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The French and the Dreyfus Affair /
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The churches and freemasonry

The churches and freemasonry

Catholics and the Affair

Catholic public opinion was in large part anti-Dreyfusard, fed by anti-Semitism, xenophobia and suspicion regarding the role of Jews in the making of the republican State. La Croix-a newspaper that went out to 15,000 parishes-and its regional counterparts like Le Pèlerin were very hostile to Dreyfus by virtue of a spurious principle: "being Catholic and being French are one and the same thing." A number of Dreyfusards saw in this "a relentless clerical conspiracy against Dreyfus and, beyond this, against the Republic." Jean-Marie Mayeur has demonstrated that there were pro-Dreyfus Catholics. Nevertheless, the twenty-member pro-Dreyfus Comité Catholique pour la Défense du Droit received only 118 messages of support, and the abbot Pichot was forced to resign from the Limoges diocese for having published, in 1898, Christian Conscience and the Dreyfus Affair. The position taken in 1897 by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, regarding the respect for sentences handed down by judges, remained that of the episcopacy in the years between Dreyfus's pardon and his rehabilitation. Thus it was in June 1902 that the Cardinal Archbishop of Bordeaux stated that Catholics did not have the elements to "judge cases pending in the courts."

The Protestants' participation

In the camp of the secular Republic, Protestants-like the Jews-were in large part Dreyfusards; their daily paper Le Signal became involved, as did their pastors. The pastor of Rennes located found a house for Lucie Dreyfus during the trial of 1899. Protestants were called "stateless persons," and on 25 December 1898 La Croix wrote, "Protestantism is the enemy [that even desires] the elimination of France from the map of Europe." This no doubt encouraged Le Christianisme au XIXe siècle to state, on 20 January 1899, that it was dangerous to bring up a subject "that came too close to politics, creating a new occasion for co-religionists to contradict each other and even to quarrel." Pro-Dreyfusism was notable enough that Protestants were accused of banding together with the "Jewish syndicate" and the freemasons to save Dreyfus.

Freemasons and the Affair

France numbered only 20,000 freemasons, and the majority of them rejected anti-Semitism, which they condemned-along with militarism and clericalism-at their grand meeting of lodges in Paris on 23 July 1898. Nearly 300 members of Parliament were masons, some of whom were anti-Dreyfusards, including president Felix Faure and Minister of Colonies André Lebon. However, on 19 September 1898, the Convent of the Grand Orient unanimously adopted a text by the Council of the Order of Lawyers stating that "any violation of the law diminishes the country" and that to excuse the unlawfulness of the military is "to disown France's raison d'être." The sharp opposition of the two camps would remain steadfast.


Truth emerging from a well

A denunciation of the Rennes trial by the Freemasons