points, however, which may be accorded a brief attention, such as the extent of the protest against the bull Unigenitus; the amount of papal sanction given to the bull; the relation of the controversy to the insinuation of Ultramontanism; the crowning scandal of the controversy effected by imposing the bull upon the consciences of penitents as a condition of absolution; the closing stage of Jansenism; the downfall of the Jesuits; and the fortunes of Protestants.
Mention has been made of the fact that the majority of the bishops adhered to the bull Unigenitus. This adhesion was not the result of any fervent affection for that document. Some of them, doubtless, sharing the animosity of those who instigated the Pope to issue the bull, approved it as a means of annihilating the Jansenist party. A larger number probably were influenced by their double dependence upon King and Pope. They had learned that it was not easy to resist the will of Louis X1V., even when he was acting counter to Rome. In the Unigenitus affair they saw that King and Pope were united. Deeming it, therefore, hazardous to resist, and not being seriously troubled with theological convictions, they subscribed. The ensuing death of Louis gave, it is true, a temporary release from royal pressure; but to retract was a humiliating step, and also of doubtful prudence, since it would expose them to the Pope's displeasure, and would be very embarrassing in case the papal constitution should finally be sustained.
The position of the majority in the episcopate was too well explained to be of much weight with those whose independence was less hampered. In fact the protesting party greatly exceeded that of the subscribers. Voltaire, who had reached the verge of manhood at the publication of the constitution Unigenitus, thus describes the relative strength of the two parties, as the matter stood a few years later: "The Church of France continued to be divided into two parties, the accepters and the rejecters. The accepters were the hundred bishops who had adhered under Louis XIV. with the Jesuits and the Capuchins. The rejecters were fifteen bishops and the whole nation. The accepters enjoyed the support of Rome; the other party that of the universities, the parliaments and the people." Siècle de Louis XIV, chap. xxxvii., edit. 1829-40. Nearly a score of years were requisite to overcome the opposition so far as to secure a nominal assent to the detested constitution. It was only after forty-eight doctors had been expelled that the Sorbonne was constrained to subscribe in an unqualified manner (1729). As for the Parliament of Paris, it gave no voluntary assent, and the registration of the declaration for the execution of the constitution could be obtained only through the arbitrary mandate of the King (1730). Before reaching this result the government had signalized its inflexible resolution by afflicting numbers of the protesting clergy with fines, banishment, or imprisonment. The amount of violence used did not tend to increase the impression of the people respecting the holiness of the papal constitution. It was also a dubious element in the case that the infamous Dubois had been the means of turning the scale in favor of subscription at a crucial point in the controversy, and had been rewarded with a cardinal's hat.
It has been thought that Clement XI. doubted the wisdom of sending forth the bull which was to give him such an unenviable notoriety, and yielded with a measure of reluctance to the pressure of intemperate partisans. However this may have been, both he and the succeeding Popes made no concessions to the appeals with which they were assailed. Near the end of 1716 he issued briefs to various parties in France, wherein he insisted upon unqualified subscription and declared that to demand explanations of the bull was "to hanker after the fruit of the forbidden tree." Two years later, in a communication addressed to all Christians, he pronounced all who had refused or should refuse obedience to the bull contumacious, and sundered from communion with the apostolic see until they should thoroughly repent of their fault. 1 Magnum Bullarium Romanum, Continuatio, Pars ii. pp. 205-207. Innocent XIII. approved the position of his predecessor, declaring in letters to the King and the Regent that the bull Unigenitus condemned nothing but manifest errors. Benedict XIII., notwithstanding his anti-Molinist views in theology, commanded the strict observance of the bull (1725). Finally Benedict XIV,, in a brief, or encyclical letter, of the year 1756, gave this unmistakable decision: "Such is the authority of the constitution Unigenitus that no faithful Christian can refuse to submit to it, or oppose it in any way whatever, but at the risk of his eternal salvation." 2 Jervis, History of the Church of France, ii. 322. That the several Popes who had occasion to render a verdict upon the subject should have taken this ground is entirely explicable. They could not have done otherwise without exposing papal authority to the disgrace of a most glaring contradiction. For the constitution was from the start as plainly an ex cathedra document as it was possible for a pope to construct. It assumed to bind every member of the Roman Catholic Church, not to think, teach, or preach, any of the condemned propositions.
3 Omnes at singulas propositiones præinsertas, tanquam falsas, captiosas, etc., hac nostra perpetuò valitura constitutione declaramus, damnamus, et reprobamus; mandantes omnibus utriusque sexus Christifidelibus, ne de dictis propositionibus sentire, docere, ac prædicare aliter præsumant, quàm in hac eadem nostra constitutione continetur; ita ut quicumque illas, vel illarum aliquam conjunctim, vel divisim docuerit, defenderit, eliderit, aut de eis, etiam disputativè, publicè, ant privatim tractaverit, nisi forsan impugnando, ecclesiasticis censuris, aliisque contra similia perpetrantes a jure statutis pœnis ipso facto absque alia declaratione subjaceat.To retract was out of the question on the part of those who had no higher interest than their own absolute authority. To explain was nearly equally out of the question. The bull had been issued, not against abstract propositions, but against sentences contained in a specific work. Some of these sentences were as clearly expressive of a definite idea as it was possible for language to frame. To allow, therefore, that they were not condemned in their apparent sense would be equivalent to allowing that they were not condemned at all, and so would expose the Pope to the charge of folly or malice in having sought to discredit the writing of an eminent author by marshaling against it an extended line of bugbears.
The circumstances and the issue of the strife involved a partial victory for Ultramontanism. The Gallican sentiment, cherished by a large part of the nation, was indeed far from being quenched. On the contrary, it was kindled in many minds to an intensity which threatened to burn away all real bonds of connection with Rome. But the exigencies of controversy naturally led the supporters of the papal constitution in the reverse direction. In their attempts to silence opponents they were in a manner driven to magnify the authority of the Pope, and the duty of unqualified obedience. The position taken by the majority of the bishops constrained them for the time practically to ignore, if not formally to deny, the principles of Gallicanism. Some of them indulged in statements of a decidedly ultra cast. Early in the strife the Archbishop of Arles made bold to declare that the opposers of the bull were more guilty than Adam was after the primal trespass. Various writings began to be circulated which advocated the infallibility of the Pope. In one of these the author was pleased to say that it was not less heretical to reject the bull Unigenitus than to deny the incarnation of the Word and the divinity of Jesus Christ. 1 Rocquain, L'Esprit Révolutionnaire avant la Révolution, pp. 8, 17, 36.
Whatever degree of assent the bishops may have given to formal statements of this class, some of them proceeded at length to act as if they were undoubtedly true. In 1749 and the following years a scheme was set on foot to honor the Unigenitus constitution by making it a kind of indispensable passport into paradise. In pursuance of this purpose, De Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, issued the requisition that applicants for sacraments--at least in cases where there was any doubt about their frame of mind--should be required to produce "billets de confession," or certificates signed by orthodox priests, and testifying that the bearers cordially accepted the bull Unigenitus. This requisition was copied in nearly all the dioceses. The result was that some of the most conscientious men in the realm were denied the sacraments in the dying hour, and were left to expire without a title to Christian burial. Great wrath was naturally provoked; but it was a number of years before the tyrannous requisition was abandoned. The disreputable game of the "billets de confession" may well be characterized as a fitting conclusion to a peculiarly disgraceful chapter in religious history. In truth, the atheistic revel of the revolutionary era was scarcely more of a sacrilege against Christianity than was the whole ungodly fracas of which the bull Unigenitus was the central and the most responsible factor.
It may have been noticed that little mention has been made of the Jansenists in the above account. The reason has been that in the great party opposed to the papal constitution the Jansenists proper were not the most considerable fraction. Their Augustinian theology had never been acceptable to the larger portion of the French people. In the later stages of their history they had no great writers to recommend their theology, no names comparable with those which had adorned their early annals. Moreover, an unhappy episode inflicted much damage upon their reputation. As in previous times the zeal of rival parties in the Church had created a fruitful demand for miracles, so it was in case of the Jansenists. During the dark days when the unholy fiat which Jesuit malice had obtained from Rome was being made effectual against their adherents, their excited feelings were ready to claim relief in any appearance of supernatural intervention. The first token which met their watchful eyes was in 1725. A woman claimed to have been miraculously healed while accompanying a procession in which a priest who belonged to the appellant or protesting party was carrying the consecrated host. The Jansenists made much of the event; but soon it became unnecessary for them to dwell upon this single instance. In 1729 and the following years miracles in their behalf were, so to speak, an every-day occurrence. These were connected primarily with the grave of a Jansenist ascetic, François Pâris, in the cemetery of Saint Médard. It was claimed that sick people who visited this grave were supernaturally cured of their maladies. Extraordinary symptoms were sometimes manifested by the patients, such as convulsions, prophesyings, and trances. The like phenomena still appeared in other quarters after access to the wonder-working grave had been prevented by the authorities. Excessive enthusiasm ran into a crude physical rô1e, which justified the name convulsionnaires that was applied to the subjects of this overpowering excitement. At length the sober-minded among the Jansenists themselves were revolted, and constrained to censure the strange proceedings of their brethren as unworthy of religion.
It is needless to say that these miracles, especially when their credit was at its height, were not pleasing to the foes of Jansenism. As Roman Catholics, they were ready to welcome any quantity of prodigies, provided they should be rightly placed; but to have miracles at a Jansenist tomb was simply intolerable. The Jesuits in particular were cut to the heart. The glory of their order, it is true, was sustained by a record of all sorts of prodigies. But most of these occurred afar off, beyond the dim outlines of distant continents. An objector had a chance to say that the wonderful stories which were told had grown in the process of transmission. But here were miracles wrought beneath the eyes of critical Paris, miracles every way as well attested as any which had happened at the shrine of Becket. In their distress they could think of no safer expedient than to give the credit of the whole business to the devil. Not denying the strange workings of a mysterious power, they classed them among lying wonders. This was the position taken by one of their number in a writing published in 1737, under the title "Traité dogmatique sur les faux miracles du temps." Many others coincided with the Jesuits in this interpretation. Indeed the writer of the above treatise might have quoted Pope Clement XII., as well as the archbishop of Paris, in support of the view that the Jansenist miracles were wrought by the farer of the arch Deceiver. In the final result, while the Jansenists suffered discredit, their opponents also made but doubtful gains. The main advantage accrued to those who had no special love for either party, -- to the school of free-thinkers.
1 Barbier, Journal Historique du Règne de Louis XV., années 1729-1732; Grégoire, Histoire des Sectes Religieuses, tome ii. chap. 13; Martin, Histoire de France, tome xv.; Bauer, Kirchengeschichte der Neueren Zeit, pp. 513-518; Jervis, Church of France, ii. 281-287.
Before leaving the Jansenists, we may add a word respecting that memorial of their struggle which has been perpetuated in the Netherlands. In the time of persecution various representatives of their party had found a refuge in this region. Here the resident Roman Catholics awarded them so much sympathy as to fall themselves under suspicion and accusation. Adverse reports were carried to Rome, and the Pope was constrained in 1704 to depose the Archbishop of Utrecht. This measure, instead of subduing the minds of the people served to make them all the more friendly to the Jansenist interest. Finally, inasmuch as the Pope would not recognize the newly elected archbishop, it was decided in 1723 to install him without waiting longer for the papal authorization. From this date the succession has been continued in the episcopal see of Utrecht. At each new election of a bishop request is made of the Pope for confirmation. This is always refused, and so communion with Rome, though not repudiated in principle, is continually postponed.
About the time that the epidemic enthusiasm which spread from the grave of François Pâris was bringing discredit upon the Jansenist cause, the populace found occasion for irreverent witticisms in a book by the Bishop of Soissons, which was devoted to the memory of Marie Alacoque. 1 Barbier, Journal, i. 307, 308; Grégoire, Histoire des Sectes Religieuses, tome ii, chap. 20; Rocquain, L'Esprit Révolutionnaire avant la Révolution, pp. 80, 81. The book was a tribute to a form of religious distemper less violent than that of the convulsionnaires, but not many degrees superior in the sight of rational piety. This Marie Alacoque, whose story the bishop recounted, was supposed, near the end of the preceding century, to have been favored with the sight of the heart of Jesus in his opened breast. Stimulated by this fanciful vision, the mediæval faculty for materializing everything, which enters into the essence of the Romish Church, went to work to organize a specific devotion of the Sacred Heart. The Jesuits patronized the new auxiliary to a sentimental and superstitious worship. It did not, however, make great progress till the latter part of the century, when Clement XIII. gave it his approval.
A question soon arose as to whether the Pope had approved devotion to anything more than the symbolical heart, as distinguished from the physical organ.A special devotion to the heart of Jesus fostered inevitably a parallel honor to Mary, and there are some indications that the latter was rendered in no grudging measure. One of the fervent writers of the time speaks of the heart of Mary as "the storehouse of divine compassions, the furnace of the celestial fire, the library of the Old and of the New Testament." 2 Grégoire, Histoire des Sectes, tome ii, chap. 20. Another peculiar form of devotion prevailed for a season, at least within a limited circle. As D'Argensan, writing in 1751, informs us, the Queen and a number of the court ladies made use of skulls as an aid to their piety. "They adorn," he says, "these heads of the dead with ribbons and pendants; or they illuminate them with lamps, and they meditate before them for a half-hour." 3 Mémoires, vii. 16, 17.
It is supposed that Clement XIII. had some reference to the existing needs of the Jesuits, for whom he had large sympathy, when he approved the devotion to the Sacred Heart, designing to supply thereby a means of encouragement and union to the members of the Order, and those who shared in their griefs. There was certainly occasion enough for any encouragement that the friendly Pontiff had to offer. The time of reckoning had come for the disciples of Loyola.
The conduct of the Jesuits just before the storm burst upon them cannot be said to have been specially odious. They had not been unusually aggressive and intriguing. The storm was not the offspring of fresh provocation; it was rather the accumulated retribution which the misconduct of generations had earned. There may have been indeed some special provocations at this juncture. But these did not necessarily affect the standing of the whole Order. Had there not been a foregoing history, begetting in many minds the conviction that incorrigible evil was ingrained into this society, it might have successfully met any temporary causes of objection and ill-will.
A Jesuit writer has expressed surprise that it was precisely in Portugal, where the Jesuits seemed to be so firmly entrenched, that the great attack upon them was begun. "At the court," he says, "they were not only the guides of the consciences and conduct of the royal princes and princesses, but also were made the advisers of the King and his ministers in the most important matters. No position in the administration of the State or the Church was awarded without their consent and their influence, so that in truth the higher clergy, the nobles, and the people vied with each other to obtain their intercession and favor." 1 Georgel, quoted by Theiner, Geschichte des Pontificats Clemens XIV. i. 5. These words used in justification of surprise might better be employed for a contrary purpose. The overgrown influence of the Jesuits in Portugal is by itself a large part of the explanation of the attack upon them. To a statesman like Pombal, confident, energetic, and aggressive, it seemed a thing intolerable that a parcel of ecclesiastics should so completely dominate the nation. Having once entered upon the task of reducing their influence, he doubtless found that either he or they would have to go under. He therefore utilized to the full whatever might be turned to the discredit of the Jesuit fathers. He found in their mercantile projects a cause for complaint. Their alleged complicity in the armed rebellion of the natives in Paraguay gave him a vantage ground against them. Still more their alleged complicity in an attempt to assassinate the King (1758) gave him a formidable advantage. In 1759 came the unsparing edict for their banishment. They were sent in a body to their spiritual father, the Pope.
The news from Portugal caused a profound sensation in France, and in all likelihood raised the question in many minds whether the example of the sister realm might not be successfully imitated. As it happened, there was no occasion to harbor this inquiry for a long time. The impolicy of the Jesuits themselves placed effective weapons in the hands of their opponents. One of the fathers of the Order, Antoine Lavalette, who resided in Martinque, had engaged in large mercantile enterprises. The capture of several of his ships entailed so great a loss on the French firms with which he was financially connected that they were compelled to go into bankruptcy. The creditors of the bankrupt merchants then sued Lavalette and his immediate superior. It being hopeless to secure from them the large sum that was owed, they next tried the expedient of making the Order itself, as a corporate body in the realm, responsible. The Marseilles tribunal agreed to their plea. But the Jesuits were not convinced. Being advised that their establishments had no such oneness in law that all could be held to account for the liabilities of each, they concluded that they would try a legal shift rather than pay the money. With strange fatuity they submitted their case to the Parliament of Paris, the very body which had long and fiercely contended against their schemes. In answer to the claim that the Order could not be held responsible for the debt of a member, the Parliament asked for their constitution. This document, till then unknown to the public, was produced. It is needless to say that it made no favorable impression upon the minds of zealous Gallicans. Those who insisted that the State could not endure the unlimited authority claimed by the foreign ecclesiastic dwelling in the Vatican, were naturally jealous of an institute which delivered a powerful company of men within the realm, body and soul, to a foreign head. The determination of Parliament mounted at once beyond the affair of Lavalette. The examination of the books of casuistry which followed was rather a means of justifying its resolution to overthrow the Society than a basis of judgment.
An attempt was made to save the Jesuits by a compromise measure, providing that certain restrictions agreeable to Gallicanism should be accepted by the Order. A scheme of this kind, endorsed by the King, was forwarded to Rome. The response was a rejection of the proposal, uttered either by the Pope or the General, in these unequivocal words: "Sint ut sunt, aut non sint,"--"let them be as they are, or let them cease to be." Public opinion in France dictated the latter alternative. The royal order for the suppression of the Society was issued in November, 1764. This did not prohibit the residence of former members in France. But sentence of banishment was near at hand; it fell upon them in 1767.
Clement XIII. was profoundly disturbed by the overthrow of the Jesuits in France. As a means of censuring past and checking future assaults he issued the bull Apostolicum (January, 1765). This is nothing less than a warm commendation of the Order, wherein the Pope pronounces the charges made against its principles to be malicious and unfounded, and repels them in these terms: "We publish and declare that the Institute of the Society of Jesus savors in the highest degree of piety and sanctity both on account of the high end which it specially contemplates, namely, the defence and propagation of the Catholic religion, and also on account of the means which it applies to the attainment of this end." 1 Bullarii Romani Continuatio, Clemene XIII., iii, 38, 39.
This commendation was vain. The nations did not consider it necessary to ask the Pope what they should think of the Jesuits. Against the tempest which had begun to blow, the apostolic voice was no better than common breath.
The next and most far-reaching visitation upon the doomed Order was in the Spanish dominions, European and American. The decree of banishment was issued in 1767. An insurrection of the preceding year is presumed to have afforded the pretext. Beyond this all is involved in obscurity. There was no public process, and the King did not deign to assign a single specific reason for his summary measure. The following announcement to the Pope gives his motive for this secrecy: "To spare the world a great scandal, I will keep forever in my own heart the abominable plot which has necessitated these rigors. Your Holiness should believe me upon my word. The safety of my life demands of me a profound silence in this matter." 1 Crétineau-Joly, Histoire de la Compagnie de Jésus, v. 302.
The kingdom of Naples and Sicily was made forbidden ground to the Jesuits (1767), as also the duchy of Parma (1768). In connection with the latter, Clement XIII. conceived that a suitable occasion had been given for the manifestation of his displeasure, some steps adverse to papal control having been added to the unkind treatment of his favorites. Reviving an old claim that this territory was a fief of the papacy, he undertook to treat the Duke of Parma as a rebellious vassal, and launched against him a sentence of excommunication. The boldness of the act was its only recommendation. The duke was related to the sovereigns of Spain, France, and Naples. Resenting the papal onslaught as an insult to the Bourbon family, they made reprisals by seizing papal territory. Nor was this all; they laid a formal demand upon the Pontiff to wholly abolish the Order of Jesuits. Whether Clement XIII. would have resisted this formidable combination was not to be made manifest. His death in 1769 transferred the fate of the Order to the hands of his successor.
Clement XIV. came to the papal throne, if not under an implicit engagement to fulfill the demand of the sovereigns, with far less of disinclination to do so than was cherished by the preceding Pope. Amiable and moderate in disposition, he was ready to study the interests of peace. As the Bourbon governments continued to press their demand, that of Spain being especially energetic and pertinacious, he at length gave them satisfaction. The brief for the dissolution of the Order of Jesuits was issued in 1773. In this writing, after taking note of precedents for dissolving orders, and calling attention to the numerous dissensions of which the Jesuits had been the occasion, and which it seemed impossible to prevent or allay, the Pope thus pronounced his decision: "Actuated by so many and important considerations, and, as we hope, aided by the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compelled besides by the necessity of our ministry, which strictly obliges us to conciliate, maintain, and confirm the peace and tranquillity of the Christian republic, and remove every obstacle which may tend to trouble it; having further considered that the said Company of Jesus can no longer produce those abundant fruits and those great advantages with a view to which it was instituted, approved by so many of our predecessors, and endowed with so many and extensive privileges; that on the contrary, it was very difficult not to say impossible, that the Church could recover a firm and durable peace so long as the said Society subsisted; in consequence hereof, and determined by the particular reasons we have alleged, and forced by other motives which prudence and the good government of the Church have dictated, the knowledge of which we reserve to ourselves ...we suppress and abolish the said Company."
Clement XIV. died the next year. His sickness was such as to lead some nearest to his person to believe that he had been poisoned. The question as to who administered the poison--supposing death to have been effected by that cause--lies too purely in the region of speculation to be considered here.
Cast out of their own household the Jesuits found refuge with the heretic and the schismatic. Doubtless it was not for the purpose of heaping coals of fire on their heads in the apostolic sense that Frederic II. of Prussia and the Russian Empress Catharine II. gave friendly entertainment to the members of the proscribed Order. Frederic had recently acquired territories largely Roman Catholic in population. He had promised to allow these territories to remain in statu quo as respects religion. The resident Jesuits were acceptable to the people. They were also largely employed as teachers, and it would make some trouble to supply their places. He therefore concluded to let them rest in peace. In communicating with the Pope upon the subject, he mischievously suggested that, inasmuch as he was a heretic, his Holiness was not able to release him from his obligation to keep his word, or from the duty of being an honest man. 1 Crétineau-Joly, v. 465. The motives of Catharine were very much the same as those of Frederic. She thought that she could safely use the Jesuits in the recently acquired Polish territory. Here they were allowed to receive novices. In fact Russian patronage served in a special sense to carry the Order through the period of legal nonentity.
It is interesting to note that adversity brought some dogmatic ameliorations to the minds of the Jesuits. As they were awaiting their fate in France a streak of genuine Gallican light shot across the leaden sky of their Ultramontanism. The illumination was sudden, and doubtless was not very permanent. But while it lasted, it had its effect. One hundred and sixteen fathers, including provincials and superiors, gave their written assent to the strong Gallican articles of the Assembly of 1682. 1 Crétineau-Joly, v. 260, 261; Theiner, Geschichte des Pontificats Clemens XIV., i. 21-23. A few years later some of their brethren in Germany were favored with a similar illumination, in virtue of which they gave their support to theses utterly irreconcilable with Ultramontane maxims. 2 Theiner, ii. 490, 491.
The interior broils of the French Church were not so engrossing in this period as to withdraw attention entirely from the duty of vexing the Protestants. There were intervals indeed during which they received a measure of indulgence. Some of the harsher provisions against them were left very largely in abeyance during the regency of the Duke of Orleans. But a bitter atonement was usually exacted for such a season of relative quiet. To permit the harvest to grow was to create an extra demand for the use of the scythe. So we find the government issuing in 1724 a peculiarly cruel edict. "To the penalty of death decreed against preachers was added the galleys for life for men, and perpetual imprisonment for women, against all who did not inform against them. It was enjoined on curés, or vicars, to visit the sick suspected of heresy, and to exhort them in private and without witnesses. An arbitrary fine was decreed against relatives, friends, or servants, who should prevent the curé from having access to the sick, and the galleys for life against concealed Protestants who should exhort or assist the sick secretly. The law condemning every Protestant, who should be cured after having refused the sacraments, to the galleys for life, and to confiscation of property as a backslider, was confirmed; if the sick man died his memory was to be prosecuted, and his property confiscated. Formerly it was necessary that the refusal of the sacraments should be attested by a magistrate; now the testimony of the curé was sufficient. The parish priest was constituted an official informer. Parents were forbidden to consent to the marriage of their children in foreign countries, without express permission from the King, under penalty of the galleys for life for men, and perpetual banishment for women, with confiscation of property. At the same time the new Catholics (and under this title were comprehended all Protestants, according to the fiction of the law of 1715, which denied that there were any Protestants remaining in France) were ordered to observe in their marriages the formalities prescribed by the holy canons and the ordinances. A11 civil status was thus annihilated for Protestants; there were thenceforth in France, before the law, only Catholics, and backsliders liable to the galleys." 1 Henri Martin, Histoire de France, tome xv., pp. 118, 119, in Eng. translation. An equally unsparing edict was issued in 1745.
While the practice was not perseveringly kept on a level with this barbarous code, there were numerous instances of intolerable vexation. Now and then a preacher was visited with a capital sentence. Bénezet was hanged in 1752, Lafage in 1754, Rochette in 1762.
It was first in 1788, on the eve of the Revolution, that a scant measure of legal toleration was granted to the Protestants. Even then the concession provoked the protest of the clergy. It required a very special tuition to instil into them the lesson of tolerance. The Faculty of Theology in Paris had not yet learned the alphabet of the subject in 1766. In their censure of a work published in that year they declared that religious intolerance was an essential principle of Catholicism. Rocquain, Esprit révolutionnaire avant la Révolution, p. 262. "The Assemblies of the clergy held from the accession of Louis XVI. up to the Revolution continually complained of the attempts of the Protestants to secure liberty of conscience. The following words appear in the report of the Abbé de 1a Rochefoucauld presented in 1789: 'This sect, which in the midst of its ruins retains the audacious and independent spirit which it had from its origin, wishes to usurp for falsehood the rights which belong only to the truth.'" 1 De Pressensé L'Église et la Révolution Française, p. 23.