Obituary: Georges Hourdin

WHEN GEORGES Hourdin celebrated his hundredth birthday on 3 January this year, this ever-active journalist was interviewed by many of his colleagues. To one of them he confided (or did he assert?), "I am always having trouble with the Pope!" This was persistently the problem with the left-wing Catholic ("catho de gauche" was his proud description of himself), particularly in his interpretation of how he should follow the decisions and implications of the Second Vatican Council; it was also the problem for French Catholics.

Everyone agrees that French Catholicism has declined over the last half- century in certain matters of personal belief and behaviour, but there is wide acceptance of the role the Church should play in expressing its opinions on certain subjects that concern society. Thus the Church's views on conditions in the Third World, on racism, unemployment or nuclear weapons are respected. Hourdin saw himself both as expres-sing church opinions and discussing their value and their relevance.

He was born into a part of France where the Church was always strong, at Nantes. His mother was exceptionally devout. She believed in the anti- revolutionary tradition of the Vendee, she was a monarchist who hated the Republic. At the College Stanislas in Nantes he received his education under the disturbing influence of Jansenism.

The paradox in Hourdin's family was that his mother was devoted to her husband, who earned his living as a timber merchant and was determinedly Socialist and Republican in terms of belief. Under his influence Hourdin studied law and economics at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and became acquainted with the excitements of politics.

The discovery that he suffered from epilepsy prevented him from seeking an active career as a politician and from 1927 he worked as a journalist, having associated closely with the Dominicans who had brought him a gentler version of Christianity and the necessity of working for social reforms. He was therefore attracted to the Parti Democrate Populaire, founded in November 1924. He worked in its press office, issuing statements and definitions of policy.

Hourdin was to adhere to the principles of this party all his life. That is to say that democracy should also be social and economic; that there should be co-operation between employers and workers; that the individual should be a member of different communities, such as trade unions or religious associations, but the family was of the first importance; that there should be co-operation and friendship between nations.

He wrote for the party's Le Petit Democrate, a weekly paper with a circulation of 20,000. He also collaborated with papers such as L'Aube and Sept, and worked with famous Catholic writers such as Francois Mauriac and Charles Maritain. Their enemy was the extreme right of Charles Maurras.

Hourdin married Genevieve Oriolle, with whom he had eight children. One daughter was killed by an American bomb in 1943. He had become the editor of the Catholic review Temps Present but this was suppressed in 1940. He therefore devoted himself to social work, with particular reference to families living in the occupied zone. He supported the pro-Natalist movement and worked with Emilien Amaury, who had escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp and begun a resistance group based in the Rue de Lille in Paris.

Hourdin's life was transformed in January 1945 when the weekly magazine La Vie Catholique Illustree was launched, with himself as the chief editor. It soon had a circulation of half a million and it was said that 12 per cent of the population read it. It set out to be a family paper, hoping to make people conscious of Christianity rather than being specifically doctrinal.

Hourdin believed that an editor should stimulate controversy. The paper's journalists had violent discussions and this was communicated to the readers. Thus the Communists were attacked, but worker priests were encouraged; the Soviet Union was criticised but the Cold War was rejected; good Frenchmen were fighting and being killed in Indo-China and Algeria, but decolonisation was both inevitable and desirable.

Readers were often lost, Hourdin himself was frequently attacked. He claimed he was totally free. He was also very energetic. He published 23 books on such subjects as Camus, Simone de Beauvoir or notably, in 1969, a book entitled Les Chretiens contre la societe de consummation ("Christians against the Consumer Society"). In 1951 he published another magazine, Radio-Cinema, which became, inevitably, Telerama.

He wanted to bring the Gospels into line with modern life. This brought him much controversy. But he sought to protect those who suffered. His book Le Malheur innocent (1976), based upon the cruel disability of one of his daughters, sought to protect the handicapped and was everywhere recognised as having great value. He was a determined man and he did much good.

Georges Hourdin, journalist: born Nantes, France 3 January 1899; married Genevieve Oriolle (deceased; four daughters, three sons, and one daughter deceased); died Paris 29 June 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy