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Marie Dominique Bouix

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One of the best known and most distinguished of modern French canonists, b. 15 May, 1808, at Bagneres-de-Bigorre, in the diocese of Tarbes; d. at Montech, France, 26 December, 1870. In 1825, on the completion of his college course in an institution of his native town, he entered the Society of Jesus at Avignon, with his brother Marcel, and later taught the classics and occupied chairs of philosophy and theology in houses of the order. In 1842, when he was on the eve of his solemn profession, the precarious condition of his health rendered a continuance of the religious life impossible, and he obtained permission to retire from the society. This necessary withdrawal was a great disappointment to Bouix, who to the end of his life maintained the most cordial relations with his former brethren in religion, and received from them many evidences of a reciprocal regard. Father Roothan, General of the Jesuits, created him Doctor of Theology in 1851, in virtue of a power delegated by the Holy See to Jesuit generals; and Bouix's work, "Du Concile Provincial", published in 1850 was dedicated to members of the order with whom he had previously been associated in scholastic work. The first two years of his life as a secular priest were spend in a curacy at the church of Saint Vincent de Paul, in Paris. Here he interested himself especially in the soldiers garrisoned at the capital, and founded in their behalf the society of Saint Maurice, which later spread throughout France. In 1847 he was named to a chaplaincy, and became editor of the "Voix de la Verité", to which he had already been a frequent contributor. In spite of the fact that all self-seeking was entirely foreign to his character, he now became a prominent figure in the political and ecclesiastical life of Paris and was a member of the educational commission with Montalembert and Monsignor Parisis. General Cavaignac, who aspired to the presidency of the republic, thought it wise to endeavour to enlist the sympathies of Bouix. It was at this time, in 1848, that his first book appeared, combating an heretical organization known as the Oeuvre de la Miséricorde. In 1849 his zeal impelled him to abandon for a time all other pursuits to minister to the victims of the cholera, which was then epidemic in Paris. Up to this time he had stood high in the favour of the ecclesiastical authorities of the diocese, but now an event occurred which was destined to affect seriously his ecclesiastical status and to give a new direction to his life work. Monsignor Fornari, the Nuncio at Paris desiring to further the restoration of provincial councils, held a conference with Bouix and the Bollandist Van Hecke, at which it was decided that the best means of influencing public opinion aright would be the preparation of a book explaining the law of the Church on provincial councils. Bouix was charged with this important work, and first published in the "Univers" four articles, setting forth the salient features of the question and preparing the public for the complete treatise, "Du Concile Provincial", which appeared in 1850. A fifth article in the "Univers", simply reaffirming the canon law on synods and combating therefore, in the judgment of some, the tendencies of Gallicanism, was followed immediately by the loss of this chaplaincy. This event determined him to devoted his life to dispelling the prejudices and errors which he believed had largely infected the clergy of France in regard to matters of law and discipline. To equip himself for this work he turned his steps towards Rome, where, with no other means of support than the stipend of his daily Mass, he passed the next four years (1851-55) in study and in the preparation of the several works on canonical topics. In 1854, the degree of Doctor of Both Laws was conferred upon him by order of Pius IX. Returning to Paris in 1855, he continued his studies, and added to the series of treatises which established his fame as a canonist. To further the great purpose to which he had consecrated his life, he founded at Arras, in 1860, the "Revue des sciences ecclésiastiques", of which he was for one year the editor, and in which during the next nine years many important articles appeared from his pen. In 1864, just as his anti-Gallican opinions were about to subject him to new rigours at the hands of Monseigneur Darboy, Bouix was named Vicar-General of the Diocese of Versailles, a sufficient commentary on the division of opinion in the French episcopate as to the character of his teaching. The next year, when the royal exequatur came up for discussion in the French Senate, and Archbishop Darboy advocated there the Gallican view, Bouix answered with a publication which contested the correctness of the archbishop's contentions. The wonderful activity of his pen continued until 1870. Then, when he was broken by labour and disease and was really too weak to undertake a long journey, he went to the Vatican Council as theologian of the Bishop of Montauban, and was able to witness what appeared to him a signal triumph of the principles to which his life had been devoted. He returned with difficulty to France, where with undaunted spirit he endeavoured to complete a work on the church, which he had already planned. It was while engaged on this work that death overtook him at Montech, in a religious house of which his sister was superior. His life was a long battle with Gallicanism, but always remained singularly free from bitterness and discontent, in spite of the difficulties by which he was beset and the atmosphere of combat which his zeal forced him to breathe. As to his reputation as a canonist, while all must acknowledge his wonderful productivity and his high purpose, and while he has been justly called the restorer of the science of canon law in France, it must nevertheless be said that he falls short of being a great canonist; he is too often compiler rather than a genuine author, and he too frequently betrays a lack of that juridical sense which comes more from practice than from theory, and which begets the ability to pronounce justly on the lawfulness and unlawfulness of existing practices. However, the value of his works cannot be questioned, and is proved by the general favour which they still enjoy. Besides many articles, contributed to newspapers and reviews, especially to the "Revue des sciences ecclésiastiques", we owe to the pen of Bouix the following works: "Du concile provincial" (published also in Latin translation, De Concilio Provinciali); "Tractatus de Principiis Juris Canonici"; "Tractatus de Capitulis"; "Tractatus de Jure Liturgico"; "Tractatus de Judiciis Ecclesiasticis", 2 vols; "Tractatus de Parocho"; "Tractatus de Jure Regularium", 2 vols. (an abridged translation of which appeared in German); "Tractatus de Episcopo", 2 vols; "Tractatus de Curiâ Romanâ"; "Tractatusde Papa", 3 vols.; "La verité sur l'assemblée de 1682"; "Le prétendu droit d'exequatur"; "La vérite sur la faculté de théologie de Paris, de 1663 â 1682"; "L'Oeuvre de la miséricorde"; "Méditations pour tous les jours de l'année", 4 vols.; "Le solitaire des rochers"; "Histoire des vingt-six martyrs de Japon," 2 vols. Several of his works were honoured with pontifical letters of commendation, and most of his canonical treatises have gone through three editions.


HURTER, Nomenclatur Literarius, III, 1424; SCHULTE, Geschichte der Quellen, III, 669; WERNZ, Jus Decretalium, I, 454; Revue des Sciences Ecclésiastiques, XXII, 193, XXIII, 129.

About this page

APA citation. Creagh, J. (1907). Marie Dominique Bouix. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Creagh, John. "Marie Dominique Bouix." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Ted Rego.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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