No other way out

Jean Jaures
Friday 2 March 2007
popularity : 12%

The leader of the newly unified Socialist Party, Jean Jaures, published the following article in the opinion column of the August 15, 1904 issue of the «Depeche de Toulouse».

Le Figaro and the French Republic are both trying to show that the separation of the Churches and the State is nearly impossible. «They managed to touch the monk, they won’t be able to touch the Catholic priest» Le Figaro declares. But who has ever thought of «touching the Catholic priest» ? No one has ever thought, no one thinks to prohibit the cult or even cause any trouble to it. On the contrary, every precaution must be taken, all the transitions must be provided so that the continuity of the cult is maintained, so that worshipers can gather, according to the law, the necessary resources for its functioning. When the country sees, in the precise debate of the bill, that no breach in the right of conscience will be made by the separation, and even that no trouble will be permitted in the country’s custom, when the country is able to observe that the only solution in conformity with the right of the secular State and with the principle of the Revolution is also the only one that might put an end to the inevitable conflict created by the Concordat, the separation will be accepted with joy by every citizen.

Mr. Meline’s paper vainly opposes the moderate elements of the Bloc that they did not campaign on a separation programme in the elections. Because they promised to defend energetically the independence of the civil power against any encroachment of the clerical power, and that independence is threatened every day by the Pope’s actions. Strangely, the French Republic forgets «the new facts» which have multiplied since the general election. It forgets the seditious resistance which has been opposed in many points in the implementation of the law on congregations. It forgets the bishops’ illegal and insulting protest. It forgets that with the new Pope a violent aggressive mood is becoming manifest in Rome. It neglects the incredible document in which Pope Pius X, assuming the right to interfere in our foreign policy and to subordinate it to the interests of his temporal power, was insulting the President of the Republic who was guilty because he had reasserted in Rome the friendship of Republican France with modern Italy. Can the most moderate republicans forget all that ? And under the pretext that they did not foresee in 1902 the upcoming denunciation of the Concordat, will they have to suffer on behalf of France an interpretation of this Concordat that leaves all the charges to the government of the Republic and that withdraws all guarantees from it ?

Pope Pius X’s aggressive policy, replacing Pope Leo XIII’ diplomacy, has not modified the core of the issue. Under Pope Leo XIII as well as under Pius X, there was a contradiction between modern law, that reserves religion to individual conscience, and a half-baked theocratic regime which, although it did not brutishly enforce dogma, constitutes a State religion nonetheless; but Pius X has certainly hastened the course of events beyond what the country was able to foresee in 1902. He has exacerbated so deeply the essential conflict between Revolution and the State Church that the Concordat combination cannot work any longer. And one wonders in vain how the most moderate republicans would be able to elude a problem that the Vatican imposes on the Republic. Now, there is only one way out left to this problem. It is impossible to maintain the Concordat, or rather to re-establish it. It is impossible to establish an new Concordat, for how could you get the Papacy and the Republic to agree with this new contract since both parties think insufficient, in an opposite way but equally, the guarantees of the previous one ? Therefore, if you do not want a state of chaos and crisis to persist, with every feeling becoming exacerbated, if you want to proceed to the separation in quiet, wise and sensible conditions, in which every right is assured, you have to hurry. Indeed, it is strange to object that in 1902, at the time of the general election, the issue was not raised in this form by all republicans. Neither did they announce the upcoming breaking off of diplomatic relations with the Papacy, the suspension of the Concordat.

The crisis was caused by force of circumstance, and now the separation of the Churches and the State is the necessary, inevitable consequence of the breaking off of the French government with the Vatican. Just as the country, in local elections, ratified and approved the strict enforcement of the law on congregations, just as in the recent department elections it ratified and approved the law prohibiting congregation education and the breaking off with the Vatican, it will ratify and approve, in the next general election, the separation, which is the logical end of the secular work and which can only bring peace through liberty in this country. To postpone the issue would be the worst mistake now, or rather it is an impossibility. The time has come for this great but haunting issue of the relationships of the Church and the State be settled at last, so that republican democracy is able to devote fully to the immense and hard task of social reform and human solidarity that the proletariat demands, that they have a right to demand and that the Republic must achieve with the concentration of all its energy and all its thoughts. It is not necessary to change the agenda. As soon as the October opening of Parliament, we have to debate and pass the law on the income tax.

As soon as January, we have to debate and pass the law on the workers’ old age pensions, and just after this vote, the debate on separation of Churches and the State will be opened. But it is important that right now, the country is well informed that it will not be an academic debate, neither for the government nor for the majority. We have to succeed : the separation must be voted in the early months of 1905. It will be the best answer to those who hope to throw the country into a panic. The debate and the vote of a precise law will dispel all the ghosts and quieten all fears. The government is holding this great task in its hands. If it hesitates, it will collapse, dragging its majority as well as its policy down in its fall. If it understands at last that it cannot postpone or elude the inevitable consequence of all the events and all the actions, if, as soon as the October opening, in reply to questioners, its explains the core of the issue, if it declares not only that it maintains the agenda which it had accepted for the debate of the Briand draft of the law but also that it will intervene in favor of separation, the republican majority will gather around it, and since the extreme left radical and socialist groups are determined to make any concession to the moderate groups provided it does not mar the principles, the republicans will join unanimously will give all the required moral authority to this great and necessary reform in order to bear its fruits of liberation and peace.