Visions of episcopacy in seventeenth-century France

This book explores how conceptions of episcopacy (government of a church by bishops) shaped the identity of the bishops of France in the wake of the reforming Council of Trent (1545–63). It demonstrates how the episcopate, initially demoralised by the Wars of Religion, developed a powerful ideology of privilege, leadership and pastorate that enabled it to become a flourishing participant in the religious, political and social life of the ancien regime. The book analyses the attitudes of Tridentine bishops towards their office by considering the French episcopate as a recognisable caste, possessing a variety of theological and political principles that allowed it to dominate the French church.

Open Access (free)
Alison Forrestal

episcopacy that occurred through the Tridentine period, for it hides the debates and the developments in episcopal theology and practice that preoccupied bishops and other reformers. That flux was nowhere more evident than in the French church, one of the major bastions of catholicism, with an overwhelmingly Catholic population and monarchs who prided themselves on the impeccable Catholic credentials of ‘most Christian king’ and ‘eldest son of the Church’. Amid the vigorous reform currents of this seventeenth-century realm, there arose an unprecedented debate on the nature

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Open Access (free)
Alison Forrestal

of their office and their duties and rights. Detailed arguments were elaborated on the sacramental nature of episcopacy, the position of bishops within the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the attendant privileges that this bestowed on them. Episcopal jurisdiction proved a particularly thorny question, with highly contradictory opinions offered on the exact nature and extent of this power. Likewise, sustained, occasionally agonised, reflection took place on the pastoral element of episcopacy, concentrating particularly on the possible features of a specifically

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Open Access (free)
French clerical reformers and episcopal status
Alison Forrestal

of the good bishop was established? In what ways did chap 2 22/3/04 12:12 pm Page 51 THE MOST PERFECT STATE 51 they use this material to formulate an adapted vision of episcopacy that was designed to respond to the needs of the seventeenth-century French church? In answering these questions, we may begin to appreciate fully the objectives of French clerical reformers and indeed to conceive their impact on the episcopate and, more broadly, on the French church. Just a cursory examination of the extant correspondence of French reformers reveals the web of

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Open Access (free)
Mirrors of French ideals?
Alison Forrestal

function as guidebooks for bishops. However, the abundance of texts means that they repay closer exploration on several fronts, for they teach much about the germination and dissemination of episcopal ideals. First, how did their detailed construction of episcopacy compare with those described in the previous chapters? The answer to this question is as relevant for the pastoral angle of episcopacy as it is for the jurisdictional and theological, and is directly related to the chapter’s second major objective of tracking the emergence of the ideal episcopal pastorate

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Alison Forrestal

understood at this point, the secular or political facet of episcopacy, and it is this negative and spicy feature that has generally received most attention from historians. A handful of scholars have attempted to redress the balance by drawing attention to individual reforming bishops, such as Guillaume Briçonnet of Meaux, François d’Estaing of Rodez and Claude de Longwy of Mâcon, indicating that the episcopate was subject to variety in the quality of its members and that it did contain numerous prelates who took their vocation and duties seriously. Even before Trent

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Alison Forrestal

the confines of diocesan boundaries. Nor is it enough to present the lower clergy’s views of episcopacy without reference to that of bishops themselves, for the episcopate’s beliefs both influenced, and were themselves deeply scored by, the ideas and actions of non-episcopal ecclesiastics. Of course, the episcopate’s steps to combat the lower clergy’s hostility were occasionally tinged with a degree of formalism. Bishops knew that they might well need to cultivate goodwill among regulars and curés if they were to implement diocesan reforms in the future. It was

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Alison Forrestal

the bishops have to define their relationship with the lower clergy; they also had to characterise and then defend their understanding of the links between episcopacy and the supreme headship of the earthly church. As two of the major offices of the church, the episcopate and the pope had to interact routinely if the church was to function smoothly. But this intercourse carried the risks of rivalry and disagreement, and more often than not that was precisely how it evolved over the course of the century. Whenever the pope strayed into the French church, he tended to

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Justin Champion

modern culture underscored the powerful relationship between ideas and institutions: the power of the monarchy and church was premised upon a true understanding of religion. Episcopacy as a political institution was right, because it conformed to the ‘true’ idea of the primitive Church. Obedience to the monarch was right because it was authorised by the divine injunctions of Christian belief, and the repeated vocal and print reiteration of the Church. The clergyman was right because he spoke in the divinely ordained language of Scripture. Toland’s attack upon the

in Republican learning
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The revolt of democratic Christianity and the rise of public opinion
S.J. Barnett

the English Civil Wars, above all, Louis had learnt that episcopacy and monarchy stood or fell together. The thought of Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638) had already been condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1653. Notwithstanding this, Jansenists persisted and became involved in a bitter controversy with the elite defenders of Roman orthodoxy, the Jesuits. It was clear by the early eighteenth century that the papal denunciations and victimizations – reinforced in 1705 by the Bull Vineam Domini – had been ineffective and that the number of adherents to the ascetic

in The Enlightenment and religion