- Le Ministère des prêtres et des pasteurs: Histoire d’une controverse entre catholiques et réformés français au début du XVIIe siècle by Bruno Hübsch
Doctoral theses rarely have an afterlife. Most theses are read only by a handful of researchers unless they are published by a major academic press, often after substantial revisions. Bruno Hübsch’s thesis has curiously found its way into print some fortyfour years after his dissertation defense in 1965.
Hübsch’s thesis, Le Ministère des prêtres et des pasteurs. Histoire d’une controverse entre catholiques et réformés français au début du XVIIe siècle, offers an analysis of theological controversies [End Page 793] between Catholic and Calvinist clergy in early-seventeenth-century France. Hübsch’s research focused on numerous works of religious polemic written soon after the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The study examines the writings of Catholic clergy such as Jacques Davy du Perron and Pierre de Bérulle, as well as those of Huguenot ministers such as Pierre du Moulin and Moïse Amyraut. Texts by polemicists such as Philippe du Plessis-Mornay are also considered.
Theological conferences were popular events in early-seventeenth-century France, often prompting the publication of voluminous polemical literature surrounding the religious controversies. The famous theological conference at Fontainebleau between Jacques Davy du Perron and Phillippe du Plessis-Mornay in 1600 was hosted by Henri IV and attended by members of his royal court. Du Perron and Plessis-Mornay published arguments and rebuttals for some time after their verbal debates.
Catholics and Calvinists debated the theology of the ministry, disputing the concepts of the Eucharist and the Church as they related to the clerical vocation, the pastoral mission, and the practice of preaching. At stake for Catholics was the office of the priesthood and their conception of the Roman, Apostolic, and Universal Church. Calvinists, meanwhile, defended their Christocentric notion of the Church as a body of the elect, inspired by pastors who acted as spiritual guides preaching the pure Word of God. Clergy in both confessions viewed their opponents as heretics, but defined their theological positions more clearly through the participation in controversies and debates.
Hübsch adopted an ecumenical approach to theological controversy in a period in which confessional approaches dominated religious history. Despite the numerous bitter controversies between Calvinist and Catholic clergy in the early-seventeenth century, Hübsch discovered continuities and shared concepts of vocation and apostolic authority. However novel for its time, Hübsch’s research has naturally been superseded by a number of other historical works published since 1965—many of which are cited in a supplemental bibliography provided in this edition. The book thus is rather dated and will probably have only a limited audience among historians of early modern Europe.
Nonetheless, Le Ministère des prêtres et des pasteurs should interest historians and theologians who study the history of modern Catholicism and French religion in the 1960s. Hübsch wrote his thesis soon after the Second Vatican Council, which promoted ecumenical activities; and a member of the Taizé interfaith community sat on his dissertation committee. Hübsch went on to publish an article in a Taizé review, several translations of theological texts, and a book on Christianity in Madagascar. Hübsch’s thesis concluded with the optimistic notion that modern Catholics and Reformed Christians alike could learn from reflecting on the theological controversies of the early-seventeenth century. [End Page 794]