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5 Setting the Problem: Religious Values
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The Concordat of Bologna

The first manifestations of reform sentiment (Lefèvre's translations of the Bible, and the first phase of the Berquin case, 1522-23) took place in the aftermath of the struggle between François I and the Parlement over the Concordat of Bologna. The active struggle itself had lasted nearly fourteen months (February 1517 to March 1518) exhausting and embittering to both sides, for the fight did not end with the enforced registration by the court and the king's victory. It was a case of "fire in the ashes." Parlement's opposition, which never died out entirely, was easily fanned into renewed


flame in the 1520s by acts of the crown, under the Concordat, which would have been illegal under the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and were therefore regarded by the Parlement as violations of the Gallican liberties. Another factor contributing to the court's "guerrilla warfare" against the Concordat was the virtually unbroken leadership of Parlement throughout the decade. Baillet had died in midstream, to be sure, but he left a heritage of eloquent argument for his colleagues to use, and none of the other leaders disappeared from the scene before the end of the decade, and by then the Concordat was no longer in the foreground. Chancellor Antoine Duprat was the chief villain in Parlement's eyes. Duprat's high-handed manner of dealing with the court would have created antagonism in any case, but the facts that he had formerly been a member and that he had succeeded in placing many protégés in important royal offices added bitterness. His nomination to the benefices of Sens and St-Benoît, over the expressed opposition of the canons and the monks to whom the choice belonged under the Pragmatic Sanction, compounded his original crime by making him its chief beneficiary.

The Concordat contradicted the specific provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction, both by substituting royal nomination for the election of bishops and abbots by their chapters, and by requiring that certain ecclesiastical revenues be reported to Rome. Gallicans feared that this latter was a step toward the restoration of annates. In addition, the superiority of the pope to church councils was implied. During the first six months of the struggle the strategy of the court was delay while using every weapon in its arsenal: citing all the precedents, claiming that a full convocation of the clergy was required, challenging the legitimacy of the presence of several royal spokesmen sent to intimidate them, setting up repeated commissions to study the question.[20]

On July 24, 1517, these tactics had to be abandoned. On that day speaking through Baillet, the court courageously refused to register the Concordat as "against the honor of God, the liberties of the Gallican church, the honor of the king, and the welfare of the kingdom." The king's retort, drawn up by Duprat, denied the existence of the Gallican liberties and the superiority of councils to the pope. As one historian says, "Both the king's policy and his procedure were arbitrary and Parlement was bound to oppose him on both counts."[21] Six months later the court was still defiant. The king openly


threatened a delegation of parlementaires with virtual abolition of the court if resistance continued. There was only one king in France, he reminded them, and the Parlement was not a senate, as in Venice. If they continued to be stubborn (obstinés ), the mildest fate that would befall them would be to follow his lead (trotter après lui ) as mere members of the royal suite; the worst fate was suggested by the hint that he would replace them with obedient subjects who would confine themselves to the administration of justice and refrain from meddling in affairs of state, or even that he might remove Parlement from the capital altogether.

The immediate dilemma was solved by a compromise proposed by the avocat général, Jean Le Lièvre: the Concordat was a contract between the king and the pope made independently of the Gallican church and thus could not affect its rights. The gens du roi therefore recommended registration by Parlement under the formula de expresso mandato regis (at the express command of the king). In its own arrêt on the matter, Parlement stipulated that it would continue to return judgments affecting benefices according to the Pragmatic Sanction. And it put a statement into the secret register, again expressing its stand. Historians' opinions of these actions range from accusations of cowardice to congratulations for courageous independence.[22]

After François I was captured at Pavia and imprisoned in Madrid, northeastern France and Paris itself lay open to attack from the Netherlands, which were ruled by the emperor. Louise de Savoie, as regent, called on Parlement to take charge of the defense of the capital. The response was prompt, loyal, and whole-hearted, as leaders of the court rallied all segments of the population, produced plans for all contingencies, and personally participated in their implementation. The non-judicial authority of the court, so recently denied by the king, was dramatically demonstrated. But Parlement also seized the occasion to "advise" the regent's government, and premier président Jean de Selve went to Lyon in April 1525 with a long list of remonstrances. The Concordat, Parlement's prerogatives, evocation—all were included. The overall message was the need to restore the traditional, constitutional equilibrium.[23]

Another phase of the struggle took place over the rival claims to the


benefices of Sens and St-Benoît. The king had evoked the case to the Grand Conseil as soon as he realized the dimensions of Parlement's opposition to his nomination of Duprat to both offices. This was the occasion of Pierre Lizet's important speech denouncing evocations on principle.[24]

The situation encapsulates the real dilemma created by the Concordat for the Parlement: under its own precedents the court had to uphold petitioners whose cases were illegal under the Concordat, which was now the law of the land. Parlement even launched proceedings to indict the chancellor himself for his violation of the court's jurisdiction, and it proclaimed that rulings of the Grand Conseil were null and void in such matters. The dispute hung fire until after the king's return from Spain; predictably, he gave the judgment to Duprat and demanded the surrender of the court's registers so as to tear out the offending passages. This deadlock was the context of President Charles Guillart's speech setting forth the constitutional view, the parlementaire view.[25] On the matter of benefices, as on the opposition to the Concordat, the king's will prevailed. Yet before we conclude that this outcome was inevitable and that the constitution was only a delusion or obsession of parlementaires, it is worth recalling that even François I believed that his appointments, edicts, and treaties with foreign powers required registration by the Parlement of Paris if they were to have the force of law.

In these same years, 1521-27, when the struggle over the consequences of the Concordat was going on and the disasters of Pavia and Madrid occurred, another set of events took place: the first of the pressure points initiated the first period of tension over religious dissent, in its new, sixteenth-century, form. This was more than the news of Luther's defiance of pope and emperor, sensational as that was, or scandal over heretical books smuggled into France, arousing vague fears of contagion; this was the stark, explicit repudiation of basic Roman Catholic belief and its replacement by heretical belief, voiced unequivocally in the Parlement of Paris by one of its own members.

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