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Pouget, François Aimé


Oratorian, author of a controversial catechism; b. Montpellier, France, Aug. 28, 1666; d. Paris, April 4,1723. After his ordination, he obtained his doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1692. He was then attached to the church of Saint-Roch, Paris. While there, he reconciled La Fontaine to the Church. In 1696 or 1697, Pouget joined the Oratorians and returned to Montpellier, where he became rector of the diocesan seminary. Later, he served for a time as parish priest in the Diocese of Saint-Malo. His last years he spent in Paris. During this time, he was a member of Abp. Louis Antoine de noailles' liturgical commission for the archdiocese, and also gave conferences in the seminary of Saint-Magloire.

Pouget's fame is due completely to one of his works, popularly known as the Montpellier Catechism, but to which he gave a long, rambling title in order, as he himself put it, "to soften a little the name catechism, which most people falsely think to be written for children." Like many another catechism, it was a work on the Christian life and was written for adults. The first part explained the principles of religion, its beginnings and its growth from the creation to the end of the world, and the achievement of eternal life. The second part showed the way a person must live on earth in order to reach the kingdom of heaven. In the third part, he considered the means given men by which they can live rightly.

This work, published in a large and a small edition, the latter for the use of children, had immediate and widespread popular success. It went through 30 editions in French alone, from the first publication, in 1702, to 1710. Each edition, with corrections and annotations by the author, was an improvement over its predecessor. Very quickly, translations appeared in English and in most of the European languages.

The French versions were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, Jan. 21, 1721, and the English version was similarly condemned, Jan. 15, 1725. Both original and translations were condemned as containing Jansenist doctrine. In his last years, Pouget, who was then almost blind, translated the catechism into Latin. He revised the original, adding citations from Scripture, definitions of the Church, and statements from the Fathers, but because of his blindness he had to depend on others. When the Latin version was published in 1725, it was so filled with inaccuracies that it immediately fell under the ban of local Church authorities.

Pouget's work had the misfortune to appear under the patronage of Archbishop de Noailles of Paris, always inclined to favor Jansenist doctrine, and Bishop Colbert of Montpellier, a militant Jansenist. The defenders of Pouget's orthodoxy sometimes charge that his condemnations were largely the result of politics. He himself once noted that the desire to vindicate one's own school of thought often dictated loyalties in the Jansenist controversy. However, even those who attempted to vindicate the catechism and its author had to note that the condemned editions contained expressions that were distinctively Jansenist in connotation.

The history of the numerous French editions and of Pouget's own Latin translation has been called bizarre, and it is so complicated as to be practically incomprehensible. Numerous French editions continued to be printed, each one the object of much discussion and controversy. A Polish version was issued in Warsaw in 1791. Finally, in 1836, a French version was adopted in the Diocese of St. Pierre, Martinique, apparently without objection. The final Latin version, published in Venice in 1764, had been purged of many, but not all the original faults.

Pouget wrote little else of note. In 1712, he published Instructions sur les devoirs des chevaliers de Malte (1712), a work of which he was editor, not author. Another work by him, Instruction chrétienne sur la prière, was published in Paris in 1728.

Bibliography: a. molien, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951), 12.2:266468. e. mangenot, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951), 2.2:18951968. canon hÉzard, Histoire du catechisme depuis la naissance de l'Église jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1900).

[p. mulhern]

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