Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bishop Félix Antoine Philibert Dupanloup

Bishop Félix Antoine Philibert Dupanloup

Tomb of Bishop Dupanloup at the Cathedral of Orleans

In A History of the Popes 1830-1914 by Owen Chadwick, there is one figure who features prominently in the history of the period: Félix Antoine Philibert Dupanloup (January 3, 1802 – October 11, 1878). Who ?

In 1849, he was made bishop of Orleans. For thirty years he remained a notable figure in France and abroad. His reputation and influence in France was immense.

Elected to the French Academy in 1854, he resigned when the Academy elected its first agnostic member in 1871.

A full detailed note on his life is in the Catholic Encyclopedia at

A short life of him - an abridgement of Abbé Lagrange's Life of Bishop Dupanloup- is available: Felix Dupanloup, Bishop of Maria Trench [London: J. Masters, 1890. 82 pp.] at

He was not a particular favourite of Pope Pius IX. See paragraph 1679 of Edgardo Levi-Mortara's Testimony for Beatification of Pius IX (Zenit, September 20, 2000 at

He found favour with Pope John Paul I. In Illustrissimi, a collection of letters written by Pope John Paul I when he was Patriarch of Venice, Dupanloup is one of the "recipients" of one of the letters. (August 1974). As far as I know there is no English translation of the letter on the web. The original (in Italian) can be read at

In the letter, Papa Luciani praises the achievements of the Bishop. But above all, his highest praise is reserved for Dupanloup`s emphasis on the importance of the catechism and Catechesis.

A man of extraordinary energy, enthusiasm and ability, he refused higher positions.

He seems to have come to public attention when in 1838, he helped bring about the conversion of Talleyrand. The Abbé Dupanloup came to Talleyrand in his last hours, and according to Dupanloup's account, Talleyrand made confession and received extreme unction. When the abbé tried to anoint Talleyrand's palms, as prescribed by the rite, he turned his hands over to make the priest anoint him on the back of the hands, since he was a bishop. Though some doubted the sincerity of the conversion, given Talleyrand's history, Talleyrand never contradicted it.

That would have been enough achievement for most people but Dupanloup went on.

In December 1864 Pius IX. issued the famous 'Syllabus' and the Encyclical Quanta Cura. The Quanta Cura renewed the Papal protests of fifteen years. The Syllabus Errorum was a list of the propositions condemned as erroneous in earlier Encyclicals and Allocutions. The fresh emphasis given to the Papal protests by their collection and republication and the vehement tone of the Encyclical created a great sensation in Europe. This impression that the Papacy had committed itself to a policy of blind reaction seemed to be confirmed by the conduct of some in the Church, who claimed the Encyclical and Syllabus as a triumph for their party.

The difficulties caused by the publication can be seen in Chapter 22 of Volume 2 of Ward`s Life of Cardinal Newman at The Chapter also illustrates how Newman dealt with the Syllabus and the Encyclical.

For Canadian reaction, see The Syllabus of Errors: Canadian Reaction in the Secular and in the Protestant Press by Daniel CALLAM, c.s.b. at

Most of the eighty censured propositions were doctrines which were reprobated by all Catholics. The last proposition condemned in the Syllabus was the one which caused the biggest problem and fuss:

"The Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile himself to, and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilisation".

This is the conventional translation; perhaps the last clause ought to read "recent civilization". It is taken from the allocution Jamdudum cernimus. [231/232] (1861), which, criticizing political liberalism as it was manifested in Italy (Sardinia-Piedmont), denied that "the Roman Pontiff should reconcile himself and come to terms with what they call progress, with Liberalism, and with recent civilisation"

Dupanloup published a comment on its text, in which he contended that interpretation according to the rules of technical theology would reduce the scope of its condemnations to little or nothing more than a statement of Christian principles in the face of a non-Christian civilisation. His pamphlet purported to be a defence of the Syllabus, correcting the mis-statements of the enemies of the Church. Because of this, and because he had combined his explanation of the Syllabus with a defence of the Temporal Power, he received the thanks of over six hundred bishops and the qualified approval of the Pope

See also Ultramontanism and Dupanloup: The Compromise of 1865 by Marvin R. O``Connell at Church History. Volume: 53. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 1984. Page Number: 200: and Dom Cuthbert Butler. The Life and Times of Bishop Ullathorne. 2 vols. New York, 1926 at Volume II, 96-97.

He opposed the definition of the dogma of papal infallibility both before and during the Vatican Council, but was among the first to accept the dogma when decreed. He was not half-hearted in declaring his adherence.

He was a distinguished educationist who fought for the retention of the Latin classics in the schools and instituted the celebrated catechetical method of St Sulpice.

His works on Education were very valuable and opportune and a suitable couterblast to that of Rousseau, and the anti-clericals in France who wished the destruction of the role of the Church in education in France.

He conceived of education as a process of developing mental activity instead of injecting knowledge into the mind. He was insistent on the duty of the teacher to respect the freedom of the pupils and to cultivate in them a spirit of honour. He viewed and advocated education as intellectual, moral, religious, and physical; but it is essentially one, and to neglect any of its purposes would be fatal.