Biner, JOSEPH, canonist, historian, and theologian, b. at Gluringen, Switzerland, 1697; d. at Rottenburg, Germany, March 24, 1766. His fame rests principally on a truly amazing erudition. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1715, received the usual training of its members and was later professor of canon law in the universities of Ingolstadt, Dilingen, and Innsbruck. He entered zealously into all the controversies with the sectaries of his time, especially with the Swiss heretics. As a consequence, all his works have a polemical tinge.
In 1739 appeared his “Catholische Anmerkung fiber die neueste uncatholische Controvers-Schreiber”, directed against certain opponents in Zurich. This was followed in 1744 by “Indifferentismus”, a treatise on religious indifference and liberalism in dogmatic teaching. Biner published “Heiligkeit der Kirche” in 1750, discussing the marks of the true Church and giving sketches of eminent Catholics. The best of his polemical works, one of enduring merit, is “De Summa Trinitate, Fide Catholics, et Hierarchic Ecclesiastic: A”. It appeared in 1765 and shows him at his best as a theologian and canonist. His last controversial treatise, which appeared the same year and was published like all the others at Vienna, is entitled: “Kurzer Begriff der heutigen Glaubenstreitigkeiten”. It is an examination and refutation of various Protestant confessions of faith.
Biner’s chief work of a purely canonical character is “Dissertationes juridicle de beneficiis ecclesiasticis” (Innsbruck, 1746). His masterpiece is the “Apparatus eruditionis ad jurisprudentiam ecclesiasticam”. The work, despite its title, is not restricted to canon law, but is also historical, polemical, and theological. It was published at Vienna, 1754-66 in eight quarto volumes. It is a work of vast erudition and a veritable storehouse of history and canon law. Dividing his material by centuries, Biner treats of the various species of law, of the history of the church councils, of the political and religious vicissitudes of the various nations, of treaties and concordats, etc. Interspersed in the work are many valuable excursuses on Jansenism, Probabilism, Public Penance, Origin of Imperial Electors, etc. It is to be regretted, however, that a work displaying such stupendous industry and erudition should be rendered less valuable for students by an unscientific arrangement of material and the want of an index. The vastness of the knowledge which Biner displays, however, has received its meed of praise even from his opponents. He wrote many other works besides those mentioned in the text, which may be found in De Backer and Sommervogel.
WILLIAM H. W. FANNING