Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/485

This page needs to be proofread.


MOHLER


431


MOHLER


founder of this science among Catholics through his classical work, "Symbolik odor Darstellung der dog- matischen Gegensatze der Kaflioliken und Prote- stanten nach ihren offentlichcn Bekermtnisschriften" (Mainz, 1832; 13th ed., 1904). He demonstrated that there could be no incompatibility between what was truly rational and what was truly Christian, both finding their sole, direct, and entirely adequate ex- pression in Catholic dogma. He showed also how Catholic doctrine held the middle course between the extremes of Protestantism, e. g., between a super- naturalism and ]iietism that denied the rights of rea- son, and a naturalism and rationalism that rejected absolutely the supernatural. With great clearness he exhibited the contradiction between Catholic and Protestant principles; for instance, in the doctrine of Christian anthropology. On this basis he proved that other differences of doctrine regarding the Fall of Man, the Redemption, the sacraments, and even the Church, were only logical consequences of the anthro- pological views of the leaders of the Reformation. Contradictory as it may seem, it was Mohler's irenic nature that imjielled him to publish this work. He was per.si;:uled Hint a knowledge of the real character of the great relifjiinis conflict, based on the genuine and original dorvunents, was a necessary preliminary to any definite appeal to the tribunal of truth. Such investigations seemed to him important, not only for theologians, but also for every true scholar, the truth being nowhere so important as in matters of faith. The work was enthusiastically received, and went through five editions in six years. An English translation by James Burton Robertson appeared in London in 1843 under the title "Symbolism; or Exposition of Doc- trinal Differences between Catholics and Protestants, as evidenced by their Symbolical Writings" (reprint, London and New York, 1894), and the work was also tran.slated into French and Italian. "What many had thought and felt, but could not clearly under- stand, much less adequately express, was brought out by Mohler with marvellous insight and in the clearest way" (Kihn). His German diction was also perfect. The "Symbolik" acted like an electric spark, and stirred up many both in and out of the Church. Nat- urally, Protestant theologians took up the gauntlet. Marheineke replied with moderation in his work, "Ueber Dr. J. A. Mohlers Symbolik" (Berlin, 1833), and Nitzseh in his "Eine protestantische Beantwort- ung der Symbolik Dr. Mohlers" (Hamburg. 183.5). On the other hand his Tubingen colleague. Professor Baur, abused Mohler in a prolix rejoinder, " DerGcgen- satz des Katholicismus und Protestantismus, nach den Principien und Hauptdogmen der beiden Lehr- begriffe. Mit besonderer RUcksicht auf Dr. Mohlers Symbolik" (Tubingen, 1834). Mohler replied with "Neue Untersuchungen der Lehrgegensiitze zwischen den Katholiken und Protestanten. Eine Verteidi- gung meiner Symbolik gegen die Kritik des Herm Prof. D. Baur"" (Tiibingen, 1834; 5th ed., with intro- duction and notes by Schanz, Ratisbon, 1900), to which Baur again replied in the same year. In his reply Mohler was able to state with greater clearness certain points of difference, and to deal more pro- foundly with certain doubts and criticisms. These additions were edited anew by Raich in "Ergiin- zungen zu Mohlers Symbolik aus dessen Schrift: Neue Unterschungen" (Mainz, 1889; latest ed., 1906). This controversy with Baur made Tiibingen disagreeable to Mohler, and ho decided to seek some other academic centre. The Prussian Government sought to attract the celebrated theologian to the Catholic theological faculty at one of its universities. Negotiations were begun and Mohler was not unwilling to go to Bonn. But Professor Hermes, who had Archbishop Spiegel on his side, prevented the execution of this design. Dollinger, his intimate friend, was meanwhile active in his behalf at Munich, and through his influence


Mohler was appointed to the Catholic theological faculty at that university to lecture on the exegesis of the New Testament.

He began at Munich with lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, but in the next term he added lectures on Church history and patrology. His intercourse with professors of like mind raised his spirits, and his health, which had failed at Tubingen, improved. He devoted himself with fervour to the prejiaration of a history of monasticism, with the intention of setting forth the immeasurable influence of the Benedictine Order on Western civilization. While he cherished a warm attachment for the sons of St. Benedict, he was of opinion that the suspension of the Society of Jesus was not, historically speaking, to be regretted. His plan, however, was never realized. After a mild at- tack of cholera in 1836, he was stricken with a pul- monary ailment which compelled him to cease lectur- ing and seek health or alleviation at Meran in the Tyrol. ."Vfler the condemnation of Hermesianism by Gregory XV'l, Hie Prussian Government sought again to secure Mcihlcr for Bonn, hoping perhajjs that this would hclj) to allay the controversies that had arisen at Cologne. His love of peace, however, and his deli- cate health caused him to refuse. Early in 1838 the King of Bavaria bestowed on him the Order of St. Michael, and on 22 March made him dean of the ca^- thedral of WUrzburg. Mohler never took up this office, however, for he died a few weeks later in the prime of life, not yet forty-two years of age, deeply lamented by king and people, regretted by his friends and by all who knew him. A monument, subscribed for by almost all Catholic Germany, adorns his grave in the cemetery at Munich, with the inscription: "De- fensor fidei, literarum decus, ecclesia; solamen" (Defender of the faith, ornament of letters, consolation of the Church) . The clergy of Wiirtemberg erected an- other monument to his memory at his birthplace, at the dedication of which in 1880 his disciple and suc- cessor in Tiibingen, Bi.shop Hefele of Rottenburg, paid a noble tribute to his fame.

Mohler, as Kihn has well shown, had an uncom- monly attractive personality. He was an ideal priest, almost perfect in stature and comeliness, deeply pious and of childlike modesty, with a heart full of affection and gentleness, penetrated with the desire for peace in personal intercourse and for the restoration of har- mony between the different creeds. He exercised a peculiar fascination over all who approached him, and men of every belief and party confidently turned to him on all manner of questions. He charmed his hearers by his dignified bearing, his kindly, intelligent eye, his classic diction, and his ripe knowledge. It may be said that he gave new life to the science of the- ology; also, and this is greater praise, that he re- awakened the religious spirit of the age. He was, in the judgment of a Protestant (Realcncyklopiidie fUr prot. Theol., 2nd ed., IX, 662 sqq.), an epoch-making mind and a brilliant light of the Catholic Church; while, according to the same writer, the Evangelical Church, to which he owed much, had to thank him for fresh stimulus and for what it learned from his fine, keen exposition of ecclesiastical development. After his death Dollinger edited most of his minor writings in "Gesammelle Schriften und Aufsiitze" (2 vols., Ratisbon, 1839-40). They are numerous, the most noteworthy being "Beleuclitung der 1 )erikselirift fur die Aufhebung des den kaf holischen ( ieistliihen vorge- schricbenen Colibates", in which he refutes with great earnestness the opponents of jiriestly celibacy, and proves the sublimity of the virginal life from the idea of the Christian priesthood, from reason, and from the New Testament. Other important studies are: "Ilieronymus und Augustin im Streit uber Gala- ter 2, 14" (I, 1 .qq.) ; "Ueber den Brief an Diognetus" (I, 19 sqq.), "Fragraentc aus und fiber Pseudoisidor" (I, 283 sqq.), ripe fruits of his studies of the Fathers