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Cardinal Archbishop of Tours, French apologist and Scriptural exegete, b. at Chauvigné, France, 12 April, 1817; d. at Tours, 20 January 1896. Having ascertained his vocation to the priesthood, on the completion of his academic studies at the Angers lycée and at Château-Gontier, he studied philosophy in the seminary of Le Mans, where he received the subdiaconate in 1839. From this institution he passed to the Collège de Tessé, which belonged to the Diocese of Le Mans, where, while teaching in one of the middle grades, he continued his own ecclesiastical studies. All through his career he seems to have been blessed with the friendship and sympathetic counsel of the most eminent men among the Catholics of his time and country. The Abbé Bercy, an Orientalist of some distinction, whose notice he attracted at Le Mans and later at Tessé, advised him to make scriptural exegis his special study. Mgr Bouvier ordained him priest (14 June, 1840) and sent him to Paris for a further course in philosophy under Victor Cousin. Meignan made the acquaintance of Ozanam, Montalembert, and others like them, who urged him to prepare for the special controversial needs of the day by continuing his studies in Germany. Following this advice, he became the pupil at Munich of such teachers as Görres, Döllinger, and Windschmann; and when his earlier attraction for Scriptural studies was thoroughly reawakened under the stimulus of the then fresh Tubingen discussions, he repaired to Berlin where he attended the lectures of Neander, Hengstenberg, and Schelling. In, or soon after May, 1843, Meignan returned to Paris to be numbered among the clergy of the archdiocese, but was soon (1845) obliged to visit Rome for the good of his health, which had become impaired. He seemed to recover immediately, and was able to prosecute his sacred studies so successfully that he won a Doctorate of Theology at the Sapienza (March, 1846). Here again he was helped by the friendly interest and advice of many eminent men, of Perrone and Gerbet, as well as by the teaching of Passaglia, Patrizzi, and Theiner. Between this period and 1861, when he became professor of Sacred Scripture at the Sorbonne, he filled various academical positions in the Archdiocese of Paris, of which Mgr Darboy made him vicar-general in 1863. In 1864 he was elevated to the Bishopric of Châlons, in 1882 transferred to the See of Arras, and in 1884 to the Archbishopric of Tours.
By the logic of circumstances he was one of the chief antagonists of Ernest Renan. In his work he aimed to enlighten the lay mind on current topics of controversy and, while giving a knowledge of the assured results of criticism, to supply his readers with the Christian point of view. His aggressive and triumphant career as an apologist began as early as 1856 with the publication of "Les prophéties messianiques. Le Pentateuque" (Paris). In 1860 appeared "M. Renan réfuté par les rationalistes allemands" (Paris) and "Les Evangiles et la critique au XIXe siècle" (Paris); in 1886 "De l'irréligion systématique, ses influences actuelles" (Paris); in 1890 "Salomon, son règne, ses écrits" (Paris); in 1892 "Les prophètes d'Israël et le Messie, depuis Daniel jusqu'à Jean-Baptiste" (Paris). He wrote many other works on kindred topics. His treatment of Messianic prophecy extends far beyond mere verbal exegis, and includes a critical examination of historical events and conditions. Like other great Catholic controversialists of his time, he had to suffer adverse criticism; these criticisms were finally answered by the action of Leo XIII, who raised him to the cardinalate, 15 Dec., 1892.
BOISSONNOT, Le cardinal Meignan (Paris, 1899).