- A set of beliefs and practices in the French Catholic Church that conceived the church in France as an autonomous, self-governing branch of the universal church. It acknowledged the nominal supremacy of the popes but rejected papal intervention in filling church offices, in taxation of the clergy, and in some questions of religious practice. The widespread charges of corruption in the late medieval church, which popular opinion blamed mainly on the popes, encouraged this resistance to papal meddling in local affairs. Gallican tradition also supported the ideas of Conciliarism, which attributed ultimate authority in the church not to the popes but to a general council. Gallicanism was encouraged by the kings of France, who wanted to preserve their control of appointment to valuable church offices. In 1438 the French bishops supported King Charles VII'S enactment of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, a document defining the legal rights of the autonomous Gallican church.Although a king of France had issued the Pragmatic Sanction, the kings upheld Gallicanism only when it suited their political purposes. In 1516 the new king, Francis I, and a new pope, Leo X, negotiated the Concordat of Bologna, in which the pope acknowledged some French claims to administrative autonomy. But the Concordat acknowledged the right of the king, rather than the clergy of the diocesan cathedral chapters, to appoint French bishops, subject to confirmation by the pope. The treaty was a betrayal of the principle of an autonomous church, since the independence of the clergy was now threatened not by a distant pope but by a close-at-hand king who exploited his control of church patronage to reward his favorites.Gallicanism still survived as an ideal, but in reality it had life only when the kings, for reasons of their own, fostered it, as happened when they resisted papal efforts to extend the decrees of the Council of Trent to France or to block royal efforts to end the religious civil wars by granting toleration to the large Protestant minority. Gallicanism remained a force in French society through the 17th and 18th centuries. In general, however, once the kings had gained control of church appointments and properties under the Concordat of Bologna, they preferred to negotiate specific issues directly with the papacy.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.
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