Transcribed (as best I could) from the audiobook “Resolute Determination: Napoleon and the French Empire”, by Prof. Donald M.G. Sutherland and from Recorded Books.
The (ed: French) Church was reconstructed as a largely royalist church. The church had split in the early years of the (ed: French) Revolution, and in the schism there is a pro-revolutionary and an anti-revolutionary faction. Because of vicissitudes of revolutionary politics, the pro-revolutionary church was purged and largely destroyed in what’s called the Dechristianization Campaign.
When the church was reordered in 1802 the personnel they had to draw on were clergy who had gone underground, or who had been expelled; indeed as far away as Baltimore or Quebec. They came back, but they came back often bitter, highly politicized, and royalist. Napoleon was well-aware of how potentially dangerous this could be and thus the necessity of subjecting the church to political tutelage.
The Church was a church in crisis almost from the beginning. There had been no creation of clerics for an entire decade; perhaps close to a generation. It was very hard to get seminaries up and running again. The clergy was aging, and the clergy of the restoration church–the Concordat Church–was much smaller than the old regime church had been.
The result was Catholicism itself changed. That kind of Catholicism was a traditionalist Catholicism with a spectacular (what historians of the Church call) “Feminization of Catholicism” in the 19th Century that survived Napoleon’s fall in 1815. There’s a spectacular growth of female religious orders; hospitals, teaching orders, even some contemplative orders. There were probably more female nuns in the 19th Century than there had been in the golden age of the church in the 13th Century. There was also the revival of poor-relief and a Christianization of poor-relief institutions, medical care, and education for small children.
Priests themselves began to change their recruitment patterns. In the old regime priests had been highly educated, middle class, endowed by their fathers to study in the seminary, largely urban. In the course of the 19th Century, and under Napoleon, a ruralization of the Catholic clergy began. Thus, the clergy acquired a lot of peasant attitudes; dislike of towns, superstition, emotionalism. There’s a huge cult of saints and a very emotional kind of Catholicism emerges in the course of the 19th Century; what historians call a “Feminized Piety”.
Popular piety was very difficult to control because the church was so small and the clergy was aging. Popular piety was always a suspicious matter to the clergy, but in the early part of the empire and beyond there’s nothing they could do about ordinary people reviving suppressed feast days, for taking initiatives in the liturgy, for the laity insisting that the clergy authenticate relics which the clergy resisted, or miracle cures that curates were expected to authenticate and things of that sort; where the clergy simply felt overwhelmed by the revival of piety among the laity.
The civil code which we referred to earlier, also had some interesting developments; especially with regard to the status of women. As we have seen, it authorized divorce, and introduced a double-standard in divorce which made it easier for a man to divorce his wife than vice-versa. On the other hand, divorce was extremely rare under this period and becoming more rare as time went on. The overwhelming number of plaintiffs in divorce cases were not men, in fact, but women who were suing for divorce in order to complain about their husbands who deserted them and the purpose was to reclaim the property that they had brought to the marriage in the marriage contract.
That last paragraph is somewhat confusing out of context. What Sutherland said is that even though women did not have the right to divorce, they were still suing for divorce (asking a judge to make the divorce); and women did this more often than men who actually had the right to divorce.
He goes on to say that the response of society under the “liberty” provided by the Revolution and Napoleon was for marriage to be delayed, and also that France was one of the first countries in Europe to adopt the use of birth control despite the fact that birth control was banned by the Catholic Church; including the Concordat Church.
What Enlightenment and revolution promised was relief from harsh rulers and injustice. What it delivered was a dictator and disorder in families and churches. If Sutherland’s account is correct: The fascinating part is that Traditionalists were not even a speedbump to Liberalism. In fact women from the now disordered families and churches remade Traditionalism in their own image. It is still with us.
 Emphasis not in original.