Remonstrance by the Parlement against the Denial of Sacraments in Paris (1753)

As the controversy over the refusal of sacraments came to dominate political and religious discussions in Paris, Versailles, and across the kingdom, the magistrates argued all the more strenuously that the King should compel the Archbishop to drop his intolerant attitude on the enforcement of Unigenitus and to allow greater diversity of opinion among French Catholics. To enforce this new policy, the magistrates appealed to the King’s sense of obligation—an obligation to uphold the traditions of the French monarchy, including the tradition of conferring with his subjects through the intermediaries of the Parlementary courts, and the tradition by which the King, rather than the Pope, oversaw the church in France to ensure that it served the interests of French men and women rather than those of the clergy alone.


Sire,

The most essential interest of the Sovereign is to know the truth, and your parlement is tasked by the State to bring it to you. . . . Today it is a question of religion and the conservation of the State, both equally threatened by the alarming schism that has aroused our enthusiasm. This schism, too long overlooked, has sunk such deep roots and grows so rapidly each day that soon no barriers will be able to contain it.

Sire, the normal course of justice has already been disrupted. The most necessary formalities are desecrated, the People are angry, the guilty emboldened, their judges demeaned, intimidated, contradicted, or even bound by inaction. The violent shocks that this schism has brought have caused us to uncover a dominion being reborn within your states. It is an arbitrary dominion that recognizes neither laws, nor sovereign, nor magistrates, and for which religion is nothing more than a pretext. It is a domination for which princely authority is no more than an instrument that it dares to use or reject according to its interests. The fundamental laws of the State are nothing more than an inconvenient yoke, and the legitimate freedom of citizens is nothing more that a fictitious right. . . .

Laws are the sacred ties that bind and are the seal of this indissoluble commitment. Together the King, the State, and the Law form an inseparable trinity. Strengthening the King's throne and making its sovereignty inviolable, maintaining the obedience and tranquility of the subjects, assuring their rights and legitimate freedom, in a word, making the State eternal, formidable from without and serene within . . . these are the fruits that grow from strict obedience of the law. Based on reflection and the experiences of the greatest princes and the most consummate men, and dictated solely for the good of the state and the true interests of the Prince, only laws can protect the sovereign from surprises, inspire the public trust, and stop those from any rank of society from causing problems for the State. Never has there been a revolution that was not hatched by changing the law.

Sire, there is neither a more important principle, nor one more generally accepted. Politicians, legal advisers, magistrates, even sovereigns themselves have all recognized that there can be a flourishing kingdom only by bringing together the subjects' obedience of the King, and King's obedience of the law. . . .

Filled with the most poignant love for Your Majesty's sacred person and jealous of increasing in all your subjects the feelings that tie them to you, as if that was possible, your parlement can only fear that which attempts to divide them. In the hands of a Prince as fair, they will always respect the use of his supreme power. But allow us, Sire, to tell you that these sudden and shocking misfortunes, these bursts of dreadful wrath that only cause hardship and that herald nothing but austerity, can only spread terror. And the French, in whom love is the tenet and gauge of fidelity, become alarmed and troubled as soon as they fear their sovereign. If he is gentle with his People, it is more natural for them to feel and state over and over, "May justice and kindness keep the King, and may his throne be strengthened by clemency." Thus they become concerned, Sire, when they see themselves abandoned to the clerics and exposed to the arbitrary application of power mistakenly placed in the hands of the ecclesiastics. The power of the clerics will soon have no limits beyond those of their own organization, and will subjugate the People in a dominion rising from the ruins of their liberty. The clerics are capable of using the People's slavery for whatever purpose they desire. Your subjects see themselves being carried away, so to speak, to a realm so different from yours, and which, in their eyes, offers nothing but risks and uncertainty. Being taken to a realm that offers them nothing but a frightful spectacle of citizens already deprived of their legitimate freedom. They see houses desolated by the loss of their most important members, magistrates removed from office, entire families required to go elsewhere to receive asylum from captivity. Shuddering in this disgrace too often takes on the form of resentment and revenge towards one's adversaries! . . .

Sire, we beg you not to let yourself be distracted from the real cause of so many ills: their principle is this infinite number of orders [from Rome] that have taken your religion by surprise. The only way to stop their flow is to stop ceding your authority to the clerics who abuse and compromise it. We witnessed this with unbelievable indecency when, in the grand hall of your parlement, a provincial bishop was on trial for influencing election results. He had used one of Your Majesty's orders that were countersigned by a minister that had been out of office for ten years.

Sire, forgive your parlement for giving you these details. We know Your heart, and to present you the unfortunate people of your empire is to touch its most sensitive spot. Those subjects who the senior clerics oppress by their credibility. Those subjects who shudder in exile and prison without knowing the crime of which they are accused and without the means to prove their innocence. Should these subjects not rest assured of Your heart's generosity as soon as You hear their complaints?

. . . Innocent Christians find themselves reduced to the cruel alternative of being regarded as indifferent to the sacraments if they do not request them, or undergoing a scandalous and unfair refusal if they do. Sire, it is time to show these ministers of the Church that they are abusing your indulgence and that your intention is not to authorize the schism that, for the happiness of your People, you have so often condemned.

Source: Jules Flammermont, Remonstrances du Parlement de Paris au XVIIIe siècle, vol. 1 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1888–98), 506–614.