Religion and Radicalism in July Monarchy France. The French Catholic Church of the Abbé Chatel

Author: Prothero, Iorwerth
This is the first recent study, and the only one in English, of a little known movement of dissident priests that arose in the wake of the 1830 Revolution in France. Under the leadership of the Abbé Chatel, they broke away from the Church of Rome to establish a new French Catholic Church appropriate to the new liberal regime of the July Monarchy. Seeking to reconcile Catholicism with liberalism, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, they renounced the authority of the Pope and the bishops, used French instead of Latin in services, and gave up celibacy of priests, Confession, fasting and church fees. They received a welcome in a number of parishes, where their installation in the parish church sometimes led to violent clashes with the forces of order. Although Chatel's movement was supported by many of the new local authorities, the government was much less favourable. The book thus rediscovers a movement that posed serious challenges to the bishops and the government, and illustrates the weakness of the Roman Catholic Church in France in the aftennath of the French Revolution. It further reveals the extent of dissident Catholicism, within and without the Church of Rome. The study also demonstrates the nature and reality of popular religion, which often differed in profound ways from the religion of elites. Allowed much freedom at first, and increasingly receiving support and encouragement from the political opposition, including republicans, Chatel's movement met greater government hostility in the later 1830s, when some of its churches were closed down, a process completed in 1842. The movement thus exposes the fluctuating politics of the July Monarchy, and the links between religion and radicalism. Chatel also moved further in his ideas into socialism and feminism, both of which had strong religious elements at this time. His movement also prepared the way, in the Paris Basin and the Limousin, for the only significant cases in nineteenth century France of Protestant expansion into Roman Catholic areas.


“This book offers an intriguing glimpse into the margins of French religious history … This study of the Chatel movement - the first book-length study of the movement as a whole in either French or English - affords such a perspective … Insights like these contribute to an understanding not just of the Chatel movement, but of the social and political frameworks of French public life more generally.This book reminds us that history is not always about success and durability. It deals with momentary opportunities, frustrated hopes, precarious survivals, eventual failure. The study of these things, still too often neglected in mainstream historiography, has much to tell us about the historical process, and about the real conditions of uncertainty in which people in the past actually lived their lives. Anyone interested in these things will find much to intrigue them in this detailed examination of Chatel and his movement.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. G.Cubitt, University of York

“I have read with great interest Dr Prothero's latest book on radical religion in France between 1830 and 1850. It is an immensely well-documented piece of scholarship giving new insights in the history of religion, the developments of radical challenges to the Catholic Church and on the culture and context of the French Catholic church founded by abbot Chatel and his followers. It is breaking new ground and it develops a fresh perspective not only on the dissident churches but also on the responses of the Orleanist and Republican state to religious matters. This book shows the weaknesses of the Catholic revival following the religious unrest of the French Revolution and how anticlerical ism and Protestantism could emerge as a response to the intransigence of the restoration's clergy. The book is particularly coming to life when it evokes the circles of these schismatic Catholics. In many places it merges a prosopography based on extensive research with a clear and arresting narrative. I am convinced that this is a good book and that it deserves to be published.” – Dr. B. Taithe, University of Manchester

“I have read this work with great interest. It is absorbing and definitely worthy of publication … There are important themes here and major issues to be analysed and fascinating connections to be investigated. This account illustrates the difficulties faced by the RC Church in ministering to all communities and the author makes the reader aware how often problems related, not to major theological debate, but to personal incompatibility- and this is a salutary lesson.” – Professor P.M. Pilbeam, University of London

Table of Contents

Preface, by Dr. Geoffrey Cubitt
1. Introduction
2. Origins of Reformation
3. Challenges to the Concordat
4. The Primate of the Gauls
5. Expansion in the Paris Region
6. Expansion in the Provinces
7. Rivals, Schism and Radicalism
8. Confrontation
9. The New Faith
10. Zenith
11. Government Hostility
12. The End for Auzou
13. Socialism and Feminism
14. Closure
15. Survivals
Second Republic
Into Protestantism