Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Thomas Bouquillon

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Born at Warneton, Belgium, 16 May, 1840; died at Brussels, 5 November, 1902; a Belgian theologian, and at the time of his death professor of moral theology in the Catholic University of America. The second son among five children in a family of small landholders long established at Warneton near Ypres, he received his early education in local schools and in the College of St. Louis at Menin. His course in philosophy was made at Roulers; in theology, at the seminary of Bruges. Having entered the Georgian University in Rome, in 1863, he was ordained priest in 1865 and made doctor of theology in 1867. After ten years in the Bruges seminary (1867-77) and eight years in the Catholic University of Lille, France, as professor of moral theology, Dr. Bouquillon retired to the Benedictine monastery at Maredsous and devoted his energies to the preparation of the second edition of his treatise on fundamental moral theology, a work which fixes him permanently among the great men in the history of that science. He accepted the chair of moral theology in the Catholic University at Washington in 1889, where he remained until his death in 1902. He was one of the most eminent theologians of his time, a man of prodigious erudition in theology, history of theology, church history, canon law, and bibliography. Though never in robust health, he was a tireless student, marked by quiet, simple habits, deep faith, broad sympathies, and great concentration. When he entered the field of moral theology he found the science enjoying no prestige, dwindled to mere compilations of conclusions to the neglect of principles. It was out of touch, consequently, with the closely related dogmatic and advancing social sciences, and the methods employed in teaching it were far from perfect. In his whole career as professor and author he aimed to rescue moral theology from that condition and to restore to it its proper scientific method and dogmatic dignity. He emphasized strongly the historical and sociological aspects of principles and problems in the science, neglecting no results of modern research which contributed to clearness and solidity in his exposition of them. To him is due much credit for the improved methods seen in the recent history of moral theology. Possibly few theologians of his day were more widely consulted in Europe and America than Dr. Bouquillon. He enjoyed and retained the intimate confidence of Leo XIII and of many eminent churchmen, and showed throughout his life unyielding devotion to the ideals, teaching, and administration of the Church. His extraordinary grasp of current thought developed in him an open-mindedness and a sympathy with real progress which, combing with other traits, gave a peculiar fascination to his character. In 1891 he was induced to publish a pamphlet on education setting forth the abstract principles involved. His views met with considerable opposition. In all his published relies to critics he maintained his original positions without any modification whatever and ascribed the opposition to misunderstanding of his point of view and of his statement of principles. Dr. Bouquillon was active and influential in the organization of the Catholic Universities of Lille and Washington. In both he gained a name for great practical wisdom in questions of organization and law and for extraordinary power as a teacher.

He published: "Theologia Moralis Fundamentalis" (3d ed., Bruges, 1903), a masterpiece of erudition, analysis, and exposition; "De Virtutibus Theologicis" (2d ed. Bruges, 1890); "De Virtute Religionis" (2 vols., Bruges, 1880); "Education" (Baltimore, 1892); "Education, a Rejoinder to Critics" (Baltimore, 1892); "Education, a Rejoinder to the 'Civilatà Cattolica'" (Baltimore, 1892); the last three of which were translated into French. He published many critical studies in the "Revue des sciences ecclésiastiques", of which he was at one time editor, in the "Nouvelle revue théologique", the "Revue Bénédictine", "The American Catholic Quarterly", and "The Catholic University Bulletin". He edited, with notes and comments, Stapleton, "De Magnitudine Ecclesiæ Romanæ" (Bruges, 1881); 'Leonis XIII Allocutiones, Epistolæ aliaque acta" (2 vols., Bruges, 1887); Platelii, "Synopsis cursus Theologiæ" (Bruges); "Catechismus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini" (Tournai, 1890); "Dies Sacerdotalis" of Dirckinck (Tournai, 1888); Louis de Grenade, "L'Excellence de la très sainte Eucharistic" (Lille); Coret, "L'Année sainte" (1676) (Bruges, 1889).

ROMMEL, Thomas Bouqillon, Notice bio-bibliographique (Brussels, 1903); The Catholic University Bulletin (1903), IX, 152-163.

WILLIAM J. KERBY