FRANCE: Priests in the Pokey

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Paris' tough police force, bruised and angered by Communism's May 28 Ridgway riots, made a shocking discovery last week. Two of the rioters whom they locked up and manhandled were Catholic priests in workmen's clothes. Abbés Louis Bouyer, 35, and Bernard Cagne, 28, are ordained members of the Mission de Paris; like 85 other French "worker priests" (TIME, Feb. 27, 1950), they live and work with their flocks, do not always reveal themselves as priests, seek to convert by example as well as by precept. Bouyer earns his daily bread as a production hand in the Hispano Suiza plant; Cagne in the Simca auto factory. Sometimes, say critics of the worker-priest scheme, it is the priests, not their fellow workers who get converted.

Thrown among the Communists in Paris' suburban Red Belt, the abbés' working-class enthusiasm got the better of them. When the Red workers marched, both priests joined in and were pinched.

Fists & Cudgels. In a five-page handout delivered to the newspapers and approved by the Archbishop of Paris, the abbés last week told their story. "Faithful to our connection with the working world, we found ourselves with everyday friends, Communists or not, Christians or not, [who] wanted to express in spite of government restrictions . . . hopes which can be translated by the following words: 'Ridgway in France means war.' "

Once arrested, "we were scarcely across the threshold of the police station, when we were seized by 20 gendarmes. They hit us with their fists and cudgels; when we were knocked down, they picked us up and started again . . . Then they put us in the cellar. We could only hold each other's hand."

Next morning at 9, the police commissioner called the abbés into his office. As the priests told it, the commissioner first remarked: "I'm an old seminarist myself. You are a partisan to violence instead of fraternity." Then he bopped Abbé Cagne on the head with one of the iron placards the Communists had used to beat up the cops. "I respect the priest, but not the man," roared the officer.

Abbé Bouyer came next. "False priest, bandit, priest of Stalin," cried the police commissioner, "you want to destroy religion." He clubbed Bouyer in the back. "Do you approve of this?" an officer asked the abbé, pointing to the iron head of a Communist club. "No," quavered Bouyer, "but I understand it." The commissioner poked it in his stomach. "Go ahead, get the hell out of here."

Tears & Questions. Paris' Communist dailies wept crocodile tears over the handling of the priests. The respected Le Monde scolded the cops for "inexcusable brutality," but sensibly added: "Was it really the priests' place to take part in a political demonstration forbidden by the government?" "Certainly not," answered pipe-sucking Prefect of Police Jean Baylot, whose attitude toward Communist rioters is a skull for a skull. "I don't care if they're ambassadors, priests, pastors, rabbis or candy salesmen. If they take part in an illegal demonstration, they will suffer the consequences."