Walter F Lonergan.

Forty years of Paris online

. (page 20 of 25)
Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 20 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Ultramontane may become the Catholics. In Ireland,


long ago, the Penal Laws did not kill Catholicism,
but made it more popular and more powerful among
the Irish, who refused to have the religion of the
conqueror thrust down their throats by bayonets.
Already in France, as was pointed out in the Times
Paris correspondence of December 19, 1906, the
whole question of Church and State begins to
assume a more political character than before the


The speculations as to a schism — Ultramontanism versus
Gallicanism — The inside troubles of the Church in France
— The cases of the bishops of Laval and Dijon — The effects
of the Higher Criticism — Abbe Loisy's work — Ernest Renan,
Hyacinthe Loyson and Alfred Loisy — Attacks on Abbe
Loisy's teaching — His views on the Old Testament — His
" L'Evangile et I'EgHse."

AS to a general schism in France, which was sup-
posed to be the object in view of M. Combes,
and which at one time seemed near, owing to the
activity of the Loisy school of biblical critics, it has
not taken place. Neither has there been any dis-
position towards a return to the Galilean propositions
of 1682, which set forth, among other things, that a
General Council of the Church was above the Pope,
and that the decrees of the Pontiff were only decisive
and immutable when they had the assent of the Church.
The spirit of obedience towards Pius the Tenth mani-
fested recently by the French prelates shows that they
have become thoroughly Ultramontane, and that the
Galilean traditions have been discarded by the higher
clergy in France.

Allusion to Gallicanism brings me to the subject of
the conflict between the Church in France and some
of her own children, the most notable of whom is
Abb6 Alfred Loisy. Long before Abb^ Loisy's time



the Church was badly hit in France by Ernest Kenan's
renunciation, and by the publication of his " Vie de
Jesus." It was also hit by the falling away of Pere
Hyacinthe. Abbe Loisy's influence was greater,
however, than either that of Renan or of Pere
Hyacinthe, and it is important to note that after the
sensation caused by his criticism of the Bible, many
French priests broke away from Rome, some of them
becoming subsequently Protestant or Methodist
evangelists, while others became laymen. It was
about the time of the beginning of what has been
termed " Loisyism " that we find Mgr. Geay, Bishop
of Laval, and Mgr. Le Nordez, Bishop of Dijon, in
sore trouble owing to certain acts of theirs. The
Bishop of Laval was called to order by Rome because
he was charged with being too assiduous in his atten-
tion to the superioress of a Carmelite convent in his
town. The Bishop of Dijon, on his side, was accused
of fondness for the fine vintages of his district.

Abbe Loisy was, and is still, held by many to have
been more dangerous to the Church in France than,
as I have said, either Renan or Pere Hyacinthe.
Renan's "Vie de Jesus" chiefly appealed to those
whose faith, if they ever had any, had been sapped
by the reading of Voltaire. He wrote for the boule-
vardiers of the more or less cultured sort, and
presented to them a Christ who, in the words of Canon
Liddon, recorded in his book the " Divinity of Our
Lord," was " the semi-fabulous and somewhat im-
moral hero of an Oriental story, fashioned to the taste
of a modern Parisian public." By his studies on the
** Origines de I'Eglise," and his " Histoire du Peuple
d'Israel," Renan is considered to have done more to



disturb the Catholics in their faith than by the " Vie
de J^sus." But, as I have said, he hit the Church
badly, and so did Pere Hyacinthe, now M. Hyacinthe

I had never seen M. Loyson when he was a
Carmelite and preached the Lenten sermons at Notre
Dame, but I saw him first in 1882, or thereabouts,
garbed like an English clergyman. He was lecturing
to a large audience, comprising the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who befriended him, and several Church
of England people. I have often since seen M.
Loyson in Paris with his wife, a tall American lady,
and his son Paul, who has of late years been before
the public as a dramatist, and who inherited ;^500
from Dean Stanley. M. Loyson is an Orleans man,
and left his father, a professor in the Academy of Pau,
to study for the Church at the age of eighteen. He
entered the little seminary of Saint Sulpice, and then
the greater one, as Renan had done before him. He
was a professor of theology at Avignon and at Nantes,
joined the Carmelite order at Lyons after having been
with the Dominicans for a time, and in 1865 was
heard preaching at the Madeleine. He attracted
immediate attention, and was compared to Lacordaire
and Ravignan. He preached next at Notre Dame,
and in 1866 began to be noticed unfavourably by
Louis Veuillot, who smelt a heretic in a young friar
too bold in his expressions and too liberal in his
opinions. The crisis came in June, 1869, when Pere
Hyacinthe declared at a public meeting of the Inter-
national Peace League that Catholics, Protestants,
and Jews could all come in harmony together with
modern progress. His weightiest words were " II


n'y a place au soleil du monde civilis6 que pour trois
religions ; la Juive, la Catholique et la Protestante."
" The Catholic religion in the middle — Christ between
the two thieves," said an auditor, and soon after Pius
the Ninth called the too daring friar to Rome. Mgr.
Dupanloup, supposed to be the last of the Gallicans,
did his best for Pere Hyacinthe, but reconciliation
with Rome was not effected, and the recalcitrant friar
left his order in September, 1869. From France he
went to America, where he did not give satisfaction,
as he declared that, although attacking the super-
stitions patronised by the Vatican, he remained a
Catholic. From America M. Loyson went to Munich
to see the celebrated Canon von Dollinger of St.
Cajetan's Church, who had also left Rome, and had
founded the Old Catholics. M. Loyson was next
in Rome, where he lectured in the Argentina Theatre,
proclaiming, as he had done in Paris, the equal value
of the three religions. To this he added denunciations
of the Vatican, and advocated the marriage of priests.
M. Loyson has not prospered in his new career,
nor has he found many disciples. His quarrel with
Rome has long been forgotten.

Abb6 Loisy is a far different man to M. Loyson.
He is no florid and theatrical pulpit orator, but plain
in speech and style. He writes clearly, concisely,
almost as the Sulpicians are trained to do. They
discard rhetoric and verbal ornament, and evolve
prose in which there is no straining after effect. I
first saw Abbe Loisy in 1902 at the Ecole des Hautes
Etudes of the Sorbonne. I went there to meet M.
Pierre de Nolhac, of the Versailles Museum, author
and lecturer in the school mentioned on Italian


literature. I had to ask M. de Nolhac authorisation
for an American professor and writer to use the
illustrations in his book on " Petrarch at Avignon."
M. de Nolhac gladly gave the required permission,
but his publisher demurred, so my visit to the Ecole
des Hautes Etudes was not successful. It enabled
me, however, to see Abbe Loisy, who was also a
professor at the school. I saw an ordinary, insignificant
ecclesiastic, in whose appearance there was nothing
remarkable, nothing to show the remarkable writer
and scholar that Abbe Loisy undoubtedly is.

Alfred Loisy was born at Ambrieres, in the Marne,
in February, 1857, received the usual college education
for the priesthood in the seminary at Chalons in his
department, was ordained in June, 1879, and was for
two years cure of Landricourt. From 1881 to 1893
he was a professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris,
and in great obscurity until 1892. In 1890 he pub-
lished his Doctor's examination essay or thesis on the
canon of the Old Testament, in the following year
the history of the canon of the New Testament, in
1892 a volume on Job, and then a critical history
of the text and versions of the Old Testament. It
was in 1892 that his review the Enseignement Biblique
was published, and his programme of biblical teaching
alarmed his superiors. Then his works which I have
mentioned, and his " Mythes Chaldeens dela Creation
et du Deluge," were carefully examined, and although
he was still lecturing at the Catholic Institute, the
Sulpicians forbade their students to go to hear him.
In November, 1892, shortly after Ernest Renan's
death. Abbe Loisy became bolder, or more explicit,
and in his review stated that there were a certain


number of conclusions on which criticism outside the
limits of Catholicism could never retrace its steps,
because there was good reason to show that they were
permanent acquisitions of science. Of these were the
statements that the Pentateuch in its present form was
not the work of Moses ; that the first chapters of
Genesis do not contain the true and accurate history
of the origin of our race ; that the books of the
Old Testament have not all the same historical
character ; that all the historical books of the Old and
the New Testaments were more freely written than is
customary in modern historical works, and a certain
freedom of interpretation is the legitimate consequence
of the manner in which they were composed ; that
there is a development of religious teaching in the
Bible in all its elements — the idea of God, the idea of
human destiny, and in the moral law ; that Biblical
teaching as regards natural science does not rise
above the level of the notions of antiquity, which
notions have left their mark on biblical religious doc-
trine ; and the Church with her dogmas follows upon
the Gospel of Jesus but is not formally in the Gospel.
What Abb^ Loisy wrote concerning the New
Testament I deal with more fully later on. The
statements just referred to were condemned by the
'' Providentissimus Deus" encyclical of Pope Leo the
Thirteenth, issued in 1893. It set forth that all the
books recognised by the Church as sacred and canonical
were written in all their parts under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, and that the Divine inspiration
in itself excluded error.

After this encyclical Abb^ Loisy ceased the pub-
lication of his review and became chaplain to the


Dominican nuns at Neuilly, also acting as religious
instructor of the convent boarders. While engaged
here he diligently studied Cardinal Newman's writings,
and returned to his favourite occupation of criticism,
but in assumed names. He contributed to the Revue du
Clergd Frangais, and other publications, articles signed
" Isidore Despres," " Firmin," and " Jacques Simon."
These contributions over fictitious names were soon
condemned by Rome and by Cardinal Richard. When
Professor Harnack's " Das Wesen des Christentums "
was translated into French, Abbe Loisy replied with
his celebrated " L'Evangile et I'Eglise," published by
Picard in November, 1902.

The storm raised by "L'Evangile et I'Eglise" was
violent. All the orthodox ecclesiastics in France rose
at M. Loisy. Here was another Renan, nay, another
Voltaire, in the bosom of the Church, who risked
eternal damnation for the sake of showing in print
his cleverness and his scholarship. Pope Leo the
Thirteenth, however, did not interfere, leaving the
matter to Cardinal Richard and the Nuncio in Paris,
Mgr. Lorenzelli. Cardinal Richard appointed six
theologians to examine the book, and they condemned
it. Only seven French prelates, however, endorsed
the condemnation. The orthodox critics then opened
fire, notably Abbe Gayraud, who threw off his robe
as a Dominican friar to become a deputy in the
Chamber, Father Prat, one of the exegetists on the
Biblical Commission appointed by Pope Leo the Thir-
teenth, Abb6 Fontaine, Abb6 Ch. Maignen, and many
more. Even M. Ledrain, formerly a priest of the
French Oratory, and now an official of the Louvre
Museum and a writer, attacked M. Loisy, not, however.

The Abbe Loisv.

To face p. 310.


for having undertaken to criticise the Bible, but because
he had the pretension of remaining a Catholic after
what he had written. M. Ledrain also went so far
as to say that M. Loisy was as ignorant of theology
as M. Ferdinand Brunetiere. This he made out by
calling attention to the fundamental treatise of
theology, that on "True Religion," which lays down
that Jesus is God, that His doings and sayings are
recorded in the Gospels, which were written by
witnesses who could not deceive themselves or us.
" La vdrite du Christianisme repose done tout enti^re
sur I'authenticite des livres ^vangeliques. Pour leur
donner aux yeux des fideles plus d'autorite I'Eglise
les a en outre, dotds de inspiration. " So wrote M.
Ledrain, who added that never had anything so daring
been declared in the Church; that Luther, Calvin,
and their followers had never gone so far, for they
only rejected some dogmas, without trying to overturn
the corner-stone of the edifice ; that M. Loisy was
as bold as Strauss ; that he was simply laughing at
Cardinal Perraud, Bishop of Autun, and other pre-
lates when, after the storm over " L'Evangile et
I'Eglise," he wrote "Autour d'un petit livre," which
was only the development and the "aggravation"
of what had been condemned already. M. Ledrain
further wrote that when Rationalism was reached "au
dela de toutes les limites, on n'a plus qua quitter
ses anciens pavilions." The ex-Oratorian, although
long a layman, only re-echoes what orthodox
Catholics, priests and laymen, think about M. Loisy
or Renan, or anybody else who ventures on free
criticism of the sacred books.

Attacked by nearly all his colleagues and co-


religionists in France, Abb6 Loisy enjoyed celebrity
abroad. The book " L'Evangile et I'Eglise " was
eagerly bought up and was sold for double and
treble its original price. Orders came from every-
where to the publisher, and translations were made
into English and German. The book was praised
by the leading English reviews and periodicals, even
some of those on the Catholic side being favourable.
In France the broad-minded Archbishop of Albi,
as he was then, namely Mgr. Mignot, tried to
defend "L'Evangile et I'Eglise," while admitting that
it was the boldest book ever written in France by
a Catholic Priest since the appearance of the " His-
toire Critique du Vieux Testament " of Richard
Simon, an Oratorian. M. Gabriel Monod, the French
Protestant writer, said that the book was a strong
refutation of the ideas of Harnack and Sabatier, an
apology for Christianity so splendid that nothing since
Newman's time had been published more likely to
recommend Catholicism to the minds of enlightened

Leo the Thirteenth died without having absolutely
condemned the teachings of Abb6 Loisy, having merely
issued the vague '■' Providentissiinus'' and appointed a
committee to examine them, but his successor soon
"put his foot down," to use a familiar phrase. In
his encyclical " E Supremi Apostolatus Cathedra,''
dated October 4, 1903, Pius the Tenth declared
that he would see that the clergy would not be
taken unaware by a new science which by false
and perfidious argument tries to clear the way for
the errors of that rationalism or semi-rationalism
against which the Apostle warned Timothy.


In the following December came the message from
Rome condemning the chief books both of Abbe
Loisy and of Abbe Houtin, his follower and, it may
be said, his interpreter and Boswell. M. Loisy became
more famous than ever. The small room where
he lectured at the Sorbonne was crowded with
intellectuels when he was to speak. One of the
professors at the Sorbonne, M. Aulard, who went
out of curiosity to hear M. Loisy, said that at first
the priest made so unfavourable an impression upon
him as he mumbled and hesitated for words that he
wanted to leave the room. Soon the lecturer reads
a text from St. Mark, in that part of the Gospel
referring to the arrest of Jesus, and he suddenly
warms to his subject, comments critically on the
narrative of the Apostle, and holds his auditors
spellbound. Abbe Loisy, still written about volu-
minously by friends and foes in France, England,
Germany and Italy, left his post at the Sorbonne,
saying that he did not want to disturb the consciences
of Catholics, and that he needed repose and silence
after all the noise made about him. He left his
house at Meudon, outside Paris, and went to live at
Garnay, near Dreux, in a house lent to him by a
former pupil, M. Francois Thureau-Dangin. His
enemies then declared that he was no Renan, not
worth powder and shot, and so on.

In his retirement M. Loisy is still writing. In
the beginning of 1906 he contributed a notice of
Harnack's " Dogmengeschichte," fourth edition, to
the Revue Critique. This revived some of the old
polemics, M. Loisy being hotly attacked for stating
that the Gospel had not accomplished the absolute


perfection of Christianity, and that the dogmas and
institutions of Rome which were the "secular life"
of the Church were the subsequent acquisitions de
valeur of the Christian religion.

Abbe Houtin and others compare the work of
M. Loisy to that of Professor Robertson Smith, who
was condemned in Scotland for his opinions. " Like
the Scotch professor M. Loisy upheld the rights of
Biblical criticism against the not less intolerant than
false claims of traditional dogmatism. Brought up
in the strictest orthodoxy, by a method of compre-
hension vitiated by the strongest prejudices, he trained
himself by degrees for the impartial investigation of
truth. Seeing how science undermined the Church,
he wished, while continuing to work in an objective
manner, to furnish means of defence to the religion
of which he was a priest. Before such an evolution,
the impartial spirit is of necessity inclined to think
that if he has not succeeded in his enterprise, it is
because it is impossible." Thus Abbe Houtin sums
up the aim and work of his friend. But the orthodox
Catholics and their heads do not want any such
moy ens de defense. Their answer has been '' Nontali
auxilio" and Abb^ Loisy was condemned for his
attempt to reconcile science and religion. And
another Catholic, Baron von Hiigel, who was one
of M. Loisy's champions in 1904, has recently
reminded us that "all religious institutions without
exception are at their worst in the matter of their
relations with science and scholarship, doubtless
chiefly because they exist at bottom as the incor-
porations and vehicles of requirements and realities
deeper, and more immediately important and neces-
sary, than are even science and scholarship."


Abbe Loisy on the New Testament — The Chicago God — The
Jesuits and the new critic — Archbishop Mignot's views —
Loisy and Renan' compared — 1 heir styles — Their arguments
in Christology — Abbe Loisy's friends and foes — His
condemnation by Rome.

OWING to my daily work in Paris I was only-
able to follow the great controversy between
the Loisyists and the anti- Loisy ists by fits and starts.
I read and heard enough, however, to show me
that Abbe Loisy had been deeply influenced by the
writings of Cardinal Newman. Dr. von Dollinger
of Munich had doubted the value of John Henry
Newman as a historian, but Abbd Loisy classed the
great Oratorian Cardinal as '* le plus grand et peut-etre
le seul th^ologien Catholique du XIX^ siecle." Few
of the English writers, and the same may be said
of the French critics of Abbe Loisy, have paid much
attention to the influence of Newman on the
author of " L'Evangile et I'Eglise." M. Loisy and
also M. Houtin, have fully explained the former's
indebtedness to the English Cardinal. M. Loisy
used, in fact, the "University Sermons," the "Essay
on the Development of Christian Doctrine," the
" Grammar of Assent," and other writings of



J. H. Newman in replying to Professor Harnack
of Berlin. Other French writers, as well as M.
Loisy, used Newman and extolled him, with the
result that Mgr. Tarinaz, Bishop of Nancy, con-
demned them. He saw that they were only
endeavouring, while enthusiastic about Newman, to
use him as a prop, a support for their innovations
on essential notions of faith, and particularly on
what they term the evolution of dogma.

Confining myself to the two books by M. Loisy
which have made the most noise, I take his
" L'Evangile et I'Eglise " first, as it is the first in
order. Discussing Harnack's method, he says : " If
Christ had drawn up Himself an exposition of His
doctrine and a rdsumd of His preaching, a methodical
treatise of His work, His part, His hopes, history
would submit this writing to the most attentive
examination, and would determine on indisputable
testimony the essence of the Gospel. But such
a writing has never existed, and nothing can supply
its absence. We only know Christ by tradition,
through tradition." Again : " If we wish to find
out historically the essence of Christianity, the rules
of sound criticism do not permit us to begin in
advance to consider as non-essential what seems at
the present day uncertain or unacceptable. What is
essential to the Gospel of Jesus is what holds the
first and most considerable place in His authentic
teaching, the ideas for which He struggled and died,
and not merely what we believe still living to-day.
In the same way, if we desire to define the essence of
primitive Christianity, it is necessary to find out the
dominant preoccupation of the first Christians, the ideas


forming the life of their rehgion. In applying the same
method to all the epochs, and in comparing the
results, we can verify if Christianity has remained
faithful to the law of its origin, if that which is the
basis of Catholicism to-day was also the mainstay
of the Church in the Middle Ages, and in the earlier
centuries, and if this basis is substantially identical
to the Gospel of Jesus, or if the clearness of the
Gospel had been obscured and dark until the
sixteenth century and even our days. If common
characteristics have been preserved and developed
from the origin to our time by the Church, these are
the characteristics which constitute the essence of
Christianity. At least the historian cannot know
others. To fix or find the essence of Islamism it
would not do to extract from the teaching of the
Prophet and Mahomedan traditions what would be
thought true and fruitful, but what for Mahomet and
his followers is of the greatest importance as regards
their beliefs, their moral teaching, and their worship.
If we took a different course, we should soon discover
with a little good will that the essence of the Koran
was the same as that of the Gospel — faith in a mild
and merciful God."

M. Loisy next deduces by his arguments that the
Church of Rome being the result of the development
of Christianity according to Newman's doctrine, it
is also part of the essence of Christianity. Referring
to the books, M. Loisy holds that the Gospel of
St. Mark may be the source of St. Matthew and
St. Luke, but it is not thereby made an original
document in the real sense, and it is equally composite
with the other two. The Fourth Gospel has no


claim to be a history, nor does it put forward the
claim, being purely symbolical and theological, and
the author is the interpreter of the Founder's life
through Christian consciousness. The other Gospels
have also been influenced by Christian speculation on
the meaning of Christ's life on earth, and M. Loisv
is careful to affirm that the theological truth of the
Gospels is not affected in any way by what he says,
for they interpreted the Christ of history truly.
Christ did not escape the common law, for His great-
ness was only felt and known long after His death.
And discussing the " kingdom of heaven," M. Loisy
says that it was the idea of a great hope given to the
Jews, and '* it is in this hope that the historian should
place the essence of Christianity. The kingdom is
for all whom God pardons, and God pardons all
provided that they pardon themselves. Thus the
Kingdom is for those who are good, following the
example of God ; and the Gospel, by making love
the guiding principle of the present life, gives a
realisation of the kingdom already, but its final
coming will only mean the assurance of happiness

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 20 of 25)