The Info List - Organic Articles

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The ORGANIC ARTICLES (French : "Les Articles Organiques") was a law administering public worship in France
. Europe
with the French Empire at its greatest extent in 1811 French Empire Client states Allies


* 1 History * 2 Purpose

* 3 Summary of the Articles

* 3.1 Pertaining to Catholics * 3.2 Pertaining to Protestants

* 4 Reactions and controversies * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References


The Articles were originally presented by Napoléon Bonaparte
Napoléon Bonaparte
, and consisted of 77 Articles relating to Catholicism
and 44 Articles relating to Protestantism
. It was published as a unilateral addition to the Concordat of 1801
Concordat of 1801
, which is also sometimes referred to as the "French Concordat," on April 8, 1802. Napoleon had it presented it to the Tribunate and the legislative body at the same time that he had them vote on the Concordat
itself. It met with opposition from the Catholic
Church with Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
claiming that the articles had been promulgated without his knowledge.


Presenting the Organic Articles
Organic Articles
was Napoleon’s method of granting the Tribunat and the Corps législatif
Corps législatif
partial control of the concordat in order to help the state monitor any politically harmful Catholic
or Protestant
movements or activities. In 1797, two years before Napoleon seized power , there had been a revolt in the Vendée of lay Catholics which had been brutally suppressed. This incident is believed to have inspired the Organic Articles. It was also an attempt to prevent any more religious strife in the cities of France. For example, Article 45 states, “In cities where there are temples dedicated to different religions, no religious ceremony is to take place outside of the buildings consecrated for Catholic
worship.” In towns with adherents of different dogmas , public processions were prohibited.



Title I - “Of the governance of the Catholic
Church in its general relations with the rights and the police of the state”, required the authorization of the Government for the publication and execution of a papal document in France.

Title II - “Of the Ministers” declared the power of ministers and regulated public worship, stating that rules and regulations of seminaries must be presented to the State, the number of those to be ordained must be fixed yearly by the Government, and curés of important parishes cannot be appointed by the bishop without the consent of the State.

Title III - “Of the forms of worship” explained not only restriction of public processions, but the proper clerical dress code , instructing, "All ecclesiastics will be dressed in the French manner in black." It forbade public processions in towns where there are adherents of different creeds, and it prescribed that there shall be only one catechism for all the churches of France. The Imperial Catechism taught that love, respect, and obedience to the Emperor were religious obligations.

Title IV - “Of the circumscription of the archbishoprics, bishoprics and parishes, of the buildings intended for worship and of the salaries for the ministers” specified boundaries for the jurisdictions of bishops and the amounts of their salaries .

The Articles allowed the use of church bells, but put this under the joint jurisdiction of the bishop and the prefect. The government exercised control over religious holidays. The Feast of the Assumption (August 15) was one of the holidays retained. It also happened to be Napoleon's birthday.


These articles were largely similar to the Catholic
regulations; Protestants favored parts of the Articles preventing Catholic domination in France. The Calvinist
community, a variety of Protestant Christianity
, was divided into congregations of adherents governed by those appointed by large taxpayers , such as a pastor and elders . Parallel to the Articles relative to Catholicism, the pastors were salaried by the State, and following this, a Calvinist
revival was held by the Protestants.

According to Nicholas Atkin :

"Ostensibly these dealt with the policing arrangements referred to in Article 1, but in practice they went much further. Government approbation was required before papal pronunciations could be published, councils convoked, new parishes established and chapels set up. A uniform catechism was introduced, church weddings could not precede the civil ceremony, cathedral chapters were reduced to merely ceremonial function and the powers of papal delegates were severely circumscribed. Any breach of the articles was treated as a criminal offence and was referred to the Council of State. ... Although it was not specifically referred to in the Organic Articles, the creation of a Ministry of Cults in 1801 reinforced a drive towards government oversight of ecclesiastical matters."


The Organic Articles
Organic Articles
read as a list of solutions to past problems in France, such as clerical abuses and sectarian altercations, and was also concerned by the Catholic
Church to be a subtle attempt by the State to gain further control of the Church. Napoleon sought to allow the right amount of Catholicism, but not a large amount, in order to prevent further rebellion from the Protestants, therefore issuing of the Organic Articles
Organic Articles
was considered to be a fault in French Catholicism. Although it restricted specific religious practices in France, it partially allowed other religious freedoms yet still remained in favor of the State. A limited or regulated amount of worship was given, or simply enough to pray for the Republic
. Minor issues were addressed in the Articles, but peace between theological controversies was not achieved.

The Concordat
was presented to Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
for a signature of approval, along with Napoleon’s attachment of the Organic Articles, which somewhat abates parts of the Concordat. The Pope
protested against the Organic Articles, saying he had no knowledge of Napoleon's attachment at the time of the agreement, but the protest was in vain. Finally, Pius was humiliated and defeated by the publishing of the Articles. This raised more difficulties for the Pope
rather than solved them.

Though Pius' disapproval was disregarded by Napoleon, many of the Articles eventually became a dead letter . The obscurities of many of them were later shown to be irrelevant, and the need to enforce the laws was unnecessary. In 1905, the French law was issued declaring the separation of Church and State in then France. This abolished the Organic Articles
Organic Articles
along with the Concordat
of 1801. However, in the departments of Alsace and Moselle, in 1905 not part of France, the organic articles remain in power (Cf. Local law in Alsace-Moselle
Local law in Alsace-Moselle


* Napoleonic Empire
Napoleonic Empire


* ^ A B C Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Organic Articles". Catholic
Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company. * ^ A B Duvergier, Lois, XIII * ^ A B Shusterman, Noah. "Une Loi d\'Eglese et de l\'Etat", Religion and the Politics of Time, CUA Press, 2010 ISBN 9780813217253 * ^ Atkin, Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism
Since 1750 * ^ Bergeron, France
Under Napoleon * ^ Walsh, The Concordat
of 1801: A Study of the Problem of Nationalism in the Relations of Church and State


* Bergeron, L., France
Under Napoleon (Princeton University Press, 1981) * Wright, G., France
In Modern Times (Fourth Printing, 1966) * Atkin, N., Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism
Since 1750 (Oxford University Press, 2003) * Walsh, H., The Concordat
of 1801: A Study of the Problem of Nationalism in the Relations of Church and State (Columbia University Press, 1933)

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