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Franz Hettinger

Catholic theologian; b. January 13, 1819, at Aschaffenburg; d. January 26, 1890, at Wurzburg

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Hettinger, FRANZ, Catholic theologian; b. January 13, 1819, at Aschaffenburg; d. January 26, 1890, at Wurzburg. He attended the gymnasium in his native city and afterwards, from 1836 to 1839, the academy in the same city, where he finished philosophy and began theology. As the teaching of the latter science was discontinued in this academy in 1839, he entered the ecclesiastical seminary at Wurzburg and continued his studies there from the autumn of 1839 to that of 1841. Acting on the advice of Bishop Georg Anton Stahl of Wurzburg, who had taught him Christian doctrine in the gymnasium of Aschaffenburg, and had then been his professor of dogmatic theology at Wurzburg until 1840, he went to Rome in the fall of 1841 for a four years’ course in the German College. Here he was ordained on September 23, 1843, by Cardinal Patrizi, and upon the completion of his studies, in 1845, he received the degree of Doctor of Theology. In the first volume of his work, “Aus Welt and Kirche”, Hettinger gives a full and interesting account of his student days in Rome.

After his return home, he was made chaplain at Alzenau, October 3, 1845. On October 25, 1847, he was appointed assistant, and on May 20, 1852, sub-regent, in the ecclesiastical seminary of Wurzburg. On June 1, 1856, he became extraordinary professor, and on May 16, 1857, ordinary professor, of patrology and propaedeutics in the University of Wurzburg. He took up the teaching of apologetics and homiletics, with the direction of the homiletic seminary, on January 1, 1867. From 1871 he lectured on dogmatic theology in the place of Denzinger, whose health had failed, and after the latter’s death, he became ordinary professor of dogmatic theology (December 16, 1884). In 1859 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the philosophical faculty of Wurzburg. Twice, 1862-63 and 1867-68, he was rector of the university. Hettinger and his colleagues, Hergenrother and Denzinger, formed a brilliant constellation to which the theological faculty of Wurzburg owed the high repute which it enjoyed for many years. Hettinger’s merits were also recognized abroad. He was made an honorary member of the college of doctors of the theological faculty of the University of Vienna in 1866, honorary doctor of theology of Louvain in 1884, and, in 1885, honorary member of the Academia Religionis Catholicae of Rome. He was called to Rome with Hergenrother in 1868 to assist in the preliminary work of the Vatican Council, and appointed consultor to the theologico-dogmatic commission. On November 21, 1879, he was appointed a domestic prelate by Leo XIII.

With the qualities of a distinguished scholar of wide culture, of a clear and penetrating thinker, and of an enthusiastic teacher singularly fitted for academic instruction, Hettinger joined the brilliant gifts of a classic writer. His famous masterpiece, the “Apologie des Christenthums”, was published in 2 vols. in 5 parts (Freiburg im Br., 1863-67; 2nd ed., 1865-67; 3rd ed.,1867-69; 4th ed., 1871-73; 5th ed., 1875-80; 6th ed., 1885-87). After the death of Hettinger, his pupil, Professor Eugen Muller, of Strasburg, prepared the further editions in 5 vols.; 7th ed., 1895-98; 8th ed., 1899-1900; 9th ed., 1906-8. It was translated into French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish. This work was not intended for theologians alone, but also for circulation among people of culture generally. It is one of the most important productions of apologetic literature, on account of the richness of its content and its thoroughness of argument, combined with classic clearness and beauty of language and exposition, even in its most technical and complicated passages. This was followed by the more strictly scientific “Lehrbuch der Fundamental-Theologie oder Apologetik” (2 parts, Freiburg, 1879; 2nd ed. in 1 vol., 1888). If we except the “Apologie des Christenthums”, the beautiful work “Aus Welt and Kirche; Bilder and Skizzen” has had the widest circulation of any of Hettinger’s writings (2 vols., Freiburg, 1885; 2nd ed., 1887; 3rd ed., 1893; 4th ed., 1897; 5th ed., 1902). It was the fruit of his repeated sojourns in Italy, and particularly Rome, and of his other vacation trips through various parts of Germany, Austria (especially Tyrol), Switzerland, and France. Some of the sketches of travel from which this work was compiled appeared first in various issues of the “Historisch-politische Blatter” (1874-84). His long and intimate study of Dante inspired the following productions: “Grundidee and Charakter der gottlichen Komodie von Dante Alighieri” (Bonn, 1876); “Die Theologie der gottlichen Komodie des Dante Alighieri in ihren Grundzugen dargestellt” (Cologne, 1879); “Die gottliche Komodie des Dante Alighieri nach ihrem wesentlichen Inhalt and Charakter dargestellt. Ein Beitrag zu deren Wurdigung und Verstandniss” (Freiburg, 1880; 2nd ed., 1889, tr. by Father Sebastian Bowden as “Dante’s Divina Commedia, Its Scope and Value”, London, 1887); “De theologiae speculativae ac mysticae connubio in Dantis praesertim trilogia” (Wurzburg, 1882); “Dante und Beatrice” (Frankfort, 1883); “Dantes Geistesgang” (Cologne, 1888). To the domain of practical theology belong the two following excellent and invaluable works, which were the last written by Hettinger: “Aphorismen uber Predigt und Prediger” (Freiburg, 1888; 2nd ed., edited by P. Huls, 1907), and “Timotheus. Briefe an einen jungen Theologen” (Freiburg, 1890; the following editions prepared by Albert Ehrhard: 2nd ed., 1897; 3rd ed., 1909; also tr. into Spanish and English, Freiburg, 1901 and 1902).

Of Hettinger’s lesser writings there remain to be mentioned: “Das Priesterthum der katholischen Kirche. Primizpredigten” (Ratisbon, 1851; 2nd ed. edited by Eugen Muller, 1897); “Die kirchlichen and socialen Zustande von Paris” (Mainz, 1852); “Die Idee der geistlichen Uebungen nach dem Plane des hl. Ignatius von Loyola” (Ratisbon, 1853; 2nd ed. prepared by Rudolf Handmann, S.J., 1908); “Herr, den du liebst, der ist krank. Ein Kranken- und Trostbuch” (Wurzburg, 1855, 3rd ed., 1878; 5th ed., 1904); “Die Liturgie der Kirche und die lateinische Sprache” (Wurzburg, 1856); “Der Organismus der Universitatswissenschaften und die Stellung der Theologie in demselben” (rectoral discourse, Wurzburg, 1862); “Die Kunst im Christenthum” (rectoral discourse, Wurzburg, 1867); “Die kirchliche Vollgewalt des apostolischen Stuhles” (Freiburg, 1873; 2nd ed., 1887); “Der kleine Kempis, Brosamen aus den meist unbekannten Schriften des Thomas von Kempis” (Freiburg, 1874; 2nd ed., 1900); “David Friedrich Strauss. Ein Lebens- und Literaturbild” (Freiburg, 1875); “Thomas von Aquin und die europaische Civilisation” (Frankfort, 1880); “Die ‘Krisis des Christenthums’, Protestantismus und katholische Kirche” (Freiburg, 1881); “Dreifaches Lehramt. Gedachtnissrede auf Denzinger” (Freiburg, 1883). Numerous treatises and some more considerable essays, which were partly preparations for his great works, were published by Hettinger in various reviews: “Katholische Wochenschrift” (Wurzburg, 1853-56); “Katholik” (1860-62); “Chilianeum” (Wurzburg, 1862-69); “Oesterreichische Vierteljahresschrift fur katholische Theologie” (1865); “Historisch-politische Blatter” (1874-90); “Theologisch-praktische Quartalschrift” (Linz, 1881-87, 1889-90). “Gutachten der theologischen Facultat der k. Julius-Maximilians-Universitat in Wurzburg fiber funf ihr vorgelegte Fragen das bevorstehende okumenische Concil in Rom betreffend” (printed in “Chilianeum”, New Series, Vol. II, 1869, pp. 258-307; and separately, Wurzburg, 1870) was written jointly by Hettinger and Hergenrother, the former being the author of the parts concerning dogma, and the latter, of the historico-canonical matter.



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