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A Catholic View of the French Revolution

From Joseph DeHarbe’s A Full Cathechism of the Catholic Religion:

Awful events, which make nature shudder, remain as yet to be related. We would fain pass them over in silence, if they were not most instructive for us. As with all human productions, so it fared with the doctrine of Luther; it became antiquated, it altered and entirely changed. Sects upon Sects arose: Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Quakers, Methodists, Moravians, etc. Each one of these Sects presumed, after the example of Luther, to reform the faith. At last impious Free-thinkers, first in England and afterwards in France, carried their presumption to the highest pitch, and contrived the infernal scheme totally to abolish Religion, and to exterminate for ever the Belief in Christ. Under the pretense of enlightening mankind, they deluged the world with writings in which they scoffed at all Holy things, grossly calumniated the Pope and the Clergy, and openly advocated the most shameful licentiousness. Their books, written in most attractive language, and sparkling with witticism and satire, found their way too readily among all classes of people, and at the same time the spirit of profligacy and impiety spread with surprising rapidity. At the same time the masses of the people were suffering from misgovernment, oppressive taxation and excessive privileges enjoyed, by the upper classes. These causes combined with the spread of infidel philosophy and the decay of religious faith brought about the French Revolution at the close of the eighteenth century. The Church was attacked, ecclesiastical property was confiscated; religious orders were suppressed by violence; monks and nuns were turned out of their peaceable abodes by force, and many religious houses were plundered and pulled down. Soon after, a sanguinary edict was issued against all priests who should continue faithful to the discharge of their duties. Was any one discovered refractory, he was cast into prison, or immediately hanged up to the nearest lamp-post. The Christian era was annulled, the celebration of the Sundays and Festivals was abolished, the churches were profaned and devastated. Everything that reminded them of Christianity was destroyed. Finally, the madness of these men arrived at such a pitch, that they proclaimed Reason to be the Supreme Being, and conducted a vile woman as an emblem of the Deity, on a triumphal car, into the Cathedral of Paris, where they placed her on the high altar, in the place of the figure of our Crucified Redeemer, and sang hymns in her honor. Order, prosperity, and public safety disappeared together with Religion; even the throne was overturned and shattered to pieces. France was for two years the scene of such horrible atrocities as are unequaled in the annals of history. Human blood flowed in torrents. Neither age nor sex was safe from the fury of those monsters. The total number of the people slaughtered in this Reign of Terror was, according to some, two millions. And all this was done under the pretense of promoting the happiness of mankind. Enlightenment was their word when they abolished Religion; Liberty and Equality, when they murdered their fellow-men. At last, in order to stop the complete anarchy that prevailed, the leaders solemnly proclaimed that the nation should once more believe in God and the immortality of the soul. In the year 1799, Napoleon, in quality of First Consul, seized upon the sovereign power, but he did not venture to govern a people without Religion. He therefore restored the Catholic Religion in France, and made a solemn Concordat with the Pope (a.d. 1801). However, the Church did not long enjoy this peace. Napoleon, blinded by for tune, attempted to extort from the Supreme Head of the Church certain concessions which he could not grant. The French troops invaded Rome, and carried away Pius VII prisoner in 1809. But as God had visibly protected His Church ten years before, when Pope Pius VI. and died a captive, at Valence in France, so now He did not abandon her to her enemies. Napoleon was vanquished by the Confederate Powers of Europe, and dispossessed of his crown, and the Pope reentered triumphant into Rome (a.d. 1814).

The revised edition pulled even fewer punches.

In their search for a catechism, the Trads frequently overlook this one.  I found a copy in an estate sale here in Chattanooga; evidently some American Catholics preferred it over the more famous Baltimore Catechism.


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