Gobel, Jean Baptiste Joseph

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Constitutional bishop of Paris; b. Thann, Alsace, Sept. 1, 1727; d. Paris, April 26, 1794. He became a canon in Moutiers-Grand-Val in 1741, studied at the German College in Rome, gained a doctorate in theology, and was ordained. In 1755 he was made a canon in Basel and vicar-general of the diocese and, in 1772, coadjutor for Alsace to the bishop of Basel. His ambition led him to scheme for the detachment from the Diocese of Basel of that section of Alsace that was under its jurisdiction, and for the creation of Colmar as a diocese with himself as bishop. In recompense for these efforts, the French government gave him a pension of 8,000 livres. He was a deputy to the Estates-General (1789). In the Constituent Assembly he tried vainly to conciliate the three orders and to have the Assembly reach an agreement with the Holy See before instituting religious reforms. Once the civil constitution of the clergy became law, Gobel supported it, took the oath to uphold it (Jan. 3, 1791), and was elected metropolitan bishop of the Seine, whose seat was in Paris. He was enthroned in Paris at Notre-Dame (March 27, 1791) and became vice president of the Jacobins. His efforts in starting an uprising in the principality of Basel against its prince bishop, resulting in its union to France, caused him to be sent there by the National Convention as commissioner when a republic was proclaimed at Porrentruy. He was too lacking in firmness to resist the attempt at dechristianizing France under the Terror. After displaying his weakness by disregarding the protests of several other constitutional bishops and giving a cure of souls to a married priest (May 1793), he abdicated his priesthood to the tribune of the Convention (Nov. 7, 1793). Along with the Hébertists he was handed over to the Revolutionary Tribunal by Robespierre (April 13, 1794) and was condemned to death. While in prison, Gobel was reconciled to the Church just before his decapitation. He died courageously, crying: "Vive Jésus-Christ."

Bibliography: p. pisani, Répertoire biographique de l'épiscopat constitutionnel, 17911802 (Paris 1907); L'Église de Paris et la Révolution, 4 v. (Paris 190811) v.12. g. gautherot, Gobel, évêque métropolitain constitutionnel de Paris (Paris 1911).

[j. leflon]