He was a priest and philosophical and political writer who attempted to combine political liberalism with Roman Catholicism after French Revolution. He was born on June 19, 1782, at Saint-Malo, France. He died on February 27, 1854, at Paris. Born to a bourgeois family whose liberal sympathies had been chastened by the French Revolution, he and his elder brother, Jean early conceived the idea of a revival of Catholicism as the key to social regeneration. After Napoleon’s restoration of the French Church, the brothers sketched a program of reform in Reflexions sur l’etat de l’eglise en France pendant le 18e siècle et sur sa situation actuelle (1808; “Reflections on the State of the Church in France During the Eighteenth Century and Her Present Situation”). Five years later, at the height of the Emperor’s conflict with the papacy, they produced a defense of Ultramontanism (a movement supporting papal prerogatives, in contrast to Gallicanism). Ordained a priest in 1816, Lamennais published in the following year the first volume of his Essai sur l’indifference en matiere de religion (“Essay on Indifference Toward Religion”). Appealing to tradition rather than private judgment, it won immediate fame. But his position began to shift. Although he attacked the Gallicanism of the bishops and the monarchy in his book Des progress de la revolution et de la guerre contra legalize (1829; “On the Progress of the Revolution and the War Against the Church”), the work showed his readiness to combine Catholicism with political liberalism in France.
After the July, Revolution in 1830, Lamennais founded Leavened with Henri Lacordaire, Charles de Montalembert, and a group of enthusiastic liberal Catholic writers. The paper, which advocated democratic principle and church-state separation, antagonized both the church and the state in France and despite its Ultramontanism found little favor in Rome, for Pope Gregory XVI had no wish to assume the revolutionary role designed for him. Publication of the paper was suspended in November 1831, and after a vain appeal to the Pope its principles were condemned in the encyclical Mirari Vos (August 1832). Lamennais then attacked the papacy and the European monarchs in Paroles d’ un croyani (1834), provoking the encyclical Singulari Nos (July 1834), which lead to his severance from the church. He continued to write philosophical and literary works, including Le Livre du people (1838); “The Book of the People”), and he served in the constituent assembly after the Revolution of 1848. But his hopes were again defeated when the coup d’etat set the seal on Louis-Napoleon’s dictatorship. Having refused to be reconciled to the church, Lamennais was buried in a pauper’s grave. His life and works are discussed in A.R. Vidler’s Prophecy and Papacy: A Study of Lamennais, the Church and the Revolution (1954).