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Louis-Jacques-Maurice de Bonald

Cardinal (1787-1870)

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Bonald, LOUIS-JACQUES-MAURICE DE, Cardinal, b. at Millau, in Rouergue (now Aveyron), October 30, 1787; d. at Lyons, February 25, 1870. He was the fourth son of the Vicomte de Bonald, the celebrated statesman and philosopher. Destined for the Church, he studied at Saint-Sulpice and was ordained priest in 1811. He was first attached to the imperial chapel and after the Restoration went to Rome as secretary to Archbishop de Pressigny, who was entrusted by Louis XVIII with the task of arranging for a new Concordat. Three years later Bishop Latil of Chartres made him hi s vicar-general. When the Diocese of Puy was reestablished (1823) Bonald became its first bishop and remained there for sixteen years, until his promotion to the primatial See of Lyons (1839), and in 1841 Gregory XVI made him cardinal. Cardinal de Bonald is one of the glories of the French episcopate. His personal qualities, as well as the salient features of his episcopal career, are most easily found in the only work we have from his pen, that long series of “Mandements et lettres pastorales”, which show him to have been pious, sympathetic, eloquent, and full of zeal. His zeal seems to have embraced all vital interests. In point of doctrine, Bonald contributed a large share towards destroying all remnants of Gallicanism and Jansenism. The Jansenistic interpolations made by Montazet in the liturgical books of Lyons were, after a long struggle, finally suppressed. Dupin’s Gallican book, “Manuel de droit ecclesiastique”, was severely condemned by the primate, and when the Council of State declared him guilty of abuse (1845), Bonald replied that the censure had not even touched him because “when the Council of State has pronounced on questions of doctrine, the cause is not finished”. In matters of discipline Cardinal de Bonald corrected many abuses, and he crowned his work by convening a provincial synod (1850), whose statutes touched all the main points of church government. He always took great interest in social questions, and never was more eloquent than when appealing for help in behalf of misery, as for instance during the floods of 1840 and 1846 and the destitution of the Spanish refugees (1842). The closing of silk factories in Lyons gave him an opportunity of showing not only his liberality towards the needy, but also his broad sympathy for the toiling class in general.

The mainspring of Cardinal de Bonald’s life, however, was his love of the Church, which he desired first of all to have respected. In 1825 the royal court of Paris, in rendering a verdict, implied that the whole body of clergy was disloyal to the Crown; Bonald in a dignified letter of protest to the king replied: “Were the clergy less loyal, they would not be the object of such hatred”. He also desired the freedom of the Church, and his pastoral letter of 1846, “La liberte de l’Eglise”, remains one of his best efforts. Of all the privileges essential to the Church, that of teaching seemed to him first and foremost. On several occasions he wrote either to approve or to condemn the legislation concerning schools. The royal ordinance of 1824 placing the schools under the surveillance of the bishops met with his entire approval; but the ordinances of 1828 establishing a new mode of direction for primary schools and even interfering with ecclesiastical schools for secondary education, as well as the Ville-main educational bill of 1844 and Salvandy’s project of 1847, he strongly opposed, thus preparing the way for the law of 1850. Having become, by the constitution of 1852, and by virtue of his dignity as cardinal, a member of the French Senate, Bonald showed once more his love of the Church by throwing the whole weight of his influence on the side of the Roman pontiff and the independence of the Holy See.

The long episcopal career of Bonald covers many successive political regimes. Although by birth and education a stanch legitimist, yet, as a bishop, he looked above the changes of human government to the Church and her welfare. Because the Revolution of February, 1848, with its motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, seemed to him favorable to the best interests of the Church, he was one of the first bishops to welcome it. He wrote to his priests: “Give to the faithful the example of submission and obedience to the Republic. You have long cherished the hope of enjoying the liberty which makes our brethren of the United States so happy; that liberty you shall have.” The same broadness of view he evinced when he refused to side with the Abbe Gaume on the question of the classics: “We decline to believe that the study of pagan authors has for three centuries instilled paganism into the social body.”


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