Clara Orban, Ph.D., Edward R. Udovic, C.M.


With the Revolution, religious congregations were suppressed in France. The Daughters of Charity were restored in 1800 to staff hospitals. In 1807, they submitted their statutes to the Minister of Cults; a long conflict began about who had authority over them. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac had placed the Daughters under the Congregation’s superior general; placing them under the bishops would have cloistered the Company, ending their direct service to the poor. Napoleon wanted women’s congregations under the jurisdiction of bishops he controlled. The superior general insisted that maintaining the original relationship between the Congregation and the Daughters was the only way to preserve the Company. The vows became a point of contention because they included obedience to the superior general. Due to this conflict, the Congregation was again suppressed in 1809. Napoleon then placed the Daughters under the archbishop of Paris and local bishops. A new superioress general accepted the new statutes to avoid suppression. Many sisters left in protest; those who tried to remain without submitting were sent back to their birthplaces under police surveillance. They returned after Napoleon lost power, but healing the community’s deep divisions was a complicated process involving papal intervention.