Louis Billot (12 January 1846 in Sierck-les-Bains, Moselle, France – 18 December 1931 in Ariccia, Latium, Italy) was a French Jesuit priest and theologian. Raised to the cardinalate in 1911, he resigned from it in 1927, the only cleric to have done so in the twentieth century.
Louis Billot was born in and studied at the seminaries in Metz, Bordeaux, and Blois. Ordained a priest on 22 May 1869, he entered the Society of Jesus six months later, on 25 November, in Angers. Billot did pastoral work in Paris from 1875 to 1878, and then in Laval until 1879.
He taught at the Catholic University of Angers from 1879 to 1882, and made his final vows as a Jesuit on 2 February 1883, whilst teaching at the Jesuit Scholasticate on Jersey. In 1885, Billot became a professor of dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In addition his academic post, he was named a consultor to the Holy Office on 19 June 1909.
A keen proponent of Thomistic scholasticism, Billot became a leading figure in metaphysical and speculative theology. His strong influence on Catholic theology was created by his numerous published works and his many students. He was instrumental in drafting the 1907 encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis of Pope Pius X, and was a close friend of Fr. Henri Le Floch, rector of the French Seminary in Rome.
Pius X created him Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in via Lata in the consistory of 27 November 1911. Billot was one of the cardinal electors in the conclave of 1914, and later participated in that of 1922 as well. He was also one of the three Cardinal-Presidents of the Pontifical Academy "S. Tommaso" in Rome, together with Benedetto Lorenzelli and Michele Lega. He was appointed a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on 6 February 1923.
Billot's support for the deeply conservative movement Action Française eventually created tension between him and the Vatican. Pope Pius XI believed that the movement used Catholicism for its own political ends and placed the movement's newspaper on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum which meant that it was banned from all Catholic homes. Billot expressed strong disagreement with the decision, saying that the political activities of monarchist Catholics ought not to be censured by Rome.
After a stormy meeting with Pope Pius XI Billot submitted his resignation from the cardinalate on 13 September 1927, and the Pope accepted it eight days later, on 21 September. Billot's forfeiture was made public to his former colleagues in the College of Cardinals at the consistory of the following 19 December. He was the only cardinal to resign that rank during the twentieth century.
- Salvador Miranda, "Cardinals who resigned the cardinalate (1449-1927)"
- McCool, Gerald A. "Nineteenth-century Scholasticism: The Search for a Unitary Method". Fordham University Press: 1989.
- TIME Magazine. Billot v. Pope October 3, 1927
- Many historians believe that, in fact, the pope demanded that he offer his resignation