Georges Weill – (Reformed) Catholicism: Compatible With Democracy? Summary of a Debate From 1855 [1900]

[A short summary of a debate that occurred in the pages of the French secular republican journal L’Avenir [not to be confused with the earlier Catholic liberal one] on the question of the compatibility between (a certain form of) Catholicism and democracy. Excerpt taken from Georges Weill’s Histoire du parti républicain en France de 1814 à 1870, p. 452.]

Etienne Vacherot
François Huet

Two disciples of Jansenism, having become republicans since 1848, Bordas-Demoulin and [François] Huet, declared that liberty could be reconciled with the Church, not with the theocratic Church such as it has been made, but with a reformed democratic Church, returned to the customs and traditions of primitive Christianity. There was in L’Avenir [not to be confused with Lamennais’ liberal Catholic journal] a philosophical and historical discussion on this subject between [Etienne] Vacherot [an atheist and anti-clerical republican] and Huet. The latter, relying on the Gospel, well-interpreted, according to him, by the Gallicans and the Jansenists, affirmed that true Catholicism, with democratic tendencies, is entirely different from “theocratic and pagan Catholicism”. Some editors from L’Avenir, among them Frédéric Morin, declared themselves in agreement with Huet. There was an illusion here, Vacherot responded: Christian democracy itself was only liberal when it was persecuted; from the day when Constantine gave it power, it wanted to persecute in turn. […] Vacherot concluded that men such as Huet, Bordas-Demoulin, [Frédéric] Arnaud (de l’Ariège), will have to choose between two irreconcilable terms, and that they will follow the example of Lamennais.