which the prevailing opinions and social decency impose
on the clergy a delicate observer thus specifies
distinctions in rank with their proper shades of behavior:
“A plain priest, a curate, must have a little
faith, otherwise he would be found a hypocrite; at
the same time, he must not be too well satisfied,
for he would be found intolerant. On the contrary,
the grand vicar may smile at an expression against
religion, the bishop may laugh outright, and the cardinal
may add something of his own to it.” “A
little while ago,” a chronicle narrates, “some
one put this question to one of the most respectable
curates in Paris: Do you think that the bishops
who insist so strenuously on religion have much of
it themselves? The worthy pastor replied, after
a moment’s hesitation: There may be four
or five among them who still believe.” To
one who is familiar with their birth, their social
relations, their habits and their tastes, this does
not appear at all improbable. “Dom Collignon,
a representative of the abbey of Mettach, seignior
high-justiciary and curate of Valmunster,”
a fine-looking man, fine talker, and an agreeable
housekeeper, avoids scandal by having his two mistresses
at his table only with a select few; he is in other
respects as little devout as possible, and much less
so than the Savoyard vicar, “finding evil only
in injustice and in a lack of charity,” and
considering religion merely as a political institution
and for moral ends. I might cite many others,
like M. de Grimaldi, the young and gallant bishop
of Le Mans, who selects young and gallant comrades
of his own station for his grand vicars, and who has
a rendezvous for pretty women at his country seat
at Coulans. Judge of their faith by their
habits. In other cases we have no difficulty
in determining. Scepticism is notorious with
the Cardinal de Rohan, withM. de Brienne, archbishop
of Sens, withM. de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, and
with the Abbé Maury, defender of the clergy.
Rivarol, himself a skeptic, declares that at the
approach of the Revolution, “the enlightenment
of the clergy equaled that of the philosophers.”
“Who would believe it, but body with the fewest
prejudices,” says Mercier, “is the
clergy.” And the Archbishop of Narbonne,
explaining the resistance of the upper class of the
clergy in I791 attributes it, not to faith but
to a point of honor. “We conducted ourselves
at that time like true gentlemen, for, with most of
us, it could not be said that it was through religious
V. POLITICAL OPPOSITION.
Progress of political opposition. — Its origin.
— The economists and the parliamentarians.
— They prepare the way for the philosophers.
— Political fault-finding in the drawing-rooms.
— Female liberalism.