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I. JEAN-BAPTISTE COLBERT (1619-1683)

Marquis de Seignelay, statesman, b. at Rheims, France, 1619; d. at Paris, 1683. Noticed by Mazarin and recommended by him to Louis XIV he became at the latter's death, controller of finances. Through the control of finances he organized nearly every public service in France. Of him, Mme. de Sévigné said: "M. de Colbert thinks of finances only and never of religion." This should not, however, be taken too literally. Colbert was deeply religious, but his religion was tinctured with the evils of the day, Gallicanism and Jansenism. It was Colbert who suggested to Louis XIV the convening of the famous Assembly of the Clergy in 1682 which formulated the four propositions of Gallicanism. In the conflicts which arose between the court of France and Rome Colbert used his influence against Rome. Protestants looked to him as to their protector. The Jansenist De Bourseys was his evil genius as well as his informant on religious questions. Influenced by De Bourseys, he failed to see the real danger of Jansenism, and by treating it with levity, gave it encouragement. The Colbert family gave to the Church a number of nuns and ecclesiastics. Charles Gérin says: "His sisters controlled the great abbeys of Sainte-Marie de Challot, of Sainte-Claire de Reims and of the LeLys near Melun. One of his brothers (Nicolas, 1627-1676) Bishop of Luçon and afterwards of Auxerre, having died, he caused to be appointed in his place his cousin André (1647-1702) who was a member of the assembly of 1682, with another of his cousins, Colbert de St. Pouange, Bishop of Montauban." This passage omits the following three best known kinsmen of the great Colbert.

II. JACQUES-NICOLAS COLBERT (1655-1707)

Archbishop of Rouen. Fisquet (La France pontificale, Rouen, p. 253) describes him as a worthy and learned prelate giving his principal care to the training of his clerics. C. Gérin (loc. cit., p. 188), however, reproaches him for being worldly, a spendthrift, and, in spite of his pompous declarations of orthodoxy, no less sympathetic to Jansenism than his cousin, the Bishop of Montepellier.

III. CHARLES-JOACHIM COLBERT (1667-1738)

Bishop of Montepellier, and a militant Jansenist. He firt appeared to submit to the Bull "Vineam Domini" of Innocent XI, 1705, but when Clement XI issued the Bull "Unigenitus", 1713, he openly sided with the appellants Soanen of Senez, de la Broue of Mirepoix, and Langle of Boulogne. The works published under his name (Montepellier, 1740) are probably, at least in part, from the pen of his advisers, Gaultier and Croz, who are moreover charged with the perversion of their master. In 1702, one of his priests, the Oratorian Pouget, published, at his request, the "Catéchisme de Montpellier " a remarkable book but tinctured with Jansenism and condemned by the Holy See, 1712 and 1721.

IV. MICHEL COLBERT (1633-1702)

An ascetic writer and superior of the Premonstrants. His election was somewhat irregular and had to be validated by papal rescript. He is the author of "Lettres d'un Abbé à ses religieux" and "Lettre de Consolation".


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