The Social Doctrine of Bishop Charles Freppel and the School of Angers
The encyclical Rerum novarum, published in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, is considered the cornerstone of modern Catholic social thought. In the years prior to its release a lively debate occurred throughout the Catholic world about the appropriate response of the Church to the realities of modern industrialized economies. This study examines one perspective in this discussion, largely represented by the thought of Bishop Charles Freppel of Angers (1827 - 1891). Freppel was the leader of the School of Angers, a group whose distinctive feature was its general distrust of state intervention as a resolution to the social question. In addition to his two decades as bishop of Angers, Freppel was also a deputy in the Chamber of Deputies from 1880 until his death in 1891. He thus serves as an interesting figure of study, offering insights into both the internal debates within the Catholic Church regarding the social question and the delicate question of the relationship between Church and State in the French Third Republic. Two collections of Freppel's works form the basis for the majority of this study: the first contains his homilies and pastoral letters as bishop, the second his speeches as deputy. In addition to Freppel, the broader social doctrine of the School of Angers will be considered by examining the thought of proponents such as Charles Perin and Claudio Jannet, and the primary periodical that presented this view. The proceedings of social congresses, especially those held in Liege and Angers in 1890, will also be examined as representative of diverging models of social Catholicism. Some important issues of disagreement included the relationship between justice and charity, and the role of state intervention in resolving the social question. A central theme that emerges is the manner in which the political context of the French Third Republic played a pivotal role in shaping the thought of Freppel and the School of Angers throughout the study. Finally, the minor but discernible influence of the School of Angers on Rerum novarum will be considered.
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