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Billuart, Charles-René, Dominican preacher, controversialist, and theologian, b. at Revin, a small town of the Ardennes on the Meuse, Belgium, January 28, 1685; d. there January 20, 1757. He completed his classics at the Jesuit college of Charleville and soon after entered the Dominican convent in his native town. He was sent to the novitiate at Lille, whence he returned a year later for profession, November 7, 1702. He followed the regular courses, receiving ordination in 1708. The two following years he spent at Liege, pursuing higher studies, and in 1710 was appointed professor of philosophy at Douai. The next year he was transferred to Revin, but was speedily promoted to a chair of theology which he held until 1715, when he was appointed master of students at Douai. Here, in 1718, he became second regent of studies and was also designated to preach the Advent and Lenten courses at Liege. Invited to Maastricht by Count Tilly, the famous Catholic governor of the city and Commander-in-Chief of the armies in Holland, he preached on the Real Presence during the Corpus Christi celebration and later defended the doctrine at a public discussion in the town hall. All this had been arranged by the count, who had the satisfaction of seeing the ministers reduced to silence by Billuart's incisive logic and irresistible learning. After three years as Prior of Revin, Billuart was called to the regency of Douai and three years later, October 15, 1728, he was elected provincial. The honors of the doctorate were conferred upon him in 1729. In 1732 he again preached a course at Liege, adding to his fame as a preacher. He next held the office of Prior of Revin for three successive terms until, in 1741, he was reelected provincial. In 1746 he began and in five years completed his celebrated and monumental work, the "Summa S. Thomae hodiernis Academiarum moribus accommodata" (19 vols. Liege, 1746-51). This work had been entrusted to him by the master general of the order nearly fourteen years before. It was a fitting response to a petition of his former colleagues at Douai, and it answered a general demand, as is evidenced by its publication in thirteen standard editions. In 1754, while serving a third term as provincial, Billuart published a compendium, also well known to the scholastic world, in six editions, the "Summa Summae S. Thomae, sive compendium theologise" (Liege, 1754).
Billuart's work is characterized by a facile style, copious treatment, and fearless exposition; by well planned logical divisions and precise, clear-cut distinctions. It ranks among the leading commentaries on St. Thomas. It is esteemed for its annexed historical essays, the materials for which are drawn largely from the ecclesiastical history of Natalis Alexander, O.P. In his moral science Billuart favors a moderate probabiliorism, in which position, however, he no longer commands a very great following outside of his own school. Generally speaking, Billuart stands forth as a theologian of authority. He is one of the foremost writers who have shed lustre on the school of the Angelic Doctor. In his polemical writings, Billuart was a devoted member of his order and a keen disciple of St. Thomas, zealous for the integrity of the saint's accepted teachings. Dignified in bearing, he was gentle to those around him. He was unremitting in his labors and a man of prayer withal, much given to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
His principal works, besides those mentioned, are the following: "Supplementum cursus theologiae" (Liege, 1759); "De mente ecclesise catholicae circa accidentia eucharistise" (Liege, 1715); "Le thomisme venge de sa pretendue condamnation par la constitution Unigenitus" (Brussels, 1720); "Lettre a MM. les docteurs de la faculte de theologie de l'universite de Douai" (1723); "Examen critique des reflexions sur to bref de notre S. Pere le pape Benoit XIII" (1725); "Le thomisme triomphant par le bref Demissas preces de Benoit XIII"; "Reponse . a M. Stievenard, Chanoine de Cambrai, au sujet de son Apologie pour feu Msgr. de Fenelon"; "Avis a M. Stievenard sur la seconde Apologie pour Msgr. Fenelon"; "Justification de l'avis"; "Apologie du thomisme triomphant" (Liege, 1731); "Reponse a l'auteur d'un libelle" (1734); "Apologie . contre l'Histoire du baianisme composee par le Pere Duchesne" (Avignon, 1738); "Sermons du R. P. C. R. Billuart", edited by Abbe Lelievre (2 vols., Paris, 1846).
J. R. Volz.