Friedrich von Hügel bigraphy, stories - Austrian Roman Catholic layman theologian

Friedrich von Hügel : biography

5 May 1852 - 27 January 1925

Friedrich von Hügel (born Friedrich Maria Aloys Franz Karl Freiherr von Hügel, usually known as Baron von Hügel; 5 May 1852–27 January 1925) was an influential Austrian Roman Catholic layman, religious writer, Modernist theologian and Christian apologist.

Life and work

Friedrich von Hügel was born in Florence, Italy, in 1852, to Charles von Hügel, who was serving as Austrian ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and a Scottish mother, Elizabeth Farquharson, who was a convert to Roman Catholicism. Friedrich was educated privately, and moved with his family to England in 1867 when he was fifteen, where he remained for the rest of his life. It has been suggested that Count Felix Sumarokov-Elston, an ataman of the Kuban Cossacks, was his elder brother; but as the Count was born in 1820 this is impossible, and the Count is more likely to have been his uncle, the son of von Hügel's father.Долли Фикельмон. Дневник 1829–1837. Весь пушкинский Петербург / Публикация и комментарии С. Мрочковской–Балашовой — М.: Минувшее, 2009. — 1008 с. — 3000 экз. — ISBN 978-5-902073-66-6.

In 1873 he married Lady Mary Catherine Herbert (1849–1935), daughter of the statesman Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea, by Elizabeth Ash à Court-Repington, an ardent convert to Catholicism and philanthropist. Mary, like von Hügel's mother and her own, was also a convert. The couple had three daughters: Gertrude (1877–1915), Hildegarde (1879–1926), and Thekla (1886–1970) (who became a Carmelite nun). He remained an Austrian citizen until he found himself to be a "hostile alien" after England declared war with Austria in August 1914. He applied for naturalization and received it in December of the same year.

He was a Baron of the Holy Roman Empire (an inherited title), and a frequent visitor to Rome. A self-taught biblical scholar, a linguist with a fluency in French, German and Italian as well as his adopted English, and a master of many subjects, he never held office in the Catholic Church, or an academic post, nor did he ever earn a university degree. However, he is often mentioned alongside John Henry Newman as one of the most influential Catholic thinkers of his day. The scope of his learning was impressive and the list of his correspondents reads like a "who's who" of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European religious leadership (for example: Alfred Loisy, Maurice Blondel, George Tyrrell, Evelyn Underhill and Maude Petre). Von Hügel did much to bring the work of the philosophers Ernst Troeltsch and Rudolf Christoph Eucken to the attention of the English-speaking public, despite the hostility during and after the First World War to all things German.

When the University of Oxford granted him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1920, it was the first time since the Reformation that a Roman Catholic had been so honored by that university. (The University of St. Andrews, where the von Hügel archivesSt Andrews University Library Special Collections – Manuscripts – are now located, awarded him an honorary degree in 1914.)

Baron von Hügel was deeply engaged in theological discussions with a wide group of scholars associated with the turn-of-the-century Modernist controversy. His scholarly concerns included the relationship of Christianity to history, ecumenism, mysticism, the philosophy of religion, and the rejection of much of the immanentism in nineteenth-century theology. Under Pope Pius X, prompted by conservatives such as Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, there was a backlash against many of the Modernist thinkers, and von Hügel attempted to negotiate a middle way of restraint, while remaining true to the principles of intellectual rigour and free enquiry.

Secondary Sources

  • David L. Johns, Mysticism and Ethics in Friedrich von Hügel (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004) ISBN 0-7734-6222-8
  • James J. Kelly, Baron Friedrich von Hügel's Philosophy of Religion (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1983) ISBN 90-6186-146-2
  • Ellen M. Leonard, Creative Tension: the Spiritual Legacy of Friedrich von Hügel (Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 2005) ISBN 0-940866-66-8; Paperback ISBN 0-940866-67-6
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