Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bridging Two Worlds: Stephen Larigaudelle Dubuisson, ÉMigré Missionary

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bridging Two Worlds: Stephen Larigaudelle Dubuisson, ÉMigré Missionary

Article excerpt

Aristocrats who survived the era of revolution (1775-1848) experienced the collapse of several worlds. The political ideas of the Enlightenment found expression in a call for liberty, equality, and representative government, which challenged and overturned the rule of monarchies and aristocracies. The Reign of Terror, the establishment of the Directory, and its overthrow by Napoleon in 1799 culminated in a new Empire. A slave revolt in Saint-Domingue led to emigrations and massacres of the white elite and the establishment of the Republic of Haiti in 1803. In December, 1805, Napoleon defeated Prussia and Austria; by 1810 his empire was at its height. The son of a Corsican lawyer, he married an Austrian archduchess. Napoleon I fell in 1815, and the Bourbon monarchy was restored, but the trend toward representative government continued in France and elsewhere in Europe. The rational and scientific ideas of the Enlightenment found expression in the overthrow of Catholic religious institutions, beginning in 1790, when the National Assembly of France passed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and continuing during the Reign of Terror with the systematic de-Christianization of education and public life.1 Under Napoleon the Catholic Church was reinstated by the 1801 Concordat, but after the invasion of the Papal States in 1808 Pope Pius VII became his captive and spent 1812-1814 at Fontainebleau.

In the Old World, the conservative Ultramontane movement emerged to oppose liberalism in ideology as well as republican and democratic governments. Its proponents, such as Joseph de Maistre, extolled obedience to absolute monarchs and placed the pope above kings in the rigid hierarchy of authority. Independence and freedom of religion and of the press were intolerable. Conversely, in the New World, the overthrow of British rule in the United States increased religious tolerance. Prohibitions against public practice of Catholicism were lifted, and Maryland and Virginia passed acts of religious freedom in 1776 and 1786, respectively. A large Catholic population moved from private worship to new churches, and priests were needed for religious instruction and celebration of the liturgy. Sons of Catholic families could obtain higher education at Georgetown College instead of studying abroad. Unlike conservative European Catholicism, a hallmark of American Catholicism was an appreciation of the importance of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.2 Many Protestants chose to worship with their Catholic neighbors and to educate their children in Catholic schools.

An aristocratic Ultramontane, Étienne (Stephen) Larigaudelle Dubuisson, survived the revolutions in Saint-Domingue and France and the rise and fall of Napoleon. In 1815 he entered the Society of Jesus to become an émigré missionary in republican Maryland.3 Pursuing his vocation in the Old and New Worlds, Dubuisson bridged their dissimilar worlds of religion and politics. This article examines his career, his parish work in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, his preaching, agency in miraculous cures, historical writing, and European tour as a mission fundraiser.4

Dubuisson was from a genteel family in Haiti with connections to the minor nobility. He was born in Saint-Domingue on October 21, 1786,5 and raised in Nantes. His parents, slave-holding Creoles, emigrated to France in 1791 before the slave uprising, with at least five children, including Stephen. They were in Brittany shortly after the Reign of Terror in 1794.6 He described himself as born to affluence but raised in the school of hard knocks and imperfectly educated. He was fluent in English by the age of 15 and also spoke German, Italian, and Spanish. At age 18 or 19 (1804-1805), he passed the agrégation examination at the Congrégation de la Sainte-Vierge at Nantes.7 The deficiencies in his education were remedied by course work at Georgetown College.

From May, 1809, to March, 1810, Dubuisson was employed in the receiver general's office of the French Army in Germany and the Army of the Rhine. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.