Bishop Dupanloup Uses His Appointment to the French Academy to Plot Anew Against the Ultramontanes

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Bishop Dupanloup Uses His Appointment to the French Academy to Plot Anew Against the Ultramontanes
Bishop Dupanloup Uses His Appointment to the French Academy to Plot Anew Against the Ultramontanes

Before Pope Pius IX’s encyclical Inter multiplices, liberal Catholics and Gallicans1 promoted disputes in hopes of eliminating Louis Veuillot and his newspaper, l’Univers.

However, the encyclical dashed Veuillot’s enemies’ hopes of crushing him in the name of the Church. The Holy See’s clear and unequivocal approval of the newspaper’s guidelines appeared to calm these turbulent waters. Below the surface, though, the liberals tried to consolidate their position by forming a real party.

The Gallicans’ situation was far worse than that of liberal Catholics. Before the encyclical, they had eagerly sought by every means to obtain a pronouncement against l’Univers from Pius IX. Their bellicosity against Veuillot blinded them to the fact that, by their maneuvers, they recognized the right of the Holy See to intervene in France’s religious affairs. This completely contradicted the fundamental point of their erroneous doctrine. Ultimately, they were forced to accept the encyclical that gave victory to one of their greatest adversaries. In response, they sought to diminish its scope with incredibly absurd articles and arguments.

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For example, Father Jean-Henri-Romain Prompsault, a theologian and canonist of the Paris diocese, tried to show that the encyclical “was ill-founded and contained rules pernicious to our churches.”

“It would be terrible,” he wrote, “for such a high authority [the Pope] to fall into error; but it would be even worse if Christian society were allowed to suffer the baleful consequences of its actions for fear of criticizing them. Truth is above all.”

Veuillot would not even respond to such rantings. The Gallicans had suffered a final defeat and would never fully rise again. The fact they could not get a pronouncement from the Holy See that favored their policy demoralized them. Father Prompsault’s ideas and activities and those of his companions no longer resonated with public opinion.

The remnants of Gallicanism were absorbed into the newly found strength of Liberal Catholics. Bishop Felix Dupanloup and Count Montalembert, who had always claimed to be anti-Gallican, welcomed those against whom they had once fought. On the other hand, the liberal politicians opposed to Napoleon III lent prestige to liberal Catholicism. Although not an official union, the liberals and Gallicans formed a true coalition against Veuillot, with Bishop Dupanloup and Montalembert at its head. Veuillot called it a semi-royalist and semi-Catholic liberal-parliamentary coalition.

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The Liberals had a majority in the Académie Française (French Academy of Letters) and turned it into a stronghold for their ideology. This “illustrious company” welcomed several Catholic former politicians to their ranks. Among these were Bishop Dupanloup, the Count of Falloux, the Duke of Broglie, and the Dominican Henri Lacordaire. As Montalembert was already a member, all the leaders of liberal Catholicism thus came to belong to the Academy.

Election to the Académie was for life, and new members could only be elected when a previous member died. Bishop Dupanloup was the first to be received. He succeeded Pierre François Tissot, a veteran terrorist of 1793, free thinker, and militant materialist. As per Academy custom, the Bishop, as his successor, was obligated to make a speech praising Tissot. However, no bishop could possibly compliment any of that man’s “qualities.” However, Tissot was fond of Greco-Roman antiquity and had translated the works of Virgil. So, Bishop Dupanloup used his entire speech to defend the classics against “barbarians” like Veuillot, who had dared to criticize them. Of all the issues stirring up French Catholicism, that of teaching the classics was the only one that Pope Pius’s encyclical did not completely resolve. Given the repercussions of the Bishop of Orléans’s speech, Veuillot felt obliged to respond.

Veuillot’s article, “Bishop Dupanloup at the Académie,” is a model of orthodoxy, balance, and common sense. It listed all the reasons why the bishop of Orléans deserved to belong to the Academy. It congratulated him on the triumph his election meant for the Catholic cause. Then, it complimented the Bishop for his skillful good riddance of the infamous writer he was replacing and whom, according to custom, he was supposed to glorify.

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Veuillot then analyzed the Bishop’s inaugural speech. He compared it unfavorably with Bossuet’s.2 In the same circumstances, emphasizing how much the opinions of the two masters of the language differed. He continued in this tone throughout the article. Finally, the editor showed that Bishop Dupanloup and Narcisse-Achille de Salvandy, who had received him into the Académie, did not practice what they preached. About the bishop, he wrote, “Nothing is less Ciceronian than his speech. It is lively, full of things, ingenious, touching on everything: non sufficit orbis, but its eminently modern eloquence is far removed from the ancient one.”

“With its broader and more elaborate sentences,” Veuillot continued, “Mr. Salvandy’s speech has more of an artist’s mark and suffers more from seventeenth-century learning. It is lovely but not ancient. Here are two men with a reputation for eloquence who prove with their French that they do not need or have little use for Greek and Latin.” Veuillot then used several citations to demonstrate the atheism of most of the French writers who deified Greek and Roman antiquity. Veuillot concluded that such analysis made one fear that studying classical authors produced a loss of faith.

Veuillot’s rejoinder put a complete stop to liberal whims of reviving the classics controversy. Bishop Dupanloup did not reply. Nevertheless, his inauguration at the Académie was the first milestone in the new phase of his campaign against l’Univers.

Photo Credit:  © David


  1. Gallicanism was a French heresy with a long history. In its simplest terms, it promoted the idea that French Catholics owed more allegiance to the government’s religious policies than to the Pope.
  2. Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet of Meaux (1627-1704) was the chaplain of Louis XIV, a proponent of the philosophy of the Divine Right of Kings, and a brilliant orator.

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