Over the past couple of days, I have found some dialogues on Facebook concerning Gallicanism. French Anglicanism? Maybe in a way, but modern Anglicanism. The version of Gallicanism of Archbishop Dominique Philippe is a little more classical using the Roman liturgy of Pius V, but tending to be attracted to some toxic alliances (no further commentary).

There are several churches in France using the title Gallican. Most of these little churches are served by bishops with lines of succession from René Vilatte. A few of them:

There are others that seem to consist of little more than a bishop and a few lay faithful.

The idea seems quite attractive as a kind of middle way between Old Catholicism and Anglicanism, the identification of the local dimension of Catholicism, whether English or French.

I would say that, historically, Gallicanism is dead. It was absorbed by Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century with the triumph of Ultramontanism and the imposition of the strict Roman rite in all dioceses.

What is now known as Gallicanism in France is a variation of Old Catholicism that derives its sacramental life via René Vilatte, the famous adventurer, from Orthodoxy in India. Almost invariably, it is a combination of a very novus ordo – like liturgy with highly sentimental expressions of French popular Roman Catholic devotion. Most but not all of their altars are facing the people and chapels are furnished in poor taste with oversized statues and sentimental images. Quite often, without excessive accusations of dishonesty, priests and bishops offer a service of minor exorcisms and faith healings. If they spend their days doing that and not doing a job to earn their living, they have to charge for their services. Even with Archbishop Dominique Philippe who is more traditionalist for the liturgy, he is forming alliances with the old crook Gérard Roux, so it appears.

The salient characteristic of these churches is a reaction from the strictness of Roman Catholic doctrine and morals. They also try to justify their historical legitimacy, which to me seems to be a tall order. The idea is appealing, either that of reviving the old Gallican rites of the first millennium like the French western Orthodox, or medieval Catholicism as before the Revolution (which simply imitates nineteenth-century Roman Catholicism for the externals). Many bishops in nineteenth-century France sought to perpetuate the line of Louis XIV and the Council of Constance in limiting the power of the Pope in favour of the national Church. We find parallels with the national Catholicism of Henry VIII, the Monarch taking precedence over the canonical jurisdiction of the Pope.

Taking the Gallicans of Bordeaux as an example, they resumed their position is several points:

  • Acceptance of the marriage of priests and bishops
  • Female Diaconate
  • Rejection of compulsory confession
  • Banning of excommunications
  • Freedom in fasting and abstinence
  • Participation of the faithful in the government of the Church
  • Election of bishops by clergy and faithful
  • Consideration of the animal world in the reflection of the Church. This is illustrated by the famous animal blessings of the St Rita’s Gallican Church in Paris.

Continuing Anglicanism might agree with most of this except the ordination of women to the diaconate. However, these positions are not unreasonable, but are characterised by the ras-le-bol in regard to Roman Catholicism. Theological and practical training does not seem in most cases to be on the list of priorities of most Gallican churches.

Some Gallican prelates are trying to establish relations with Anglicanism, but the American Episcopal Church in France and elsewhere in Europe. They are considered by the Roman Catholics in France as dangerous competition and therefore cults to be discouraged.

Maybe my position is negative and sceptical. It is saddening because if a greater degree of integrity could be found in these Churches, our uniting Anglican Churches could be more forthcoming in reaching out to them. I keep an eye open, but I see little to hope for – unfortunately.

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30 Responses to Gallicanism

  1. Dale says:

    I looked at one of their “Gallican” liturgies, they are almost as goofy as what the Orthodox have put out as a supposed 4th century Gallican rite; but without all the Byzantine hoopla dumped in.

    • Exactly, all goofy “novus ordo Gallican”. Only Archbishop Dominique Philippe uses the Pius V liturgy. He could have used one of the old Norman uses or the rite of Paris, but the French seem to have other priorities – soppy devotions for example. Gallicanism is not French Anglicanism but a variant of independent Old Catholicism.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        A general question of great sweep and no doubt laborious if answered in detail (which I am not seeking!): how (to your sense) does the (popularizing) scholarship of “the old Norman uses or the rite of Paris” compare to that of the Sarum Use? (And, is a lot of it in English, by English scholars? – something I can imagine, though I can equally imagine such work being done overwhelmingly by French scholars.)

      • I wrote Local French Rites a good while ago.

        One problem with French diocesan rites is the fashion of “neo-Gallican” missals that suffered quite radical modifications in the early 18th century under Jansenist influence (cf. Pseudo-Synod of Pistoia). I have a Parisian missal and a Rouen missal from that period. Dom Guéranger was highly critical about these neo-Gallican missals as he wrote in something like 1841 in Institutions Liturgiques. French diocesan usages since about the mid 19th century tended to be in the ceremonies and customs and less in the text. Thus some traditionalist priests in Normandy (eg. Fr Montgomery-Wright) were using the Roman rite but with old local customs like cantors in copes at Mass and acolytes in tunicles.

        There have certainly been some interesting studies from the time of Dom Guéranger through to about World War I. After then, interest in local French rites (medieval or Jansenist) waned and gave way to the Pius V Roman rite. However, in the traditionalist world, there is still some interest in the rites of Lyons and Paris (more the Fraternity of St Peter than the Society of St Pius X). No independent church (petites églises) has shown any interest in such niceties. The Petite Eglise has remnants of the old neo-Gallican status quo, but it has no priests and has never accepted any from Old Catholicism. Independent churches using the name “Petite Eglise” have no organic filiation from the Petite Eglise, but are inventions of their episcopi vagantes founders.

        I don’t know of any work by English-speaking scholars on local French usages as they continued into the 19th century, and in vestigial form until about the 1980’s and in some traditionalist RC (under Rome) churches.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Many thanks! (Sad to think I’d need to learn French, to look further properly – if embarrassing that I haven’t learned it long since in any case!)

  2. Linus says:

    Gallican came to mean French. and to refer to the Church of France, and to the ecclesiastical polity that prevailed in that country from the late Middle Ages(Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges of 1438) and the early French Renaissance(Concordat of Bologna 1516) to the Revolution. Of course, the word is used in an antiquarian sense to refer to the ancient Church of the Gauls.

    There were, as Fr Chadwick points out, striking parallels with the Anglican settlement in terms of the control of the Church by the Crown, in particular, in the right of nomination to important benefices and in the restriction of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, Henrician Catholicism looks rather Gallican to me, and contacts between the two Churches remained, in spite of the increasing divergences, even to the time of Fenelon.

    National religion was inextricably linked with the decline of feudalism, royal centralisation of power, and the loss of belief in the Christendom project. The history both of the Reformation and of the Counter-Reformation is closely correlated with this process. Even the Council of Trent can be seen as trying to deal not only with the doctrinal problems of Protestantism but also with the encroachment of royal and secular power upon the Church, while the Church is conscious of losing the power it wielded in the preceding centuries.

    The loss of significant secular power is also what, no doubt, motivated the definition of 1870 – opportune politically perhaps, but not theologically. It should not come as a surprise, then, that the doctrine of the magisterium is articulated the way it has been, from Pius XII onwards – as a structure of decision-making about the content of Church teaching that is trapped in a sort of self-referentiality bounded by the absolute magisterium of whoever happens to be the reigning Pope.

    • You have understood. It is the end, not of Christianity, but of Christendom. At various times, the Papacy tried to overshadow the power of temporal monarchs, the most known examples being Boniface VIII and the popes of the late 16th century. Then there were the last attempts at temporally-enforced Catholicism under Pius XII of Franco and Pinochet. Then the Popes, still under the spell, tried to collaborate with regimes that were increasingly anti-Christian. Why? Because money is all that matters in this world.

      I can’t help thinking of the term “Benedict Option”, but something more radical than monasticism and more geared for lay people with families. Even that is an attempt at reviving Christendom, and it won’t last. It won’t work.

      We have the duty to continue as long as we can, but barring some miracle, Christendom has had its day and Christianity is called to the catacombs.

      • Linus says:

        Indeed. To the catacombs or the windswept Norman plains in search of the ministrations of a remote priest, in scenes that will remind one of Kubrick’s 2000 Space Odyssey: “et vidi caelum novum et terram novam”.

        I wonder whether the centralised Church administration will ever allow the sort of independence and retreat to which the Benedict-Optionists aspire. What sort of compromise or deal would one have to consent to in order to be left in peace by the clerical bureaucracy and to have the candidates to the priesthood in the B-Optionist communities ordained? I don’t know if Mr Dreher or his followers in the Roman Church address this question at all.

        It might not be enough to get away from the state, the contemporary society – in particular, in light of all the things that are coming to light these days, it seems that one should want to get away or a at least maintain a healthy distance from the clerical establishment. Perhaps such an aspiration, in its quest for institutional purity, is but a sign of angelism – pure as angels, but proud as devils, or Pascal’s Qui veut faire l’ange, fait la bête?

      • I think Rod Dreher converted to Orthodoxy.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        He did – which might give more flexibility in calling priests and deacons in Orthodox congregation-communities.

        In how far could ‘neo-beguines’ organize themselves – and, perhaps, interact with parish priests (or would many a parish priest be stomped on at once by his bishop, for daring anything of the sort)?

        I remember reading something in an early-ish book by Jean Meyendorff about Orthodox-Papal interrelations in the Mediterranean, I think especially under Venetian rule, which included instances of intercommunion – might something like that ‘Benedict-Optionally’ develop, given the ‘right sort’ of Orthodox? (If I understand Roman and Eastern Canon Law, Rome looks favorably to offering and receiving in certain circumstances – but I have the impression the Orthodox tend to disagree pretty strenuously on the whole.)

      • Dale says:

        Yes, Dreher has gone over to the Russians, he came in under the OCA, which normally does not re-baptise converting Romans since they tend to follow pre-Revolutionary canon law and tradition, but now belongs to the Russians Outside of Russia, although I do not think that they re-baptised him (it is always hit or miss on that issue with that specific group, perhaps Patrick can fill us in on that one). I have read some of his postings on his site, and I am under the impression that he really is only familiar with a convert diaspora Orthodoxy and believes in many of the myths of said group, and has only a limited grasp of the ins-and-outs of the broader Russian Orthodox reality.

        He fails to understand that where the Orthodox have power, such as Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece they are just as legalistic, pedantic and disagreeable as the Roman Catholics (and even more controlling); and very much interested in political power and not at all adverse to attacking minority religious groups; in Russia this is especially evident in their continual attempt to have the Old Believers excluded from inclusion as a “traditional Russian religious group.” In Russia they continue to beat the dead horse of Uniatism to death; mixing it up with their intense dislike of the Ukrainians of any flavour except those under the authority of Moscow. He also seems unable to fathom that most ethnic Orthodox are very similar to the Roman Catholic laity, completely lax in their belief and practice (and tend to be just as nice). He also tends to confuse the Baroque splendor, or theatrics if you wish, of the Russian New Rite Orthodox, opera music and all as spectator sport, with the ancient liturgy of the catacombs. He never touches on the very odd, very liberal, both politically as well as socially, attitudes of the Greek Orthodox, both in North America, Western Europe as well as Greece itself. Confusing folklore for the faith and a type of conservatism (as I have mentioned before, the Orthodox do not preserve their ancient Byzantine rites out of too much more than the fact that such rites are considered as a national antique of the race). This is especially true of their often open support for “abortion rights.”

        Outside of a rather limited, and exotic, convert milieu I doubt there is very much interest in his Benedict Option, and if it really got going, I suspect that the forces that be in officially recognised Byzantine Orthodoxy would soon put a stop to it. It is one thing to have a few converts playing at being 19th century Russian peasants and building a garlic topped chapel in the garden, it is quite another thing if it actually becomes something more than that. Good Lord, the money might start drying up.

        One of my personal issues with him is that he is still harping on the Roman Catholic pedophile scandal whilst believing that such things do not exist in Orthodoxy. I have news for him, it very much does; and it is far more widespread than the formerly, but now imprisoned, hairy monks of Texas.

      • I still have my copy of BO waiting to be read after a couple of important books on Romanticism that I need to absorb. What I have read about it seems neither appealing nor realistic. Failing the Christian State and Christendom, the reality is the totalitarian cult or sect with a powerful sociopath, narcissist or psychopath as the guru. If he tells you to kill yourself, you drink the cyanide without asking why. Christianity in the future will necessarily be an individual philosophy of life. Priests will live like lay men (like the worker priests), largely unknown to non-ordained Christians. One thing that is present in my mind is that any kind of Christian community life is only possible in the context of friendship.

    • Speaking of Magisterium, given the recent change in doctrine in the Catechism, and given that those who will refuse the change, will refuse it not because they have been taught by a bishop or a priest, but because they’ve informed themselves, a question can be asked:

      What is the purpose of the living Magisterium in the information age? Especially when it’s so self-referential: I am the arbiter of tradition, and i say what is tradition and what is not, and i say what is an authentic interpretation of that authentic tradition, and i say what is an authentic development [though i clearly frame it like “before, but no longer”] of that tradition and it is so just because i say so, since… I … AM … the arbiter…

      • Linus says:

        Another consequence of ultramontanism and papolatry is that all the divine promises regarding the Church are understood solely in terms of the safeguarding of the magisterial office, which in turn is understood in terms of the Petrine office.

        The promise of the Church’s indefectibility does not mean that the abuse or subversion of the magisterium by those in whom it is presumed to be vested will never take place. But then, Ou est l’Eglise?

      • I wasn’t asking this only from perspective of Petrine office, but from the perspective of Magisterium as such, from the perspective of the Church as a teacher. Basically all the bishops will accept this new teaching, and also most of the faithful will too (what of sensum fidelium? is our Creed: “i believe whatever the zeitgeist is and majority holds”?).

        Those who don’t go that way, informed their decision on their own, without receiving any teaching from any present and living magisterium. I know i did the same. But where does that put me? Does that make me a protestant? Even if i profess the visibility of the Church, to which Church am i really tied? By faith, it becomes more and more obvious, i’m certainly not tied to that Church which follows Francis. Can there be a virtual communion with some “eternal Rome”, an idealized version of Church which somehow spiritually exists in those who hold to the true teachings (whichever those are) even if it is not embodied in bishops, and clergy and the pope? But who holds them faithful? The Spirit? He should, but we see people changing their faith, the whole millions of people severing communion with one another, and either falling into heresy (whichever side you take).

        So yes, indeed, where is the Church of God?

        The question is this.
        If there is an objective standard of faith (Scripture and Tradition, let’s say), upon which all preaching is tested, is there a need for any kind of living Magisterium in the information age? That opens us up to solipsism.
        If the living Magisterium is the objective standard of faith, then we can’t appeal to anything that isn’t the present and living Magisterium and that opens itself up to manipulation and corruption.

        So, in the first question, the faithful are those who hold fast to the Tradition.
        In the second one, the faithful are those who are obedient to present government.

        Is there a middle way? I don’t know. I can’t make it out myself. It would be nice if there was.
        Sometimes the only thing keeping me from regarding Christianity (not Christendom) as a sham and a biggest lie ever told, is the historicity of Ressurection of Jesus.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        What of a couple variants of (neo-) Conciliarism, without the multiplication of claimants to be Pope? The Papo-Franciscan ‘national episcopal conferencism’ seems to combine some sort of ‘devolution’ to the apparently ‘reliable’ favored conferences and diocesan bishops combined with very authoritarian Papal Monarchy, while the (might we say) ‘continuing’ bishops are not sede vacantist but are ready to defend the Office against an errant Office-holder, and work together to do so, in some sense Conciliarily? (I write under correction!)

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I’ve read an interesting popular-scholarly account of the De potestate regia et papali of John of Paris as looking forward to ‘Gallicanism’, which also looks to the gathering in Paris in January 1407 and a ‘new direction that tends toward Gallicanism’ – which included looking to the example of England and its royal successes in the 14th-century.

  3. Caedmon says:

    The best definition of the church that I know of is in one of the post-communion prayers in the Prayer Book Mass, i.e. ‘the blessed company of all faithful people’. Why do we need to define the church any more closely than that?

  4. William Tighe says:

    David Llewellyn Dodds wrote:

    “I remember reading something in an early-ish book by Jean Meyendorff about Orthodox-Papal interrelations in the Mediterranean, I think especially under Venetian rule, which included instances of intercommunion …”

    I haven’t come across anything along those lines by Dr. Meyendorff, and I wonder whether you might be thinking of one of K. T. Ware’s earlier books, Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule (Oxford, 1964; repr. Wipf & Stock, 2013) in which he discusses Greek/Latin relations in the Aegean in Ch. 1.. There is also his “Orthodox and Catholics in the Seventeenth Century: Schism or Intercommunion?,” which was originally published in Studies in Church History, Volume 9, Schism, Heresy, and Religious Protest (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 259-276, WHICH YOU CAN READ HERE:

    One should note, however, that the decision of the Russian Church alluded to in the final paragraph of the article (“on 16 December 1969 the synod of the Russian Church declared that ‘ if… Catholics ask the Orthodox Church to administer the holy sacraments to them, this is not forbidden’. The Russian resolution has been vigorously attacked by the synod of the Church of Greece …”) was revoked by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1991, on the basis that the “emergency situation” (of Catholics in Russia permanently unable to have access to Catholic clergy) which occasioned it no longer exists.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Many thanks! I had less trouble locating the book in question than I feared: it is a 1964 Dutch translation of L’Église Orthodoxe, hier et aujourd’hui (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1960), and the relevant references come in the notes to chapter 5 – in note 8, he refers to concelebration between Catholic and Orthodox priests especially in the Greek islands under Venetian rule into the 18th century; in note 13, he says see especially W. de Vries, “Das Problem der ‘communicatio in sacris cum dissidentibus’ im Nahen Osten zur Zeit der Union”, Ostkirchlichen Studiën 6 (1957), pp. 81-106.

  5. Linus says:


    Personally, I’ve come to adopt and apply Newman’s attitude to the XXXIX articles, outlined in Tract XC, with regards to anything that comes from Rome – the test of consistency with Scripture, Tradition, the Fathers, Natural Law, etc. Faith, I think, requires we stop somewhere – otherwise, we get caught into an almost infinite regression of thought, where logic ultimately dissolves, and only the void is there to stare back at us.

    • We know through books and traditions what the Church has always taught. We have no need to get our knickers in a twist with some kind of so-called “Living Magisterium” (infallible and irreformable even when it teaches nonsense). Just go on with life and stop looking at what makes us nauseous!

      • Linus says:

        Couldn’t have put it better myself! Father, did you know a certain Andre de Muralt when you were in Fribourg?

      • The name doesn’t sound familiar. I was “up” at Fribourg from 1986 to 1991.

      • Linus says:

        Never mind, thank you. He seems to be a mystery academic, in the sense of not much of an internet presence. But perhaps that only shows that I belong to this generation. I recommend his book “L’Unite de la Philosophie Politique: de Scot, Occam et Suarez au Liberalisme Contemporain” (Librairie Philosophique Vrin, Paris 2002)- which touches on what we were discussing above.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Reading a fascinating book, Overleven in revolutietijd: Een ooggetuige over het Franse Bewind [1797-1815] (something like ‘Surviving in a time of revolution: An eyewitness on French rule [in what became Belgium]’), Edward de Maessachalck’s 2003 setting in context of the posthumously published diaries of a wigmaker become postman in Louvain, Jan-Baptist Hous (1756-1830), I have arrived at the effects of the Concordat between Napoleon and Pius VII, which included the appointment of the sometime bishop of Senlis (beginning under Louis XV, from 1754), Jean-Armand de Bessuéjouls Roquelaure, as Archbishop of Mechelin, a few days short of his eighty-first birthday! De Maessachalck describes him as “a convinced representative of the Gallican Church, that is, a Church strictly submitted to royal, and, thus, lay, authority.” (I clearly need to learn more about the Concordat!)

    • One thing I have understood about Romanticism in France and the Ultramontanist movement is that it was a reaction against this French equivalent of Erastianism. The Church as “chaplain” to lay authority is not always conducive to the spiritual mission of the Church. My church history professor did once mention the notion of preferring a despot who was thousands of miles away (Rome) than on one’s own doorstep. This puts a different slant of things. The Church’s independence from secular authority is a major theme in Vladimir Soloviev’s work, and it makes a lot of sense. As secular kingdoms collapsed in the nineteenth century and in a very final way with World War I, the Papacy became too big for its own boots, and this was the other extreme. The Church institution was no longer accountable.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thanks! (I see I made two mistakes – the troubles in Louvain, etc., as noted in the title started in 1792, not 1797; and I keep misspelling the author’s name (!): Maesschalck.) They had apparently resisted the ‘Josephism’ of the Emperor Joseph II in the ‘Southern’ or ‘Austrian Netherlands’, only to suffer more sweeping oppression and destruction from the Revolutionary French Republic, also under the Directory, with some relief coming with the Consulate, but lots of destruction continuing – for example of Louvain University when Napoleon wanted many of its buildings for a branch of the Hôtel des Invalides. A whole horrible sequence of domination by secular authority, even when comparatively mildly negotiated.

        But, indeed, the lack of accountability of the Church institution is also direly problematical, even at its historical practical ‘best’ in ‘Patristic’ episcopal interaccountability (so to call it, and however one interprets the place of the second See of St. Peter).

  7. nordiccatholic says:

    I probably identify with the Gallicans.I would tick the following boxes – fasting optional, women deacons OK,, use of Roman Rite (adapted), commemorate the Pope in the Liturgy as the Western Patriarch – first among equals, no excommunications, use of Taize chant, veneration of Icons, a ministry based upon grace, expressed in pastoral charity, a willingness to work with others, allegiance to the ancient creeds and councils. Companion animals – cats and dogs welcome at worship and may be blessed..

    Please note this is my opinion, and not that of NCC..

    • I just gave the list of “issues” as they give them on their website. Personally, I don’t relate to “issues” especially those that mean little or nothing. The “issues” given by the Gallicans refer to a time that has passed and is behind us. As far as I am concerned, we have moved on from the days of Pius IX and Pius X. I say Mass “una cum” our Archbishop, our Bishop – with whom we are in a canonical relationship, and the Queen of England – whose subjects we are if we are British. Ideas amongst so many others.

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