Gerson, John

Gerson, John

(Jean Charlier de Gerson) (gûr`sən; zhäN shärlyā` də zhârsôN`), 1363–1429, French ecclesiastical statesman and writer. He studied (1377–94) under Pierre d'AillyAilly, Pierre d'
, 1350–1420, French theologian and writer, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the teacher of John Gerson and was Gerson's predecessor as chancellor of the Univ. of Paris (1385–95).
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 at the Univ. of Paris, where he took his doctorate in theology and succeeded Ailly as chancellor (1395). Both Ailly and Gerson were anxious to end the Great Schism (see Schism, GreatSchism, Great,
or Schism of the West,
division in the Roman Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. There was no question of faith or practice involved; the schism was a matter of persons and politics.
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). When they were unsuccessful in having both Benedict XIII (see Luna, Pedro deLuna, Pedro de
, 1328?–1423?, Aragonese churchman, antipope (1394–1417) with the name Benedict XIII. He was a doctor of canon law and as cardinal (1375) became an outstanding member of the Curia Romana.
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) and Gregory XII resign, they began to urge that the schism be ended by action of a general council. The Council of Pisa resulted, and Gerson wrote a tract (1409) to defend it. The tract is a classic statement of the counciliar theory (later condemned)—that a council can supersede the pope when the good of the church requires it. Gerson was not at Pisa, but he did attend (1414) the Council of Constance (see Constance, Council ofConstance, Council of,
1414–18, council of the Roman Catholic Church, some of its sessions being reckoned as the 16th ecumenical council. It was summoned to end the Great Schism (see Schism, Great), in which three men were claiming to be pope—Gregory XII (since
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) as head of the French delegation. There, he supported Ailly in ending the schism and led in the condemnation of John HussHuss, John
, Czech Jan Hus , 1369?–1415, Czech religious reformer. Early Life

Of peasant origin, he was born in Husinec, Bohemia (from which his name is derived). He studied theology at the Univ. of Prague, was ordained a priest c.
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. But Gerson had made an enemy of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy; from 1408 he had publicly demanded that John do penance for the murder of Louis, duc d'Orléans. Fearing John, Gerson did not return to France from Constance but went to Vienna to teach. From 1419 he lived in Lyons, where he wrote many works, chiefly theological, and a tract defending Joan of Arc. He strongly condemned as immoral the Roman de la Rose of Jean de Meun. Gerson opposed the nominalist philosophy of William of OccamWilliam of Occam or Ockham
, c.1285–c.1349, English scholastic philosopher. A Franciscan, Occam studied and taught at Oxford from c.
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, and as chancellor he began the change to realism as the official philosophy of the Univ. of Paris.

Bibliography

See J. B. Morrall, Gerson and the Great Schism (1960); D. C. Brown, Pastor and Laity in the Theology of Jean Gerson (1987).

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