Pierre Francois le Courayer was born in Rouen, France on November 17, 1681. He became a Catholic theologian. While canon regular and librarian of the abbey of St Genevieve at Paris, he conducted a correspondence with Archbishop Wake on the subject of episcopal succession in England. This supplied him with material for a dissertation proclaiming that the English clergy had legitimate claim to apostolic succession, “A Defense of the Validity of English Ordinations”.
The dissertation was an attempt to prove that there has been no break in the line of ordination from the apostles to the English clergy, thus demonstrating that England’s Protestant clergy descended in unbroken succession from the apostles (a strong point in proving their legitimacy).
Upon publication of his work in Brussels Pierre suffered persecution for his claims and with the help of Bishop Atterbury, then in exile in Paris, he took refuge in England, where he was presented by the University of Oxford with a doctor’s degree in 1723.
He was eager to see the reunification of Protestants and Catholics. His dissertation points out that the Catholic theologians held prejudices that affected their ability to accept historical facts that favoured the validity of Anglican succession.
He wrote, “How much soever separated we may be from each other, our reunion is nothing impossible.”
In 1736 he published a French translation of Paolo Sarpi’s History of the Council of Trent, and dedicated it to Queen Caroline, from whom he received a pension of £200 a year. Besides this he translated Sleidan’s History of the Reformation, and wrote several theological works.
At the time his Sleidan’s History was presented he described himself as “almost blind and deaf” and thus not fit to pay a visit to the Archbishop of Canterbury to present his work in person. He sent the work via his friend Dr Ducarel on May 30, 1769.
Although he always claimed to be a true Catholic, he rejected some Catholic ideas which he considered to be superstitious and he was excommunicated for his defence of the Anglican orders.
He died in London on the 17th of October 1776, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. In his will, dated two years before his death, he declared himself still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, although dissenting from many of its opinions.