1. Cornelius Jansenius
Much of the Lutheran position can be found in a post-tridentine movement, called `Jansenism'. The man whose name it bears, Cornelius Jansenius, is, however, not its founder.
Cornelius Jansenius[i] was born on November 3, 1585, in the Republic of the United Netherlands, in the small village of Acquoy, near Leerdam, on the river Merwede. Naturally, his humble parents did not call themselves `Jansenius'; the family name was `Jansen' (one of the most common Dutch names). The family was Roman Catholic. The young Cornelius went to school in nearby Leerdam, where he was remarked for his acute intelligence. He continued his studies at the College of Saint Jerome in Utrecht, but had to return home to assist his parents by working as a carpenter. Friends of the family helped the promising young man out, so that he could go back to Utrecht and thence to Louvain, where he studied philosophy under the guidance of the Jesuits. He completed these studies in 1604 as primus.
Jansenius' favourite object of study was St.Augustine's theology, especially his doctrine of grace. Grace was a much discussed subject in Catholic circles. From Louvain Jansenius went to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Sorbonne. In 1612 he became principal of a college in Bayonne, founded by the local bishop. He found that this did not leave him sufficient time for his studies, so he quit this post on July 1, 1615, in order to join his good friend Jean Du Vergier de Hauranne, abbé de Saint Cyran (1581-1643), in his country house at Champré. He had been ordained a priest in Malines in 1614.
In these quiet surroundings he pursued his studies with the utmost assiduity. He said later in his life that he had read all the works of St.Augustine ten times and those on grace and Pelagianism thirty times. The result was an incredible mass of notes. When Du Vergier must leave Champré in 1617, Jansenius went to Louvain, where he acted as the principal of the College of St.Pulcheria; he taught theology and Hebrew at this institution. In 1618 he became a doctor theologiae. Between 1624 and 1630 he fulfilled several missions on behalf of the university, where he finally was appointed as professor of biblical exegesis. Towards the end of his life he became bishop of Ypres, where he died on May 6, 1638, only fifty-three years old.
Jansenius had found the time, making good use of his notes, to write a voluminous work called Augustinus. It was a scholarly work in Latin, with the aim of describing as accurately as possible what the Father of the Church had taught on grace, predestination, and original sin. It was not his intention to write a heterodox book; there is evidence that, if Rome would condemn it, he would submit himself. He had not the slightest intention to start a movement. Actually, the work was not published during his lifetime; he never saw it in print.
Nevertheless, it was obviously not his intention that his Augustinus would remain a manuscript. His two literary executors, Liber Tromond, rector magnificus of the university, and Henri Calenus, a canon of Malines, assumed the task of seeing it through the press. They wanted to keep the project secret, because Pope Paul V (1605-1621) had decreed in 1611, in order to stifle the endless discussion on grace, that new publications needed the imprimatur of the Inquisition. However, several parties got wind of it, the Jesuits, the papal internuntius in Brussels, and others, who all tried to prevent the publication, but in vain. Augustinus appeared in 1640, dedicated to the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, the cardinal-infant Ferdinand, and under the auspices of King Philip IV of Spain. The voluminous book immediately caused a stir.
Not many people have assembled sufficient courage to read the thirteen hundred pages of Augustinus, printed in double columns. Yet some did, and their work enables me to present its contents with the shortest possible formula. 1. Man is entirely under the influence of sin, so all his works are sinful. 2. There is no escaping from sin but solely through grace. 3. God does not give his grace to all people, because Christ did not die for all mankind. 4. One who receives divine grace cannot resist it; God forces him to do what is good. 5. Therefore, there is no free will in spiritual matters.
A more complete version is presented by Delumeau. "Before the Fall Adam's will tended towards the good. Nonetheless, in order to stay on the right path he needed the gratia sufficiens, for even a sound eye needs the light in order to see. As a result of original sin man resembles a sick eye; even sufficient grace is not enough for him. Efficacious grace is needed which heals and makes strong enough to prefer celestial delectation to earthly pleasures. Goodness of this kind cannot exist without grace, from which it follows that to Jansenius, just as to Luther and Calvin, the `good actions' of the infidels are as many mortal sins.
Not one of God's commands is impracticable as soon as gratia efficiens is accorded to a person, for it is all-powerful. Yet it is not given to everyone, not even to one who prays. Saint Peter, by three times denying Christ, has shown what good will achieves without grace. This being a gratuitous gift, God chooses those whom he will save and whom he abandons. Before original sin he would save all mankind by a will originating from his goodness. After the Fall his will consequently became a will of justice, a punishing will, that excepts only those who are predestined. Jesus did not efficaciously die for all mankind. But is it just to punish human beings who, without grace being infused into them, can do nothing but wrong? Are they free and responsible? Yes, answers Jansenius, to whom free and voluntary are not identical. Freedom exists in the absence of exterior constraint.
If will without grace is only capable to do what is bad, this results from the nature of sin; the acts resulting from this necessity are true sins, because the will, being what it is, cannot prevent them. If the sinner willed what is good without being able to do it, he would be excusable, but this is not the case. For a soul that is attracted by delectation of earthly sins it is the will, rather than the ability, that is failing."[ii]
3. The Augustinian background
The fount and origin of all discussions about grace was what Saint Augustine had written about it, when he was combating the Pelagians. This Church Father's position was the exact opposite of what Pelagius had written.[iii] His view of man's situation after the Fall was extremely pessimistic. Sin oppresses him so heavily that he is incapable of doing any good; it is impossible for him to achieve salvation, if he is left to his own devices. Yet God can help him out by giving him his grace. Augustine doubted whether grace is given to everybody. In any case, since it is a free gift of God, it cannot be earned, not even by performing good works. It is doubtful whether Augustine left room for free will, probably not in spiritualibus.[iv]
However influential Augustine was during the Middle Ages, his opinion about grace never became the official doctrine of the Church, nor did the theologians of High Scholasticism agree with it, especially not Thomas Aquinas. To Luther it naturally was gefundenes Fressen. His theology of grace gave the discussion a new impulse, also in Catholic circles; not a few theologians came rather close to the Reformer.
4. Baius and Baianism
One of the great bulwarks of the struggle against Lutheranism was the University of Louvain. One of its best-known professors, a contemporary of Luther, was Michel Baius (Du Bay); born in 1513 in the village of Melin in Hainault, he spent almost all his life at the university, first as a student, later as a professor of theology. He died on September 16, 1589. Louvain scholars were impelled by the humanist urge to go back to the sources. As Doyle writes, Baius "tried to read Saint Augustine as if centuries of scholastic interpretation had not intervened since the saint had first written."[v] Baius readily adopted the centrepiece of Augustinian theology, namely the relationship between grace and good works; only when grace was given would good works be possible. Left to his own natural state, man is powerless to do any good.[vi]
Baius' position came remarkably close to Luther's, just at a time when the Council of Trent was drawing the dividing lines. The theology faculty of the Sorbonne, which, as a bulwark of orthodoxy, was still more important than Louvain, having become acquainted with Baius' writings, condemned some of his propositions in 1560. Baius indignantly protested that the Sorbonne had it all wrong; he had never propounded the errors of which he was accused. Undeterred, he published a number of tracts between 1564 and 1566.
This time Rome got alerted. On October 1, 1567, Pope Pius V (1566-1572) condemed seventy-nine propositions by Baius as `heretical, erroneus, suspect, temerarious, scandalous, and offensive to pious ears.'[vii] Baius maintained that the bull did not concern him; he could use this subterfuge, because it did not mention his name. He did not make things easier for himself by stating that bishops had their authority from God and not from the Pope, to which he later added that the scriptural basis for papal infallibility was doubtful. It will surprise nobody that Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) renewed the condemnation on January 29, 1579.
A priest, Father François Tolet, brought the papal bull to Louvain, where he had a series of conversations with Baius, wo finally recanted. "I, Michel de Bay, chancelor of the University of Louvain, acknowledge and declare that through the different conversations and reports I had with Father François Tolet ..., I have come to be entirely convinced that the condemnation of all these propositions is just and very legitimate."[viii] Yet he might say what he would, but `Baianism' - the dispute on grace and good works - had come to stay.
5. The Jesuits as defenders of orthodoxy
The great defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy after Trent was the new Order of the Jesuits. It sent some of its best theological experts to Louvain in order to combat Baianism. The principal of these was Father Leonard Lessius (Leys) (1554-1623), who published in 1586 his Theses theologicae, in which he attacked Baianism. Baius, old as he was, entered the lists for the last time; under his direction the University of Louvain condemned Lessius' propositions in 1587. Lessius protested that the university had seen only trunctated versions of his work. He appealed to Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590), who had Lessius' book investigated and ruled that it contained `sound doctrine'.
Since long the affair had become a cause célèbre, dividing the spirits. The condemnations prove that it had assume a dualistic character. A defense of Louvain's action against Lessius was condemned by Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700) as late as 1697. In 1587 the Universities of Mainz, Treves and Ingolstadt took position against Louvain. The Jansenist did what they could to move the Sorbonne to condemn Lessius, but in vain.[ix] What was at stake in these discussions was the question of whether the Church, even after Trent, would veer in Luther's direction.
The sound of artillery fire kept increasing, with both sides maintaining a heavy barrage on each other. In 1588 the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina (1536-1600) rode onto the battlefield with a book the very title of which sounded like a clarion call: `On the agreement of free will with the gift of grace, divine prescience, providence, predestination and reprobation, according to several articles from the first part of Saint Thomas"; the Summa theologica is meant.[x] All the theological matters in dispute of the Reformation period pass in review in this long title. It was clever of Molina to refer to Thomas Aquinas, because the Council of Trent, without ever mentioning his name, had been a triumph for High Scholastic theology. Pope Pius V had greatly enhanced Thomas's status by making him a doctor ecclesiae - for his postumous services to the Council, by manner of speaking.
To Molina it was an ascertained fact that the human will is free, in spiritual things no less than otherwise. God gives sufficient grace to be saved, to every human being; nobody is excluded beforehand. Yet people must cooperate with grace by performing good works. God is prescient, which means that he knows who will profit form his grace and who not. Yet God predestines nobody to salvation or to eternal doom; prescience and predestination are not the same. Molina introduced a new term, namely, scientia media, middle knowledge. It is not wholly clear what Molina intended by this term, but its intention is evident: God's prescience does not encroach upon human free will.[xi]
6. The Dominicans do not agree
One would have thought that the Dominicans would have welcomed Molina's Thomistic work with great enthusiasm. Was not Thomas the great pride of their Order? But they were not pleased. Their main objection was that the term scientia media could not be found in Thomas's writings. They reproached Molina something that was very effective in this days: his theology was `Pelagian', in short, too much man, too little God. The Jesuits retorted by saying that the Dominicans were Calvinists. The Dominicans appealed to several faculties of theology, in order to have Molina's book condemned, but in vain; they even tried to mobilize the Inquisition, but this institution hesitated to decide between two rival Orders.
7. Rome intervenes
In 1594 high-placed Spanish ecclesiastics asked Rome to intervene against the Dominicans. One of them wrote: "Their animosity results from a certain sentiment of rivalry, which, as it happens, even religious sometimes foster."[xii] They were promptly served by Rome. In a letter of August 15, 1594, Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) ordered the superiors of both Orders to tell their members that all quarrelling about the disputed points had to cease immediately; who did not obey would be excommunicated. Naturally, this command was favourable for the Jesuits, who would be attacked no longer. The opposition furiously reacted: it was a shame to impose silence on those who defended orthodoxy as well as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas.
The struggle not being over, Pope Clement instructed a special commission to investigate the matter. It took its time for it, until Pope Paul V dissolved it in 1607; weary of the dispute, he forbade the parties to accuse each other of heresy, but this remained a dead letter.[xiii] With an eye to the future it should be noted that, as Doyle writes, "by an incredible oversight, this papal decree was never formally promulgated in the Spanish Netherlands, and so was never recognised by the University of Louvain."[xiv]
8. The Jesuits expelled and recalled
Speaking of Jesuits, we must shift our attention to France, where, as we have seen, there was one civil war after another between Catholics and Protestants.[xv] The Jesuits, who basically are a teaching Order, were successful with their newly founded colleges. Yet success breeds jealousy, in this case from the side of the universities, especially from the Sorbonne. Because of their fervent Catholicism the Jesuits were seen as agents of King Philip II. When a man, wo had been a pupil of a Jesuit college, made an attempt on King Henry IV's life in 1594, the cup was full. Mainly at the instigation of the Sorbonne the Jesuits were expelled from almost all of France in 1595. This is the first time that we encounter the fiercely dualistic controversy that has always surroundered this Order.
The most vociferous opponent of the Jesuits was a barrister of the Parliament of Paris, Antoine Arnauld (1560-1619). We shall encounter more Arnaulds in the subsequent story. In the opinion of this Arnauld Jesuits were the agents of foreign powers, intent on regicide. He was served very well by a Spanish Jesuit, who in his book of 1599, De Rege et regis institutione, argued that in certain circumstances regicide was permissible. Although he brought it cautiously, the harm was done: Jesuits propagate killing tyrants. Even today there are people who believe this.[xvi]
King Henry IV, a convert from Catholicism, wanting to be known as a true son of the Church, recalled the Jesuits in 1603. Soon they became influential; the king himself had a Jesuit confessor. Jesuits were the `men of the Pope', staunch defenders of papal supremacy. Yet there were many Catholics who pleaded for autonomy of the French Church opposite Rome. This is called `Gallicanism' and goes in fact back on King Philip IV Augustus.[xvii] The old conciliar theory was revived; this said that not not the Pope, but the ecumenical Councils had the supremacy over the Church, because they, and not the Pope, were infallible.[xviii] The Gallican position came close to Lutheranism by arguing that parish priests had just as much authority as any member of the hierarchy; not the Pope must appoint the bishops, but the clergy should elect them. The main task of the priesthood was the care of the souls.[xix]
9. The Oratory
Care of the souls was also the principal concern of a priest who was not a Gallican, Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), one of the great protagonists of the Counter-Reformation in France. He studied at a Jesuit college in Clermont; remaining always true to Rome, he was created a cardinal in 1627. Although an admirer of the Jesuit Order and its discipline, he did not join it, but became an Oratorian. The Oratorium, a typical fruit of the Counter-Reformation, was a congregation of priests, founded by Roman priest Philippus Neri. It differed from all other Orders and congregations, because its members live in a community, but took no vows; this appealed to De Bérulle. In 1611 he founded the first French Oratory. His intitiative was eminently successful. Twenty years later, in 1631, there were seventy-one French Oratories, with twenty-one colleges and seven seminaries.[xx]
The Oratories played a great role in the renovation and respiritualization of the French clergy. Oratorians swarmed out to the villages in order to preach the so-called `missions' in the parish churches; their aim was to instruct ordinary faithful to lead a truly Christian life.[xxi] The key-word was dévote. Bérulle clashed with the Jesuits who had also colleges; whereas he was an Augustinian, they were Thomists. "But the Oratory continued to flourish, and those touched by Bérulle's influence remained powerfully entrenched throughout the French Church."[xxii]
Monastic life got a new impulse. New Orders and congregations were founded; older ones were reformed. Almost in every case Bérulle had a hand in it. One of these new foundations must be singled out, because it became important in the history of French Jansenism. Jacqueline Arnauld (1591-1661) was a daughter of the already mentioned Antoine Arnauld.[xxiii] When she was nine years old (sic), she became, against her wish, abbess-designate of the convent of Port-Royal, a decayed convent of Cistercian nuns in the vicinity of Versailles. Jacqueline took the habit and became Mère Angélique de Saint-Jean; in 1602 - she was eleven then - she became the convent's abbess. She underwent a conversion in 1608, when she was seventeen; from then on she wholeheartedly accepted that she was a woman in religion.
Soon she took the task of reforming Port-Royal vigorously in hand. The rule of Saint Benedict was strictly applied; the enclosure became without excemptions (formerly the convent had been a beehive). This measure, of September 25, 1609, is known as the journéee du guichet, the day of the shutter. Visitors, even family relations, were no longer allowed to walk about with the nuns, but had to speak with them through a shutter. Far from shying away young women, the convent steadily grew in number (twelve members of Angélique's family took the habit there). It became necesssary to move to more ample premises in Paris in 1625, but three years later the abbess returned to the original site with a group of nuns. The convent no longer was a Cistercian one; it became the Institute of the Holy Sacrament. It continued to grow, so Mère Angèlique once again migrated to Paris in 1648 with a group of nuns.
Bérulle's influence was evident, because one of his disciples, Sebastien Zamet (1587-1655), bishop of Langres, was the convent's spiritual director from 1625 to 1630. Since the spirituality of Port-Royal, of its protectors and directors, had an Augustinian character, it was bound to happen that it would be accused of not being in agreement with the decrees of Trent regarding the subject of grace. One of Mère Angélique's sisters, Mère Agnès (1573-1672), a nun of the convent, wrote a pamphlet in which she defended the right of Port-Royal to exist as an autonomous religious institution. She was promptly denounced for fostering, heterodox, that is, Jansenist, sympathies.
11. The abbé de Saint-Cyran and the Jesuits
It is now time to mention again the abbot of Saint-Cyran - Jean Du Vergier de Hauranne -, Jansenius' friend and erstwhile host (1581-1643). He came from the region of the Pyrenees and studied theology in Paris and Louvain as a pupil of the Jesuits. As a student of the Sorbonne he became a friend of Jansenius in 1609; as already related, together they immersed themselves in the study of Saint-Augustine during the years 1611-1614. In 1618 Saint-Cyran was ordained and received the benefice of Saint-Cyran, in the diocese of Poitiers.
When Jansenius returned to Paris, Saint-Cyran stayed in Paris, where he came under Bérulle's influence; he became his mentor's defender, when he was attacked by the Jesuits. His struggle with them sometimes assumed fierce proportions, for instance, when he accused one of their protagonists of `faults and falsehoods'. Having now got steam up, he wrote pamphlet after pamphlet in which he denounced the Order for everything it was and did. His main argument was that secular clergy were much better equipped for their task than members of Orders, that is, than Jesuits. The bishops were exhilarated by these arguments, because they found that the Jesuits were encroaching upon their prerogatives.
12. Saint-Cyran and Port-Royal
Saint-Cyran was the spiritual director of Antoine Arnauld jr, a jurist (1589-1671); he was a son of the barrister Antoine Arnauld sr, and the Mères Angélique and Agnès were his sisters. So with him we are back in the ambience of Port-Royal. It was Antoine Arnauld jr, who made the sisters acquainted with Saint-Cyran. In 1630 he replaced Zamet as the spiritual director of the convent. He fitted very well in the strict atmosphere of the convent; he was austere and uncompromising with regard to morality and spirituality, deeply convinced as he was that man is utterly bad. His view of the forgiveness of sins differed from that of the Church. This holds that venial sins will be forgiven, if there is only imperfect repentance, that is, repentance caused by fear of eternal punishment (for the forgiveness of mortal sins perfect contrition is needed, that is, repentance cause by love of God). According to Saint-Cyran, a confessor had always to make sure that his penitent had a perfect contrition; if not, he must refuse the absolution. Contempt of the world and abandoning worldy affairs were the absolutely necessary preconditions for acquiring that state of mind that would make perfect contrition possible. We may call this proto-Jansenism.
13. Richelieu as an opponent
It were not only the Jesuits who were no friends of Port-Royal, the Arnauld family, Bèrulle, and Saint-Cyran, who formed a closely knit complex that was suspected of being heretical. Cardinal de Richelieu, the most important man in French politics, who was neither a Jesuit nor a member of any other Order, was also suspicious of the Port-Royal group. Not without reason he found Port-Royal's and Saint-Cyran's concept of repentance so severe that ordinary faithful would never be forgiven their sins.
The cardinal felt that he was also being thwarted in political affairs by Jansenius as well as by Saint-Cyran. Both opposed France's anti-Habsburg policy. When in 1635 a war broke out out between France and Habsburg and French troops invaded the Spanish Netherlands, Jansenius, who was in Louvain when it was beleaguered by French troops, published his Mars Gallicus. He argued in this book that it was a great shame that Catholic France allied itself with Protestant powers like the Dutch Republic to fight Catholic Habsburg. The book was translated into French and was widely read. It made Richelieu furious; he suspected that Saint-Cyran was behind it. He had him arrested and imprisoned in Vincennes on May 14, 1638. Five years later, after Richelieu's death, Saint-Cyran was released; he died already on October 11, 1643. This affair demonstrated how deep the fault-lines went in the Catholic world of seventeenth-century France. There is every reason for calling the situation dualistic.[xxiv]
Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. II.1. Paris, 1923; 10.2. Paris, 1929.
BUGNION-SECRETAN, Perle, La Mère Angélique Arnauld, 1591-1661. Abbesse et réformatrice de Port-Royal d'après ses écrits. Paris, 1991.
COGNET, Louis, Le Jansénisme. Presses universitaires de France, 1964².
DELUMEAU, Jean, Le catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire. Series: Nouvelle Clio. L'histoire et ses problèmes. Paris, 1977.
DOYLE, William, Jansenism. Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution. Series: Studies in European History. London, 2001.
ORCIBEL, Jean, Jansenius d'Ypres (1585-1638). Series: Études augustiniennes. Paris, 1989.
[i].. I only mention Orcibal, Jansenius d'Ypres (see Bibliography).
[ii]..Delumeau, Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire 169.
[iii].. See for the theological positions of both Pelagius and Augustine Vol. XIII, Ch. VIII.
[iv].. Doyle, Jansenism 5/6.
[v].. Doyle, Jansenism 9.
[vi].. Extensive treatment of Baius' theology by X. Le Bachelet in Dictionnaire the théologie catholique, T. II.1, 1.42-47 (1923).
[vii].. Le Bachelet, Dict.théol.cath. II,1, 48.
[viii].. Quoted Dict.théol.cath. II1, 55.
[ix].. See for this P.Bernard s.v. `Lessius', Dict.théol.cath. II.1, 453/454.
[x].. Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione ad nonnullos primae partis divi Thomae articulos.
[xi].. See for an extensive treatment of Molinism, E. Vansteenberghe in Dict.théol.cath. X.2, 2101-2141 (1929).
[xii].. Quoted by E. Vansteenberghe Dict.théol.cath.X.2, 2144 (1929).
[xiii].. A long account of the controversy by E.Vansteenberghe in Dict.théol.cath. X.2, 2141-2166; also in Doyle, Jansenism 10/11.
[xiv].. Doyle, Jansenism 11.
[xv].. Vol. XXII, Ch. VI, §§ 25-31.
[xvi].. Doyle, Jansenism 13.
[xvii].. See for this Vol. XXI, Ch. VII, Part II, § 1.
[xviii].. See for this Vol. XXII, Ch. VII, Part II, § 4.
[xix].. Doyle, Jansenism 14.
[xx].. Delumeau, Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire 88.
[xxi].. Delumeau, Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire 286.
[xxii].. Doyle, Jansenism 15.
[xxiii].. Her modern biography is that by Perle Bugnion-Secretan, La Mère Angélique Arnauld, 1591-1661, abbesse et réformatrice de Port-Royal d'après ses écrits. Paris, 1991.
[xxiv].. See for this Doyle, Jansenism 16-20.