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The Abbé Grégoire’s Program for the Jews: Social Reform and Spiritual Project

  • Rita Hermon-Belot
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 169)

Abstract

The Abbé Grégoire’s attitude toward the Jews constitutes one of his most important claims to fame. For a long time, during a period when he was too revolutionary to be hailed by conservatives and too much a priest to interest the French left, the memory of his stand on this issue was almost the only thing that kept his reputation alive. For over a century, Gregoire was disdained and forgotten by all except a handful of inhabitants of the French West Indies, by the Jews, and by the Freemasons. It was members of these groups who were behind the erection of the first statue to him in Lunéville in 1885, and who, worried by the rise of fascism, sought to make his name a rallying point by creating the Society of the Friends of the Abbé Grégoire (Société des Amis de l’Abbé Grégoire) in 1931, the hundredth anniversary of Grégoire’s death.

Keywords

Jewish Community Catholic Priest Pastoral Letter French Republic Catholic Religion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See especially Pierre Birnbaum, “Sur l’étatisation révolutionnaire: l’Abbé Grégoire et le destin de l’identité juive,” Le Débat, no. 53 (Jan.-Feb. 1989), pp. 157-173. The earliest such criticisms were undoubtedly those of Rabi [Wladimir Rabinovitch], Anatomie du judaïsme français (Paris, 1962).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Arthur Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (New York, 1968), and the various publications of Ruth Necheles, particularly The Abbé Grégoire, 1787-1831: The Odyssey of an Egalitarian (Westport, Ct., 1971).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Henri Grégoire, Motion en faveur des Juifs, par M. Grégoire, curé d’Emberménil (Paris, 1789), p. 5.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Archives Israélites (1844), p. 416, cited in David Feuerwerker, L’Emancipation des Juifs en France (Paris, 1976), p. 254.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Motion en faveur des Juifs, p. xv. The text of his Motion can be found in the Archives parlementaires, 10:764ff, attached to the summary of the session of 23 December 1789.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Réimpression de l’ancien Moniteur, t. vii: 167.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Essai sur la régénération des Juifs, éd. Robert Badinter (Paris: Stock, 1988), and Essai sur la régénération des Juifs, ed. Rita Hermon-Belot (Paris: Flammarion, 1988). Citations in this essay are to the latter edition.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The Lorraine Jewish community’s open-mindedness made it possible to return to a more balanced position. The chief rabbi ultimately agreed to participate in a film made in September 1989, “Grégoire, or the Restoration of Memory,” and his very moving remarks showed a real desire to do justice to Grégoire and understand his position.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pierre Birnbaum calls his picture “more than apocalyptic.” Birnbaum, “L’abbé Grégoire,” p. 161.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zalkind Hourwitz, Apologie pour les Juifs (Paris, 1790), pp. 34, 37.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Essai sur la régénération, éd. Hermon-Belot, p. 192.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Motion en faveur des Juifs, p. 5.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pierre Birnbaum asserts this without any qualification, treating Grégoire as a “Jacobin abbé eager to use any available means to convince the Jews to accept a Christianity that would have been itself regenerated.” “L’Abbé Grégoire,” p. 161.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Essai, ed. Hermon-Belot, p. 131.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Essai, ed. Hermon-Belot, pp. 96-97.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Essai, ed. Hermon-Belot, pp. 96-97.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dohm, De la réforme politique des Juifs (Berlin and Stettin, 1781).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnerre, another deputy who played a major role in the decision to grant citizenship rights to the Jews, paid homage to him: “It was reserved to this century of tolerance and reason to see a respectable minister of the altar raise his voice from this tribune in favor of the unfortunate remnants of Israel.” (Archives parlementaires, 9: 201) The Gazette de Paris of 11 November 1789 was astounded to see “a priest of the Gospel, a curé of the Roman church, become the defender of the Jews, and put their cause before the tribunal of the National Assembly.” Cited in Feuerwerker, Emancipation, p. 315.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    David Feuerwerker has shown the decisive role played by the Paris municipal assembly and the district, under the leadership of the lawyer Jacques Godard, in what he calls the “fifth stage” of the emancipation process, from 28 January to 25 February 1790. Feuerwerker, Emancipation, p. 344. See also the important selection of documents inserted in the Archives parlementaires, 1st annex to session of 23 December 1789, pp. 758-763, at the moment when the decree had just been rejected again, by a narrow margin of 408 to 403, on an amendment by Duport. See also the speeches of Mulot, and the Opinion de M. l’abbé Bertolio sur les Juifs proposée dans l’assemblée générale des représentants de la commune, le 30 janvier 1790 (Paris, 1790). The abbé Lamourette probably published his Observations sur l’état-civil des Juifs in February 1790.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See Mona Ozouf, “La Révolution française et l’idée de fraternité,” in L’Homme régénéré, Essais sur la Révolution française (Paris, 1989), pp. 158-182.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Archives parlementaires, 70:173, 3 August 1793.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mercure de France, 8 February 1806, cited in P. Girard, Les Juifs de France de 1789 à 1860, de l’émancipation à l’égalité (Paris, 1976), p. 74.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Henri Grégoire, Mémoires de Grégoire, pub. Hyppolite Carnot, ed. J.-M. Leniaud (Paris, 1989), p. 137.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Abbé Léon Berthe, “Grégoire élève de Lamourette,” Revue du Nord, Jan.-Mar. 1962, pp. 39-46.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lamourette, Discours à propos du décret de l’Assemblée nationale sur les biens du clergé (Paris, 1790), pp. 18-19.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Grégoire, Mémoires, 155. On Grégoire’s relationship with Jansenism, see especially Henri Grégoire, Les ruines de Port-Royal des Champs en 1809 (Paris, 1995; orig. 1808), with preface and notes by Rita Hermon-Belot.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Catherine Maire has shown the extraordinary vitality of figurism during the eighteenth century. See her Les convulsionnaires de Saint-Médard (Paris, 1985), and De la Cause de Dieu à la Cause de la Nation, le Jansénisme au XVIIIe (Gallimard, Paris, 1998).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Rita Hermon-Belot, “L’abbé Grégoire et le retour des Juifs,” Chroniques de Port-Royal, no. 39(1990), pp. 211-218.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Henri Grégoire, Histoire des sectes, 2e éd. (Paris, 1828), vol. 5, ch. II, p. 149.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Histoire des sectes, 2nd ed., 5:314.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Histoire des sectes, 2nd ed., 2:361.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Histoire des sectes, 2nd ed., 3:427.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Grégoire, Histoire des sectes, 2nd ed., 2:372.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Roederer, report on the competition, Affiches des Evêchés et de Lorraine, no. 35 (Aug. 1787), pp. 276-277.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Histoire des sectes, 2nd ed., 3:290.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See the fundamental article by Paul Gruenebaum-Ballin, “Grégoire convertisseur?” Revue des Etudes juives (1962), p. 391, fn4.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Grégoire played little part in this long-drawn-out debate. His only contributions were suggestions for moderation, such as the requirement that every newly elected bishop write a letter of communion to the Pope. He tried to oppose the conversion of priests into state employees, and to limit the suppression of parishes. See his Mémoire sur la dotation des curés en fonds territoriaux, read in the National Assembly session of 11 April 1790, and the analysis by René Taveneaux, “L’abbé Grégoire et la démocratie cléricale,” in Jansénisme et Réforme catholique (Nancy, 1992).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Motion en faveur des Juifs, p. 13.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Motion en faveur des Juifs, p. 13.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Motion en faveur des Juifs, p. 14.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    He published a pastoral letter on freedom of worship on 24 December 1794. The Convention passed the decree on 21 February 1795.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Motion en faveur des juifs, p. 5.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

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  • Rita Hermon-Belot

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