Brief Biography of Mgr. Jean-Joseph Gaume
From: Les Amis du Christ Roi de France (The Friends of Jesus Christ the King of France)
¶ Mgr. Jean-Joseph Gaume – French theologian and author, b. at Fuans (Franche-Comté) in 1802; d. in 1879. While attached to the Diocese of Nevers, he was successively professor of theology, director of the petit séminaire, canon, and vicar-general of the diocese, and had already published several works, when he left for Rome in 1841. Gregory XVI made him a knight of the Reformed Order of St. Sylvester. A doctor of theology of the University of Prague, a member of several societies of scholars, honorary vicar-general of several dioceses, he received from Pius IX in 1854 the title of prothonotary apostolic.
Abbé Gaume is the author of numerous books treating of theology, history, education. The author seeks the remote cause of the religious and moral deterioration of his age, and he finds it in the Renaissance, which was for society a resurrection of the paganism of antiquity, prepared the way for the Revolution, and was, in fine, the primal source of all the evil. Cf. "La Révolution" (8 vols., 1856), "Histoire de la societé domestique" (2 vols., 1854), "Les Trois Rome" (1857). To cure the ills of society it should have been necessary to exclude pagan authors from classical studies. He composed his "Catéchisme de Persévérance, ou Exposé de la Religion depuis l'origine du monde jusqu'à nos jours" (8 vols., 1854); "La Religion et l'Eternité" (1859); "Traité du Saint-Esprit" (1864). To this series of works belong his "Manuel du Confesseur" (1854) and "l'Horloge de la Passion" (1857), which he translated from St. Alphonsus Liguori.
The reform, or rather the revolution which he deemed necessary in classic instruction he had indicated as early as 1835 in his book "Le Catholicisme dans l'éducation". He returned to the subject in 1851 in a work entitled "Le Ver rongeur des sociétés modernes ou le Paganisme dans l'Education". The support of Mgr. Gousset, Archbishop of Reims, of Mgr. Parisis, Bishop of Arras, and of the articles of Louis Veuillot in "L'Univers", helped provoke a lively debate among Catholics. After having shown that the intellectual formation of youth during the first centuries of the Church and throughout the Middle Ages was accomplished through the study of Christian authors (ch. i-vi), Gaume proves that the Renaissance of the sixteenth century perverted education throughout Europe by the substitution of pagan writers for Christian authors. He brings forward the testimony of men (viii-ix) and of facts (x-xxv), indicating the influence of classical paganism on literature, speech, the arts, philosophy, religion, the family, and society. It was the condemnation of the method held in honour in the Church for three centuries; Benedictines, Jesuits, Oratorians, the secular clergy themselves had made the pagan authors the basis of the curriculum in their colleges. Gaume did not go so far as to exclude the pagan texts; he allowed them some place in the three highest classes (the course comprised eight), but banished them from the first five years.
Consulted by the professors of his petit séminaire as to the course to pursue, the Bishop of Orléans, Mgr. Dupanloup, addressed them a letter on classical teaching, in which he boldly declared himself in favour of the existing regulations and methods, thus preserving for the ancient authors the rank they had held, but at the same time assigned an important place to Holy Scripture, the Fathers, and modern authors. Sharply attacked by Veuillot in "L'Univers", the bishop retorted by issuing a pastoral on the classics and especially on the interference of lay journalism in episcopal administration, and concluded by enjoining on the professors of his petits séminaires to receive no longer "L'Univers". Then the question became even more burning; newspaper articles, brochures, pamphlets, even books succeeded one another on this question which created a general commotion among educationists. Gaume published his "Lettre sur le paganisme dans l'éducation". For a time it seemed as though the diocese were on the point of division. At this juncture Mgr. Dupanloup drew up a declaration which was signed by forty-six prelates. It contained four articles, two of which dealt with journalism in its relations with episcopal authority, and two with the use of the classics. It was therein stated: (1) that the employment of the ancient classics in secondary schools, when properly chosen, carefully expurgated, and explained from a Christian point of view, was neither evil nor dangerous; (2) that, however, the use of these ancient classics should not be exclusive, but that it was useful to join to it in becoming measure, as is generally done in all houses directed by the clergy, the study and explanation of Christian authors. Abbé Gaume reduced their claims: (1) the more comprehensive expurgation of pagan writers; (2) the more extensive ìntroduction of Christian authors; (3) the Christian teaching of pagan authors. The Abbé Gaume published further: "Bibliothèque des classiques chrétiens, latins et grecs" (30 vols., 1852-55); "Poètes et Prosateurs profanes complètement expurgés" (1857).
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