Law of Associations

1901. This defined the legal status in France of all voluntary societies including Catholic religious orders. It formed part of a new wave of secular anti- Catholic legislation during the Third Republic, culminating in the rupture of relations between France and the Vatican (1904) and between church and state (1905). Promoted by the ministry of Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau, the law was believed by its supporters to be necessary to check the influence of a rival religious force within the state threatening to break the “moral unity” of France which, they asserted, rested on “revolutionary and republican principles.” The law provided, inter alia, that no religious congregation or any of its dependent institutions (e.g., schools, hospitals) may be formed, or continue to exist, without state authorization, that any congregation may be closed by simple decree, that no member of an unauthorized order could teach, that the state will determine the liquidation of property of dissolved orders. Some 615 congregations complied while 215 did not, including the Benedictines and Jesuits. The successor ministry of Emile Combes used the law severely and extended its provisions to prohibit teaching by any religious order. By 1904, Combes boasted, he had closed 13,904 schools.