Walter F Lonergan.

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and immortality for those inspired by the principles
of Christian love." According to Harnack, Christ
had come solely for the Father, and not to draw men
to Himself. That was the Berlin professor's idea of
the essence of Christianity. Christ was, then, only
the agent of the Father, who alone counted.
M. Loisy, on the other hand, asserts that the Berlin
professor has relied on a text added by Christian
tradition to the original teaching of Jesus, and holds
that Christ was accepted, and wished to be accepted,
as the Messiah and the Son of God. He says :


" Without the conception of the Messiah the Gospel
would only have been a metaphysical possibility, an
invisible essence, intangible, nay, unintelligible, for
want of any definition appropriate to our organs of
knowledge, rather than a living and victorious reality."

In the other book "Autour dun Petit Livre," M.
Loisy deals with the denunciations of his " L'Evangile
et I'Eglise," and addresses seven letters to French
ecclesiastics on the questions raised. He maintains in
this that he is a historian, not a theologian ; but this
contention of his is open to great doubt, for he ventures
frequently very near, if he does not go into, the deep
thickets of theology. In " Autour d'un Petit Livre " M.
Loisy likewise, with qualifications, affirms his belief
in Christ's divinity. " Everything shows that Christ
was man among men, like them in all things save
only sin, and, it must also be added, the inmost and
indefinable mystery of His relation with God."

One of the most remarkable bits of criticism called
forth by the publication of M. Loisy's two best known
books was that of Abbe Fontaine in the VeriU

This learned ecclesiastic assured us that all the
systems, those of Mahomet, Kant, Loisy, only led up
to the God of the Chicago Congress. " Whence
comes, then, the force of the system of M. Loisy, and
whence the noise and the harm of it ? It is easily
answered. The system harmonises with the spirit of
modern rationalism ; it answers to all the prejudices,
errors, fruit of four centuries of Protestantism, of two
centuries of anti-Christian and atheistical philosophy.
These conjoined errors were not strong enough to
damage Catholicism, nor even to destroy those remains


of Christianity still existing among the so-called ortho-
dox sects of Protestantism. To succeed, these errors are
disguised under evangelical aspects. They refer to
Christ as Son of the Heavenly Father, and to the God
of human conscience. Who is this God of the new
Christians? The transcendent, objective, real God,
the Creator of everything that exists? No, it is the
God of the human conscience, created by the human
conscience, changing and variable as is that conscience
itself It is the God served up in all the religions
equally inspired by this deity : the God of Buddhism
and Brahmanism, of Mahomet and the Koran, the
God of the Chicago Congress of Religions, whom
all adore according to their conception of Him."

Pere Prat, of the Jesuits, was still more emphatic.
After a masterly rdsumi of M. Loisy's works which
appeared in the French review of the Society, Etudes,
he warned Catholics, lay and clerical, whether they
were close students or merely superficial readers, not
to be carried away by Abbe Loisy's talent, novelty
of thought, and liberalism, for he had resolutely taught
what was "a sort of theological nihilism and of absolute
subjectivism, which, if pushed to their logical conse-
quences, would no longer leave us the Church, Jesus
Christ, revelation, certitude, nor even a personal God."

Archbishop Mignot did his best to defend his friend
Abbe Loisy, but he was very cautious in his utter-
ances. In an article published in the review Le
Correspondant of January, 1904, he wrote: "Beyond
doubt certain ideas embodied in M. Loisy's books,
detached from their contexts, isolated from the whole,
taken in an^ absolute sense, independently of the very
special and exclusive aim of the author, without the


explanations they require, were of a nature to
scandalise, or at least to astonish those who only know
the Bible fragmentarily, and to sadden and alarm
educated priests, who cannot see without fear the
methods of the Higher Criticism applied to Holy
Scripture. If the author, who, with deliberate intention,
has placed himself at an exclusive point of view, had
foreseen the consequences deduced from his book, he
would not have failed to explain his thought more
fully in his preface, to show that his refutation of
Harnack is neither an abandonment of the Gospel
nor the treason of a leader who goes over to the
enemy ; that the sketch which he draws of the Gospel
from the strictly historic point of view, in opposition
to the anti-Christian sketch of the German critic, was
the only one which answered to the very special
objections of his adversary. The success of his under-
taking may be contested, but not the great knowledge
and the sincerity of the author."

Before concluding my recollections of the Loisy con-
troversy, I cannot refrain from giving some extracts
from the Abbe's writings in the original French.
They can thus be compared by the reader who
relishes that supple language with some of Ernest
Renan's prose. Renan's prose always reminded me
of the brilliant parterre parts of a beautiful garden.
Abbe Loisy's style, or rather prose, makes, me think
of a smooth, well-kept, well-rolled lawn.

From pages 117, 130, and others of " Autour d'un
Petit Livre," I take the following : " La divinite de
J^sus n'est pas un fait de I'histoire evangelique dont
on puisse verifier critiquement la r^alite, mais c'est la
definition du rapport qui existe entre le Christ et



le Dieu, c'est a dire une croyance dont I'historien
ne peat que constater I'origine et le d^veloppement.
. . . La divinite du Christ est une dogme qui a
grandi dans la conscience chr^tienne, mais qui n'avait
pas 6te expressement formule dans I'Evangile ; il
existait seulement en germe dans la notion du Messie,
fils de Dieu. La resurrection du Sauveur n'est pas
proprement un fait d'ordre historique, comme a et6 la
vie terrestre du Christ, mais un fait d'ordre purement
surnaturel, supra-historique, et elle n'est pas d^mon-
trable, ni demontree, par le seul temoignage de
I'histoire, independamment du temoignage de foi,
dont la force n'est appreciable que pour la foi meme.
Je dis la meme chose pour I'institution de I'Eglise, en
tant que cette institution repond a une volonte formelle,
speciale du Christ, puisque cette volonte n'est pas
plus verifiable pour I'historien que la gloire meme
de Jesus ressuscite. Pour I'historien qui se borne a
la consideration des faits observables c'est la foi au
Christ qui a fonde I'Eglise ; au point de vue de la foi,
c'est le Christ lui-meme, vivant pour la foi, et accom-
plissant par elle ce que I'histoire voit realise. Telle est
la base solide sur laquelle repose I'Eglise Catholique."
And here is a passage in " Autour d'un Petit Livre "
in which M. Loisy, in his letter to an Archbishop,
who is Mgr. Mignot, refers to a text which he finds
difficult to reconcile with the traditional teaching
relative to the divinity of Christ, and also alludes to
the necessity of clearing away the doubts of young
men who are likely to leave the Church : "La gravity
du probleme ne m'echappe nullement et ce n'est pas
sans reflexion que je le pose. Je n'ai pas besoin,
monseigneur, de vous dire pourquois je ne puis me


resoudre a le formuler en latin et a I'addresser aux
douze theologiens les plus eminents de notre Eglise.
Les theologiens eminents qui parlent latin ne sont pas
toujours disposes a r(^pondre aux questions difficiles.
Et vraiment ce n'est pas en notre pays de France,
apres Renan, que Ton peut etonner un lecteur,
j'entends un lecteur non ecclesiastique, en soulevant
les questions les peut epineuses. N'ont ils pas tranche
pour leur propre compte, et trop vite, helas ! le
probleme du Christ et le probleme de Dieu, tous ces
laiques instruits, qui, baptises et eleves dans 1' Eglise
Catholique, sen doignent quand ils ont atteint I'age
d'homme, parce que notre enseignement religieux
leur parait con^u en depit de la science et en depit de
I'histoire. N'est ce pas deja beaucoup faire pour
eux que de montrer que Ton n'ignore pas leurs
difficult^s, que Ton ne m^prise pas leur delicatesse
d esprit, que Ton pense k eux, et que Ton voudrait
frayer le chemin qui les ramenerait au bercail ? "

The student or dilettante can compare these extracts
with the most famous passages in Kenan's ''Vie de
Jesus," as, for instance, that flowery one beginning,
'* Une nature ravissante contribuait a former cet esprit,"
on page 64. M. Renan showers all the diamonds
of his style on the flowers, the fruit, the foliage,
the vines and the hills of Northern Galilee, just as
M. Sabatier, author of " Saint Fran9ois d' Assise "
limned all the tints and tones of the Umbrian land-
scape. It was Renan who called the country of St.
Francis of Assisi the ** seraphic province " and the
" Galilee of Italy."

Take also M. Renan on Christ at page 457 :
•* Cette sublime personne, qui chaque jour preside


encore au destin du monde, il est permis de I'appeler
divine, non en ce sens que Jesus ait absorbe tout le
divin, ou lui ait ^t^ ad^quat (pour employer I'expression
de la scolastique), mais en ce sens que J^sus est
I'individu qui a fait faire a son espece le plus grand
pas vers le divin. L'humanite dans son ensemble
offre un assemblage d etres bas, ^goistes, superieurs
a I'animal en cela seul que leur ^goisme est plus
refl^chi. Mais au milieu de cette uniforme vulgarity,
des colonnes s'devent vers le ciel est attestent un
plus noble destin^e. Jesus est la plus haute de ces
colonnes qui montrent a Thomme d'ou il vient, et
ou il doit tendre. En lui s'est condense tout ce qui a
de bon et d'dev^ dans notre nature." After this
compliment the author of the " Vie de J^sus " adds
rather illogically : " L'honnete et suave Marc Aurele,
I'humble et doux Spinoza, n'ayant pas cru au miracle,
ont 6t6 exempte de quelques erreurs que Jesus par-
tagea." Thus Marcus Aurelius and the spectacle-
making philosopher of Amsterdam were superior to the
Founder of Christianity. But M. Renan goes further
when he hints that he himself and the other intellectuels
of his day are also in advance of the Galilean.

And M. Kenan's explanation of the resurrection of
Lazarus is, from the Catholic's and the Christian's
point of view, a monumental audacity. He begins
by stating : " Les amis de J6sus ddsiraient un grand
miracle qui frappat vivement I'incr^dulit^ hi^rosoly-
mite. La resurrection d'un homme connu a Jerusalem
dut parattre ce qu'il y avait de plus convaincant. II
faut se rappeler ici que la condition essentielle de la
vrai critique, et de comprendre la diversity des temps,
et de se d^pouiller des repugnances instinctives qui


sont le fruit dune Education purement raisonnable.
II faut se rappeler ici que dans cette ville impure et
pesante de Jerusalem, Jesus n'^tait plus lui-meme. Sa
conscience par la faute des hommes, et non par la
sienne, avait perdu quelque chose de sa limpidite
primordiale. . . . Peut-etre Lazare, pale encore de
sa maladie, se fit-il entourer de bandelettes comme
un mort, et enfermer dans son tombeau de famille.
J^sus d^sira voir encore une fois celui qu'il avait aime,
et la pierre ayant ^t^ ^cart^e, Lazare sortait avec ses
bandelettes, et la tete entour^e d'un suaire. Cette
apparition dut naturellement etre regard^e par tout
le monde comme une resurrection. La foi ne connatt
d'autre loi que I'interet de ce quelle croit le vrai. . . .
Quant k Jesus, il netait pas plus maitre que Saint
Bernard, que Saint Francois d' Assise de moderer
I'avidite de la foule et de ses propres disciples pour
le merveilleux. La mort, d'ailleurs, allait dans
quelques jours lui rendre sa liberte divine, et
I'arracher aux fatales necessit^s d'un role qui chaque
jour devenait plus exigeant, plus difficile a soutenin"
If M. Renan and Abb^ Loisy differed in style, they
both reached the same conclusions — that there were
no historic proofs of the divinity of Christ. ^ Both

I Rome has seen other Renans and Loisys. She had the
Gnostics in the third century and the Agnostics of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, and she has always proclaimed that
Christ is true God and true man. Arianism and Nestorianism
followed the old contentions about the nature of Christ. These
contentions were dealt with by the Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus,
and Chalcedon. The very latest imitator of Renan and Loisy
is the Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, who, in
" The Gospel History and its Transmission," rejects the resur-
rection of Lazarus because it is not in St. Mark's Gospel. He


also raised the same tempests by their writings. I
have already alluded to the chief denouncers of Abb6
Loisy and Loisyism. There were also the former
friends who deserted the author of *' L'Evangile et
L'Eglise " when he was in trouble with Rome.
Abbe Houtin, in his ** Question biblique au XX^
Siecle," tells us of these. Cardinal Mathieu, resident
at Rome, who had originally promised to recommend
Abbe Loisy for a bishopric, gave him up at once.
Mgr. Bonomelli, Bishop of Cremona, published a long
letter against him in La Lega Lombarda, although
the orthodoxy of the Italian prelate in question was
challenged in France, and Mgr. Sermonnet, Archbishop
of Bourges, censured the too daring critic of the
Scriptures in the weekly paper of his diocese. I
happen to have read Mgr. Sermonnet's repudiation
in his Semaine Religieuse. It is a strong docu-
ment. The Archbishop or his secretary and sub-
editor writes : " We do not intend to recall here
what M. Loisy professes with regard to the authority
of the Scriptures and tradition, on the divinity of
Jesus Christ, on the Redemption brought about by
His death, on the formation and the development of
belief, on dogma, on discipline, on worship, and many
other things. We content ourselves with declaring
that his system in general seems to us constructed on
subjectivism. It is a kind of review and recast of
Catholic teaching composed by the light of some
Kantian principles combined with those of rationalist
criticism. M. Sabatier, late Dean of the Protestant
Faculty of Paris, had already tried to popularise

also tries to show that the Fourth Gospel was written by a Jew
of Jerusalem, a Sadducee.


among us the conclusions of the Ritschl School, ^ and
M. Loisy, without knowing it perhaps — for we do
not wish to suspect his intentions — walks in the path
marked out by M. Sabatier." And then follow warn-
ings against any attempt to subvert the teaching of
the Church, and advice to learned critics to remain
quiet, and to imitate the humility of the theologians,
"who have never asserted their infallibility and who
have allowed their systems to be retouched and
completed by a wise progressivism, doing nothing
hastily," and so on.

The decree condemning Abbe Loisy 's books was
issued from Rome in December, 1903, signed by
Cardinal Steinhuber, S.J., Prefect of the Sacred
Congregation of the Index, and by the Secretary,
Father Esser, Dominican. The books are: "La
Religion d'Israel," "L'Evangile et I'Eglise," "Etudes
Evangeliques," "Autour d'un Petit Livre," and " Le
Quatrieme Evangile." By the same decree Abbe
Houtin was condemned for his "Question bibliques
chez les Catholiques de France au XIX^ Siecle " and
his " Mes Difficult^s avec mon Eveque." To all
true believers the decision of Rome is final, and no
Catholic can read the condemned books.

^ Ritschl's teaching on faith and morals is set forth by his
disciple, Dr. Herrmann, Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the
University of Marburg, in a book translated by two English
clergymen and published in 1904 by Messrs. Williams and
Norgate. According to Ritschl, faith involves submission to an
authoritative revelation, as Roman theologians teach, but the
revelation comes directly to the soul, and this subjective con-
sciousness of God becomes the supreme authority which nothing
can weaken, and this consciousness is realised in the experience
of Christ on earth.


French literary men at home and abroad — M. Anatole France
and his critics — M. France and M. Lemaitre — Their special
knowledge of French — M. France on his master, Renan —
M. Joris Karl Huysmans and his views on modern novelists
— M. Maurice Barres and his books — Some vanished
literary celebrities — James Darmesteter as I knew him —
Darmesteter and Spinoza — " L' Esprit Juif" — Ferdinand
Brunetiere and M. Buloz — Brunetiere's " Discours de
Combat" — His death.

OF the French literary men I can only say that
I have know^n about half a dozen. These
were Zola, Dumas Ji/s, Ohnet, a little ; Funck
Brentano, author of those remarkable volumes on
the Bastille and mysterious poisonings of the past ;
Pierre de Nolhac, the historian of Marie Antoinette and
of Versailles and James Darmesteter, the celebrated
Jewish scholar and writer, who was cut off in his
prime. I have corresponded with M. Maurice Barres,
novelist and Deputy, and have had vague meetings
with a few others of the literary fraternity. Anatole
France I saw rather at a disadvantage a few months
before I left Paris.

It was shortly after the Dreyfus agitation, when
he went to deliver an address, not on Dreyfus, but on
Russia, at the Freemasons' Hall of the Rue Cadet.
He was in anything but what is termed " good form "
on the occasion. I was quite close to him on the plat-



form, and his resemblance to M. Emile Combes, the
great monk-hunter, struck me as remarkable. An
ordinary, rather undersized, elderly French gentleman
with moustache and a chin beard, something like the
** Imperial " of old, quite grey. M. France is no
orator, as M. Combes is. He never tries to speak
extempore, and on the occasion to which I refer
he read his discourse to the auditors in the Free-
masons' Hall. He denounced the Russian Govern-
ment and the Tsar for the persecutions of Jews
and for the bad and backward state of the country.
The paper was well written, but it fell flat on the
audience. That was simply because the auditors
wanted a ready orator, a man with the "gift of the
gab." They listened languidly to the finely-chiselled
sentences in Anatole France's paper, and they
applauded faintly. The case was different when they
were addressed immediately afterwards by a pro-
fessional oratorical fellow, whose platitudes, expressed
in rhetorical language, brought tempests of applause.
I saw Anatole France listening to the man in an
apparently interested way, and could not help contrast-
ing the finished writer, who won no mob applause by
making a speech, and the rough orator who was
receiving approving acclamation at the end of every

It was in the Eighties that Anatole France began to
make his mark as a writer. It was known that he
was a born Parisian, and that his father had kept a
bookshop on, or near, the quays. He wrote social
and critical articles for the Temps, and he subsequently
leaped into fame by his " Orme du Mail," and the
other books, which caused him to be bracketed with


M. Jules Lemaitre by the critic Gaston Deschamps,
who wrote : " Get ecrivain Lemaitre est, je crois, avec
M. Anatole France, celui de nos ainees qui connait le
mieux les ressources et les malices de la langues Fran-
9aise." One of the finest specimens of M. France's
style I find in an old number of the Temps, in
which he reviews his master, Renan's, " Histoire du
Peuple d'Israel." I cannot help quoting some extracts,
as it shows admirably the progress of scientific
criticism of the Bible and the exact value of Renan's
work : " Tous nous avons feuillet^ autrefois, une vieille
bible en estampes. Tous nous nous sommes fait de
I'origine du monde et des choses une id^e simple,
enfantine et naive. II y a quelque chose d'^mouvant,
ce me semble, a rapprocher cette id^e puerile de
la realite telle que la science nous la fait toucher. A
mesure que notre intelligence prend possession d'elle-
meme et de I'univers, le passe recule indefiniment et
nous reconnaissons qu'il nous est interdit d'atteindre
aux commencements de I'homme et de la vie. Si
avant que nous remontons les temps, des perspectives
nouvelles, des profondeurs inattendues s'ouvrent sans
cesse devant nous ; nous sentons qu'un abime est au
dela. Nous voyons le trou noir et I'effroi gagne les
plus hardis. Ge berger nomade qu'on nous montre
entoure, dans la nuit du desert, des ombres des Elohim,
il etait le fils d'une humanite deja vieille, et pour ainsi
dire, aussi eloignee que la notre du commun berceau.
G'en est fait. L'homme moderne, lui aussi, a dechire sa
vieille bible en estampes. Lui aussi, il a laisse au fond
d'une boite de Nuremberg les dixou douze patriarches
qui, en se donnant la main, formaient une chaine qui
allait jusqu'a la creation. Ge n'est pas, d'aujourd'hui


on le sait, que I'ex^gese a trouve la sens veritable de
la Bible h^braique. Les vieux textes sur lesquels
reposait une croyance tant de fois seculaire subissent,
depuis cent ans, deux cent ans meme le libre examen
de la science. Je suis incapable d'indiquer precis^ment
la part qui revient a M. Renan dans la critique biblique.
Mais ce qui lui appartient, j'en suis star, c'est I'art
avec lequel il anime le passe lointain, c'est I'intelligence
qu'il nous donne de I'antique Orient dont il connait si
bien le sol et les races, c'est son talent de peindre
les paysages, c'est sa finesse a discerner, a defaut
des certitudes, le probable et la possible, c'est
enfin son don particulier de plaire, de charmer,
de seduire. Ceux qui ont le bonheur de I'avoir
entendu lui-meme croient en le lisant cette fois,
I'entendre encore. C'est lui, son accent, son geste.
En fermant le livre, je suis tent^ de dire, comme les
pelerins d'Emmaus : Nous venons de le voir. Iletaita
cette table.' II a des familiarit^s charmantes comme
quand il appelle Jahve, le terrible Jahve * une
creature de I'esprit le plus borne ! " Here M. France
quotes the famous passage about the capriciousness,
the favouritism, the narrow-mindedness, the love for
sacrifices, massacres, and unjust punishments, of
Jahve, and concludes with a touch of irony over the
method of his old master: "Ou done est mon vieux
recueil d'images saintes, dans lesquelles ce meme Jahve
se promenait avec tant de majesty a travers une
prairie de Hollande, au milieu de moutons du Cap,
de petits cochons d'Inde et de chevaux du Brabant."
In " Sylvestre Bonnard," which some regard as the
author's masterpiece, M. Anatole France gives a
portrait of himself. He is to be found, however.


everywhere in his books, even in the " Noces
Corinthiennes " and in "Thais." It is the same
restless and observant wanderer or traveller. He
has even been accused of too much presentation
of self in his writings, including those of a critical
character. It is in " Sylvestre Bonnard" that M.
France has that old joke in a new form about books
and book learning. " Oh, what a lot of books ! " says
Mademoiselle Prefere as she enters M. Bonnard's
library, "Have you read them all, M. Bonnard?"
"Alas! yes; that is why I am so ignorant of every-
thing." This is a variant of the opening of " Faust,"
who after much studying of philosophy and the rest,
is the same as before. In M. France's case, his
father's bookshop must have been well used by him,
and to some practical purpose, for his friends make
him out to be a compound of Montaigne, Rabelais,
La Bruyere, Voltaire, Swift, Sterne, and Dickens.

Another interesting literary man, most of whose
work I have read, is Huysmans,^ one of the M^dan
school, but who abandoned, partially at least, realism
for hagiology some years since, and became for a time
a sort of lay Benedictine, living near the monastery of
Ligug^ until the monks were expelled by M. Combes.
His books, "La-Bas," "En Route," the " Cath^drale,"
" L'Oblat," require a lot of reading, but they are the
quaint productions of a clever platitudinarian, who has
an original, architectural and attractive style. He is an
ironist, too, and says acid things. One of the sayings
attributed to him is this : " Je vomis les classes

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Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 21 of 25)