L’Univers was a Catholic daily founded in 1833 by Abbé J. P. Migne; it was continued by an organization directed by Emmanuel Bailly, then, in 1843, Louis Veuillot became the director. A talented debater and writer, a supporter to the hilt of the policies of Pius IX, Louis Veuillot made of L’Univers a Catholic journal that had a great impact in spite of its limited circulation. In 1879, the direction of the journal passed to Eugene Veuillot, Louis’ brother. The journal ceased publication in 1914.
Bishop de Mazenod occasionally spoke of L’Univers and intervened twice in controversies stirred up by the journal. In 1851, J. Gaume published a book entitled: The canker worm in modern societies or paganism in education. He maintained in a simplistic fashion that the dechristianization of society was due to the use of pagan authors in the schools. Bishop Dupanloup, the bishop of Orleans and a renowned educator, wrote to the professors teaching in his seminaries in defence of the traditional teaching approach and against the ideas pushed by Gaume. L’Univers subsequently published a cutting article written by Veuillot against Bishop Dupanloup, accusing him of setting up in his seminaries a system of education based on paganism. Bishop de Mazenod, who had always held dear the honor of the episcopacy, was saddened by the attack launched by Veuillot, and on June 15, 1852, he wrote Bishop Dupanloup to offer him his sympathy and to affirm his own adhesion to the traditional system of teaching in Catholic schools.
Bishop de Mazenod intervened once again in 1853. At the beginning of the year, Abbé Gaduel, a native of the diocese of Marseilles and vicar general of Orleans, published in L’ami de la religion a series of articles in which he criticized a work by Donoso Cortès: Essay on Catholicism, liberalism and socialism. These articles drew a biting and ironic response from Louis Veuillot. Consequently, Bishop Guibert wrote a February 2, 1953, circular letter to his clergy dealing with the merits and the excesses of L’Univers. On February 26, Bishop de Mazenod congratulated the bishop of Viviers, assuring him that he shared his ideas. In this letter, the Bishop of Marseilles praised the Roman spirit and devotion to the Pope as expressed in L’Univers, but at the same time, he disagreed with the sarcastic and disrespectful treatment of the priesthood. On March 10, he sent a copy of this letter to Cardinal Antonelli, the secretary of state. On March 21, 1853, Pope Pius IX issued the encyclical Inter multiplices on the controversies stirred up especially by L’Univers. Among other things, the Pope stated that the study of the classics was irreplaceable for culture of the mind. He added that Catholic journalists were to be admonished but not condemned. In an editorial in the April 10, 1853 issue of L’Univers, the editors promised more restraint and charity in their work. On April 11, Bishop de Mazenod hastened to inform them of his satisfaction on this point.
The Founder continued to subscribe to the journal. He read it and sent articles to be published in it., especially a circular letter from Bishop Chatrousse about the Oblates in the seminary at Romans (letter to Father Bellon, October 25, 1853) and some articles by Father de L’Hermite on Notre-Dame de Cléry in 1858 and 1859. In an October 5, 1858 letter to Father de L’Hermite, he requested that, as a cost cutting measure, the Oblates would subscribe only to the edition that appeared every second day. But he added: “I do consider this newspaper – in spite of the wrongs for which I reproached it publicly when necessary – as one that is useful to religion whose cause it ably defends.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 12, no. 1389, p. 110)
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.