Peruvian bishop and political theorist; b. Lima, Aug. 24, 1808; d. Arequipa, 1865. By the time he was five, Herrera was orphaned, and he was cared for by his uncles. However, his most important protector was Manuel José Pedemonte, rector of the Colegio de San Carlos, who admitted the young man to that college in 1821 on a full scholarship. Herrera at first studied to become a lawyer and took degrees in civil and canon law. On the advice of Father Pedemonte, and after a year of meditation, he
presented himself for ordination in 1832. Pedemonte wished to retain him on the faculty of San Carlos, but the young priest applied for and received a small parish, far removed from Lima, in Cajacay. Herrera himself says that he wished to have leisure in which to restudy philosophy since he had begun to suspect the orthodoxy of the teachings at San Carlos, especially in its Jansenistic and regalistic aspects. During the next few years Herrera rediscovered St. Thomas and gradually became a scholastic. Archbishop Benavente had him preach the sermon at his installation (1834) and serve as his secretary for the canonical visitation of the archdiocese. Because of his weak health, Herrera requested and was granted a transfer to the parish of Lurín in 1837. He made the acquaintance of a neighboring landlord, whom a revolution made president in 1842. The president appointed Herrera rector of San Carlos, then the first center of intellectual life in Peru and famous since the days of Toribio rodrÍguez de mendoza. By this time, Herrera's own ideas had matured, and in San Carlos he found the medium in which to instill them in the minds of young men who would be the rulers of Peru for many decades. For him sovereignty did not come from the people but from God; the people did not have the capacity or the right to make laws since these emanated from the eternal principles placed by God with the very nature of things. Hence, Herrera wanted a strong government, without congresses or universal suffrage, based on an aristocracy of the most capable and most intelligent. These opinions projected Herrera into the political arena amid the most bitter attacks of the liberals, both ecclesiastic and lay.
In 1849 Herrera was elected deputy to congress from Lima and then elected by his fellow members president of that body. In 1851 he was chosen as member of the president's cabinet, and for a time he discharged the offices of minister of government, foreign affairs, and public instruction. As such he concluded a boundary treaty with Brazil, helped the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts to open the first formal school for girls in Lima, brought Father Pedro gual to Lima, sponsored the first groups of Austrian and Irish immigrants, and helped draw up a more judicious law for the election of bishops. His severity irritated the liberals, and the president, under pretext of negotiating a concordat with the Holy See, sent him off to Rome as plenipotentiary in May 1852. Herrera discovered this ruse only when he returned in 1853 for consultation to find that the Lima government had taken no action on his proposed draft of a concordat. For some years his disillusionment and an attack of tuberculosis kept him out of public affairs. He strove to restore the prestige of the Lima archdiocesan seminary and edited a Catholic journal with the help of one of his former students, Juan Ambrosio Huerta. He also began the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1858 he returned to congress and was again elected its president. When the congress failed to repeal laws that he thought unfair to the Church, he resigned his seat in 1860.
In 1859 he had been nominated for the bishopric of Arequipa, and now he devoted the remaining years of his life to his see, interesting himself especially in restoring the glory of the diocesan seminary of San Jerónimo and in reforming the diocesan clergy. Tuberculosis was the cause of his premature death. Herrera was the first prominent Peruvian priest after independence who was completely orthodox and ultramontane.
Bibliography: Bartolomé Herrera: Escritos y discursos, 2 v. (Lima 1929–34).
[a. s. tibesar]