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JANSENISM. Jansenism was a religious movement in the Catholic Church, named after Cornelis Jansen (Latin, Cornelius Jansenius, 15851638), bishop of Ypres, which originated in Spanish Flanders and in France, and spread to other European countries. In their struggle to assert and defend their positions, its members exerted a deep influence over church, society, and politics until the end of the eighteenth century.


Jansen's Augustinus presented the teaching of Saint Augustine on salvation and grace, though disputes between theologians on these matters had been forbidden by the Holy See (1611, 1625). Posthumously published in Louvain (1640), the book was immediately attacked by the Jesuits, who denounced it as heretical. In France, where it was reprinted (1641, 1643), the work was well received, especially by the group under the influence of Jansen's friend, Jean Duvergier de Hauranne (15811643), abbot of Saint-Cyran. Their center was the convent of Port-Royal in Paris, reformed by the abbess Angélique Arnauld, which attracted influential members of the nobility and the bourgeoisie; later, a group of laymen, the solitaires, lived next to the nuns. Under the pen name of Petrus Aurelius, Saint-Cyran asserted the authority of local bishops over members of religious orders; his attacks on moral permissiveness (laxism) irked Cardinal Richelieu, who was also weary of his criticism of French alliance with Protestant states in the Thirty Years' War. In 1638, he was imprisoned for alleged heresy in Vincennes and his writings examined for errors.

Following a general papal condemnation of the book (In Eminenti, dated 1642, published 1643), for breach of the directive of silence on these matters, Richelieu initiated a campaign against Augustinus that focused on the accusation of Calvinism. Saint-Cyran's disciple, Antoine Arnauld (16121694), brother of Angélique Arnauld, responded in 1644 with a defense of Jansenius. He had already expanded the controversy by attacking the Jesuits on their laxity concerning reception of the Eucharist (De la fréquente communion, 1643) and morality (Théologie morale des Jésuites, 1643). During the rebellion that followed Richelieu's death, members of the Port-Royal circle were perceived as supporters of the Fronde (the revolt of the nobles and the parlement against the monarchy); to weaken them, his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, supported by the queen regent, Ann of Austria, sought a new and stronger condemnation. For that purpose, theological assertions disputed in Paris were sent to Rome, after attempts to have them censured by the Faculty of Theology (1649) or the assembly of the French Clergy (1650) did not succeed. Alexander VII's bull Cum Occasione (31 May 1653) condemned as heretical five of these propositions, but despite an introductory reference to the book, did not explicitly indicate their origin.

Against Jesuit claims that in this document the pope had condemned Augustinus as heretical and even disapproved Augustinian theology, Antoine Arnauld disputed the presence of the propositions in the book. Following a classical theological distinction, he asserted his compliance to the droit (right or principle): condemnation of possible Calvinist doctrine in the propositions, and his rejection of the fait (fact): that they were extracted from Jansenius's book. In reaction, French bishops, influenced by Mazarin, added to the papal condemnation an oath or formulary (1655) that asserted explicitly that the five condemned propositions were to be found in Augustinus. Arnauld's renewed objections caused the Sorbonne to censure and expel him with more than one hundred of his confreres (1656), after a long debate, heavily influenced by political pressure. He was defended by a member of the Port-Royal circle, Blaise Pascal (16231662), who, in his Provincial Letters (16561657), mocked the expulsion procedure and wittily attacked Jesuit moral laxism.

Two Roman pronouncements confirmed the bishops' ruling: Ad Sanctam (October 1656), which specified the presence of the propositions in the book; and Regiminis Apostolici (February 1665), which prescribed the pope's own formulary.

The weight claimed for these decisions introduced into the debate the issue of papal authority, and more precisely the existence of infallible judgments, dealing not only with doctrine but with mere facts. As this prerogative was not yet defined (it would be, in a very limited way, at Vatican I, 1871), many French theologians rejected it in accordance with their Gallican principles, which reserved infallibility for the Ecumenical Council. Four bishops declared that they could not endorse the formulary in their dioceses; when Rome started to proceed against them, nineteen of their colleagues offered their support. In order to prevent division, even schism, Louis XIV allowed the negotiation of a secret clause of conscience allowing "obsequious silence," that is, private dissent, on the "fact." This "Peace of the Church," authorized by Clement IX (14 January 1669), allowed the Port-Royal circle to extend its influence in biblical (Bible of Sacy, 1672), patristic, liturgical, and historical studies; it also took an important part in religious controversy with Protestants (Perpétuité de la foi, 16691672). By that time, the Jansenist movement had acquired its distinctive features, above all its strong individualism, that could be perceived as a sectarian menace to the church and the state. In their obstinacy to defend their right of conscience, the Jansenists dissociated themselves from the moderate participants in the Catholic Renewal; at the same time, they provoked Roman misgivings for their defiance and government resentment for their political tactics, especially their appeal to public opinion. Under suspicion in Paris and in Rome, the leaders, Antoine Arnauld and Pasquier Quesnel (16341719), took refuge in the Spanish Netherlands (1685). The publication in 1702 of a Case of Conscience submitted to the Sorbonne was perceived as a breach of the 1669 agreement since, approved by forty theologians, it brought back the issue of the "fact" of the five propositions. The evidence produced a few months later by Quesnel's arrest (May 1703) of an extensive Jansenist network, active even in Rome, incited Louis XIV to seek a renewal of the condemnations. Clement XI obliged with the bull Vineam Domini (1705), which condemned the Case and reiterated the earlier pronouncements. As it proved ineffective, the king requested another document considering Jansenism as a whole; for that purpose were denounced excerpts from Quesnel's spiritual book, Réflexions morales sur le Nouveau Testament (Moral reflections on the New Testament), a verse-by-verse presentation of the biblical text, followed by adapted meditations. The Apostolic Constitution Unigenitus Dei Filius (1713) censured 101 passages from Quesnel's work, presented in a thematic order that explicitly established Jansenism as opposed to orthodox Catholicism, not only on the matter of salvation and grace, but on many aspects of religious life. As the specific degree of error of each passage was not indicated (the censure was in globo, "as a whole"), different interpretations were possible. This imprecision stirred opposition to the papal document by a minority of bishops, clergy, and laity, headed by the archbishop of Paris, cardinal Louis Antoine de Noailles (16511729), who demanded a clarification. Louis XIV moved to crush the protest but he died (1715) before the national council he had summoned over papal reluctance could meet.


Despite the limited areas of resistance and the low numbers of opponents, Unigenitus generated a crisis that was to have ripple effects. The papal constitution became exemplary of a type of Catholicism that was rejected both for its doctrinal deficiencies and its authoritarianism. This rejection also took on political tones, because of the involvement of the secular power in the conflict. After Louis XIV's death, extremist bishops, clergy, and laity, emboldened by the support offered by the regent, Philip of Orléans, in 1717 appealed against Unigenitus to a future General Council. Soon, however, the state turned against them, under the ministry of Cardinal Fleury, who exiled or jailed them. In 1730, Unigenitus was registered as law of the land, which meant that opposition to it became a civil crime. In 1749, the archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont (17031781), decided to deny the sacraments (and therefore Catholic burial) to those who did not assent to the bull and did not produce a certificate of confession. These measures contributed to a weakening and dispersion of the Jansenists. Many continued in their opposition, appealing to public opinion and seeking support from the parlements. Some became more extreme, as manifested in the "miracles" of Saint-Médard cemetery and the Convulsionaries, who associated pain with spiritual experience (17301760). In these instances, the spiritual confusion of the believers was expressed through miraculous cures and self-imposed suffering; at the theological level, "figuratism" or a reinterpretation of history through biblical images (J. J. Duguet and J. B. d'Etemare) was another way to voice disillusion or even despair. The expulsion of the Jesuits from France (17611764), and the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, were perceived as a victory of the Jansenists. The events certainly demonstrated the influence of the movement, diffused through numerous pamphlets, books, and the clandestine newsletter, Nouvelles ecclésiastiques (17281803), an influence that spread through most European Catholic countries.


Jansenism was already present in the United Provinces, where many Appellants had settled; in 1723, the consecration of a bishop elected by the clergy without Rome's approval established a schismatic church that still survives (Old Catholic Church). In Mediterranean and Middle European countries, many of the Jansenist themes surfaced in various expressions of the "Catholic Enlightenment," which developed under the protection of the state. Though opposed to the philosophes, they favored a critical renewal of Christianity, modeled on the early church and based on the writers of the Port-Royal circle. The decrees of the Synod of Pistoia (1786), condemned by Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei (1794), represent this perspective. This last document, carefully prepared, avoided the imprecisions of the former ones, and condemned with precise qualifications every aspect of Jansenism.


In their resistance to the state in the name of their religious convictions, members of the Jansenist movement influenced the opposition to absolutism that prepared the way for the French Revolution, both in actions and in words. Some were directly involved in the first stages of the Revolution, but they soon disagreed on the issue of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790). Very few actually adhered to the Constitutional church, but as its leaders, especially Bishop Henri Grégoire (17501831), came to see themselves as the heirs of Port-Royal, they manifested in the early nineteenth century what can be seen as the last coherent form of Jansenism.


During the past fifty years the issue of Jansenism has been the object of extensive research, the results of which modify considerably the classic historical perspective. Contrary to the traditional acceptation of the word, the association with Calvinism has been disproved as well as the puritanical connotation of rigorism. With their common Augustinian background, the five condemned propositions could represent a certain proximity with Protestantism, but this proximity was explicitly rejected by those concerned. As to the opposition to laxism, it was an early feature of the Catholic Renewal adopted by many, especially in the French church, against the practice of religious orders. The Jansenist movement, on the other hand, had important repercussions on early modern European history at the religious and political levels.

Religious Jansenism. Jansenism is to be understood within the larger context of the Catholic renewal that followed the Council of Trent (1545). It represents a traditional and rather conservative element that wanted to reform the church in order to recompose Christian unity. It was also a reaction against the progressive version of Catholicism offered by the Jesuits and their disciples. Jansenius's Augustinus was an attempt to counter Molinism (an optimistic interpretation of the salvation process) by the assertion of strict Augustinianism. His reconstruction, in contravention of the Roman ban, was presented as a defiance of the authority of the church. When the Port-Royal circle defended the book against early papal condemnations, they provided a confirmation of this perception. Later bickering on the five propositions and resistance to episcopal and pontifical judgments reflected their sectarian position. Inevitably, these difficulties with the magisterium of the church accentuated a form of individualism inherent to any reform movement. Taking as their reference an idealized early church, the Jansenists could not embrace the centralized post-Tridentine structure; instead, they favored a hierarchical system where the rule of the pope would be balanced by that of bishops, and the rule of bishops by that of their clergy. Hence there was a notable drift toward Gallican Episcopalism, and later Richerist Presbyterianism.

This divergence on ecclesiastical structures was not the only one. The other deviations condemned by the bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem Fidei suggest that, in an abstract way, Jansenism came to represent an alternative to Tridentine Catholicism, distinct by its doctrine of salvation, its conception of the church, as well as its exigence on sacramental reception, moderate devotions, access to the Bible, and liturgical participation. This ideal attracted clergy and laity, who regrouped in parishes and religious communities, eventually forming a network of faithful who shared the same goals of purification and reform, and undertook to impose it on others. This perception explains why, as they insisted on their Catholic orthodoxy, the hierarchy strove to identify their errors and to eradicate them.

Political Jansenism. The political ideal of Jansenius and of his French supporters was that of a Catholic monarch promoting the interests of the church. Their objections to the modern state account for their early difficulties and the mistreatment they had to endure. These difficulties excited a spirit of resistance, combining a "mentality of opposition" with an energetic defense of their ideas. They looked for support in the higher circles of church and state, constituted systems of influence, attacked their adversaries, and appealed to public opinion. This activism in turn developed and nuanced their "political theology." Augustinian in principle, it grew stronger in its opposition to absolutism; by the middle of the eighteenth century, some started to envision in the state the participatory polity they advocated in the church.

As a social group, the Jansenists appear more diverse than was long thought. Though significant, the participation of the nobility was limited, mostly to those who had an allegiance to the Port-Royal community, through family connections, education, and religious objectives. Especially in times of crisis, the Jansenist cause received the support of an "old style middle class," the bourgeoisie de robe. This social group had the education and time to be engaged in spiritual life and theological reflection. They also were concerned with the religious reform of society, primarily through education, social action, and political involvement. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the active members of the movement, male and female, belonged to that group. But this does not support a once favored political interpretation of the Jansenist phenomenon. If undeniably Jansenist exaltation of the right of conscience represented values attractive to bourgeois ideals, Jansenist morality with its rejection of temporal achievement and its dramatic appeal to perfection could not appeal to the same bourgeoisie. Recent historiography has evidenced Jansenist influence in the lower classes, especially in towns, mostly the result of education and pastoral care. The presence and influence of women in these different groupsoften decried by the adversarieshas also been documented, confirming a new perception of the movement, less elitist, both traditional and modern in its perspectives.

See also Absolutism ; Arnauld Family ; Calvinism ; Clergy: Roman Catholic Clergy ; Gallicanism ; Jesuits ; Louis XIV (France) ; Reformation, Catholic ; Reformation, Protestant ; Trent, Council of .


Bolton, Charles A. Church Reform in 18th Century Italy (The Synod of Pistoia, 1786). The Hague, 1969.

Ceyssens, Lucien. "Les cinq propositions de Jansenius à Rome." Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 66 (1971): 449501, 821886.

Ceyssens, Lucien, and Joseph A. G. Tans. Autour de l'Unigenitus. Louvain, 1987.

Golden, Richard M., ed. Church and Society under the Bourbon Kings. Lawrence, Kans., 1982.

Gres-Gayer, Jacques M. Le Jansénisme en Sorbonne, 16431656. Paris, 1996.

. "The Unigenitus of Clement XI: A Fresh Look at the Issues." Theological Studies 49 (1988): 259282.

Hamscher, Albert N. "The Parlement of Paris and the Social Interpretation of Early French Jansenism." Catholic Historical Review 63 (1977): 392410.

Kolakowski, Leszek. God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism. Chicago, 1995.

Kreiser, B. Robert. Miracles, Convulsions and Ecclesiastical Politics in Early Eighteenth Century Paris. Princeton, 1978.

Maire, Catherine L. "Port-Royal: The Jansenist Schism." In Realms of Memory. Rethinking the French Past. Vol. 1. Edited by P. Nora, pp. 301351. New York, 1996.

Plongeron, Bernard. "Recherches sur l'Aufklärung catholique en Europe occidentale (17701830)." Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 16 (1969): 555605.

Sedgwick, Alexander. Jansenism in Seventeenth Century France: Voice from the Wilderness. Charlottesville, Va., 1977.

Van Kley, Dale. The Jansenists and the Expulsion of the Jesuits from France, 17571765. New Haven, 1975.

. The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution (15601791). New Haven and London, 1996.

Weaver, F. Ellen. "Erudition, Spirituality and Women: The Jansenist Contribution." In Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe: Public and Private Worlds. Edited by Sherrin Marshall, pp. 189206. Bloomington, Ind., 1989.

Jacques M. Gres-Gayer

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A religious movement, named after Cornelius jan sen, bishop of Ypres (15851638) which began in Spanish Flanders and in France as a reaction to molinism. In their struggle to assert and defend their positions, its members exerted a deep influence over church, society, and politics until the end of the 18th century. The generic term suggests an ideological homogeneity that never existed. The movement developed and attempted to impose an extreme Augustinian conception of man's relationship with God; it attacked and was resisted by a more humanistic school fostered by the Society of Jesus, which continued the optimism of the Renaissance. The opposition between the two visions became a war between two parties, Jansenism and "anti-Jansenism," waged not only theologicallly, but also politically. In this dramatic process the features of a Jansenist mentality developed. Its characteristics and influence were constantly modeled and remodeled by its conflictual history.


Origins. Cornelius Jansen's augustinus (published 1640), reflected a desire by Louvain University professors to counter Molinist theology with a decisive exposition of the teaching of Saint augustine, the "Doctor of Grace," on matters that had not been resolved by the Church Magisterium. Though some of its positions could appear close to those of another Augustinian from Louvain, Michel de Bai (baius), who had been censured in 1567 by Pius V, it soon was acknowledged as the most representative work of positive theology on the matter of grace, and for that reason its publication signaled the beginning of anti-Jansenist offensive.

In France. Reprinted in Paris (1641) and Rouen (1643), the work was well received in French religious circles for its strict Augustinianism and its appeal to patristic authority alone. A friend of Jansen, Jean duver gier de hauranne, abbot of Saint-Cyran, was instrumental in influencing post-Tridentine renewal with his insistence upon the model of the early Church. Under his spiritual direction, the Abbey of port-royal, reformed by Angélique Arnauld, had become both a workshop and a showcase of this enterprise, attracting influential members of the nobility and the bourgeoisie; later a group of laymen, the solitaires, lived next to the

nuns. In his defense of the rights of bishops to control religious communities (Petrus Aurelius ) Saint-Cyran antagonized regulars; his attacks on moral laxism displeased members of the secular clergy as well, including Cardinal Richelieu. This religious opposition became political with the Parti dévot 's resistence to Richelieu's alliance with Protestant countries.

First condemnations. Augustinus was opposed in Louvain by members of the Society of Jesus, who had their students attack it in theological defenses, but both the book and Jesuit theses were condemned by the Holy Office (1641) for renewing controversies on grace (de auxiliis ), twice forbidden by popes. Dated 1642, but only published in 1643, the bull In Eminenti developed this condemnation, albeit in general terms. As this decision could be interpreted as a Roman rebuttal of Augustinian theology, the University of Louvain sent a deputation to inquire about its precise meaning; it was given reassurance to the contrary by the pope himself.

In France, where since 1638 Saint-Cyran had been imprisoned upon Richelieu's orders, Augustinus was attacked

by Isaac habert, the official theologian of the diocese, in three sermons preached at Notre Dame of Paris (16421643). He was acting on the Cardinal Richelieu's command. Antoine arnauld, a disciple of Saint-Cyran, replied in 1644 with a defense of Jansenius, a polemical work, as well as solid evidence of historical scholarship. He also expanded the controversy on more practical planes by attacking the Jesuits on their laxism concerning the reception of the Eucharist (Fréquente communion, 1642) and moral theology (Théologie morale des Jésuites, 1643). At that time the Port-Royal group was perceived to be supporters of the Fronde, the upheaveal against monarchical absolutism. To weaken them, Richelieu's successor, Cardinal Mazarin, supported by the queen regent, Ann of Austria, wanted a stronger papal condemnation. The occasion was seized when students of the Faculty of Theology of Paris defended as orthodox some of the very same theses that Jesuit students had earlier denounced as Calvinist. The Syndic, or moderator of the Faculty, requested a formal condemnation of these seven "propositions" (July 1649), but he was unsuccessful, as was an attempt to obtain a condemnation from the General Assembly of the French Clergy (1650). However, Habert, now bishop of Vabres, was as a member of this assembly able to collect 85 episcopal signatures to a letter asking for papal intervention on the first "Five propositions" of the Sorbonne. As this referral to the Holy See intended to involve the Church's highest authority in the dispute, both French Jansenists and Anti-Jansenists sent agents to defend their positions. The bull cum occasione (May 31, 1653, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1962] 20012007) condemned the five propositions, but it was not sufficient to put an end to the controversy for it did not explicitly denote their origin and only disapproved of Jansenius's work in general.

Conflicts. Against an anti-Jansenist claim that in censuring the five propositions the pope had condemned Jansenius's synthesis and even disapproved of Augustinian theology, A. Arnauld disputed the presence of the propositions in Augustinus : only the first one could be found verbatim and in a context that supported its orthodoxy. Following a classical theological distinction, he asserted his obedience to the droit (the Calvinist doctrine the pope intended to condemn) and his rejection of the fait (the presence in the book of the said propositions). In so doing he manifested a spirit of resistance and division that countered the Church's desire to settle the matter once and for all. The French bishops added to the papal condemnation an oath or formulary that linked explicitly the five propositions and Augustinus. This was Mazarin's way of obtaining Rome's goodwill and fighting those he considered to be the supporters of his enemy the frondeur Cardinal de Retz. Arnauld's appeal to public opinion in defending his interpretation of Cum Occasione caused the Faculty of Theology to censure (January 1656) and expel him with a significant number of fellow theologians. Another familiar of Port-Royal, Blaise pas cal, was more successful in his Provincial Letters (16561657), which vindicated Arnauld's position and attacked laxist morality.

The escalation of pronouncements that followed showed that in the mind of the new pope matters of ecclesiastical obedience were as primordial as questions of orthodoxy. In ad sanctam beati petri sedem (October 1656, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 20102012, sometimes indicated as Ad Sacram ), Alexander VII intended to clarify the matter by specifying the presence of the propositions in the book and his predecessors's intention to condemn them "in the sense of Jansenius." He later followed the French bishops' oath requirement by prescribing his own formulary, in regiminis apostolici (February 1665, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 2020).

Regiminis Apostolici added a level of complications to the already intricate question of Jansenism. In the pope's words, the Church had the ability to rule on a "fact," both the material presence of the propositions and their meaning as intended by the author. This claim bore on another intense debate taking place in France at the time, on the relationship between the spiritual and secular powers. In this instance, recourse to the Roman pontiff not only backed Ultramontanism in its assertion of the supremacy of the pope, it also demanded an acceptance of his infallibility that extended to "dogmatic facts," such as the presence of the propositions in Augustinus. The assertion at the Sorbonne of such theories (1663) started a wave of Gallicanism that had little to do with the writings of Jansenius. It emboldened a resistance to the formulary that was endorsed by several pro-Jansenist bishops and prompted a settlement of the vexing formulary issue, by the agreement of a clause of conscience that allowed "respectful silence," that is private dissent on the fact. This "Peace of the Church" was authorized by Clement IX (Jan. 14, 1669).

By that time the movement had acquired its distinctive features, above all its individualism. In their insistence on defending what they considered to be the objective truth, most of the French Augustinians separated themselves from their more moderate associates in the Catholic Renewal; they also incurred Roman suspicion for their disobedience and government resentment for their political maneuvering, which at times threatened the unity of the kingdom. In their fight against laxist morality, they received the support of secular clergy but the success of their appeal to public opinion (Pascal's Provincial Letters ) was a double-edged sword since it confirmed the existence of a "Jansenist party." In the same manner, this crusade, though moderately endorsed by Rome, was perceived there as dangerous because of its fierce opposition to religious orders and its occasional association with the secular power of the Parlements.

Truce. The "Peace of the Church" was a temporary but momentous respite. It allowed the Port-Royal circle to extend its influence through publishing, especially in biblical, patristic, liturgical, and historical studies; in a move to assert their orthodoxy, they also took an important part in the controversy with Protestants (Perpétuité de la foi, 1672). The campaign against laxism was carried on, receiving noticeable Roman support in 1679 (Condemnation of 65 propositions, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 21012167) and in 1690 (Condemnation of "philosophical sin," H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 2291); it expanded to Jesuit missionary methods, a prelude to the Chinese Rites controversy. The adversaries of the Jansenists were not idle in their efforts to counter and disparage them. Louis XIV was alerted to their spirit of independence by their lack of support in his conflict with Innocent XI (1675). By 1679, only the nuns were allowed to remain at Port-Royal. Arnauld chose to go into exile; in 1685 his disciple P. quesnel joined him in Brusselsa perilous choice, for in that city since 1678 a "secret congregation against Jansenism" had been busy preparing a new offensive. They secured Roman censure of an important number of rigorist propositions (1690, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 23012332). They also initiated attacks against Quesnel's Réflexions morales sur le Nouveau Testament.

The Crisis of Unigenitus. Despite papal support for the "politics of silence," reiterated by Innocent XII in a brief to the Belgian bishops (1694), the conflict was bound to ignite. It was stirred up by the publication (1702) of a Cas of conscience, submitted to the Faculty of Theology of Paris. Forty doctors had approved a text that not only supported "respectful silence" on the "fact" but also exposed Jansenist positions on religious practice: Confession, Communion, Bible in the vernacular, restrained Marian devotion. The arrest of Quesnel in May of 1703 gave ample evidence of the activity, even in Rome, of a Jansenist network, a blatant breach of the "Peace of the Church." At Louis XIV's insistence, Clement XI promulgated an apostolic constitution, Vineam Domini (1705, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 2390), which contented itself with renewing former condemnations without taking into account the transformation of the movement. In its publication in France, the bull was accompanied by an affirmation of episcopal authority to resolve dogmatic issues in conjunction with the pope, an action that signaled an alliance between Jansenist doctrine and Gallican ecclesiology. Another apostolic constitution, the bull unigenitus (1713, D.S. 24002502), also requested by the French king, aimed at a comprehensive condemnation of Jansenism. It censured with general qualifications 101 excerpts from Quesnel's Réflexions morales. A minority of French bishops, headed by Cardinal de noailles, objected to this approach and asked for a revision of the document before its official publication in the kingdom. Their resistance infuriated the old king, who practically forsook his Gallican principles in order to squelch it, but he died a few days before the national council that was to convict them (1715). Political necessity forced his nephew, the Regent Philip of Orléans, to secure support of these very opponents. Emboldened by this situation, some extremists decided to appeal to a future general council against Unigenitus (1717), whereas the more moderate worked unsuccessfully on a official interpretation that would make it acceptable. In reaction, a new papal bull, Pastoralis Officii (1718), forbade any "explanation" of Unigenitus and declared the appellants excluded from his communion.

Despite the limited areas of resistance and the low numbers of opponents, Unigenitus generated a crisis that was to have ripple effects over the evolution of the post-Tridentine Church. The ill-fated papal constitution became exemplary of a type of Catholicism that was rejected for both its authoritarianism and its doctrinal deficiencies. This rejection also took political tones, due to the involment of the secular power in the conflict.

The Politics of Jansenism. When the impossibility of a resolution became evident, the French ministry under Cardinal Fleury took drastic steps: exile, imprisonment of the major opponents, even the impeachment of Bishop Soanen by the Provincial Synod of Embrun (1727). In 1730 Unigenitus was registered as the law of the land. In 1749, the archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, decided to deny the sacraments (and therefore Christian burial) to those who did not assent to the bull. These measures contributed to a weakening and dispersion of the Jansenists. An important group decided to yield, in order to maintain their original goal of Christian excellence. Between Jansenists and anti-Jansenists, they constituted an influential "Third Party." Many continued in their opposition: they appealed to public opinion and sought support from the lawyers of the Parlements. Inevitably, some became more extreme: the miracles of Saint-Médard cemetery and the Convulsionaries (17301760) manifested the spiritual confusion of many, whereas the biblical "figuratism" of Duguet and d'Ettemare expressed the complete disillusion of a few.

Theological and political resistance was not entirely unsuccessful. In 1748, Benedict XIV reaffirmed the "liberty of schools" between Molinism, thomism, and augustinianism. In 1754, after a serious conflict with the Parlements, Louis XV forbade any public controversy on Unigenitus, later obtaining papal support of that position (Ex omnibus christiani orbis regionibus 1756). The expulsion of the Jesuits from France (176164), and the suppression of the Society of Jesuits in 1773, were perceived as a victory of the Jansenists. It certainly manifested the influence of the movement, diffused through innumerable pamphlets, books, and the clandestine newsletter, the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques (17281803), to the major posts of "Catholic Enlightenment."

European Jansenism. Schism was not avoided in the Netherlands, where local tensions with Rome resulted in the election, and consecration by a French Jansenist, of the first bishop of the Old Catholic Church (1723). About the same time, in Mediterranean and Middle European countries, many of the Jansenist themes appeared in various expressions of the "Catholic Enlightenment" that developed under the protection of the States. Though opposed to the Philosophes, they favored a critical renewal of Christianity based on the early church model. As they found most of their inspiration in the writings of the Port-Royal circle, they revived the entire movement by developing an international network dedicated to this internal reform. The decrees of the Synod of pistoia (1786) are representative of this perspective, condemned by Pius VI in auctorem fidei (1794, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 26002700).

Jansenism and Revolution. Transfering to the State the principles they advocated in the church, members of the Jansenist party were influential in the opposition to absolutism that prepared the way for the French Revolution. They were also involved in the first stages of the revolution, but they disagreed on the issue of the civil constitution of the clergy. Very few actually adhered to the Constitutional church, but as its leaders, especially Bishop Henri Grégoire, came to see themselves as the heirs of Port-Royal; they manifested in the early 19th century what can be seen as the last coherent form of Jansenism.

Jansenist Mentality

As a movement, Jansenism defies a compact definition because of a conflict-filled history that spans two centuries of major change in European society. A "Jansenist mentality" that unites the different forms of Jansenism might more easily be described. It is a combination of three elements: theological, social, and political.

Theological. The theological specificity of Jansenism has its origin with a rigid Augustinian interpretation of the relation between nature and grace. The five propositions condemned by Innocent X mark the limits of its orthodoxy. As a part of the French Catholic renewal, it soon took a practical expression: to the "humanistic conception" of Molinism was opposed a high ideal of personal holiness. Based on Scripture, sacraments, and a strict morality, a more personal and truthful piety was to improve society at large. The pastoral efforts of bishops and clergy associated with the movement show abundantly the importance of biblical rediscovery, and of liturgical participation supporting an authentic spirituality.

This "archaic Jansenism" flourished in the "frontiers of Catholicism," possibly emulating Protestantism. Its development was thwarted by its sacramental and moral rigorism, but also by an association of "patristic fundamentalism" with a static ecclesiology, incapable of accepting the post-Tridentine structure of the Church. The difficulties it encountered created an irresolvable opposition with the Magisterium of the Church, accentuating a form of individualism inherent to any reform movement. Hence a notable drift towards Gallican Episcopalism, and later Richerist Presbyterianism.

Social. The participation of the nobility and lower classes in the movement was limited, but it appears that especially in times of crisis the Jansenist cause received the support of an "old-style middle class," the "bourgeoisie de Robe." This may have a practical explanation: they had the education and time to be engaged in theological reflection. This explanation has been combined with a sociological interpretation: some members of this bourgeoisie expressed in their involvement with Jansenism the difficulties they experienced as a class in exerting political influence. Some found motivations for a spiritual withdrawal, a complete "refusal of the world" (Jansénisme extramondain ); others for a total resistance, religious and political (Jansénisme intramondain ). This thesis has the merit of pointing to the social composition of the movement and its varying attitudes toward society. It does not offer a satisfactory interpretation of a centrist position more concerned with the religious reform of society, principally through education, social action, and political involvement. If Jansenist exaltation of the right of conscience represented values attractive to the bourgeois ideal in earlier times, Jansenist morality with its rejection of temporal achievement and its opposition to usury explains the disaffection of 18th-century bourgeoisie.

Political. The political ideal of Jansenius and of his disciples was that of a Catholic monarch supporting the interests of the Church. Their resolved attachment to this theory and criticism of the emerging modern State accounts for their alienation from public authorities, and the persecution they often had to endure. These difficulties stirred up a spirit of resistance that combined a "mentality of opposition" with a dynamic defense of their ideas. They looked for support in the higher circles of the State and the Church, established a network of influence, relentlessly attacked their adversaries, and constantly sought public support through pamphleteering. This activism enriched and nuanced their "political theology," which followed the religious evolution of the movement, but because of their theological perception of the monarchy, they never envisioned in the State the democratic polity they advocated in the Church. Jansenism's democratic influence on society is indirect and unintentional, the result of a resistance movement mentality and a participatory ecclesiology.

Jansenism cannot simply be reduced to a reactionary struggle over ideals of Church, State, and society. It was an authentic spiritual movement that exceedingly rationalized its experience and obstinately defended its conclusions. In doing so it limited the function and authority of the Church, a flaw that its enemies were keen to stress and use against it. Subsequent resistance amply supported the accusation, prompting condemnation of a notion of spiritual renewal and ecclesiastical reform that might have been condoned in a different context. Despite the diversity of the movement, one element kept it together: an elitist and intellectual conception of the relationship between God and man and a deep commitment to vindicate it. Paradoxically, it can therefore be said that by their conduct the Jansenists hindered the very process of renewal that they so tenaciously espoused.

Bibliography: e. appolis, Entre Jansénistes et Zelanti: Le Tiers Parti catholique au XVIII e siècle (Paris 1960). c. a. bolton, Church Reform in 18th-Century Italy (The Synod of Pistoia, 1786) (The Hague 1969). l. ceyssens, "Les cinq propositions de Jansenius à Rome," Jansenistica minora XI; l. ceyssens and j. a. g. tans, Autour de l'Unigenitus (Louvain 1987). p. chaunu, "Jansénisme et frontières de catholicité (XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles) Revue historique 227 (1962) 115138. r. m. golden ed., Church and Society under the Bourbon Kings (Lawrence 1982). l. kolakowski, God Owes Us Nothing (Chicago 1995). e. kovacs, ed., Katholische Auflkläurung und Josephinismus (Vienna 1977). b. r. kreiser, Miracles, Convulsions and Ecclesiastical Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris (Princeton, N.J. 1978): h. de lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology (London 1969). c. l. maire, "Port-Royal: The Jansenist Schism," in p. nora, ed., Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past, v. 1 (New York 1996) 301351. b. neveu, L'erreur et son juge. b. plongeron, "Recherches sur l'Aufklärung catholique en Europe occidentale (17701830)," Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 16 (1969) 555605. j. l. quantin, Le Catholicisme classique et les Pères de l'Église (Paris 1999). m. rosa, ed., Cattolicesimo e lumi nel settecento italiano (Rome 1981). a. sedgwick, Jansenism in Seventeenth-Century France (Charlottesville 1977). j. saugnieux, Le Jansénisme espagnol du XVIII e siècle: Ses composantes et ses sources (Oviedo 1975). p. stella, Studi sul Giansenismo (Bari 1972). r. taveneaux, Jansénisme et politique (Paris 1965). d. van kley, The Jansenists and the Expulsion of the Jesuits from France, 17571765 (New Haven, Conn. 1975); The Religious Origins of the French Revolution (New HavenLondon 1996). f. e. weaver, "The Neo-Gallican Liturgies Revisited," Studia liturgica 16 (198687) 5472.

[j. m. gres-gayer]

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Jansenism is a polemical term introduced by Jesuit critics to label those sympathetic to the theological views of Cornelius Jansen, the Louvain theologian and later bishop of Ypres. Supporters of Jansen protested that Jansenism is merely a "phantom" of the Jesuits and preferred to be called Augustinians. Jean Orcibal (1953) draws attention to the considerable difficulties in providing a precise definition of the term jansénisme. Even so, Jansenism can be understood in contrast to Jesuit theology, and the Jansenist movement did play a particularly significant political role in pre-revolutionary modern France. Moreover, Jansenism is of philosophical interest given its connections, both real and perceived, to Cartesianism.

Jansenist Theology

Jansen's main theological work is his Augustinus, posthumously published in 1640. He called for a return to the emphasis in Augustine on the importance of the workings of grace in the salvation of the elect. He was explicit in rejecting the view of the Jesuits, defended in the sixteenth century by the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina, that though grace is needed for salvation, it is also necessary that the will freely cooperate with the working of grace. For Molina, such freedom requires an "indifference" that makes it possible for the will to reject divine assistance. In response Jansen insisted that since the grace that heals the will is fully efficacious, it determines the will to meritorious action in a way that excludes indifference.

The Jesuit charge was that the theology of the Augustinus gives aid and comfort to a heretical Calvinist view that God determines one's salvation in complete independence of the works of one's free will. Jansen's defenders countered that the standard Molinist line supports the heretical doctrine of Pelagius, which Augustine and the early church had condemned as heretical, that one's salvation is due to one's free actions rather than to the workings of grace.

Pope Urban VIII initially condemned the Augustinus in the 1643 bull In eminenti on the technical grounds that it violated an earlier decree in Rome prohibiting inflammatory remarks concerning free will and grace. This decree was connected to a bitter dispute at the end of the sixteenth century that pitted Molina and the Jesuits against Domingo Bañez and other members of the Dominican order (of which St. Thomas Aquinas had been a member). To resolve the dispute, Pope Clement VIII established the Congregatio de Auxiliis (Congregation on Grace) in 1597 to determine whether Molina's views were heretical. At certain points there were rumors that the decision was about to go against Molina and the Jesuits. However, the congregation ended in a stalemate, and Pope Paul V closed it in 1607 with a decree forbidding either side of the dispute to charge the other with heresy. He further promised a resolution of the issue at "an opportune time," but the issue remains unresolved to this day.

In the case of Jansenism, however, the church took action. In 1653 Innocent X issued the bull Cum occasione, which condemned as heretical or temerarious the following five propositions that anti-Jansenist theologians in the Sorbonne had claimed to find in the Augustinus :

  1. Some of God's commandments are impossible for the just despite their desire and their effort [to keep them], given the forces that they have presently and also the lack of the grace that makes them possible.
  2. In the state of fallen nature, no one [can] ever resist interior grace.
  3. For merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, it is not required that man be free from the necessity of willing and acting; it is sufficient for him to be free from constraint.
  4. The Semi-pelagians admitted the necessity of interior prevenient grace for all good works, even for the beginning of faith; but they were heretical in claiming that this grace is such that the human will may either resist or obey it.
  5. To say that Jesus Christ died and shed his blood for all men, without a single exception, is to speak as a Semi-pelagian (Denzinger 1963, p. 445f).

In 1656 Alexander VII closed a loophole created by Cum occasione, which failed to mention the Augustinus explicitly, and issued Ad sacram, which claimed that the propositions are to be found in Jansen's text in their condemned sense. Thus did Jansenism become a formally defined heresy within the Catholic Church.

French Jansenism

Jansen was a friend of the French religious figure Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, abbé de Saint-Cyran, who served as the spiritual advisor to the reformist convent of Port-Royal des Champs. Though Jansenism began in Louvain, several theologians associated with Saint-Cyran and attached to Port-Royal as solitaires came to be identified as the leaders of the Jansenist faction. These individuals were known for their opposition to a moral laxism that they found in the work of the Jesuits. This aspect of Jansenism is most evident in the Lettres provincials (16561657) of the Port-Royalist solitaire Blaise Pascal (the brother of Jacqueline Pascal, a member of Port-Royal). Another famous solitaire, the Sorbonne theologian Antoine Arnauld (the brother of Jacqueline-Marie-Angélique Arnauld, the prioress of Port-Royal), wrote a defense of Saint-Cyran's penitential theology in the 1643 De la fréquente communion, and later was an active supporter of Jansen and the Augustinus.

Saint-Cyran had been an opponent of Cardinal Richelieu, the French first minister, and Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu's successor, inherited a suspicion of those associated with Port-Royal. As part of a campaign against Port-Royal, Mazarin lobbied for an official condemnation of Jansenism in Rome. The effort resulted in Cum occasione, but Arnauld argued that the five propositions have both heretical and nonheretical senses and that the Augustinus endorses them only in their nonheretical senses. When Rome answered with the explicit condemnation of Jansen's text in Ad sacram, Arnauld then insisted on the distinction between questions of faith (questions de droit ), on which the pope's word is authoritative, and questions of fact (questions de fait ), on which the pope has no special authority. He appealed to this distinction in claiming that whereas Catholics must accept the pope's claim that the propositions are heretical, they are entitled to retain a "respectful silence" with respect to the claim that the propositions are to be found in the Augustinus. Arnauld was expelled from the Sorbonne in 1656 for writing in support of the Duc de Liancourt (Roger du Plessis-Liancourt), who was refused absolution due to his failure to affirm the presence of the condemned propositions in the Augustinus.

After Mazarin's death in 1661, Louis XIV followed his former first minister's policy of suppressing Jansenism and started to put considerable pressure on the nuns and solitaires at Port-Royal. His attempts during the 1660s to impose an anti-Jansenist formulary both on those associated with Port-Royal and on the clergy brought the French church to the brink of schism. However, with the help of Pope Clement IX, Louis was able to institute a Peace of the Church in 1669 that allowed for the respectful silence that Arnauld had advocated. This brought to an end the predominance of what Louis Cognet (1968) calls "First Jansenism," for which theological issues were most crucial. Cognet contrasts this sort of Jansenism with a "Second Jansenism" that started to emerge after the end of the Peace of the Church in 1679 and that was more concerned with political issues. During the 1680s Jansenists such as Arnauld, then in exile in the Spanish Netherlands, took the side of the pope in political disputes between Paris and Rome. After 1700 Louis attempted to ally himself with anti-Jansenist elements of the Roman curia to bring an end to what he took to be a politically subversive form of Jansenism in the work of Pasquier Quesnel. His efforts led Pope Clement XI to issue the bull Unigenitus (1713), which condemned Quesnel's views. The Parlement de Paris initially refused to register the bull due to Gallican concerns that the sanctioning there of unjust excommunication compromised French sovereignty. Though Louis succeeded in having the bull registered and approved through intimidation, there was significant parlementary opposition to Unigenitus throughout the eighteenth century. Port-Royal could no longer be a source of support for this opposition, however, since Louis, with the encouragement of his confessor, the Jesuit père de la Chaize (Jean Chastain), disbanded the convent in 1709 and had it destroyed the following year.

During the 1730s Jansenism became associated with the convulsionnaires, so called because they experienced uncontrollable convulsions at the grave of François de Paris in the cemetery of Saint-Médard. This group of individuals claimed that the grave was the site of miracles that confirmed divine support for Jansenism. In response the French government closed the cemetery and countered Jansenist political opposition by making Unigenitus a law of state. After the 1650s, however, the Jansenist journal Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques played a prominent role in the parlementary campaign against the Jesuits, and this campaign ultimately resulted in the suppression of the Jesuit order in France in 1764 (see Van Kley 1975). Jansenist resistance to the French political establishment also arguably helped to set the stage for the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, though the secularism that dominated the revolution was far removed from the Augustinian spiritualism that pervaded the Jansenist movement.

Jansenism and Cartesianism

Francisque Bouillier, the nineteenth-century historian of Cartesianism, claims that there is "a natural alliance of the doctrine of Jansenius with that of Descartes." His specific proposal is that this alliance derives from the fact that the Cartesians "make God the unique efficient cause, the only actor who acts in us," whereas the Jansenists "give everything to the grace that operates in us without us" (1868, vol. 1, p. 432f).

The association of Jansenism with Cartesianism goes back to the seventeenth century, as indicated by the remark in the 1690 Voyage du Monde of the Jesuit Gabriel Daniel that "there are very few Jansenists who are not Cartesians" (1690, p. 285). This association was due in no small part to the interest in Cartesianism at Port-Royal. Cartesianism infuses La logique ou l'art de penser (1662) of Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, a text that reflects the teaching in the petite écoles of the convent before their suppression in 1660. Moreover, issues involving Cartesianism were prominent at discussions among Port-Royalist sympathizers held at the hôtel of the Duc de Liancourt from 1669 to 1674.

Even so, it is important to keep in mind that René Descartes himself was never associated with Jansenism during his lifetime, although the Augustinus was published a decade before his death. The connection between Jansenism and Cartesianism is a genuinely post-Descartes phenomenon. It is also noteworthy that there was significant opposition to Cartesianism from within Port-Royal, as indicated in the record of the Liancourt discussions. Some of this opposition was due to a fear of the heretical implications of Cartesian natural philosophy, particularly with regard to the theology of the Eucharist. Another source of opposition was the belief, widespread among the Jansenists and arguably present in the Augustinus itself, that human reason can accomplish little on its own given the corrupted state of fallen human nature. Even Arnauld, who among the Port-Royalists was the most supportive of Cartesianism and the use of reason in philosophy, criticized Descartes at one point for offering an account of human freedom in his correspondence that is "full of Pelagianism."

The historical realities are thus more complex than Bouillier's thesis suggests. There is need for caution even with respect to his proposal that the Cartesian claim that God is the only cause is naturally connected to the Jansenist emphasis that grace brings about one's meritorious action. Nicolas Malebranche was most responsible for the perception that Cartesianism leads to the occasionalist conclusion that God alone has causal power. But Malebranche insisted, against the Jansenists, that one has the freedom to reject divine grace. Arnauld in fact found such a view to be Pelagian, and he campaigned to have Malebranche's works placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in Rome, which they were in 1690. For his part, Malebranche noted the irony that he was being condemned because "I have refuted the opinions that the Church has condemned in Jansenius" (19581984, vol. 19, p. 548).

See also Arnauld, Antoine; Augustine, St.; Cartesianism; Descartes, René; Logic, History of; Malebranche, Nicolas; Molina, Luis de; Nicole, Pierre; Pascal, Blaise; Pelagius and Pelagianism; Thomas Aquinas, St.


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Bouillier, Francisque. Histoire de la philosophie cartésienne. 3rd ed., 2 vols. Paris: Delagrave, 1868.

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Schmaltz, Tad M. "What Has Cartesianism to Do with Jansenism." Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (1) (1999): 3756.

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Taveneaux, René. Jansénisme et politique. Paris: A. Colin, 1965.

Van Kley, Dale. The Jansenists and the Expulsion of the Jesuits from France, 17571765. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

Tad M. Schmaltz (2005)

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Jansenism. A Christian religious movement of 17th- and 18th-cent. France which drew its inspiration from the Augustinus (1640) of Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638). This study of St Augustine's doctrine of grace adopted his most rigid views, and was accused of reiterating the teaching of Calvin and of Baius. Jansen's views were propagated by Saint-Cyran, from 1635 the spiritual director of Mère Angélique Arnauld, abbess of Port-Royal near Paris, and he also had a considerable influence on Angélique's youngest brother Antoine, encouraging him to write his attack on the practice of frequent communion (1642). While emphasis on predestination, the fewness of the number of the elect, and the perfect state necessary to receive the sacraments, remained central, Jansenist teaching became associated with Gallicanism, and it attacked the casuistry of the Jesuits. It gained notable support from Pascal and Quesnel.

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Jansenism Theological school that grew up in the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was named after Cornelis Jansen, but the movement was strongest in France. The Jansenists believed that man is incapable of carrying out the commandments of God without divine ‘grace’, which is bestowed only on a favoured few. French Jansenists incurred the hostility of the Jesuits and of the monarchy, and they were condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1713.

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Jansenism a Christian movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, based on the writings of the Flemish Roman Catholic Cornelius Otto Jansen (1585–1638), a strong opponent of the Jesuits who proposed a reform of Christianity through a return to St Augustine. Jansenism was characterized by moral rigour and asceticism.

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Jansenism: see under Jansen, Cornelis.