Vigil, Francisco de Paula González

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Peruvian priest, politician, and writer against the Church; b. Tacna, Sept. 13, 1792; d. Lima, June 9, 1875. In 1803 Vigil began his studies in the seminary of Arequipa, founded by the liberal Bishop Pedro José chaves de la rosa. At the seminary Vigil met Francisco Javier luna pizarro, then a professor there and later one of the outstanding parliamentarians of the country and archbishop of Lima. The acquaintance did not lead to friend-ship but rather to a lifelong rivalry between the two men. Vigil's seminary studies were completed in 1812, but instead of receiving Sacred Orders, he returned to his home in Tacna, apparently motivated by personal scruples. In 1818, however, he returned to Arequipa and was ordained.

Even then he refused the care of souls and instead devoted himself to teaching in the Colegio de Independencia, of which he became vice rector.

In 1825 the people of his native city elected him their deputy to the Congress of Lima. There he met Francisco Javier Mariátegui and Benito Laso, and soon the three were united in a strong bond of shared interests. All three were at that time strong regalists, convinced republicans, and democrats. As such they helped to defeat the dictatorial ambitions of Bolívar and to fasten the yoke of subjection to the State on the Peruvian Church. In 1833 Vigil, still deputy for Tacna, condemned President Gamarra as a tyrant in a speech that won him acclaim for the first time outside Peru. His dislike for the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation of Santa Cruz caused him to desert the Congress and to return to Tacna in 1835, but in 1836 he was called back to Lima to become director of the National Library. He lost this post for a time in 1839, when he was exiled, but in 1845 he was reinstated in the position, which he held until four days before his death. As director of the library, Vigil had the opportunity and the leisure to devote himself to study and also to encourage the young men of the country in their literary and scholarly endeavors.

In 1846 he completed the work begun in 1836 entitled Defensa de la autoridad de los gobiernos contra las pretensiones de la Curia Romana, 6 v. (184849). A second part, Defensa de la autoridad de los obispos contra las pretensiones de la Curia Romana, was printed later in four volumes. Each part was then reprinted in a single summary volume, so that the entire work occupied 12 volumes. In addition, Vigil wrote numerous pamphlets in answer to the condemnation of the work by Rome. Archbishop Luna Pizarro tried to find some Peruvian priest to answer this work, but none was eager to enter a direct challenge. Finally Fray Pedro gual undertook the thankless task. At this time Vigil was still a Catholic professing reverence and obedience to the Holy Father. However, in his two defensas he limited the power of the pope substantially to strictly spiritual interests. The civil government was given the right to regulate all civil matters and even those so-called mixed obligations, that is, those that are partly spiritual and partly civil, such as impediments for marriage, the erection of dioceses, the naming of bishops, and clerical celibacy. Vigil's reverence for the spiritual power of the pope came to an end when Pius IX condemned this work in 1851. He wrote an impudent letter to the Holy Father, denying his authority to condemn books, stating that this was the prerogative of the state. The papal condemnation was circulated, but the Peruvian Congress refused to grant the pase, for Vigil was then a senator. The publication of the defensas marked the beginning of Vigil's career as a writer. In the field of religion he gradually became increasingly radical, until in his later works, such as Manual de derecho público eclesiástico and Diálogos sobre la existencia de Dios, one can scarcely call him even a Christian in the traditional meaning of that term. He also ceased to function as a priest and instead called himself a "lay priest." On the other hand, many of his nonreligious works of this later period espoused valuable social causes, such as the abolition of the death penalty, the outlawing of war, a true confederation of the Americas, the development of cooperatives, and universal popular education.

Today relatively few read Vigil. Probably this was true even during his lifetime in regard to his complete works, but the shorter editions of his works were widely subscribed to and quoted. Unfortunately, his style is pedestrian, and the pace of the narrative is slowed by overly long quotations and frequent repetitions. Erudition fills every page of his books until it becomes almost overwhelming for the ordinary reader. However, during his life this aspect won him the admiration of his fellows in Peru and even in some circles in Europe. This, coupled with the singular purity and nobility of his private life, gave him such influence that no Peruvian government dared inaugurate direct relations with the Holy See during his lifetime. He refused the Sacraments before his death, as did his friend Mariátegui.

Bibliography: c. a. gonzÁlez marÍn, Francisco de Paula González Vigil (Lima 1961). j. basadre, Historia de la República del Perú (5th ed. Lima 1961).

[a. s. tibesar]

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Vigil, Francisco de Paula González

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