Louis & Religion
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Louis & Papacy

There was always a certain inconsistency in Louis's policy towards the Holy See. On the one hand, he called forth the intervention of Alexander VII against the Jansenists, which would have been anomalous if the king had believed that the Bishop of Rome was no more in the Church than any other bishop. On the other hand, he set himself up as the head of his Church (though, at the same time, not wishing to be schismatical), and the Gallicanism of his magistrates and some of his bishops found support in him. Full submission to Rome and rupture with Rome were equally distasteful to him. The humiliation which he inflicted on Alexander VII when Créqui, his ambassador, had to complain of the pope's Corsican guard (August, 1662) was inspired rather by the need of displaying his unlimited power than by any feeling of hostility to the Holy See. In 1665, a papal Bull having condemned the censure which the Sorbonne had passed against the doctrine of infallibility, Louis, after inviting the procurator-general to appeal against it comme d'abus, desisted from further action. In 1666, when Colbert, in order to diminish the number of priests and monks, wished to put back the legal age for ordination, the nuncio declared to Père Aunat, the king's confessor, that there would be a schism if the king continued to consult only laymen on spiritual affairs; Louis thought these words "horrible," and Colbert's project was abandoned. In short, Louis XIV held that, as he expressed it, it was "an advantage that the Roman Curia should be favourable to him rather than unfavourable."

In 1673 the conflict of the régale broke out. The term régale was applied to that right by which the king, upon the death of a bishop, drew the revenues of the see and made appointments to benefices until the new bishop had registered his oath in the Court of Exchequer (Chambre des comptes). Louis XIV claimed, in 1673 and again in 1675, that the right of régale was his in all bishoprics of the kingdom. Pavillon, Bishop of Alet, and Caulet, Bishop of Pamiers, refused to submit. These prelates, both Jansenists, alleged that the Jesuits had stretched the right of régale so as to increase the number of benefices in the collation of which Père La Chaise, the king's confessor, might exert his influence. In 1677, Caulet, having refused to give the cure of souls within his diocese to priests whom the king had nominated in virtue of the régale, was deprived of his temporalities. Three Briefs of Innocent XI (March, 1678, and January and December, 1679) sustained Caulet and threatened Louis with the pains of conscience before God's tribunal, and the rumour was current that the king was about to be excommunicated.

Louis heals ill people touching them
Louis heals ill people touching them
Resurrection of J.C. (detail) 1674
Resurrection of J.C. (detail) 1674

In July, 1680, the assembly of the clergy, in a letter to the king, identified themselves with the king and threatened the pope. Upon the death of Caulet, the Diocese of Pamiers was contested between the vicar capitular nominated by the chapter, who was hostile to the régale, and another vicar capitular, nominated by the Archbishop of Toulouse and installed by the royal officers. The former of these two vicars was removed by the king's order, and the latter was excommunicated by the pope. A third vicar capitular, nominated by the chapter, remained in hiding while he administered the diocese, was condemned to death and was executed in effigy by the king's command. A rupture between Louis and the Holy See appeared to be imminent; the king, in convoking the assembly of the clergy for November, 1681, threw out some hints of a schism. This was an attempt to frighten the pope. In fact, neither side wished for any schism. Louis made the concession that priests provided by him in virtue of his right of régale should be obliged to first receive canonical mission, and this concession was offset by the passage of the Declaration of the Four Articles, which showed the "wish to humiliate Rome." The very animated correspondence between the pope and the assembly was a disquieting circumstance, but Louis prorogued the assembly on 29 June, 1682. In this way he made his escape from the advisers who, to use his own words, would have liked to "invite him to don the turban." He had, in the words of the Jesuit Avigny, "a foundation of religion which would not allow him to face these divisions without emotion."

Again, when Innocent XI steadfastly refused to accept bishops who, as priests, had participated in the assembly of 1682, Louis went through a series of manoeuvres which had the appearance of acts of contrition. Innocent remained insensible to all this and, on the other hand, refused to maintain the right of asylum and the franchises which the ambassador of France claimed at Rome. This new incident made an immense stir in Europe; there was talk of the conquest of Avignon and Civitavecchia by France; the Bull of 12 May, 1687, excommunicating the ambassador and his accomplices, was pronounced abominable by the parlementaires of Paris, who had in view the assembling of a national council and declared that the pope, by reason of his infirmities, could no longer support the weight of the papacy. Alexander VIII (1689-91), during his short pontificate, induced Louis to surrender his claim in the matter of the franchises and also published a Bull, until then reserved, by which Innocent XI had condemned the Declaration of 1682. Innocent XII (1691-1700) made but one concession to Louis XIV: he declared his readiness to grant Bulls without delay to all bishops nominated by the king, provided they had taken no part in the assembly of 1682, and provided that they made a profession of faith before the nuncio. Louis, on 14 September, 1693, declared that, to show his veneration for the pope, he ordered the declaration of 1682 to be held without effect in regard to religious policy. The Gallicans in France and the Protestants abroad pointed to this decision of the king as a desertion of his principles.

The good understanding between Louis and the papacy, while they fought side by side against Jansenism, was again momentarily clouded during the War of the Spanish Succession. In a very long and very cordial Brief dated 6 February, 1701, Clement XI had recognized Philip V as King of Spain. Political conditions, threats made against him by the Emperor Joseph I, brought the pope to recognize Charles III as king, 10 October, 1709. The diplomatic representatives of Louis XIV and Philip V at Rome had done everything to prevent this; the extremely reserved tone and the laconic style of the Brief addressed to Charles III did not sufficiently console them, and Cardinal de la Trémouille, on 13 October, 1709, protested in the name of Louis XIV against the public recognition of Charles III, which was to take place in Consistory on the next day.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX


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