Franciscan bishop of Córdoba, patriot, theologian, and orator, whose reputation for sanctity has led to his being considered for beatification; b. San José, Catamarca, Argentina, 1826; d. Córdoba, 1883. He was perhaps the most important Catholic thinker of his country in the 19th century; and his thought, following the tradition of his order, was Neothomistic (see neoscholasticism and neothomism). Influenced by Bonaventure, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, he tried to stimulate the study of metaphysics. He held that the universe is the revelation of God, whose existence it demonstrates, showing the metaphysical supremacy of Thomas over Aristotle. Dedicating himself to the study of the Scriptures, he explained through them the mysteries of justification and of the laws and grace according to St. john chrysostom and the commentaries of St. Thomas on St. Paul; by the Pauline method he resolved the theme of sin and freedom (libertas a peccato )—this permitted him to make a thorough criticism of the basis of the liberal thesis that freedom is always the "servant of love." In Christology he was influenced by the Fathers and also by Melchor Cano; in ethics, by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Among the moderns he was well acquainted with Balmes, Donoso Cortés, Bossuet, and the French apologists. On that foundation, he conceived the plan of a theology of history involving the moments of divine conservation and the reparation by the Word, which is historical time; that, in turn, includes the mission of the Apostles (Gospel), the doctrine (Epistles), and the institution of history in Christ. Thus, Christ is the center of society, and the people as such are historically responsible. The influence of De civitate dei and of Italian and even German neoscholasticism (Cornoldi) is evident. Man is social, and society is a moral being linked to the infinite; accordingly obedience is a duty, and civil authority is legitimate; but since at bottom the Word sustains everything, the Gospel must be the ultimate law of nations.
Esquiú acquired national fame for his "Sermon on the Constitution" (1853), in which he explained the difficulties of submission but also (after a half-century of wars and anarchy) exhorted it. Sovereignty, he said, resides in the people only instrumentally because their origin is from God. In a Catholic people the State must be united to the Church, and he concluded by stating the Marian vocation of America. Esquiú was a mystic whose unitive experiments can be observed in his Diario; however, it is not possible to learn whether he reached the transforming union. He was a model bishop and an apostle of confession, who exercised a decisive influence on the organization of Argentina. His unbounded charity and his humility have led the Argentines to consider him a saint. The cause for his beatification was begun Jan. 11, 1952.
Bibliography: m. esquiÚ, Sermones, discursos, cartas pastorales, oraciones fúnebres, etc., correspondencia …, ed. a. ortiz 2 v. (Córdoba, Argen. 1883). m. gÁlvez, Vida de fray Mamerto Esquiú (2d ed. Buenos Aires 1944). a. caturelli, El pensamiento de Mamerto Esquiú (Córdoba, Arg. 1954).