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Action Française

The name of both a political league and its journal, it was founded in 1898 in the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair with the intention of restoring French national unity under monarchical rule. Hostile to parliamentary government, never a mass movement, it attracted many Roman Catholic students and intelligentsia. Its leaders, notably Charles Maurras, were atheistic and on a naturalist basis held that the national interest had absolute primacy in moral matters. They valued Catholicism for its social function, regardless of its religious truth. Roman Catholic authorities were soon worried by the movement. A prohibition of Catholic membership was prepared in 1914 but not published, for political reasons. Public condemnation in 1926 spelled the eventual end of Action Française’s appeal to Catholics, though only at the cost of much conflict in the 1930s.