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.

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This chapter sums up the key findings of this study on the history of episcopacy in France during the seventeenth century. The episcopate flourished, after its unsteady start to the Bourbon reign, because it was able to use the debate on episcopal jurisdiction to construct referential principles that stacked into a mature and conscious ideology of episcopal identity which defined its status and behaviour within church and society. Its adoption of a comprehensive ideology of episcopacy had its effect not just on bishops themselves, but also on the lower clergy, the papacy and the crown. For this reason, it can be said that the seventeenth century was a formative period not just for the character of the episcopate itself, but for that of the French church in general.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is about the history of episcopacy in France during the seventeenth century. The book examines the ideas, both established and still emerging, of what the office of bishop meant to its incumbents and traces the ways in which that understanding coloured their involvement in the hierarchical Tridentine church and in a temporal realm governed by a vigorously gallican monarchy. It also explores the canonical and theological aspects that relate to the episcopate as a sacred ecclesiastical position with particular associated powers, the character of the episcopal pastorate and the notion of episcopal spirituality.

in Fathers, pastors and kings

This chapter examines the episcopal and Catholic renewal traditions in France during the sixteenth century. By the turn of the sixteenth century, French prelates had a variety of sources on which to base their understanding of the episcopal office. Those guides most immediately to hand, the Council of Trent and the examples of contemporary reforming prelates appeared particularly attractive, for they enabled the minority of French bishops who were attempting to introduce reforms in insecure conditions to lay the foundations for permanent ecclesiastical order. The chapter suggests that this French tradition provided strongly articulated views on episcopal jurisdictional rights and authority as well as, secondarily, on episcopal spirituality.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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French clerical reformers and episcopal status

This chapter focuses on the work of French clerical reformers concerning episcopal status. Throughout the seventeenth century, these reformers produced important contributions to the related issues of the nature and functions of episcopacy and the character of French episcopal reform. They principally concentrated on the hierarchical authority of bishops, and it was as a function of this that they treated the perfection of the episcopal state, its power to perfect and its obligation of personal sanctity. The chapter suggests that Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle and his disciples made crucial contributions to the development of seventeenth-century episcopal ideology through their emphasis on the superb theological character and hierarchical authority of episcopacy.

in Fathers, pastors and kings

This chapter discusses the conflict between the lower clergy and French bishops concerning the hierarchical authority and jurisdiction that gave the latter absolute authority over the former. These disagreements brought many tough challenges for French bishops for they were pitted against members of the lower clergy, and even against the might of the papacy, as they sought to implement their vision of Tridentine discipline. The bishops were forced to define and defend their rights of jurisdiction so that their monarchical authority could reign supreme in their dioceses.

in Fathers, pastors and kings

This chapter examines the dispute among the bishops, the lower clergy and the papacy concerning episcopal authority in France during the seventeenth century. It suggests that the dispute represented three competing conceptions of the church, and crystallised opposing views of ecclesiastical government, discipline and hierarchy at local, national and international levels. The chapter also explores how collusion between Rome and the regulars pushed the bishops towards a fiercely protective doctrine of episcopal gallicanism that was finally cemented in the 1682 Gallican Articles.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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This chapter addresses the episcopate's understanding of its status and its role towards another power that consistently sought to increase its sway over the French church: the gallican crown and its secular officials. The bishops' tensed relations with successive popes resulted in several clashes between the bishops and the French crown. The chapter suggests that from the bishops' conflicts with the state and the papacy, and indeed with the lower clergy, emerged a strong sense of communion and collective identity within the episcopate, based on the belief that prelates were duty-bound to protect their office and their brethren.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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Mirrors of French ideals?

This chapter discusses the French ideal of the good bishop and the episcopacy. It explains that the French vision combined the appropriate elements of the archetypes provided by Cardinal Archbishop Charles Borromeo and the bishop of Geneva, François de Sales. This pastoral ideal married governmental duties with an intense spirituality that particularly emphasised charity and interior mortification. The chapter contends that the private correspondence and compositions of bishops and other leading clergy reveal that this construct of pastoral care, spirituality and theology fulfilled a need felt within the episcopate itself, and was diffused, both formally and informally, to provide an inspiring framework for administrative work and personal life.

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