Paris, Francois De (2)
Paris, Francois de (2), commonly known as the Abbe Paris, was born at Paris June 30, 1690. His father, being an eminent counselor of the Parliament, designed him, as his oldest son, to succeed him in his office, and consequently bade him study law. But the son, determining to be an ecclesiastic, was admitted into holy orders, and in the disputes occasioned by the bull Unigelnitus, the attached himself vehemently to the Jansenist party. From that time, his conscience not permitting him to adhere to the rules necessary to occupy a curacy, he resolved to devote himself to retirement. Having made trial of different solitudes, he at length fixed upon a house in the suburb of St. Marceau, where he spent his time in prayer and the most rigorous acts of penance. His father having left him by will only one fourth of his wealth, Francois devoted himself to manual labor in order to increase the funds for charity which he distributed among the poor. He died in consequence of the severity of the discipline which he observed, May 1, 1727. He is chiefly celebrated for what occurred after his death. The Jansenists canonized him, and pretended that miracles were wrought at his tomb. One of the contemporaries of Francois de Paris writes as follows regarding these strange occurrences at the grave of this departed ecclesiastic "Several miracles have taken place, very opportunely, in cases of paralysis. The people sing of their own accord, and intone the Te Deum. This gives great pleasure to the Jansenists. A begging friar, the other day, having thought proper to pass jests upon the assembled crowd, the people drove him away, and in consequence no one in the neighborhood will bestow any alms upon him for the future. The portrait of the bienheureux Paris has been engraved, and is cried about the- streets. The people will make a saint of him without the help of the court of Rome if this goes on." One of the earliest of the supernatural phenomena attributed to his agency was the cure of a young female named Anne Lefranc, who seems to have been in the last stage of consumption. No sooner was she laid upon the wonder- working tomb than the most distressing symptoms disappeared instantaneously, and within a few days her recovery was pronounced complete. As the event became a subject of loud and boastful exultation among the enemies of the Constitution, archbishop de Vintimille instituted an inquiry into the facts. One hundred and twenty witnesses came forward to verify the prodigy; forty were examined — among them the mother, the brother, and the sister of the patient, and the surgeons who had attended her — and their evidence proved by no means satisfactory upon several points of essential importance. The archbishop decided that in the face of so many inconsistencies and contradictions, the tale was unworthy of credit. On July 24, 1731, he published a mandement to that effect; he condemned a dissertation which had been circulated in defense of the miracles, and prohibited all marks of special veneration at the tomb of M. Paris for the future. "Notwithstanding this," says Barbier, such a crowd collected on the morrow, St. James's day, that by four o'clock in the morning it was not possible to get into the church of St. Medard, or into the little cemetery which contains the tomb." Mademoiselle Lefranc appealed to the Parliament against the archbishop's decision; and by way of challenging further investigation, twenty-three cures of the capital laid before their diocesan reports of fresh marvels of the same kind, which now multiplied so rapidly that their very number became an argument of no small weight against them. It appears that those who resorted to the tomb were mostly females suffering. under various forms of nervous disease, partially paralyzed, or subject to hysterical affections. These poor creatures were seized with spasms or convulsions, which led to a state of delirious frenzy; and not unfrequently, whether from abnormal tension of the imagination, or from the action of some occult physiological cause, such paroxysms were followed by an abatement of the morbid symptoms. The nervous system was relieved; the crippled limb resumed its functions; a healthy reaction set in, and infirmity for the time took flight. Such phenomena are, and always will be, popularly classed as supernatural; but it is evident that they are so designated in a relative sense — relatively, that is, to our own feeble ideas and apprehensions of the organic economy of nature. The terms natural and supernatural serve, in fact, only to express the limitations and imperfections of human knowledge. The noted case of the abbe Btecheran, though it was so confidently appealed to by the Jansenist agitators, will not stand the test of sober and rational criticism.
Throughout the year 1731 the ferment continued to increase. One case produced an extraordinary sensation: that of a woman who, being in sound health, pretended to be paralytic, and proceeded to St. Medard in a spirit of mocking incredulity. Her folly was promptly punished; she was struck with real paralysis of the whole of the right side, and was carried away on a litter to the Hotel Dieu, in the midst of an excited crowd, who proclaimed this novel portent through the streets. The proverbal recording the event was signed by twenty-six persons of established credit in various sections of society, including magistrates of the Parliament and canons of Notre Dame. Individuals of high rank were to be seen from time to time among the throng of devout suppliants at the shrine of the Jansenist saint the princess-dowager of Conti, the marquis de Legale, the vicomte de. Nesmond, the chevalier Folard (a literary writer of considerable reputation), the historian Rollin, and a counselor of the Parliament named Carre de Montgeron. The last-named personage received, according to his own account, a most memorable recompense for his assiduous pilgrimages to St. Medard. He was converted, by an inscrutable and irresistible impulse, from the extreme of skepticism to a profound acceptance of the whole cycle of Catholic belief. Montgeron recorded his own experience, together with his convictions of the truth of the miracles, and the grounds on which he formned them, in a quarto volume, entitled La verite'des miracles operes par l'intereession de M. de Paris. He was imprudent enough to present this work to Louis XV, whereupon a lettre de cachet consigned him to the Bastile; and, after being transferred from one place of confinement to another, he ended his days a prisoner in the citadel of Valence. The. convulsionist movement thus ran its course through various stages, until it reached an ultimate development of undisguised indecency, immorality, and impiety. At this point it was obviously impossible that it could be any longer defended or countenanced by men of respectable character; and the leading Jansenists were accordingly compelled to repudiate all connection with it, both for themselves and for their cause. Bishops Colbert, Caylus, and Soanen had declared in favor of the earlier manifestations; but with regard to the absurdities and excesses which followed they used the language of unqualified condemnation. The most influential of the appellant clergy took the same line; the famous Duguet, Jerome Besoigne, author of the Histoire de Port-Royal, Boursier, Delan, D'Asfeld, Petitpied, and others, earnestly reprobated the prevailing mania, and deprecated the obloquy which it brought upon their party. Petitpied, a veteran controversialist of well-known ability, drew up in 1735 a consultation, which was signed by thirty doctors of the Sorbonne, to serve as a public manifesto of their sentiments at this crisis. These divines solemnly denied that the convulsions were the work of God, and declared them to be more probably a device of Satan. It was madness, they said, fanaticism, scandal, blasphemy, to attribute to God what could not possibly proceed from him. A reply was immediately put forth on behalf of the convulsionists, who taunted the doctors with deserting their colors and betraying their convictions. "Though standing on the same footing with them in point of principle, they now sought to deprive them of the most cogent proofs and arguments whereby those principles were established; after having furnished them with arms, they had cut away from them the vantage-ground on which they hoped to confound their enemies and win the battle." The appellants were thus divided against themselves; the learned, the right-minded, the moderate found it necessary to stand aloof from the thorough-paced enthusiasts, drawing a broad distinction between different epochs of the same movement. Some miracles they accepted as authentic, others they branded as delusions of the devil. The public did not fail to animadvert on the inconsistency; and the general result was to cast discredit and ridicule upon the system which had given birth to the thaumaturgic claims. The government of France, which had shown exemplary forbearance with this strange outburst of fanatical delusion, was at length obliged to put a stop to the deceptions by closing the church-yard of St. Medard, in which the bones of Francois de Paris rest. It was walled up in January, 1732. Paris is the author of several commentaries on the New Testament. They were published after his death. See Jarvis, Hist. of the Church of France, vol. ii, chap. viii; Journal of Sacred Literature, 28:71 sq. SEE JANSENISTS. (L. B.)