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Arthur-Richard Dillon

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A French prelate, b. at St-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, 1721; d. in London, 1806. The fifth son of Arthur Dillon, an Irish officer who, outlawed as a Jacobite, had passed to the service of France, he was educated for the Church, became cure of Elan near Mezieres; Vicar-General of Pontoise, 1747; Bishop of Evreux, 1753; Archbishop of Toulouse, 1758; Archbishop of Narbonne and Primate of France, 1763. Dillon was a man of broad sympathies and varied accomplishments. A staunch Catholic, he, nevertheless, publicly applauded the recognition of Protestant marriages in the Assembly of the Clergy of 1788, over which he presided. His appointment to the primatial See of Narbonne made him practically Viceroy of Languedoc. He won there great popularity not only as bishop but also as promoter of great public works, such as roads, bridges, canals, harbors, etc. When the French Revolution broke out, Dillon, rather than take the constitutional oath, emigrated to Coblenz with the French nobility, and from Coblenz went to London, where he was at the time the Concordat was signed. Pope Pius VII having requested within ten days the unconditional resignation of all the French bishops, Dillon with thirteen other prelates who, like himself, had sought refuge in England, sent but a wavering and dilatory answer and even signed the "Réclamations canoniques et très-respectueuses addressées à Notre très-Saint Père le Pape" (London, 1803). Such an attitude was prompted not by a spirit of schism, but by an excessive attachment to the old regime and the mistaken Gallican idea that the pope could not take a step of that importance without the deliberation and consent of the French hierarchy. Although Dillon consented to communicate his spiritual jurisdiction to the Concordataire bishop whose territory comprised the suppressed primatial See of Narbonne, nevertheless, by placing himself resolutely at the head of the Anticoncordataires, he not only failed in due obedience to the Holy See but also gave countenance to that incongruous movement which resulted in the "Petite-Eglise".

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