Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture

Research Article

Of Catechisms and Sermons: Church-State Relations in France, 1890–1905

Joan L. Coffeya1

a1 assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.

The years from 1890 to 1905 were tumultuous ones for church-state relations in France. The Third Republic (1870–1940) sought a more secular state while remaining ever mindful that the majority of French were at least nominally Roman Catholic. Anticlericalism became the unifying theme of an otherwise factious government, and a formal separation of church and state took place in 1905. The church in France, for its part, dreamed of reviving its former power and influence. Some in the church looked back and saw the restoration of the monarchy as the way to realize the dream; others worked to establish a presence in the modern world of factories and department stores. All were concerned with the decline in the number of communicants and the growth of socialism. Feeling threatened and increasingly forced into a defensive stance, the church determined to hold ground and, periodically, even to go on the offensive.