Lamennais or La Mennais, Félicité Robert de
, 1782-1854, French Roman Catholic apologist and liberal, b. Saint-Malo. He was largely self-educated by wide, indiscriminate reading. He was converted (1804) to active Catholicism and resolved to serve the church. In 1817 he was ordained and began a brilliant campaign against Gallicanism and anti-Christian philosophy. He soon became the most celebrated French cleric of his day and was for many years the most open advocate of ultramontanism
in France. He felt that the church could have no real liberty under a royal government and that free speech and a free press were necessary. He and his friends Montalembert
founded (1830) the journal Avenir.
His work created a sensation, and he was soon embroiled with the conservative, royalistic Gallicans among the clergy. In 1831 he went to Rome to submit his quarrel to the pope, Gregory XVI, only to be condemned in the encyclical Mirari vos.
He retired for two years and appeared in public as a non-Christian. His Paroles d'un croyant
(1834) was the greatest work of this period. He died excommunicate. Paradoxically, Lamennais probably did more than any other church figure to break down Gallicanism and to open the way for the universal acceptance of the papal authority by French Catholics.
See studies by A. R. Vidler (1954), W. G. Roe (1966), and P. N. Stearns (1967).
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