Decree on the clerical oath (1790)


In November 1790 the National Constituent Assembly issued the following decree, requiring all members of the clergy to swear an oath of loyalty to the king, the nation and the state:


“1. Bishops and former archbishops and cures maintained in office shall be required, if they have not already done so, to take the oath for which they are liable by article 39 of the decree of July 13th last, and regulated by articles 21 and 38 of that of the 12th of the same month concerning the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. In consequence, they shall swear… to watch carefully over the faithful of the diocese or parish entrusted to them, to be faithful to the nation, to the law and to the king, and to maintain with all their power the Constitution decreed by the National Assembly and accepted by the king…

2. Vicars of bishops, superiors and directors of seminaries, vicars of curde, teachers of seminaries and colleges and all other public ecclesiastical functionaries shall, within the same periods, take the [same] oath…

3. The oath shall be taken on a Sunday at the conclusion of the mass… by bishops, former archbishops, their vicars, superiors and directors of seminaries, in the episcopal church; and by the cures, their vicars, and all other public ecclesiastical functionaries, in their parish church; all in the presence of the general council of the commune and the faithful. To this end, at least two days in advance they shall declare in writing to the clerk of the municipality their intention to take the oath and shall consult with the mayor to decide upon the day.

4. Those of the said bishops, former archbishops, curds and other public ecclesiastical functionaries who are members of the National Assembly and who now exercise their duties as deputies, shall take the oath which concerns them respectively at the National Assembly…

5. Those of the said bishops, former archbishops, cures and other public ecclesiastical functionaries who have not taken, within the determined periods, the oath prescribed for them respectively, shall be deemed to have renounced their office, and provision for their replacement shall be made…

6. In case the said bishops, former archbishops, cures, and other public ecclesiastical functionaries, after having taken their respective oaths, fail therein, either by refusing to obey the decrees of the National Assembly, accepted or sanctioned by the king, or by forming or inciting opposition to their execution, they shall be prosecuted in the district courts as rebels to the law, and punished by loss of their stipend and declared deprived of the rights of active citizenship and incapable of any public function. Accordingly, provision shall be made for their replacement…

8. All ecclesiastical or lay persons who combine to plan disobedience to the decrees of the National Assembly accepted or sanctioned by the king, or to form or incite opposition to their execution, shall be likewise prosecuted as disturbers of public order and punished according to the rigor of the laws.”