The Civil Constitution of the Clergy 12 July, 1790

The National Assembly, having heard the report of its Ecclesiastical Committee, has decreed and does decree the following as constitutional articles.



1. Each and every department shall constitute a single diocese, and each and every diocese shall have the same extent and limits as the department.

2. The episcopal sees of the eighty-three departments of the kingdom shall be established as follows ... [there follows a list of episcopal sees]:

All bishoprics in the eighty-three departments of the kingdom that are not included by name in the present article are and shall forever remain suppressed.

The kingdom shall be divided into ten metropolitan districts, the seats of which shall be Rouen, Rheims, Besançon, Rennes, Paris, Bourges, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Aix, and Lyons. The metropolitan sees shall have the following denominations.

[The names given are listed in the following table.]

Metropolitan District

Name 1. Rouen

Channel Coasts 2. Rheims

North-East 3. Besançon

East 4. Rennes

North-West 5. Paris

Paris 6. Bourges

Center 7. Bordeaux

South-West 8. Toulouse

South 9. Aix

Mediterranean Coasts 10. Lyons


[Article 3 indicates the dioceses to be included in each metropolitan district. They are as follows.] 1. Channel Coasts: Seine-Inférieure, Calvados, Manche, Orne, Eure, Oise,Somme, Pas-de-Calais. 2. North-East: Marne, Meuse, Meurthe, Moselle, Ardennes, Aisne, Nord.

3. East: Doubs, Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, Vosges, Haute-Saône, Haute-Marne,Côte-d'Or, Jura.

4. North-West: Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-du-Nord, Finistère, Morbihan, Loire-Inférieure, Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe, Mayenne.

5. Paris: Paris, Seine-et-Oise, Eure-et-Loir, Loiret, Yonne, Aube,Seine-et-Marne.

6. Center: Cher, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, Vienne, Indre, Creuse, Allier, Nièvre.

7. South-West: Gironde, Vendée, Charente-Inférieure, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne, Corrèze, Haute-Vienne, Charente, Deux-Sèvres.

8. South: Haute-Garonne, Gers, Basses-Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées, Ariège, Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Aveyron, Lot,Tarn.

9. Mediterranean Coasts: Bouches-du-Rhône, Corsica, Var, Basses-Alpes, Hautes-Alpes, Drôme, Lozère, Gard, Hérault.

10. South-East: Rhône-et-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal,Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Isère, Ain, Saône-et-Loire.

4. No church or parish of France, and no French citizen, may, under any circumstances or on any pretext whatsoever, acknowledge the authority of an ordinary bishop or archbishop whose see is established under the name [44]of a foreign power, or that of its delegates residing in France or elsewhere; without prejudice, however, to the unity of faith and communion, which shall be maintained with the Visible Head of the Universal Church as hereinafter provided.

5. When the diocesan bishop in his synod has pronounced a decision on matters within his competence, appeal may be brought to the archbishop, who shall make his decision in the metropolitan synod.

6. A new organization and division of all parishes of the kingdom shall be undertaken immediately, upon the advice of the diocesan bishop and the district administrations; the number and extent thereof shall be determined according to rules to be established.

7. The cathedral church of each and every diocese shall be restored to its original status by the suppression of parishes and the redistribution of dwellings which it is deemed suitable to unite thereto, and it shall be at one and the same time the parochial and the episcopal church.

8. The episcopal parish shall have no other immediate pastor than the bishop. All priests established therein shall be his vicars, and shall perform the duties thereof.

9. There shall be sixteen vicars of the cathedral church in cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants, but only twelve where the population is fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.

10. In each and every diocese one seminary only shall be preserved or established for preparation for orders, without intending any prejudice for the present with regard to other houses of instruction and education.

11. The seminary shall be established near the cathedral church whenever possible, and even within the precincts of the buildings in-tended for the dwelling of the bishop.

12. For the direction and instruction of young pupils received into the seminary there shall be a superior vicar and three directing vicars subordinate to the bishop.

13. The superior and directing vicars shall be required to be present with the young ecclesiastics of the seminary at all offices of the cathedral parish, and to perform therein all duties with which the bishop or his first vicar shall see fit to entrust them.

14. The vicars of cathedral churches, together with the superior and directing vicars of the seminary, shall constitute the customary and permanent council of the bishop, who may perform no act of jurisdiction with respect to the government of the diocese and the seminary until he has deliberated therewith. The bishop may issue, however, in the course of his visits, such provisional ordinances as are necessary.

15. In all cities and towns of not more than 6,000 inhabitants there shall be only one parish; other parishes shall be suppressed and united with the principal church.

16. In cities of more than 6,000 inhabitants every parish may include a greater number of parishioners, and as many parishes shall be preserved or established as the needs of the people and the localities require.

17. The administrative assemblies, in concert with the diocesan bishop, shall indicate to the next legislature the parishes and annexes or chapels of ease in town and country which it is fitting to preserve, extend, establish, or suppress; and they shall indicate the limits thereof according to the needs of the people and the different localities, and as befits the dignity of religion.

20. All titles and offices, other than those mentioned in the present constitution, dignities, canonries, prebends, half prebends, chapels, chaplaincies, in both cathedral and collegiate churches, and all regular and secular chapters of either sex, abbeys and priories, regular or in commendam, of either sex, and all other benefices and prestimonies in general, of whatever kind and under whatever denomination, are abolished and suppressed dating from the day of publication of the present decree, and similar ones may never be established.

24. Endowments for masses and other services now performed in parochial churches by the curés and by priests attached thereto, with-out being provided with their places in perpetual title of benefice, shall continue provisionally to be maintained and paid as heretofore; nevertheless, in churches where societies of priests not provided with perpetual titles of benefice are established…those who die or retire may not be replaced.

25. Endowments for the education of relatives of the founders shall continue to be administered in conformity with the provisions stated in the articles of foundation; and with regard to all other pious endowments, the interested parties shall present statements to the depart-mental assemblies, in order that, upon their advice and that of the diocesan bishop, the legislative body may make laws concerning their preservation or replacement.



1. Dating from the day of publication of the present decree, appointments to bishoprics and curés are to be made by election only.

2. All elections shall be by ballot and absolute majority of votes.

3. The election of bishops shall take place according to the form prescribed by, and by the electoral body designated in, the decree of 22 December, 1789, [40] for the appointment of members of the depart-mental assembly.

4. As soon as the departmental procureur-général-syndic receives news of a vacancy in an episcopal see, owing to death, resignation, or other cause, he shall notify the district procureurs-syndics to convoke the electors who effected the last election of members of the ad-ministrative assembly; and at the same time he shall indicate the day on which the election of the bishop shall take place, which shall be not later than the third Sunday after his letter of notification.

5. If the vacancy in the episcopal see occurs during the last four months of the year in which the election of members of the depart-mental administration is to take place, the election of the bishop shall be deferred and assigned to the next assembly of electors.

6. The election of the bishop may take place or be initiated only on a Sunday, in the principal church of the chief town of the department, following the parochial mass, at which all electors are required to be present.

7. To be eligible for a bishopric, one must have performed for at least fifteen years the duties of ecclesiastical ministry in the diocese, in the capacity of curé,officiating minister or vicar, or as superior or directing vicar of the seminary. [46]

8. Bishops whose sees are suppressed by the present decree may be elected to bishoprics now vacant, as well as to those which become vacant hereafter or which are established in some departments, even if they have not been in office fifteen years.

9. Curésand other ecclesiastics who, as a result of the new division of dioceses, find themselves in a new diocese, shall be considered to have performed their duties in such diocese, and accordingly shall be considered eligible there, provided that, in addition, they have fulfilled the requirement of tenure specified above.

10. Present curéswho have been in office for ten years in a living of the diocese may also be elected, even though they have not previously performed the duties of vicar.

11. The same rule shall apply with regard tocuréswhose parishes have been suppressed by virtue of the present decree, and the interval since the suppression of their cure shall be counted towards their period of tenure.

12. Missionaries, vicars-general of bishoprics, ecclesiastics officiating in hospitals or in charge of public education shall likewise be eligible when they have performed their duties for fifteen years, dating from their promotion to the priesthood.

13. All dignitaries, canons, or generally all incumbents and titularies obligated to residence or performing ecclesiastical duties, and whose benefices, titles, offices, or employments are suppressed by the present decree, are likewise eligible if they have been in office for fifteen years, computed as in the case of curésin the preceding article.

14. Proclamation of those elected shall be made by the president of the electoral assembly, in the church where the election was held, in the presence of the people and the clergy, and before beginning the solemn mass which is to be celebrated on such occasion.

15. The procès-verbalof the election and of the proclamation shall be sent to the King by the president of the assembly of electors to inform His Majesty of the choice that has been made. .

16. Not later than a month subsequent to his election, the bishop-elect shall present himself in person to his metropolitan bishop; and if elected to the metropolitan see, to the oldest bishop of the arrondissement,with the procès-verbalof the election and proclamation, and shall request him to grant canonical confirmation.

17. The metropolitan or the senior bishop shall have the right to examine the bishop-elect, in the presence of his council, concerning his doctrine and morals. If he considers him qualified, he shall give him canonical institution; if he believes it his duty to refuse, the reasons for such refusal shall be given in writing, signed by the metropolitan bishop and his council, reserving to the interested parties the right to appeal by writ of error as provided hereinafter.

18. The bishop from whom confirmation is requested may not exact of the bishop-elect any oath other than profession of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion.

19. The new bishop may not apply to the Pope for confirmation, but shall write to him as the Visible Head of the Universal Church, in testimony of the unity of faith and communion which he is to maintain therewith.

20. The consecration of a bishop may be performed only in his cathedral church by his metropolitan or, failing him, by the oldest bishop in the arrondissement of the metropolitan see, assisted by the bishops of the two nearest dioceses, on a Sunday, during the parochial mass, in the presence of the people and the clergy.

21. Before the ceremony of consecration begins, the bishop-elect shall take a solemn oath, in the presence of the municipal officials, the people, and the clergy, to watch with care over the faithful of the diocese entrusted to him, to be faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the King, and to maintain with all his power the Constitution decreed by the National Assembly and accepted by the King.

22. The bishop shall have the liberty of choosing the vicars of his cathedral church from among all the clergy of his diocese, provided that he names only priests who have performed ecclesiastical duties for at least ten years. He may remove them only upon the advice of his council, and by a resolution decided by majority vote and with full knowledge of the circumstances.

23. Curés at present established in any cathedral churches, as well as those from parishes which have been suppressed in order to be united with the cathedral church and constitute the jurisdiction thereof, shall be, without need of sanction, the first vicars of the bishop if they so desire, each one according to order of seniority in pastoral functions.

24. The superior and directing vicars of seminaries shall be appointed by the bishop and his council, and may be removed only in the same manner as vicars of the cathedral church.

25. The election of curés shall be conducted according to the forms prescribed by, and by the electors designated in, the decree of 22 December, 1789, for the election of members of the district administrative assembly. [47]

26. The assembly of electors for appointment to livings shall constitute itself annually at the time of the formation of the district assemblies, even if there be only one living vacant in the district; for which purpose the municipalities shall be required to notify the district procureur-syndic of all vacancies of livings occurring in their arrondissement through death, or resignation, or otherwise.

27. In convoking the assembly of electors, the procureur-syndic shall send each and every municipality the list of all livings to which appointments are to be made.

28. The election of curés shall be effected by a separate balloting for each vacant living.

29. Each and every elector, before depositing his ballot in the ballot box, shall take oath to vote only for that person whom he has chosen in his soul and conscience as the most worthy, without having been influenced therein by gifts, promises, solicitations, or threats. Such oath shall be taken for the election of bishops as well as for that of curés.

30. The election of curés may be held or initiated only on a Sun-day, in the principal church of the chief town of the district, at the close of the parish mass, at which all electors are required to be present.

31. The announcement of those elected shall be made by the president of the electoral body, in the principal church, before the solemn mass which is to be celebrated for such purpose, and in the presence of the people and the clergy.

32. In order to be eligible to a living, it shall be necessary to have performed the duties of vicar for at least five years in a parish, or in a hospital or other house of charity of the diocese.

33. Curés whose parishes have been suppressed in execution of the present decree may be elected, even if they have not served five years in the diocese.

34. All those above declared eligible to bishoprics, provided they have also served five years, likewise shall be eligible to livings.

35. Whoever has been proclaimed elected to a living shall present himself in person to the bishop, with the procès-verbal of his election and proclamation, for the purpose of obtaining canonical institution therefrom.

36. The bishop shall have the privilege of examining the curé-elect, in the presence of his council, concerning his doctrine and morals; if he deems him competent, he shall bestow canonical institution; if he believes it his duty to refuse it, the reasons for refusal shall be given in writing signed by the bishop and his council, reserving to the parties recourse to civil authority as hereinafter provided.

37. In examining the curé-elect who requests canonical institution from him, the bishop may not require any oath other than profession of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion.

38. The curés elected and instituted shall take the same oath as the bishops, on a Sunday in their church, before the parochial mass, in the presence of the municipal officials, the people, and the clergy. Until such time, they may not perform any curial function. [48]

39. In the cathedral church and in every parochial church there shall be a special register, on which the secrétaire-greffierof the municipality shall inscribe, without charge, the procès-verbalof the taking of the oath of the bishop or the curé; and, apart from the said procès-verbal,there shall be no record of taking possession.

40. Bishoprics and livings shall be considered vacant until those elected have taken the oath above mentioned.

41. During the vacancy of the episcopal see, the first or, failing him, the second vicar of the cathedral church, shall replace the bishop both in his curialduties and in acts of jurisdiction which do not require episcopal authority; but he shall be required to follow the advice of the council in all matters.

42. During the vacancy of a living, the parish administration shall be entrusted to the first vicar, except for the establishment of an additional vicar if the municipality requires it; and in case there is no vicar in the parish, an officiating minister shall be established therein by the bishop.

43. Each and every curé shall have the right to choose his vicars, but he may choose only priests ordained or admitted to the diocese by the bishop.

44. No curé may dismiss his vicars except for legitimate cause determined by the bishop and his council.



1. Ministers of religion, performing the primary and most important functions of society, and obliged to reside continuously in the place of service to which the confidence of the people has called them, shall be maintained by the nation.

2. All bishops, curés, and officiating ministers in annexes and chapels of ease shall be furnished with suitable dwellings, on condition, however, that they make all repairs for which tenants are liable, without intending for the present to introduce anything new with regard to parishes where the priest now receives money instead of a dwelling, and reserving to the departments cognizance of demands made by parishes and curés; moreover, salaries shall be assigned to all as indicated hereinafter.

3. The stipend of bishops shall be as follows: for the Bishop of Paris, 50,000 livres; for the bishops of cities of 50,000 inhabitants or more, 20,000 livres; for other bishops, 12,000 livres.

4. The stipend of vicars of cathedral churches shall be as follows: in Paris, for the first vicar, 6,000 livres; for the second, 4,000 livres; for all other vicars, 3,000 livres.

   In cities of 50,000 inhabitants or more: for the first vicar, 4,000 livres; for the second, 3,000 livres; for all others, 2,400 livres.

In cities of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants: for the first vicar, 3,000 livres;for the second, 2,400 livres; for all others, 2,000 livres.

5. The stipend of curés shall be as follows: In Paris, 6,000 livres.

   In cities of 50,000 inhabitants or more, 4,000 livres.
   In those of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants but more than 10,000, 3,000 livres.
   In cities and towns of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants but more than 3,000, 2,400 livres.
   In all other cities and towns, and in villages where the parish has a population of between 2,500 and 3,000 inhabitants, 2,000 livres; where it is between 2,000 and 2,500 inhabitants, 1,800 livres; where it is fewer than 2,000 but more than 1,000, 1,500 livres;and where it is 1,000 inhabitants or fewer, 1,200 livres.

6. The stipend of vicars shall be as follows:

   In Paris, for the first vicar, 2,400 livres; for the second, 1,500 livres; for all others, 1,000 livres.
   In cities of 50,000 inhabitants or more: for the first vicar, 1,200 livres; for the second, 1,000 livres; and for all others, 800 livres.
   In all other cities and towns of more than 3,000 inhabitants, 800 livres for the first two vicars, and 700 livres for all others.

7. The monetary stipend of ministers of religion shall be paid in advance, every three months, by the district treasurer, under penalty of arrest on ordinary summons; and in case the bishop, curé, or vicar dies or resigns before the end of the last quarter, no claim for recovery of money may be made against him or his heirs.

8. During vacancies in bishoprics, livings, and all ecclesiastical offices maintained by the nation, the accumulations of stipend attached thereto shall be deposited in the district treasury to provide for the expenditures stated hereinafter.

9. Curés who are no longer able to attend to their duties because of old age or infirmity shall inform the departmental directory of such fact, which [directory], upon instructions from the municipality and the district administration, shall give them the choice, if need be, of taking another vicar, who is to be paid by the nation on the same basis as other vicars, or of retiring on a pension equal to the stipend of said vicar.

10. Upon establishing their status in the manner above prescribed, vicars, almoners of hospitals, superiors of seminaries, and others holding public office also may retire on a pension equal to their stipend, provided it does not exceed the sum of 800 livres.

11. The rate established above for the payment of ministers of religion shall become effective dating from the day of publication of the present decree, but only for those who henceforth are to be pro-vided with ecclesiastical offices. The stipend of present titularies, both those whose offices or employments are suppressed and those whose titles are preserved, shall be established by special decree.

12. In view of the stipend assured them by the present constitution, bishops, curés, and their vicars shall perform their episcopal and curialduties gratis.



1. The law of residence shall be strictly observed, and all who are invested with an ecclesiastical office or function shall be subject thereto without distinction or exception.

2. No bishop may absent himself from his diocese for more than fifteen consecutive days during any year, except in case of real necessity and with the consent of the directory of the department in which his see is located.

3. Likewise, curés and vicars may not absent themselves from the place of their duties beyond the term established above, except for serious reasons; and even in such cases the curés shall be required to obtain the consent of both their bishop and their district directory, the vicars that of their curés.

4. If a bishop or a curé deviates from the law of residence, the municipality shall inform the departmental procureur-général-syndic, who shall summon him in writing to return to his duty, and after a second warning shall bring suit against him to have his stipend declared forfeit for the entire period of his absence.

5. Bishops, curés, and vicars. may not accept positions, functions, or commissions which oblige them to leave their dioceses or parishes, or which will take them away from the duties of their ministry; and those at present so encumbered shall be required to make their choice, within three months of the notification made to them of the present decree by the procureur-général-syndic of their department; otherwise, and after the expiration of said period, their office shall be considered vacant, and a successor shall be appointed according to the forms above provided.

6. Bishops, curés, and vicars may be present at the primary and electoral assemblies as active citizens. They may be appointed electors, deputies to the legislatures, elected members of the general council of the commune and of the district and departmental administrative councils; but their functions are declared incompatible with those of mayor and other municipal officials, and of members of the district and departmental directories; and if elected thereto they shall be required to make their choice.

7. The incompatibility mentioned in article 6 shall be effective only henceforth; and if any bishops, curés, or vicars have been summoned by the will of their fellow citizens to the office of mayor or to other municipal offices, or appointed members of. the district or depart-mental directories, they may continue, to perform the duties thereof.