Organic Articles

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The Organic Articles (French: "Les Articles Organiques") was a law administering public worship in France.

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French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Worship act of religious devotion

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.


Europe with the French Empire at its greatest extent in 1811
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Europe with the French Empire at its greatest extent in 1811
  French Empire


The Articles were originally presented by 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, 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 claiming that the articles had been promulgated without his knowledge. [1]

Protestantism division within Christianity, originating from the Reformation in the 16th century against the Roman Catholic Church, that rejects the Roman Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and sacraments

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

Concordat of 1801 peace treaty

The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, signed on 15 July 1801 in Paris. It remained in effect until 1905. It sought national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics and solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France, with most of its civil status restored. The hostility of devout French Catholics against the state had then largely been resolved. It did not restore the vast church lands and endowments that had been seized upon during the revolution and sold off. Catholic clergy returned from exile, or from hiding, and resumed their traditional positions in their traditional churches. Very few parishes continued to employ the priests who had accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of the Revolutionary regime. While the Concordat restored much power to the papacy, the balance of church-state relations tilted firmly in Napoleon's favour. He selected the bishops and supervised church finances.

Pope Pius VII pope of the catholic church 1800–1823

Pope Pius VII, born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 14 March 1800 to his death in 1823. Chiaramonti was also a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict in addition to being a well-known theologian and bishop throughout his life.


Presenting the Organic Articles was Napoleon’s method of granting the Tribunat and the 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[ citation needed ]. 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.” [2] In towns with adherents of different dogmas, public processions were prohibited.

The Tribunat was one of the four assemblies set up in France by the Constitution of Year VIII. It was set up officially on 1 January 1800 at the same time as the Corps législatif. Its first president was the historian Pierre Daunou, whose independent spirit led to his dismissal from the post by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The Tribunat assumed some of the functions of the Council of Five Hundred, but its role consisted only of deliberating projected laws before their adoption by the Corps législatif, with the legislative initiative remaining with the Council of State.

Corps législatif Wikimedia disambiguation page

The Corps législatif was a part of the French legislature during the French Revolution and beyond. It is also the generic French term used to refer to any legislative body.

State (polity) Organised community living under a system of government; either a sovereign state, constituent state, or federated state

A state is a political organization with a centralized government that maintains a monopoly by use of force within a certain geographical territory.

Summary of the Articles

Pertaining to Catholics

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. [1]

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. [1]

Minister (Christianity) religious occupation in Christianity

In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church, or other religious organization, to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus ("less").

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." [2] 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. [3]

Dress code rules whether explicit or not setting out appropriate manner of dress for a place or event

A dress code is a set of rules, often written, with regards to clothing. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances and occasions. Different societies and cultures are likely to have different dress codes.

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. [3]

Pertaining to Protestants

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." [4]

Reactions and controversies

The 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 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 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. [5]

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 France. This abolished the Organic Articles along with the Concordat of 1801. [6] 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).

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Organic Articles". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. 1 2 Duvergier, Lois, XIII, [ page needed ]
  3. 1 2 Shusterman, Noah. "Une Loi d'Eglise et de l'Etat", Religion and the Politics of Time, CUA Press, 2010 ISBN   9780813217253 [ page needed ]
  4. Atkin, Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism Since 1750, [ page needed ]
  5. Bergeron, France Under Napoleon, [ page needed ]
  6. Walsh, The Concordat of 1801: A Study of the Problem of Nationalism in the Relations of Church and State, [ page needed ]

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