The Catholic Party Struggles Against Official Persecution of the Chruch

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The Catholic Party Struggles Against Official Persecution of the Chruch
Catholics finally realized their adversaries’ duplicity. They closed ranks in the Catholic Party, ready to fight until they achieved a victory.

Bishop Clausel de Montals’ pastoral letter was not limited to merely attacking the University’s monopoly. It went on to campaign against France’s entire system of higher education. As such, it sharply divided the camps. The University’s supporters like Victor Cousin could not continue the pretense they had hitherto maintained. Led by the anti-Catholic historian Jules Michelet, they began to defend the monopoly openly. Until this time, Michelet had not committed himself as Cousin had.

Catholics finally realized their adversaries’ duplicity. They closed ranks in the Catholic Party, ready to fight until they achieved a victory. All the Catholic and Legitimist newspapers followed L’Univers, which took every opportunity to demolish the opponents’ flawed positions. Such coverage forced the Church’s enemies into the open as fervent supporters of the University monopoly.

In January 1844, in a speech from the throne, Louis Philippe promised a solution to the freedom of teaching issue. After applauding him, the Chamber of Deputies hoped the government would “keep the State’s authority and action over public instruction.” There could not be a more unambiguous indication of the government’s direction.

The following day, Louis Veuillot recalled in L’Univers that Catholics did not love, hate or fear the government. “We wish [the government] no ill. We accept it as it is—a fellow traveler probably worth as much as any other but for whom we have little sympathy. We make do with it if only because we don’t know if we will keep it forever. Meaning no offense, we can assure you that we won’t be the first to die.”

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With the government revealing its intentions, the campaign intensified. In addition to newspaper articles, Catholics began writing pamphlets, petitioning the Chamber, and organizing resistance groups. For its part, seeking to stifle the movement but not daring to attack its leaders, the Ministry took action by suing Father Théodore Cambalot, who had founded a religious congregation called the Religious of the Assumption. In a fiery report, he had criticized the University and the inertia of the Archbishop of Paris, Most Rev. Denis-Auguste Affre. The archbishop did not support the struggle. Instead, he preferred to repeat that the best means of combat consisted of confidential reports sent by France’s bishops to the government.

Father Cambalot was fined and imprisoned for his book, Mémoire sur la guerre fait à l’Église et à la société par le monopole universitaire. Father Cambalot’s prosecution exposed the government’s willingness to defend the University. They accused Father Cambalot of defaming and reviling the University. Furthermore, they indicted him for trying to disturb the peace by subjecting a respectable class and the king’s government to his readers’ hatred and contempt.

During Father Cambalot’s trial, the prosecution pointed to the Archbishop of Paris’s silence. However, this attack was not true since the Most Rev. Affre had sent the king a confidential report against the University’s monopoly signed by all the bishops of his ecclesiastical province.

Disgusted by the verdict, Louis Veuillot published Archbishop Affre’s report, turning Father Cambalot’s condemnation into a triumph for the Catholic cause. Almost all French bishops imitated Archbishop Affre by publishing reports, protests and pastoral letters.

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Seeing he had taken a false step, King Louis Philippe invited Father Cambalot to lunch at the Tuilleries palace after Cambalot had completed his fifteen-day jail sentence. Over lunch, the virtuous priest repeated all the accusations in his report to the king. As a result, the government stepped up its aggressive campaign and brought new lawsuits. The Comte de Montalembert protested against this persecution in the Chamber of Peers. Louis Veuillot published news about the trials in L’Univers, showing how the prosecution was both partial and unfair.

On March 10, 1844, Veuillot announced in L’Univers the publication of a pamphlet narrating the case of Father Cambalot. It related the whole story of the teaching issue. The pamphlet was seized the day it came out. Along with Louis Veuillot and Jean Barrier, L’Univers was accused of instigating disobedience, contempt of the law and apologizing for allegedly criminal attitudes.

Another trial foreshadowed a new victory for the Catholic Party. Opinion was frankly favorable to the accused. Hesitatingly, Veuillot and Jean Barrier were each sentenced to a 3,000 francs fine and one month’s imprisonment. L’Univers immediately launched a public collection to pay for the fines. The Archbishop of Paris was one of the first donors. Catholics supported the initiative with such readiness that the necessary sum was soon raised.

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On his way to prison, Veuillot hoped to devote his time to writing. This was his constant dream, but fortunately never realized. He had planned to write two books. However, the government resolved to treat the prisoners kindly. The jailors allowed Veuillot and Barrier to receive visitors. Subsequently, their days in captivity were as busy as those in liberty, if not more so. Cardinals, bishops, politicians, members of the aristocracy, the entire Legitimist party, Montalembert and his wife and Catholic delegations from all over France made a point of showing solidarity with the illustrious prisoner. When released, Veuillot again had to put aside his book-writing plans to return to his combat and sacrifice station at L’Univers. He then knit a close friendship with Bishop Pierre-Louis Parisis, who soon became one of the champions of orthodoxy in France and a mainstay of L’Univers within the French Episcopate.

Back into the struggle, Veuillot found the situation had changed. His imprisonment strengthened the Catholic Party so much that the government decided to abandon its persecution. Intent on nipping the evil in the bud, Villemain, Minister of Public Instruction, presented a bill in favor of the University monopoly. This was to be defended in the Chamber by the skillful politician Adolphe Thiers. However, the public reaction was violent. Villemain’s projected bill failed. Then, University supporters tried to distract the Catholic movement by waging a formidable campaign against the Jesuits. The order had long attracted the hatred and ill will of declared and hidden enemies of orthodoxy.

The change of tactics caused the first breach in Catholic Party ranks, which until then had been cohesive and progressed from victory to victory.

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