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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried