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Grégoire, Henri Baptiste

GRÉGOIRE, HENRI BAPTISTE

French Constitutional bishop; b. Vého, near Lunéville (Meurthe-et-Moselle), Dec. 4, 1750; d. Paris, May 28, 1831. He was the son of a poor tailor. After his ordination (1775), he was a teacher at Pont-à-Mousson, a curate at Marimont, and in 1782 a pastor at Embermenil. Grégoire was at once a Jansenist and an admirer of the Enlightenment, who was distinguished by his tolerance and by his campaign in favor of the Jews. His election as representative of the clergy to the Estates-General in 1789 started his political career. In the Estates-General his aversion for the aristocracy led him to oppose the nobles among the bishops. He was one of the first clerical deputies to rally to the third estate, and he participated in the Oath of the Tennis Court. In the Constituent Assembly Grégoire campaigned for the liberation of Negroes and pronounced in favor of the civil constitution of the clergy. He opposed putting a limitation on the authority of the pope or on that of the bishops. After taking the oath to support the Civil Constitution, he was elected constitutional bishop of Blois, and was consecrated by Jean gobel (March 13, 1791). He scarcely ever resided in his diocese, except during the Legislative Assembly (179192), from which members of the Constituent Assembly were excluded. Grégoire was a member of all the remaining assemblies during the french revolution, with which he wished to reconcile the Church in order to save religion. When he was summoned in 1793 to abdicate his ecclesiastical functions, he imperiled his life by his refusal to do so. Even during the Terror he retained his episcopal costume. In the National Convention he was prominent especially on the Committee of Public Instruction, where he contributed to the foundation of the Academy of Arts and Crafts, the Central Astronomical Office, and the Institute of France. Also, he helped save from vandalism the treasures of religious art. A mission to Savoy saved him from voting on the execution of Louis XVI. After Thermidor, Grégoire defended religious liberty in the National Convention, and labored to restore the Constitutional Church, of which he became the effective head. He animated the two synods of this Church in 1797 and 1801.

During the Directory he was a member of the Five Hundred; and during the Consulate and Empire he was a member of the Legislature and then of the Senate. Grégoire opposed the Napoleonic regime and the concordat of 1801. In the Senate he spoke in 1804 against the establishment of the Empire; and in 1814 he proposed that the Senate vote for Napoleon's deposition. Grégoire showed himself no less indomitable toward the Bourbons after the restoration. He was elected a deputy from Isére in 1819, but was excluded from the Chamber.

Grégoire resigned as bishop of Blois in 1802, but remained faithful to the Constitutional Church. He was responsible for the continuance of contacts between former Constitutional bishops and priests, and maintained an active correspondence with them and with the Jansenist Church of Utrecht. When Pius VII came to Paris in 1804 for Napoleon's coronation, Grégoire refused to approach him. Repeatedly he declined to retract his oath to the Civil Constitution. Despite the pleas of Archbishop de Quelen of Paris, the "patriarch of the Gallican Church" died unreconciled with the Holy See. Although the Archbishop forbade it, Abbé Guillon, the Queen's chaplain, administered to Grégoire the Last Rites. De Quelen also prohibited religious ceremonies at the funeral, but they were celebrated in the Abbaye-au-bois, Paris, by order of King Louis Philippe. Grégoire's theology was doubtfully sound and his outlook was somewhat confused, but his disinterestedness and his dignified priestly life deserve some recognition. Most of his numerous publications were polemical. His Histoire des confesseurs des empereurs, des rois, et d'autres princes and Histoire des sectes religieuses were placed on the Index (1827, 1828).

Bibliography: a. pouget, Les idées religieuses et réformatrices de l'évêque constitutionnel Grégoire (Paris 1905). j. tild, L'Abbé Grégoire d'aprés ses mémoires (Paris 1946). p. f. j. grÜnebaum-ballin, Henri Grégoire, l'ami des hommes des toutes les couleurs, 17891831 (Paris 1948). p. pisani, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 6.2:185463. j. a. g. tans, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 4:1177.

[j. leflon]

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