1.2 Diderot becomes a priest

Tuesday, 11. August 2009

 

At the age of thirteen Diderot was the main character in a solemn ceremony that made him a priest.        The Bishop of Langres conferred the tonsure on Denis Diderot, a rite consisting of cutting off some locks of the candidate’s hair in the form of a cross. He was expected to wear a short mantle and an ecclesiastical collar with its white tabs. Thirteen, that’s very young, though…

For persons who know only the Diderot of later life – a spirited and emphatic freethinker – it may even come as a surprise. The fact is that Diderot’s relatives hoped that he would be allowed to succeed to the lucrative prebend that his uncle, Canon Didier Vigneron, occupied at the local Cathedral.

Unfortunately after Diderot’s ceremony uncle found that his section objected to his being succeeded by his young nephew. Thus the Canon sent one of his men off to Rome to ask the Pope’s permission. Alas, five hours after he had sent his representative, uncle died. His demission was not binding unless the Pope had accepted it while the Canon was still alive. So the chapter immediately elected someone else and the young Diderot’s religious career went glimmering…

 

Today we don’t know if this ambition was completely Diderot’s own, or at least for a part. Coming to think of it, what do we know at the age of thirteen… At this age most of us do cognise the difference between good and evil. An inkling what’s right and wrong to do. But are we able to overlook at such an age the consequences of our deeds…

 

On the other hand it seems as if young people stay longer child nowadays.

Childish. Irresponsible. Dependent. Is this an improvement, I wonder…

 

Tomorrow: Diderot goes to Paris…

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