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Claude Le Coz



French bishop, b. at Plouévez-Parzay (FinistËre), 1740; d. at Villevieux (Jura), 1813. Pupil, then professor, and finally principal of the CollËge de Quimper, he took the constitutional oath in 1791, was elected schismatic Bishop of Ille-et-Vilaine, and wrote in defence of his election-declared null and void by the pope-"Accord des vrais principes de la morale et de la raison sur la Constitution civile du clergé". Elected to the Legislative Assembly he showed courage and ability in defending against the majority Catholic colleges, the ecclesiastical costume, and even Christian marriage. His moderation drew upon him the severity of the Convention, and he spent fourteen months in the prison of Mont-Saint-Michel. Later, under the Directory, the vigour with which he opposed the substitution of the decadi for the Christian Sunday came near causing his deportation. Under the Concordat, Le Coz was one of the Constitutional bishops whom the force of circumstances compelled the Holy See to recognize, and he became Archbishop of Besaneon. There is a doubt as to the nature of his retractation: Bernier, the ecclesiastical diplomat who negotiated the rehabilitation of the jurors, thought it best, in order to avoid delay, not to make a clear mention of the mannerof retractation required by Pius VII; as a consequence, Le Coz denied ever having retracted, and the awkwardness of the situation was ended only by a personal interview between Le Coz and Pius VII, in which both were seen weeping but of which neither ever spoke. As schismatic Bishop of Ille-et-Vilaine, Le Coz failed in his endeavour to organize the new province of which he was the metropolitan; otherwise he proved a zealous administrator and even a charitable pastor. As Archbishop of BesanÁon he displayed some good qualities, but his sad antecedents, the doubt hanging over his conversion, and the presence in his archiepiscopal palace of too many ex-juror priests, detracted considerably from the effectiveness of his ministry. The strange mixture of truth and error, of good and evil in Le Coz's life, is partly explained by his intensely Gallican education, which caused him to adopt with apparent sincerity and to maintain with unconquerable obstinacy the most schismatic views. His Gallicanism, which made him so haughty toward the pope, found him almost cringing before the various political regimes which succeeded one another during his episcopate. In an age full of confusion, we should give some credit to Le Coz for sometimes having, even against the all-powerful Abbé Grégoire, defended the cause of religion in the "Annales de la Religion", in which he was an assiduous collaborator, and in his "Correspondance", part of which has been published by his biographer.

ROUSSEL, Le Coz, évÍque d'Ille-et-Vilaine (Paris, s.d.); IDEM, Correspondance de Le Coz (Paris, 1900); PISANI, Le Coz in Répertoire biographique de l'Episcopat Constitutionnel (Paris, 1907).

J.F. SOLLIER








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