Fenelon, Francois De Salignac De La Mothe
Fenelon, Francois De Salignac De La Mothe the most venerated name in the modern history of the Roman Catholic Church, was born Aug,. 6,1651, at the castle of Fenelon, in Perigord. He was a younger son ,of the marquis of Fenelon. He was carefully trained at home up to twelve years of age, when he was sent to the University of Cahors, and afterwards to the College of Plessis at Paris. His mind was very early turned towards the Church; he preached his first sermon at fifteen. His theological studies were continued at the Seminary of St. Sulpice, then under the charge of the abbe Tronson, from whom he is believed to have imbibed the views of sanctity and of "disinterested love" which were so strongly brought out in his later life. He was ordained in 1675, and for three years was one of the priests of the parish of St. Sulpice. Before his ordination he was strongly inclined -to a foreign mission in the Levant or in Canada, but -was kept back, it is said, by his uncle. The Correspondance Litteraire (July 25,1863) gives a letter (from the archives of the French Ministry of Marine) in Colbert's handwriting, date of 1675, to Frontenac, governor of Canasde in which Louis XIV says, " I have blamed the action, of abbe Fenelon, and have ordered him not to return to Canada. But I ought to say to You that it was difficult to. institute a criminal process against his, or to oblige the priests of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, at Montreal, to testify against him; and it was necessary to remit the case to his bishop or the grand vicar to punish him by ecclesiastical penalties, or to arrest him and send him back to France by the first ship." According, to this, Fenelon was actually in Canada (Am. Pres. & Review, July, 1863). About the year 1678 he was appointed superior of the "Nouvelles Catholiques," a society formed to educate and proselyte the children of Protestants. In this office he wrote his first work, De l'education des filles, which has been translated into English. He now became intimate with Bossuet, and under his guidance wrote Refutation du Systeme de Malebranche sur la nature et la grace; and also a treatise entitled Du Minastere des Pasteurs is which heretics are attacked, though with moderation. Louis XIV, then about to revoke the edict-of Nantes, employed Fenelon on a special mission to the Protestants of Poitou. He accepted the charge on the condition that no means of conversion were to be used but persuasion. In 1689 he was intrusted with the education of the young duke of Burgundy. For his royal pupil he wrote Telemaque. After five years' service, he was elevated to the archbishop of Cambray in 1694. He had previously become intimate with Madame Guyon (q.v.), and his relations with herb and the complications which, grew out of them, embittered more or less his whole after life.
This interesting history deserves to bee recounted somewhat in detail. For the special history of Quietism, see the article under that title. Suffice it here to say, that the particular form of it taught by Madame Gusyon began to spread widely, and to alarm the leading clergy of the Church of France. Bossuet was soon vigorously enlisted against her. He conducted the controversy against Madame Gusyon with his usual skill. He, together with the bishop of Chartres and abbie Tronson, were appointed commissioners to inquire into the doctrines advanced by Madame Guyon. The conferences between the parties lasted for six months. Bossuet was little conversant at this time with mystical theology, and at his request Fenelon provided him with extracts from the chief of the mystical writers. The commissioners assembled at Issy, a retired country house belonging to the congregation of St. Sulpice. They drew up thirty articles, in which certain alterations were made abby Fenelon, by whom four were added. There was no mention in them of Madame Guidon or her doctrines, but thee were supposed to express the doctrines of the established Church of France on the principal subjects in dispute. Their conclusion amounts to little more than this, that spiritualism, or an aim at the very highest devotional feeling and communion with God, is not necessary to all, and is liable to abuse. Madame Guyon immediately expressed her acquiescence in the articles of Issy. The whole question seemed now to be set at rest. Fenelon, having been nominated before these transactions to the archbishop of Cambray was duly consecrated, Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, officiating, at his own earnest request. But Quietism continued to gain ground, and, to stop its progress, Bossuet published his Instruction sur les etats de l'oraison, for which be sought-the approbation of the new archbishop; but Fenelon refused on the ground that the book absolutely denied, the possibility of a pure disinterested love of God, and that its censures of Madame Guyon were too severe. Thus began: the bitter controversy between these two distinguished prelates, which for a long time disturbed the peace of the Church of France. Fenelon published his Explication des maximes des saints sur la vie interienre, but not before it was carefully examined by the cardinal de Noailes and abbe Tronson, two of the committee at Issy, and by M. Pirot, a theologian of eminence attached to Bossuet. These pronounced the Maximes to be a golden work. But no sooner was it published than an uproar was raised against it. In this controversy Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon took part against Fenelon. Bossuet had the support of the count, and made vigorous use of all the weapons at his command. Fenelon defended himself with spirit. An appeal was made to Rome. Bossuet artfully brought his influence with e Louis to bear upon the court of Rome, and insinuated that Fenelon was, in his own diocese, considered a heretic, and that, as soon as Rome should speak, Cambray, and all the Low Countries, would rise against him. The pope (Innocent XII) proceeded cautiously, and delayed his decision. In the mean time the friends of Fenelon were persecuted by the court, and he himself was suspended from his office of preceptor to the royal dukes; but never, amidst all the indignities be suffered, did he lose the pious serenity of his mind. "Yet- but a little while," he says in one of his letters, ' and the deceitful dream of this life will be over. We shall meet in the kingdom of truth, where there is no error, no division, no scandal; we shall breathe thee pure love of God; he will communicate to us his everlasting peace. In the mean while let us suffer; let us be trodden under foot; let us not refuse disgrace. Jesus Christ was disgraced for us; may our disgrace tend to his glory." At length the pope appointed a congregation of cardinals, who met twelve times without coming to any resolution; he then appointed a new congregation of cardinals, who met fifty-two times, and extracted from Fenelon's work several propositions, which they reported to the pope as censurable. Meantime Louis XIV was urging the pope to condemn Fenelon, although the pope himself was unwilling to come to a final decision. It was difficult to censure Fenelon without censuring some writers of acknowledged orthodoxy. Holy, too, as Fenelon was, it was considered that to submit to a decision against him was an act of such heroic humility that it could scarcely be expected, and that a schism might be caused equal to that of the Reformation. The pope inclined to issue a brief, stating the doctrine of the Church, and calling upon each party to abstain from future discussions. But even a pope may stand in awe of worldly consequences. - Louis XIV, urged on by Bossuet, insisted upon the condemnation of Fenelon, and the pope at last (March 12,1699) issued a brief, by which twenty-three propositions were extracted from Fenelon's work and condemned, "though the expressions used in the condemnation of them were so gentle, that it is evident that if the pope had feared God as much as he feared the French king, Fenelon would have escaped all censure. By this course, the friends of Fenelon were soothed and his adversaries mortified; and their mortification was increased by an expression of the pope, which was soon in every one's mouth, that F6nelon was in fault for too great love of God;
his enemies equally in fault for too little love of their neighbor" (Bausset, Hist. de Fenelon, ii, 220).
The controversy had been going on in France during the time occupied by the investigation at Rome. "Bossuet published a succession of pamphlets. Several of the bishops who had espoused the side of Bossuet issued pastorals in the same sense. Fenelon defended himself vigorously against them all in several publications, explanatory as well of his principles as of the personal imputations in which some of his adversaries did not scruple to indulge. The last blow against the ancient friendship of the great rivals was struck by Bossuet in his celebrated Relation sur le Quietisme. Fenelon was wounded to the heart. The copy of Bossuet's pamphlet which first came into his hands is still preserved in the British Museum, and the margin is literally filled with remarks, annotations, replies, denials, and rejoinders, in the singularly delicate and beautiful handwriting of the indignant archbishop. The copy now in the British Museum is most probably one which, as we learn from his correspondence, he sent to his agent at Rome, and on tie margin of which he corrected, for the guidance of his friend, the many false and exaggerated charges of his great antagonist. The substance of these replies he gave to the public in a most masterly defence, written, printed, and published within little more than a fortnight from the appearance of Bossuet's Relation."
When the papal brief arrived, Fenelon submitted at once, and ordered all copies of the book that were in circulation to be brought that he might burn them with his own hand. He read the brief from his own pulpit, and addressed a pastoral to the people of his diocese, in which he said, "Our holy father has condemned my book, entitled Maxims of Saints, and has condemned in a particular manner twenty-three propositions extracted from it. We adhere to his brief, and condemn the book and the propositions simply, absolutely, and without a shadow of reserve." He even presented to the cathedral a piece of gold plate, on which is a picture engraved representing the angel of truth trampling on several erroneous books, among which is his Maximes. This submission appears to us Protestants to have been at once weak and ostentatious, but in the Roman Catholic Church it is one of -Fenelon's highest titles to glory. Bossuet's conduct is variously represented: according to one account he was really touched by the conduct of Fenelon, and desired to be completely reconciled to him ; according to Others, he retained at heart his bitter feeling, and kept up the same spirit in the mind of the king. About this time Fenelon sent a complete and corrected copy of Telemaque to the duke of Burgundy. The copyist, it seems, made a duplicate, and printed it at Paris, without the knowledge of Fenelon. The book was immediately suppressed by order of the king, but was printed again in Holland in 1699, spread throughout Europe, and was translated into almost every tongue. By the courtiers of Louis XIV Telemaque was regarded as a satire upon that monarch and his satellites, Sesostris being supposed to represent the king; Calypso, Madame de Montespan; Protesilaus, Louvois; and Eucharis, Mademoiselle de Fontanges. This scandal shut Fenelon out of the court of Louis XIV for the rest of his life. He was ordered to remain within his diocese, and was forbidden all intercourse with his pupil, the duke of Burgundy. But the displeasure of the court did not diminish the reputation of Fenelon either in France or in Europe generally. He devoted the remainder of his life to diligent care of his diocese, and to literary labors. He founded a seminary at Cambray, to which he gave his personal attention. During the War of the Succession his diocese was often the scene of military operations, and he did his best to assuage the horrors of war. He brought together into his palace the wretched inhabitants of the country whom the war had driven from their homes, and took care of them, and fed them at his own table. Seeing one day that one of these peasants ate nothing, lie asked him the reason of his abstinence. "Alas! my lord," said the poor man, " in making my escape from my cottage I had not time to bring off my cow, which was the support of my family. The enemy will drive her away, and I shall never find another so good." Fenelon, availing himself of his privilege of safe- conduct, immediately set out, accompanied by a single servant, and drove the cow back himself to the peasant. "'This," said cardinal Maury, "is perhaps the finest act of Fenelon's life." He adds, "Alas ! for the man who reads it without being affected." Another anecdote, showing his tenderness to the poor, is thus related of him. A literary man, whose library was destroyed by fire, has been deservedly admired for saying, " I should have profited but little by my books if they had not taught me how to bear the loss of them." The remark of F6nelon, who lost his in a similar way, is still more simple and touching: "I would much rather they were burned than the cottage of a poor peasant." In 1709, the duke of Marlborough, by express- commands, exempted his lands from pillage, while that general himself and his allies showed the aged prelate every mark of courtesy.
In the Jansenist disputes Fenelon wrote against Jansenius, and expressed himself very strongly, though at first charitably, against Quesnel and Pascal. SEE JANSENISM; SEE PORT ROYAL. He wrote a Memoire demanding a judgment from the pope to settle the controversy by a dogmatic decision, to which all must submit. This Memoire was laid before the pope (Clement XI), and his bull Vineam Domini shows evident traces of its influence. He also wrote a treatise, De Summi Pontificis Auctoritate (in his Euvres, Versailles, 1820, tom. ii), in which he yielded more to the papal claims than became him as a Gallican bishop. Denying the direct temporal power of the pope, he admits a potestas directoria, equivalent to what is called the indirect temporal power. SEE POPE, TEMPORAL POWER OF.
In his personal habits Fenelon was temperate almost to abstemiousness, took no repose except a few hours daily in the exercises of walking or riding, while the rest of his time was devoted to social intercourse with his friends, to visiting the poor, and other pastoral functions. The most of his revenues were devoted to benevolent uses. He died at Cambray Jan. 7, 1715.
We cite a passage from Dr. Channing on the character and writings of Fenelon: "His works have the great charm of coming fresh from the soul. He wrote from experience, and hence, though he often speaks a language which must seem almost a foreign one to men of the world, yet he always speaks in a tone of reality. That he has excesses we mean not to deny, but they are of a kind which we regard with more than indulgence, almost with admiration. Common fanaticism we cannot away with, for it is essentially vulgar, the working of animal passions, sometimes of sexual love, and oftener of earthly ambition. But when a pure mind-errs by aspiring after disinterestedness and purity not granted to our present infant state, we almost reverence its errors; and still more, we recognise in them an essential truth. They only anticipate-and claim too speedily the good for which man was made. They are the misapprehensions of the inspired prophet, who hopes to see in his own day what he was appointed to promise to remoter ages. Fenelon saw far into the human heart, and especially into the lurkings of self-love. He looked with a piercing eye through the disguises of sin. But he knew sin, not, as most men do, by bitter experience of its power, so much as by his knowledge and experience of virtue. Deformity was revealed to him by his refined perceptions and intense love of moral beauty. The light, which he carried with him into the dark corners of the human heart, and by which he laid open its most hidden guilt, was that of celestial goodness. Hence, though the severest of censors, he is the most pitying. Not a tone of asperity escapes him. He looks on human error with an angel's tenderness, with tears which an angel might shed, and thus reconciles and binds us to our race at the very moment of revealing its corruptions" (Christian Examiner, 6:7).
Literature. — The writings of Fenelon are too numerous to be mentioned in detail. They are classified as follows in the Versailles edition of his works (1820, 22 vols. 8vo): Metaphysical and Theological Writings, vols. i-iii; The Quietistic Controversy, and Discussions thereon with Bossuet, vols. iv-ix; writings on Jansenism, vols. 10-16; Education of Girls, Sermons, Religious Meditations, vols. 17, 18; Fables, Dialogues, smaller writings, vol. xix; Telemaque, vol. 20; Dialogues on Eloquence, Correspondence, Lives of Ancient Philosophers, vols. 21, 22. There are many collective editions of the writings of Fenelon, of which the most complete is that of Lebel, commenced at Versailles 1820-24, in 22 vols. 8vo., with 11 vols. additional of Correspondance (Paris, 1827-29), and 1 vol. of Tables et Index (Paris, 183,), making 34 vols. in all. The next best (in some respects the best) is that of the abbe Gosselin (Paris and Besancon, 1851-52, 10 vols. imp. 8vo), with a copious literary history of Fenelon. Of editions of his select works, the best are that of Perisse (Paris, 1842, 4 vols. large 8vo); that of Dufour, the first volume of which is a Vie de Fenelon (Paris, 1826, 12 vols. 8vo); and that of Lefevre, with Vie by Aime Martin (Paris, 1835; and by Didot, 1838, 3 vols. large 8vo). Of his separate writings the editions are too numerous to be mentioned here. Many of his writings have been translated into English; among them are, On the Education of Daughters (Lond. 1703; Albany, 1806); Dialogues on Eloquence (Lond. 1808; Boston, 1832); Demonstration of the Existence of God (London, 1749, 12mo); Spiritual Works, translated by Houghton, with Life (Dublin, 1771, 2 vols. 8vo); Telemachus (many editions; best by Hawkesworth, Lond. 2 vols. 12mo, 1808); Lives of the Anc. Philosophers, with Life of Fenelon, by Cormach (N.Y. 1841, 12mo); Selections from the Writings of Fenelon, with a Memoir of his Life by Mrs. Follen (Boston, 1829; new ed. 1859, 12mo). Of Lives of Fenelon, besides those already cited in connection with editions of his works, we name Ramsay, Vie de Fenelon (Paris, 1725, 12mo); Querbeuf, Vie de F. (Paris, 1787); Bausset, Hist. de Fenelon (Par. 1817, 3d ed., 4 vols. 8vo); Mudford, Life of F. (transl. from Bausset, Lond. 1810, 2 vols. '8vo); Butler, Life of Fenelon (abridged from Bausset, Lond. 1810, 8vo); Tabaraud; Suppl. aux histoires de Bossuet et de Fenelon (Paris, 1822, 8vo). See also Mackintosh, Ethical
Philosophy (Philadelph. 1832, 8vo), p. 96 sq.; Quarterly Review (Lond.)' 10:409; Princeton Review, April, 1853, art. i; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 17:319 sq.; Hook, Eccles. Biog. v, 78 sq.; Matter, Le Mysticisme en France au Temps de Fenelon (Par. 1864); Sainte Beuve, Nouv. Lundis (Par. 1864), ii, 113 sq.; Revue Chretienne, 1863, 513 sq.; Methodist Quarterly Review, Jan. 1866; Zeitschrift f. d. hist. Theologie, 1869, 239.