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Émery, Jacques André


Sulpician priest outstanding in French ecclesiastical life; b. Gex (Ain), France, Aug. 26, 1732; d. Paris, April 28, 1811. Born into a family notable in the law, he made secondary studies at the Jesuit college in Mâcon, theological studies in Paris, entered the sulpicians (1757), and was ordained (1758). The next 34 years were spent training candidates for the priest-hood as seminary teacher or superior. This experience enlightened him on contemporary religious and social problems. Disturbed by the inadequacies of current apologetics and spirituality, he published several works, including L'Esprit de Leibnitz (1772), and L'Esprit de Sainte Thérèse (1775). Elected superior general of the Sulpicians (1782), he succeeded by his wisdom and firmness in reforming the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, reserved for younger sons of the nobility destined for the higher clergy.

The french revolution, by causing the emigration of almost all the bishops and cutting off relations with Rome, thrust on him a role of highest importance without any official title. His priestly reputation made him the guide and the living conscience of the French clergy deprived of leaders. Very firm in matters of principle, he condemned the civil constitution of the clergy, and the oath to support it. Remaining at his post, he strove to remove the Church from all political compromise with aristocratic and royal counterrevolutionary activities, in order to arrive at a conciliation with the new regime. With this latter aim he authorized taking the oath of Liberty and Equality (1792) by declaring it purely political after studying Gensonné's interpretation of it. After taking it himself, he retracted at peril of his life during the Reign of Terror, when Rome condemned it.

As vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Paris, he kept in communication with its archbishop, M. de Juigné. The interception of one of his letters to the latter led to his arrest (July, 1793) and detention for 15 months in the Conciergerie prison in Paris. During this period he exercised a very active ministry among condemned prisoners. Liberated after Thermidor, Émery worked for religious restoration, recommended what was called "the Parisian method" of reconciling constitutional clergy or priests who had apostatized. He also authorized the clergy to take the various oaths demanded of those exercising religious functions.

During the Consulate and Empire period his line of conduct remained identical. napoleon called him "the little priest," and thereby rendered homage to his action, so priestly and discreet. This man who wanted to be nothing, and who refused several times the episcopate, exercised a profound influence over the clergy. He counseled making the promise of fidelity to the Constitution of the Year VIII (1799), favored the concordat of 1801, advised the pre-Revolutionary bishops to resign in accordance with the provisions of this Concordat, and assured nominations of worthy men to the new sees. Most prelates sought his advice, especially fesch, reformed by him. He reconstituted the Sulpicians, the Seminary of St. Sulpice, and provincial seminaries. When conflict broke out (1806) between Napoleon I and Pius VII, Monsieur Émery, as he was commonly known, courageously defended the pope; opposed the intrusion of maury; aided the "black cardinals"; and by his secret correspondence bureau, diffused the letters of Pius VII, brought to him from Savona by the knights of the faith. As a member of the ecclesiastical commissions (180911) charged by the emperor to resolve his differences with the pope, Émery refused to sign the decisions of the commissions. Finally, at a famous meeting in the Tuileries (March 17, 1811) attended by leaders in Church and State, Napoleon directed all his questions during a pathetic two-hour dialogue at the septuagenarian, moderate Gallican priest who courageously sustained the cause of Pius VII. So tactful was he that the emperor, far from being irritated, displayed his admiration. Death came the following month.

Bibliography: Oeuvres complètes de Monsieur Émery, ed. j.p. migne (Paris 1857). j. leflon, Monsieur Émery, 2 v. (Paris 194546); Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 15:394397.

[j. leflon]

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