French canonist and theorist of Gallicanism; b. Chesley, near Chaource, then in the Diocese of Langres, Sept. 15, 1559; d. Paris Nov. 29, 1631. From a poor peasant family, he worked as a domestic at the Collège du Cardinal Lemoine during his studies there. Attaining his doctorate at the Sorbonne (c. 1590), he was named rector of the Collège du Cardinal Lemoine in 1595, and in 1602, syndic of the Sorbonne. In defending the rights of the university against the encroachments of the religious orders, especially the Jesuits, he professed a basic and intransigent gallicanism. The publication of his treatise De ecclesiastica et civili potestate (Paris 1611) earned him the hostility of the nuncio Ubaldini and of Cardinal du Perron, who procured the condemnation of his book and had him deposed from his office (1612). The controversies continued, and Richer by way of many booklets had to defend his positions, especially against the ultramontanist professor André Duval. Finally, richelieu intervened and forced Richer to sign a half-retraction of his book on Dec. 7, 1629. In his various works, Richer claims the superiority of the councils over the popes; the pope is only the ministerial head of the Church; the deposit of revelation should be confided to the faithful, as well as the hierarchy; the bishops should have immediate jurisdiction, independent of the pope; and temporal governments should be absolute masters in their own domain. These ideas were adopted by the Jansenists of the 18th century. Richer is the author also of an edition of Jean Gerson (Paris 1606) and a Historia conciliorum generalium (Cologne 1880).
Bibliography: e. puyol, Edmond Richer, 2 v. (Paris 1876). h. raab, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 8:1299. h. r. guggisberg, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 6 v. (Tübingen 1957–63) 5:1093. j. carreyre, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50) 13.2:2698–2702, bibliog.