MONSIGNOR DUPANLOUP ON THE POVERTY OF THE FRENCH CLERGY.
MONSIGNOR DUPANLOUP'S speech in the Senate on the Ecclesiastical Budget was intended to be an in- dictment against the Republican party on the score of want of liberality, but it was in fact a still more telling indict- ment against them on the score of want of common- sense. It is scarcely credible that the position of the Clergy should be such as he describes it to be, and such as the mere figures of the Budget show that it must be, and yet that the Republicans should not only not themselves propose to alter it, but oppose a strenuous resistance to those who do propose to alter it. If the Republicans were all Liberationists, as we say in England, their policy would be mean, but it would not be absolutely unintelligible. 'We are determined,' they might then say, 'to have no Established Church, and as we cannot overturn it at once, we intend to undermine it little by little. Every grant suppressed or lessened is a step towards the end for which we are working. We are trying to bring our steed down to a straw a day, and we have this advantage over the original author of the experiment, that we shall be agreeably surprised if it dies at that critical point in the pro- cess.' But the majority of the French Republicans, at all events of the moderate sections of the party, are not Liberationists. They have no desire to put an end to the existing relations of Church and State in France. They are believers in Concor- dats, in arrangements by which the State attempts to draw the teeth of the clergy, in return for putting food into their mouths. Occasionally there is quite a resurrection of Galli- canism among the Deputies of the Left. They look back with envy to the control which the State exercised over the Church under Louis XIV. When, however, it comes to the consideration-money whioh the ,clergy are to re- ceive for the surrender of s part of their liberties, the spirit Of the nineteenth century reasserts itself, and a very miserly'spirit 'Ms. The French Clergy are paid by the State ; consequently, the State comes in for all the discontent which insufficient pay arouses in the recipient and in the recipient's family, and for all the discredit which it brings upon the paymaster. Yet in spite of this, the Republicans are making it a point of conscience that the minimum salary of a French priest shall not exceed £36 a year. It is no wonder that with no more than this by way of income, Mgr. Dupanloup should have to say of many of them,—" They do not live on it, they die on it?' It is not 14s. a week, not the average wages of an English agricultural labourer; and out of this the priest has to keep up a decent appearance, to have a cassock in which he can occasionally dine with the Bishop—though even this requisite, Mr. Hamerton tells us, is occasionally wanting, to be charitable to the poer,—and the French Clergy are, as a body, very charitable ; in short, to do a hundred things which an agricultural labourer and men very much above agri- cultural labourers escape altogether. It is true that there are other sources of clerical income beside the State r grant, and it is owing to this fact that all French priests are not in the same miserable position as the worst-paid among them. But these sources of income are necessarily very unevenly distributed. In the fashionable churches in the towns there are large fees for marriages, and there are many private masses. But even here, part of the money thus raised goes to the support of additional priests. In the country, again, the great man of the neighbourhood may help the priest ; but the reputation of being supported by the State is an immense check to private liberality, and even if it were not, Mgr. Dupanloup says, with great truth, that a priest who values his influence with the peasantry will not care to be the chaplain of the squire. Endowments are sometimes spoken of as contributing to the support of the clergy, but the old endow- ments are gone, and the uncertainty how they will be dealt with in the future does not tend to increase the number of new ones. Besides this, private benevolence usually takes a more exciting form than that of increasing the income of some common-place parish priest. So that the poorest class of the French clergy—those, that is, who receive the least from the State — are also the class that receive least from private sources. To them Mgr. Dupanloup's picture applies in all its strictness.
The mere recital of the poverty of the Catholic clergy is not likely to have much influence on the French Republican leaders. For the most part, they dislike and distrust the whole order ; and though Victor Hugo can draw an admirable picture of a good French priest, it is probably assumed by the majo- rity of his readers that it is a picture of which there is no living replica. But when compassion has been appealed to without success, there is room for enlightened self-interest to show that in congenial soils it can do as much as compassion. We are not the least surprised that the Republicans do not pity the condition of the French Clergy. The only thing that raises our wonder is, that it does not excite in them some alarm. The Republican party do not deny that they are afraid of the clergy. They complain of clerical influence at elections, and though the stories told about this are probably exaggerated, it is certain that such clerical influence as is brought to bear upon the voters is brought to bear against the Republicans. First and last, it is probable that a good deal is done in this way, and at all events, the Republicans are evidently in earnest when they declare themselves afraid of it. The first result of this fear, one would think, would be to make those who are possessed by it consider whether they could get rid of their adversaries. Specu- lation on this point would not last long. The French °leggy cannot be got rid of. The State can starve them out, but if they were deprived of State support, they would only be scattered over the country, to gain a more precarious though hardly a poorer livelihood in some other way. The next best thing to getting rid of an adversary is to conciliate him, and the chances are that the Republicans by playing their cards properly might do a good deal in this direction. The hatred of the French Clergy to the Republic is not a senti- mental hatred. It is not the offspring of a class-feeling in favour of any of the dispossessed dynasties. On the contrary, the bulk of the French Clergy are peasants, better educated, indeed, than their fathers andbrothers, but not lifted above the level of peasant prejudices. Consequently, there is no reason why the clergy as a body should dislike the Republic more than the peasantry dislike it ; and the peasantry, as we see every day, are by degrees coming to consider whether, after all, it is not the Government which suits them best. But then the Republicans have done nothing to injure the peasantry, whereas they are trying at the present moment to injure the clergy, by preventing their salaries from being raised. The effect of the recent debates in the Senate mad the Chamber of Deputies, and more especially of Mgr. Dupan- loup's speech, will be to convince the clergy that the Republi- cans would like to suppress them, but that being unable to suppress them, they are all the more determined to impoverish them. The priests would be more than lumen, if they didnot resent this, and the step from resenting the niggardliness of the Republic towards themselves to detesting the enmity of the Republic towards religion is not a long one. Whatever influence the clergy possess in France will now be used more than ever in stirring up and encouraging, by every means that present themselves, any latent dislike of the Republic that they may find among their flocks. They may nut, it is true, be able to do much in this way, but the Republic has not so many friends in France that it can afford to be reckless about creating enemies.
Nor is it only the clergy themselves who will be alienated by this unwise economy. There are the families from which the clergy are taken to be considered. This is an important dement in the matter, both as regards numbers and as regards the class to which these families mainly belong. Wherever the relations of a priest see him nearly starving because the State will not pay him a salary upon which he can live in decent comfort, there will be A sense of imitation, of the same kind, though, of course, very much less in degree than that which is felt by the priest himself. His own family will be his apostles, his first missionaries in the work of spreading dislike to the party which thus keeps down his salary, when all the other parties in the Chamber Were anxious to increase it. Wherever there is a poor priest there will be some of these missionaries. It may be thought that an inter- ested irritation such as this will not have much effect. Those who take this view might profitably study the causes which led to the unpopularity of the Gladstone Administration. Among the most fertile of these was the economies effected in the Civil Service. At first it seemed as though these economies must necessarily be popular. They benefited the taxpayer, and the taxpayers who have to find the salaries of the Civil Servants are counted by millions, whereas the Civil Servants who have to draw those salaries are counted by thousands. Surely, therefore, the approbation of the millions would far outweigh the displeasure of the thousands at whose expense the taxpayers were relieved. As a matter of fact, the displeasure of the minority proved to be far more potent than the approbation of the majority. The saving in taxes was scarcely perceived, the loss in salary was keenly felt and loudly lamented. Every man whose place had been sup- pressed or whose pay had been lowered was a little centre of busy discontent. He seldom lost an opportunity of enlarging upon his wrongs, and as is usually the case when Governments are accused of meanness, he had seldom any difficulty in find- ing an audience. The taxpayer, on the other hand, rarely realised that the question was one in which he had an interest. He regarded the saving as a saving to the community rather than to his own pocket, and however little a man may ordi- narily love his neighbour, whom he sees, he almost always loves him better than he loves the community, which he does not see. The same process is exceedingly likely to be repeated in France. The peasants will hear that this or that priest whom they know, and whose family they know, has had the little increase to his salary which he has been hoping for withheld by the Republican majority. If this loss to the priest coincided with any appreciable gain to themselves, they would bear it with stoical fortitude. But when it is accompanied by no perceptible decrease in taxation, they will probably suspect the Republicans of starving the clergy in order to put money into their own pockets. Taken by itself, the consequent unpopularity of the Republic may not be serious ; but when there are so many convergent currents of - dislike to be allowed for, it is imprudent to add even one to their number, when no principle is saved and no end gained by the addition. In these Ultramontane days, it is often impossible not to make the Catholic Church your enemy. The terms at which she sells her friendship are sometimes such as honest men cannot and prudent men will not pay for it. But this fact only makes it the more important not to quarrel with her unnecessarily, and above all, not to quarrel with her when she is in the right, and will be thought to be in the right by the very classes whose support you want to gain. This is the merest truism when it is set down in writing, but it it is a truism which the French Repubficans have not yet brought themselves to admit.