Gerbet, Olympe Philippe

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Philosopher, theologian, bishop, precursor of social Catholicism in France; b. Poligny (Jura), Feb. 5, 1798;d. Perpignan, Aug. 8, 1864. He studied at the Académie and the Grand Seminaire of Besançon, at Saint-Sulpice, and at the Sorbonne, and was ordained in 1822. He was an enthusiastic admirer of Félicité de Lamennais and collaborated with him in L'Avenir until its suppression in 1834; he withdrew from his circle in 1836. Meanwhile, he published several philosophical works. The first of importance, Des Doctrines philosophiques sur la certitude, dans leurs rapports avec les fondements de la théologie (Paris 1826), was a critique of Cartesianism in philosophical explanations of the acquisition of faith. His concern for the social question was evident in two published conferences, each titled Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire (Paris 1832); anticipating the Communist Manifesto, as it were, he argued that the workers had ended feudalism by their revolutionary activity but had been deprived of the fruits of this victory. He is credited with responsibility for the initial social emphasis of L'Université catholique. In 1839 he went to Rome, where he spent ten years, publishing Esquisse de Rome chrétienne (2 v. Paris 184450) and adopting increasingly conservative views. After returning from Rome, he became successively professor of sacred eloquence at the Sorbonne, vicar-general of Amiens, and, in December 1853, bishop of Perpignan. He gave expression to his timidity about social change in essays published in 1850 under the title "Rapports du rationalisme avec le communisme," in which he was especially apprehensive about the organizational implications of socialism. His episcopate was marked by the holding of a synod, the reorganization of clerical studies, various religious foundations, and above all a famous pastoral instruction of 1860 sur diverses erreurs du temps present, which pleased pius ix and influenced the preparation of his syllabus of errors.

Bibliography: Oeuvres, 2 v. (Paris 1876). c. de ladoue, Monseigneur Gerbet: Sa vie, ses oeuvres et l'école menaisienne, 3v. (Paris 1870). l. foucher, La Philosophie catholique en France au XIXe Siècle (Paris 1955).

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Gerbet, Olympe Philippe

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