Sailer, Johann Michael

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Theologian, bishop of Regensburg; b. Aresing, Upper Bavaria, Nov. 17, 1751; d. Regensburg, May 20, 1832. He attended the Jesuit gymnasium in Munich and entered the Society of Jesus in 1770. He began his philosophical studies at the University of Ingolstadt; and after the suppression of the society, he continued his studies there and was ordained a secular priest in 1775. He was appointed professor of dogmatic theology at Ingolstadt in 1780 but the following year lost this position when the faculty was taken from the secular clergy. In 1784 he was made professor of ethics and pastoral theology at the University of Dillingen in Bavaria. After he had spent ten years at successful teaching, envious colleagues, suspecting him of rationalism, secured his dismissal. For a time he traveled extensively and busied himself with writing. In 1799 he was appointed professor of pastoral theology at the University of Ingolstadt and the following year he moved with the University to Landshut, Bavaria. Again he enjoyed great success as a teacher, but as before he was attacked by his own colleagues, who were supported this time by (St.) Clement hofbauer. In consequence of this attack he lived under a cloud of suspicion until 1821. In 1819 he was nominated bishop of Augsburg, but enough question about him remained to cause Rome to reject the nomination. Crown Prince (later King) Louis of Bavaria was active in helping to clear his name. Sailer was appointed a cathedral canon at Regensburg in 1821, auxiliary bishop and coadjutor with the right of succession in 1822, and cathedral provost in 1825; finally in 1829 he became bishop of Regensburg.

Not only did Sailer possess a broad learning, especially in philosophy and theology, but he was also remarkable for his literary activity. His complete works number 41 volumes. He was extraordinarily effective as a teacher and exercised a profound influence upon those who studied under him, many of whom achieved considerable prominence in scholarly and public life. He was important as a leader in religious thought during the revival of Catholic life after the Enlightenment and the confusion of the Napoleonic period. The Enlightenment had questioned the fundamental dogmas of Christianity, and various ills beset the Church; "externalism, contempt for Christian mysticism, worldliness of the clergy, degradation of the pulpit by the treatment of secular topics, relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline, denial of the primacy of papal jurisdiction, efforts of the State to gain control of the Church, turbulent reforms within the Church, and a one-sided training of the mind in education" (R. Stölzle, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. C. G. Herbermann et al., 16 v. [New York 190714; suppl. 1922] 13.328). Against these evils Sailer strove mightily and with good effect. He had no leaning toward scholasticism or toward the philosophy of antiquity, preferring to draw upon the Fathers, Fénelon, and the philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Because of the circumstances in which he wrote and the range of subjects that engaged his attention, Sailer is regarded as a pioneer in the fields of modern pedagogy, catechetics, homiletics, and pastoral theology. Indeed, he is looked upon by many as the founder of the science of pastoral theology. In pedagogy and catechetics his principal contribution consisted in breaking down the then current idea that education was simply a matter of intellectual formation. He stressed the importance of a parallel development of the emotions.

Sailer is remembered also for the good relationships he cultivated with orthodox Protestants. He was a friend of the distinguished German legal scholar, Friedrich Karl von Savigny. He avoided polemics against Protestants and thought it much more important to seek to bring about the cooperation of the different Christian bodies against the negations of infidelity. Without sacrificing any point in his strict adherence to Catholic doctrine, he managed nevertheless to make a significant contribution to both Catholic and Protestant piety.

Bibliography: Sämtliche Werke, ed. j. widmer, 41 v. (Sulzbach 183045). f. w. bodemann, Johann Michael von Sailer (Gotha 1856). g. aichinger, Johann Michael Sailer (Freiburg 1865). p. funk, Von der Aufklärung zur Romantik (Munich 1925). w. schlags, Johann Michael Sailer, der Heilige einer Zeitwende (Wiesbaden 1932). b. lang, Bischof Sailer und seine Zeitgenossen (Regensburg 1932). m. grabmann, Die Geschichte der katholische Theologie seit dem Ausgang der Väterzeit (Freiburg 1933). p. hadrossek, Die Bedeutung des Systemgedankens für die Moraltheologie in Deutschland seit der Thomas-Renaissance (Munich 1950). p. klotz, Johann Michael Sailer als Moralphilosoph (Paderborn 1909). l. radlmaier, Johann Michael Sailer als Pädagog (Berlin 1909). j. brÖgger, Johann Michael Sailer als Homilet (Paderborn 1932); "Dem Andenken Johann Michael Sailers zum hundertsten Todestage," Theologie und Glaube 24 (1932) 273287.

[j. f. groner]