Rohrbacher, René François

views updated


Ecclesiastical historian; b. Langatte (Moselle), France, Sept. 27, 1789; d. Paris, Jan. 17, 1856. After ordination in 1812, he served as chaplain at Insming and Lunéville, and in 1823 he became superior of the diocesan mission of Nancy. In 1826 he joined Hugues Félicité de lamennais at La Chesnaie and in 1828 entered the Congregation of St. Peter. From 1828 to 1835 he taught philosophy to the novices at Malestroit. He also collaborated on the publication of L'Avenir. When Lamennais, condemned by Rome, refused to submit, Rohrbacher broke with him (1835) and taught Church history and exegesis in the seminary at Nancy (183549). Partly in reaction against the views of Lamennais, Rohrbacher studied the relationship between faith and reason, the basis of certitude, and the place of the Catholic Church in the history of mankind. His most significant works, Catéchisme du sens commun (1825) and Histoire universelle de l'Église catholique (28 v. 184249; 9th ed. 18991903; Eng. tr.), attempted to rectify some ideas advanced by Lamennais. Hence the Catéchisme contended, with Louis de bonald, that the first principles of knowledge and reason rest upon divine revelation. His Histoire universelle refuted the contention of Lamennais that the modern Catholic Church had become decadent. This work attacked the ecclesiastical history by Claude fleury, which was deeply imbued with gallicanism. Rohrbacher, an ultramontane, sought also to glorify the papacy's role in history, and he had considerable influence in the rapid growth of ultramontanism among the French clergy. While Rohrbacher evidenced a commendable cosmic vision of the Catholic Church and an acquaintance with the vast literature on his subject, he relied solely on secondary sources, lacked critical sense, and was unduly polemical and apologetic. His works brought him both fame and opprobrium. His ultramontanism led to his dismissal from his professorship in 1849. He spent his last years in retirement as a guest of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Paris.

Bibliography: Histoire universelle (9th ed. Paris 18991903) 1:1138, biog. of the author. l. finot, L'Abbé Rohrbacher (Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 1893). l. marchal, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 190350) 13.2:27672774. r. aubert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 8:1363. Biographie universelle, ed. l. g. michaud, 45 v. (Paris 184365) 36:347348.

[m. h. quinlan]