Church and State in France: the news catches up with "Les Misérables" project


I just posted a few days ago my commentary on chapter 1.1.I - M. Myriel, in which I wrote about the historical between the Church and the State in France. Today, I find out that the news in France today (Friday 22nd of February) directly echoes what I was writing.

I explained the reason why Bishop Myriel was appointed by Napoleon: the 1801 Concordat signed by the Emperor and the Pope gave the Emperor the right to appoint the bishops. I explained that the Concordat was repealed in 1905, but since the eastern part of France, Alsace and the Moselle, were not part of France back in 1905, the Concordat is effectively in effect there still today!

Unbeknownst to me, an obscure association promoting the secular values of the republic appealed to the Conseil Constitutionel (a body dedicated to validating the constitutionality of laws), because they claimed that the current status in Alsace-Moselle, where the clergy is paid by the government, contradicts the laïc (secular) nature of the Republic, as stated in Article I of the 1958 constitution of the 5th Republic.

The Conseil Constitutionel delivered its verdict today, upholding the current status quo. First, the Article I of the constitution contains some wording for exceptional provisions (like in Alsace-Moselle). Secondly, the State remains secular by paying not one religion but by recognising the four religions already recognised in 1801 (catholic, lutherian and reformed protestant and jewish religions). Lastly, both the writer of the constitution of the 4th Republic (1946) and that of the 5th (1958) didn't deem it necessary to end the Concordat regime in those départements.

One important problem, though, is that the administration of those départements still does not recognise Islam as a religion, a growing one in France, and thus not all religions are on an equal footing.

The short of it is that France, supposedly one of the most - if not the most - secular regime in the world, maintains its strange mix of statuses within its borders, both the Napoleonic Concordat regime dating back to 1801, and the militantly secular regime dating back to the 3rd Republic 1905 laws. What's more, the Conseil Constitutionel has now validated the current status quo. Changing it is no longer a constitutional issue, but a political one...

For those who can read French, here are the two news articles: