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Deharbe, Joseph

DEHARBE, JOSEPH

Jesuit catechist and theologian; b. Strassburg, April 1, 1800; d. Maria-Laach, Nov. 8, 1871. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1817; and, after teaching for 11 years at the Jesuit College in Brieg, Switzerland, he became a missionary and catechist at Cöthen in 1840. He and Peter Roh, SJ, established the Academy of St. Charles Borromeo at Lucerne in 1845. Two years later, when persecution broke out in Switzerland, he barely escaped alive. The rest of his life was spent chiefly in giving missions in Germany and in revising his catechism. This work, Katholischer Katechismus oder Lehrbegriff (Zurich 1847; Ratisbon 1848), was modeled on the Mainz Canisius catechism of 1843, although other texts were utilized also, notably Bossuet's catechism. Although Deharbe wrote the book only under obedience to his superior, feeling himself incompetent for the task, it won immediate acclaim, and was adopted within a year by the bishops of seven dioceses. In 1853, it was introduced officially throughout the whole kingdom of Bavaria. Within the next 15 years, it was used in the dioceses of Cologne, Mainz, Paderborn, Fulda, Ermland, Culm, and Gnesen-Posen, as well as in several dioceses of Switzerland, Austria-Hungary, and the U.S. It was first translated into Magyar in 1851, and before long translations were made into most European languages, including English (1863). The book or its revisions continued in widespread use into the 20th century, the Linden version being adopted throughout Germany in 1925. Introduced into America in 1850 by Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati, and first published there in 1869, it became the catechism most frequently employed in the U.S. until past the turn of the century, and in some places into the 1930s.

Although based on the Canisius catechism, Deharbe's text introduced a new arrangement of matter into sections on faith, the Commandments, and the means of grace, a division that most subsequent catechists followed. Recently, however, this order has been abandoned because it was said to lead children to think that the Commandments and Sacraments are not matter for faith. Later revisions allayed much of the criticism against the work for having too many questions and definitions, and because its abstract theological formulas were unintelligible to children. The book has received praise for its theological correctness, brevity of sentences, preciseness of expression, clearness, and arrangement. Deharbe's other works include four extracts of his first book, all published at Ratisbon: Katholischer Katechismus (1847), Kleiner katholischer Katechismus (1847), Anfangsgründe der katholischen Lehre für die kleinen Schüler (1847), Kleiner katholischer Katechismus (184950). Also published at Ratisbon were: Die vollkommene Liebe Gottes (1855), Erklärung des katholischen Katechismus (4 v. 185764), Kürzeres Handbuch zum Religionsunterrichte (186568), Handbuch zum Religionsbuch in den Elementarschulen (1868).

Bibliography: c. sommervogel, et al., Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus (Brussels-Paris 18901932) 2:187584; 9:182184. a. n. fuerst, The Systematic Teaching of Religion, 2v. (New York 193946). f. spirago, Spirago's Method of Christian Doctrine, ed. s. g. messmer (New York 1901). k. schrems, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 3:195, bibliography. f. l. kerze, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. c. g. herbermann et al. (New York 190714) 4:678.

[j. e. koehler]

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