Turmel, Joseph

views updated


Modernist, historian of dogma; b. Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), France, Dec. 13, 1853; d. Rennes, Feb. 5, 1943. After ordination (1882), Turmel taught dogmatic theology at the seminary in Rennes from 1882 until his removal in 1892. He then acted as chaplain of the Little Sisters of the Poor for years, but continued his scientific research and writing. Turmel is one of the most enigmatic figures among the disciples of modernism. Although he had early abandoned faith in the God of Christian revelation (March 18, 1886, according to him), he decided to remain outwardly attached to the church and to fight it anonymously while in clerical garb. His extraordinary knowledge of early Christian theology, and particularly of St. Augustine, enabled him to become an esteemed contributor to the leading French theological journals. He supplied the historical chronicle for the Revue du clergé; français (190208). His two-volume Histoire de la théologie positive (190406) opened the series Bibliothèque de théologie historique, sponsored by the professors of the Paris Catholic Institute (Institut Catholique), and included well-known works by A. d' alÈs and F. prat; but it was placed on the Index (191011). In 190910 his L'eschatologie à la fin du IV siècle, Histoire du dogme du péché originel, Histoire du dogme de la papauté, Saint Jérome, and Tertullian were also included on the Index. After these condemnations he began publishing, under 14 different pseudonyms, numerous attacks on Catholic doctrines from a radical, Modernistichistorical viewpoint. Fourteen other books by him under the names Louis Coulanges, Henri Delafosse, Antoine Dupin, Guillaume Herzog, Edmond Perrin, and André Lagarde (The Latin Church in the Middle Ages ) can also be found in the Index of Forbidden Books. Not until 1929, after more than two decades of research, did Louis Saltet succeed in tracing the single authorship of these writings. In 1930 the Holy Office decreed Turmel's excommunication (vitandus ) and his degradation from the priestly state. In the Modernist movement Turmel, along with loisy and houtin, represented the extreme radical wing. He claimed that scientific progress and advancing knowledge would lead to the disintegration of belief in Christian revelation.

Bibliography: f. sartiaux, Joseph Turmel, prêtre, historien des dogmes (Paris 1931), placed on Index April 6, 1932. j. brugerette, Le Prêtre français et la société contemporaine, 3 v. (Paris 193338) v.3. É. poulat, Histoire, dogme et critique dans la crise moderniste (Paris 1962). "Turmel," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 v.10.

[v. conzemius]