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Periodical Literature, Belgium

Periodical Literature (Belgium)

Historical Outline of the Press in Belgium

Periodical literature in Belgium may be traced back to 1605 when the Archduke and Archduchess Albert and Isabella granted Abraham Verhoeven of Antwerp the privilege of publishing his newspaper "Nieuwe Tijdingen". But it is in the Dutch period of Belgian history that Catholic literature really originated. At that time appeared the "Spectateur Belge" of Father de Foere, which several times provoked the anger of William I; the "Courrier de la Meuse", founded at Liège in 1820 by Kersten; the "Catholique des Pays-Bas" and the "Vaderland", both founded at Ghent by de Neve; the "Politique de Gand", the "Noord-Brabanter", all showing remarkable zeal in defending the Catholic Church at a time when Catholic journalists were threatened with imprisonment. A few years after the establishment of Belgian independence the "Courrier de la Meuse" was transferred from Liège to Brussels, and took the name of "Journal de Bruxelles". Long afterwards under the editorship of the Baron Prosper de Haulleville (died 1899) it became the leading Catholic organ; but now it has lost its prominence.

Causes which stopped its Development

The Revolution of 1830 brought Belgium the liberty of the press. The majority of the population and of the National Congress were Catholics, but the Catholic Press from 1830 to 1874 improved very slowly. The first cause of this was the disagreement between the Catholics and the Catholic Liberals; the next was the neglect of the old and the establishment of new publications. Among the new publications were "Le nouveau conservateur belge", an ecclesiastical and literary magazine, founded in 1830 and discontinued in 1835; the "Messager des sciences historiques et des arts de la Belgique", founded in 1833 and discontinued in 1896; the "Revue Belge" of 1834, which lasted only a few years; the "Revue catholique de Louvain", devoted to religious controversy, history, and apologetics; from 1843 till 1884 it counted among its contributors the foremost professors of the University of Louvain. Another obstacle to the growth of the Catholic Press is the fact that the people of Belgium consist of two races with different languages, customs, and habits. Also the competition of French journals injured the growth of the Belgian press. French periodicals and newspapers appear in Brussels almost at the same time as in Paris. Besides their intrinsic merits, they have the advantage of being fashionable. Moreover, many Belgian writers have contributed to French periodicals. As an instance we may name the "Mélanges théologiques", a review of moral theology and canon law founded by a society of Belgian ecclesiastics at Liège in 1847. This magazine removed to Paris in 1856, where it was styled "Revue Théologique", and was conducted by a committee of French and Belgian priests. In 1861 it settled at Louvain, and there continued many years.

Present State

About the middle of the last century, the religious question became prominent in Belgium. Catholics felt the need of a vigorous defence against irreligion and Freemasonry. New life was infused into the Catholic Press and to-day its condition is more satisfactory.

(1) Dailies

Out of a total of 86 political daily papers 38 are Catholic. In consequence of the constant political activity all the important towns, even the suburbs of Brussels, have their local daily papers. Bruges has "La Patrie"; Charleroi, "Le Pays Wallon", a democratic journal of wide and vigorous efficiency; Liège, the "Gazette de Liège", which under editorship of Demarteau (1909) has reached a larger circulation than all the other Liège newspapers together. The "Bien Public", founded at Ghent in 1853 by Senator Lammens, Count de Hemptine, and others, circulates in all the provinces of Belgium, especially among the clergy. Its chief editor, Count Verspeyen, who has just celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a journalist, has secured for it a well-deserved reputation on thoroughly Catholic lines. The most influential Catholic journal in Belgium is the "Patriote", founded in Brussels in 1883 by M. Jourdain, which with its local issue the "National" has a circulation of 180,000. His bold and skilful attacks brought about the downfall of the Liberal Government in 1884. The "XX e Siècle", founded also in Brussels by the late Duke d'Ursel, the present ministers Helleputte, de Brocqueville, and others, is more democratic. In Brussels also is published "Het Nieuws van den Dag", the most popular newspaper among the Flemings.

(2) Weeklies

Of the 1200 Belgian weeklies, the Catholics certainly control more than one-half. Each important locality has its political and illustrated weeklies. Many parishes have their "Bulletin paroissial". Each diocese publishes its "Semaine religieuse". In Mechlin the organ of the archbishopric, which is styled "La Vie diocésaine", receives contributions from Cardinal Mercier.

(3) Reviews and Magazines

About a thousand reviews and magazines are published in Belgium, many of them by Catholics.

(a) Theology and Religion

The "Revue théologique" mentioned above was replaced in 1907 by the "Nouvelle revue théologique", edited by Father Besson. Besides this small but useful review, about 150 periodicals of various descriptions treat of theology, apologetics, missions, special devotions etc. The Jesuits have their "Missions belges de la Compagnie de Jésus", a well-illustrated monthly magazine, which in 1899 took the place of the old "Précis historiques", founded by Father Terwecoren. The Fathers of Scheut (near Brussels) have their "Missions en Chine, au Congo et aux Philippines. Other religious congregations and some large monasteries issue reports of their pious works, or reviews of piety, of liturgy, hagiography, etc.

(b) Scientific Reviews

The Catholic standard scientific review is the "Revue des questions scientifiques", a large quarterly to which is joined a smaller one of a more technical character. Both were founded in 1877 by Father Carbonnelle, S.J., and a Franco-Belgian committee of prominent Catholic scientists. Their motto: Nulla unquam inter fidem et rationem vera dissensio esse potest (Conc. Vatican.) found a practical confirmation in the sound scientific character of the whole series. The present editors are Prof. Mansion and Father Thirion. The "Revue néo-scolastique" was founded in 1894 by Cardinal Mercier, while directing his Institut de philosophie thomiste at Louvain, with which it is closely connected (quarterly: present editor, Prof. de Wulf). With the same institution is connected the "Revue catholique de droit", of Prof. Crahay of Liège, and the "Revue sociale catholique", of Mgr Deploige, Prof. Thiery, Prof. Defourny, and others. At Louvain also appear some special scientific reviews, such as the "Revue médicale" and the celebrated magazine of cytology entitled "La Cellule" of the late Canon Carnoy (present editor, Prof. Gilson). Also some philosophical reviews: "Le Muséon" of the late Mgr de Harlez, continued by Prof. Colinet, Prof. Lefort, and others; "Le Musée belge" of Prof. Collard and Prof. Waltzing (the latter of the Liège University); the "Leucensche Bijdragen" (for Dutch philology), edited by Prof. Colinet, Lecoutere, and others. There is also the Belgian law review, "Revue pratique des sociétés civiles", founded by Prof. Nyssens, Minister of Labour, and continued by Prof. Corbiau. Outside of Louvain, we notice "Mathesis" (Prof. Mansion of Ghent); the "Courrier littéraire et mathématique", edited by Prof. H. Gelin and the present writer as a guide for preparing for public examinations.

(c) Historical Reviews

The largest is the important "Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique", a quarterly founded in 1900 by Canon Cauchie and Canon Ladeuze, now Mgr Ladeuze, Rector of Louvain University. Others are: the "Revue bénédictine", which in 1895 took the place of the "Messager des fidèles", edited since 1884 at the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous by Dom Gerard van Caloen; the "Archives Belges" (Prof. G. Kurth, at Liège, since 1899); the "Analectes pour servir à l'histoire de l'Ordre de Prémontré", edited at the Park Abbey (Louvain) by Father van Waffelghem. Mention should also be made of the "Analecta Bollandiana" (see BOLLANDISTS).

(d) Literature

The "Revue Générale", though it deals, according to its title, with all matters of common interest, is chiefly a literary review. This monthly publication, founded in 1863, reckoned among its ordinary contributors the distinguished statesmen Malou, Deschamps, and Nothomb, Deputy Coomans, Prof. de Monge, the publicist Prosper de Haulleville etc. To-day the parliamentary leader, M. Ch. Woeste, makes it the vehicle of his political views. M. Eug. Gilbert regularly contributes to it a most valuable literary chronicle. With this magazine we may mention the "Dietsche Warande en Belfort". Other Catholic literary reviews are: "Le Magasin Littéraire", of Ghent; "La Lutte" and "Le Journal des gens de lettres belges", of Brussels, which have pleaded for Catholic art, but have been succeeded by younger magazines such as "Durandal", a monthly illustrated review edited by Abbé Moeller, "Le Catholique", and "La Revue Jeune".

(e) Art Reviews

Most of these literary reviews touch upon art questions, but there are also "Revue de l'art chrétien", a review of medieval archæology; the "Courrier de Saint Grégoire" and "Musica sacra" which aims at promoting the use of sound music in Church services; "Le Bulletin de la Société d'art et d'histoire du diocèse de Liège", of which Mgr Rutten, now Bishop of Liège, was the president for a long time; the "Bulletin des métiers d'art", which serves as the organ of the St. Luke schools, founded by Brother Marès for teaching the technical arts on Christian principles.


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