The History of Jansenism Part II

3. Rome steps in: Cum occasione

However, on August 1, 1642, the Holy Office issued a decree condemning Augustinus and forbidding its reading. In 1642, Pope Urban VIII followed up with a papal bull entitled In eminenti, which condemned Augustinus because it was published in violation of the order that no works concerning grace should be published without the prior permission of the Holy See; and renewed the censures by Pope Pius V, in Ex omnibus afflictionibus in 1567, and Pope Gregory XIII, of several propositions of Baianism which were repeated in Augustinus.

In 1649, Nicolas Cornet, syndic of the Sorbonne, frustrated by the continued circulation of Augustinus, drew up a list of five propositions from Augustinus and two propositions from De la fréquente Communion and asked the Sorbonne faculty to condemn the propositions. Before the faculty could do so, the Parlement de Paris intervened and forbade the faculty to consider the propositions. The faculty then submitted the propositions to the Assembly of the French clergy in 1650, which submitted the matter to Pope Innocent X. Eleven bishops opposed this and asked Innocent X to appoint a commission similar to the Congregatio de Auxiliis to resolve the situation. Innocent X agreed to the majority’s request, but in an attempt to accommodate the view of the minority, appointed an advisory committee consisting of five cardinals and thirteen consultors to report on the situation. Over the next two years, this commission held 36 meetings including 10 presided by Innocent X.

The supporters of Jansenism on the commission drew up a table with three heads: the first listed the Calvinist position (which were condemned as heretical), the second listed the Pelagian/Semipelagian position (as taught by the Molinists), and the third listed the correct Augustinian position (according to the Jansenists).

Jansenism’s supporters suffered a decisive defeat when the apostolic constitution Cum occasione was promulgated by Innocent X in 1653 which condemned the following five propositions:

1. that there are some commands of God which just persons cannot keep, no matter how hard they wish and strive, and they are not given the grace to enable them to keep these commands;

2. that it is impossible for fallen persons to resist sovereign grace;

3. that it is possible for human beings who lack free will to merit;

4. that the Semipelagians were correct to teach that prevenient grace was necessary for all interior acts, including for faith, but were incorrect to teach that fallen humanity is free to accept or resist prevenient grace; and

5. that it is Semipelagian to say that Christ died for all, instead teaching that Christ died only for the predestined.

Since most Jansenists at the time very respectful of papal authority, the majority agreed to condemn these propositions as heretical, (although a vocal majority ironically broke with Cornelius Jansen himself and rejected the bull).

It should be noted that while it is often argued by theologians that Cum occasione was an ex cathedra document, (seemingly based on the specific way in which each the five propositions was condemned), it declared only the first of the five propositions anathema and also did not use the formula we firmly declare, believe, etc. Additionally, it doesn`t specific in which manner the condemned propositions are to be understood. Obviously, Christ`s sacrifice has effect on all the baptised, even those who are not predestined, and as such has great fruits but to believe that it was only intended for the salvation of the elect, and not the salvation of those who are not saved seems perfectly orthodox and Augustinian. Limited atonement as preached by Calvinists must be rejected since all those who receive the sacraments receive inner grace. Whether it is heretical to believe that God only intended to save the predestined through Christ`s sacrifice is not clearly stated.

4. The formula controversy

Well received by the Sorbonne and the General Assembly of the Clergy, the Bull “Cum occasione” was promulgated with the royal sanction. This should have opened the eyes of the partisans of Jansenius. They were given the alternative of finally renouncing their errors, or of openly resisting the supreme authority. They were thrown for the moment into embarrassment and hesitation, from which Arnauld extricated them by a subtlety: they must, he said, accept the condemnation of the five propositions, and reject them, as did the pope, only, these propositions were not contained in the book of the Bishop of Ypres, or if they were found therein, it was in another sense than in the pontifical document; the idea of Jansenius was the same as that of St. Augustine, which the Church neither could, nor wished to, censure.

This interpretation was viewed as not tenable; it was contrary to the text of the Bull, no less than to the minutes of the discussions which had preceded it, and throughout which these propositions were considered and Presented as expressing the sense of the “Augustinus”.

Antoine Arnauld condemned the five propositions listed in Cum occasione. However, he contended that Augustinus did not argue in favour of the five propositions condemned as heretical in Cum occasione. Rather, he argued that Jansen intended his statements in Augustinus in the same sense that Augustine of Hippo had offered his opinions, and, Arnauld equivocated, that since Innocent X would certainly not have wished to condemn Augustine’s opinions, Innocent X had not condemned Jansen’s actual opinions.

Replying to Arnauld, in 1654, 38 French bishops condemned Arnauld’s position to the pope. Opponents of Jansenism in the church refused absolution to Roger du Plessis, duc de Liancourt (fr) for his continued protection of the Jansenists. In response to this onslaught, Arnauld articulated a distinction as to how far the Church could bind the mind of a Catholic. He argued that there is a distinction between de jure and de facto: that a Catholic was obliged to accept the Church’s opinion as to a matter of law (i.e., as to a matter of doctrine) but not as to a matter of fact. Arnauld argued that, while he agreed with the doctrine propounded in Cum occasione, he was not bound to accept the pope’s determination of fact as to what doctrines were contained in Jansen’s work.

The Duc de Liancourt, one of the protectors of the party, was refused absolution until he should change his sentiments and accept purely and simply the condemnation of the “Augustinus”. Arnauld took up his pen and in two successive letters protested against any such exaction. Ecclesiastical judgments, he said, are not all of equal value, and do not entail the same obligations; where there is question of the truth or falsity of a doctrine, of its revealed origin or its heterodoxy, the Church in virtue of its Divine mission is qualified to decide; it is a matter of right. But if the doubt bears upon the presence of this doctrine in a book, it is a question of purely human fact, which as such does not fall under the jurisdiction of the supernatural teaching authority instituted in the Church by Jesus Christ. In the former case, the Church having pronounced sentence, we have no choice but to conform our belief to its decision; in the latter, its word should not be openly contradicted it claims from us the homage of a respectful silence but not that of an interior assent. Such is the famous distinction between right and fact, which was henceforth to be the basis of their resistance, and through which the recalcitrants pretended to remain Catholics, united to the visible body of Christ despite all their obstinacy. This distinction is both logically and historically the denial of the doctrinal power of the Church. For how is it possible to teach and defend revealed doctrine if its affirmation or denial cannot be discerned in a book or a writing, whatever its form or its extent? In fact, from the beginning, councils and popes have approved and imposed as orthodox certain formulas and certain works, and from the beginning have proscribed others as being tainted with heresy or error.

(It should be noted though that the First Vatican Council declared that papal infallibility only applied to matters of faith and morals.)

The Jansenist apologia Provincial Letters, written 1656 and 1657, a literary masterpiece written from a Jansenist perspective, and remembered for denunciation of the casuistry of the Jesuits.

In 1657, relying on Ad sanctam beati Petri sedem, the French Assembly of the Clergy drew up a formula of faith condemning Jansenism and declared that subscription to the formula was obligatory. Many Jansenists remained firmly committed to Arnauld’s proposition; they condemned the propositions in Cum occasione but disagreed that the propositions were contained in Augustinus. In retaliation, Gondi interdicted the convent of Port Royal from receiving the Sacraments. In 1660, the elementary schools run by Port-Royal-des-Champs were closed by bull, and in 1661, the monastery at Port-Royal-des-Champs was forbidden to accept new novices, which guaranteed the convent would eventually die out.

Four bishops sided with Port-Royal,[c] arguing that the Assembly of the French clergy could not command French Catholics to subscribe to something which was not required by the pope. At the urging of several bishops, and at the personal insistence of King Louis XIV, Pope Alexander VII sent to France the apostolic constitution Regiminis Apostolici in 1664 which required, according to the Enchiridion symbolorum, “all ecclesiastical personnel and teachers” to subscribe to an included formulary, the Formula of Submission for the Jansenists.

The Formula of Submission for the Jansenists was the basis of the Formulary Controversy. Many Jansenists refused to sign it; while some did sign, they made it known that they were agreeing only to the doctrine (questions of law de jure), not the allegations asserted by the bull (questions of fact de facto). The latter category included the four Jansenist-leaning bishops, who communicated the bull to their flocks along with messages which maintained the distinction between doctrine and fact. This angered both Louis XIV and Alexander VII. Alexander VII commissioned nine French bishops to investigate the situation

Alexander VII died in 1667 before the commission concluded its investigation and his successor, Pope Clement IX, initially appeared willing to continue the investigation of the nine-Jansenist-leaning bishops. However, in France, Jansenists conducted a campaign arguing that allowing a papal commission of this sort would be ceding the traditional liberties of the Gallican Church, thus playing on traditional French opposition to ultramontanism. They convinced one member of the cabinet (Lyonne) and nineteen bishops of their position, these bishops argued, in a letter to Clement IX, that the infallibility of the Church applied only to matters of revelation, and not to matters of fact. They asserted that this was the position of Caesar Baronius and Robert Bellarmine. They also argued, in a letter to Louis XIV, that allowing the investigation to continue would result in political discord.

Under these circumstances, the papal nuncio to France recommended that Clement IX accommodate the Jansenists. Clement agreed, and appointed César d’Estrées, bishop of Laon, as mediator in the matter. D’Estrées convinced the four bishops: Arnauld, Choart de Buzenval, Caulet, and Pavillon, to sign the Formula of Submission for the Jansenists (though it seems they may have believed that signing the formulary did not mean assent to the matters of fact it contained). The pope, initially happy that the four bishops had signed, became angry when he was informed that they had done so with reservations. Clement IX ordered his nuncio to conduct a new investigation. Reporting back, the nuncio declared: “they have condemned and caused to be condemned the five propositions with all manner of sincerity, without any exception or restriction whatever, in every sense in which the Church has condemned them”. However, he reported that the four bishops continued to be evasive as to whether they agreed with the pope as to the matter of fact. In response, Clement IX appointed a commission of twelve cardinals to further investigate the matter. This commission determined that the four bishops had signed the formula in a less than entirely sincere manner, but nevertheless recommended that the matter should be dropped in order to forestall further divisions in the Church. The pope agreed and thus issued four briefs, declaring the four bishops’ agreement to the formula was acceptable, thus instituting the “Peace of Clement IX” (1669–1701).

Peace of Clement

Although the Peace of Clement IX was a lull in the public theological controversy, a number of clergy remained attracted to Jansenism. Three major groups were:

1.the duped Jansenists, who continued to profess the five propositions condemned in Cum occasione, (such as Blaise Pscal)

2.the fins Jansénistes, who accepted the doctrine of Cum occasione but who continued to deny the infallibility of the Church in matters of fact

3.the quasi-Jansenists, who formally accepted both Cum occasione and the infallibility of the Church in matters of fact, but who nevertheless remained attracted to aspects of Jansenism, notably its stern morality, commitment to virtue, and its opposition to ultramontanism, which was also a political issue in France in the decades surrounding the 1682 Declaration of the clergy of France. The quasi-Jansenists served as protectors of the “duped Jansenists” and the fins Jansénistes

Altmann Beten

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