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  • Georges Goyau (1869-1939): Un intellectuel catholique sous la IIIe République
Georges Goyau (1869–1939): Un intellectuel catholique sous la IIIe République. By Jérôme Grondeux. [Collection de l'École Francaise de Rome, Vol. 38.] (Rome: École française de Rome. 2007. Pp. xii, 445. €53,00. ISBN 978-2-728-30749-4.)

It is difficult to read sources in early-twentieth-century French Catholicism without encountering Georges Goyau, member and secretary of the Académie française (1922–39). His prolific stamp is everywhere—as organizer or sponsor of events and associations; and as author, editor, or authority in publications. Because he is largely unknown, interpreting such encounters has been frustratingly difficult. Fortunately, this welcome volume changes all that. In addition to Grondeux's comprehensive biography, his bibliography is exhaustive: besides Goyau's eighty monographs (1893–1939), it also includes about 110 articles Goyau published in the Revue des Deux Mondes (1895–1939) and another 550 articles in Figaro (1920–39). Grondeux also provides details on locating archival sources, including voluminous correspondence only recently made available at the Bibliothèque nationale.

In his career's first phase, begun under Pope Leo XIII, Goyau advocated social Catholicism: "It is clear that for Goyau, to renounce social Catholic [End Page 156] engagement is to renounce the world" (p. 127). After The Pope, Catholics, and the Social Question (Paris, 1893), Goyau published another five series on the subject (1901–12, c. 1500 pp.). Another passion was German religious history, resulting in four volumes on Catholicism and a fifth on Protestantism (1905–08, c. 1900 pp.). Yet another four volumes were devoted specifically to Otto von Bismarck's Kulturkampf (1911–13, c. 1000 pp.).

In 1903, Goyau married Lucie Félix-Faure, daughter of Félix Faure, president of the Third Republic (1895–99). Her publication of Newman and His Works (Paris, 1901) had popularized and made the late cardinal's thought widely accessible in France. As an intellectual, writer, and activist, she became a leading figure in Catholic feminism, lecturing at the Institut catholique de Paris, publishing in periodicals (including Fémina), and serving as vice president of a women's labor organization (pp. 280–85). Tragically, after just ten years of marriage, Lucie died prematurely. World War I broke out one year later.

Laid on top of submission to Pope Pius X's condemnations of liberal Catholicism—including those following the Act of Separation in 1905 and of Le Sillon in 1910 (painfully, the same year as the death of Goyau's mother)—these emotional trials led to Goyau's second phase. Both during and after World War I, his historical writings, especially biographies, complemented widespread efforts to represent an ancient yet ever new "Catholic France." Gondreux characterizes Goyau's long view as "Roman in the idea that the papacy also has a mission towards all of humanity, that it is the guarantor of a universality that is Catholic, Christian, human; and also guarantor of Truth whose rights it defends" (p. 402). This universalizing vision, coinciding with the French Empire's colonial apex, resulted in a third phase: histories of missions, including The Church on the March: Studies of Missionary History (Paris, 1928–36, c. 1300 pp.).

At the end, cataracts deprived Goyau of his passion for reading. His last article for Figaro, "Let's Listen to the Voice of Danzig," appeared on September 1, 1939, the day Hitler invaded Poland and sparked a second world war. After Goyau died the following month, Pope Pius XII sent his widow a handwritten letter of sympathy. In spite of a biography published in 1947, his memory was soon eclipsed. The cold war papacy embraced democratic liberalism as a weapon against communism, while France fought futile wars against decolonization.

Grondeux suggests another reason for the eclipse: profoundly marked by Leo XIII, Goyau remained fiercely ultramontist while engaged in both ralliement and social Catholicism. This apparent contradiction—"intransigent in theory" while "liberal in practice"—defies received categories (p. 401). But recent history may offer a context for re-evaluation:"John Paul II's mixture of intransigence with gestures of openness would have found an attentive exegete" in Goyau (pp. 402–03). [End Page 157]

Stephen Schloesser
Boston College

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