Billuart, Charles René

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Dominican theologian and controversialist; b. Revin, Belgium, Jan. 28, 1685; d. there, Jan. 20, 1757. He received his early education from the Jesuits at Charleville. At the age of 16, he took the Dominican habit at the priory in Revin and was ordained in 1708. After two years of graduate study at Liège, he became professor of philosophy at Douai. At various times he held positions of responsibility in his province, of which he was three times provincial, but his chief interests were theological and academic. He engaged in much controversy on matters of contemporary interest, especially Jansenism and quietism, and the Thomistic position with respect to both. His major work, however, was his Summa S. Thomae hodiernis academiarum moribus accomodata (Liège 174651), in which he attempted to present the ideas and even the order and letter of St. Thomas Aquinas, together with certain questions from ecclesiastical history. The provincial chapter of the Belgian province had requested such a work in 1733, and the master general had entrusted its composition to Billuart. Its success is indicated by the publication of 13 editions. Billuart later abridged this work in his Summa Summae Sancti Thomae sive compendium theologiae (Liège 1754), of which seven editions were made.

Billuart stated that his primary sources would be St. Thomas and his principal disciples. His references to Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, and the Salmanticenses are relatively infrequent. He depended chiefly upon Francis sylvius, also a native Belgian and a professor at Douai, but not a Dominican. Billuart borrowed from gonet's Clypeus theologiae thomisticae for his method and proofs from scripture and tradition. For historical materials he turned to Alexander Natalis. Billuart was no eclectic, however, for in making use of many authors he was selective and accepted only those conclusions that corresponded with his own thought. His writings have exerted a considerable influence upon subsequent Thomism, an influence clearly discernible in the works of many contemporary Thomists.

Bibliography: p. mandonnet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, a. vacant et al., eds. 15 v. (Paris 190350) 2.2:890892. c. r. billuart, Supplementum Cursus Theologiae, ed. d. labye, 20 v. (new ed. Paris 182731), "Vita auctoris." l. flynn, Billuart and His Summa Sancti Thomae (London, Canada 1938).

[r. p. stenger]