views updated


A posthumous work by Cornelius jansen, Bishop of Ypres, published in Louvain, Belgium, in October 1640, which is the source of the Jansenist controversies. The work, the result of many years of research, intended to be an accurate exposition of the thought of St. augustine on the disputed issues of salvation and grace. Since Jansen claimed to be only the interpreter of St. Augustine, the enormous folio volume was simply entitled Augustinus.

The first tome is devoted to the study of the opinions held by the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, according to St. Augustine. The second is preceded by a very interesting Liber proemialis, in which Jansen studied what the relationship between philosophy and theology ought to be and, using notes furnished by Saint-Cyran, affirmed that the Church had given to St. Augustine an absolute authority in questions pertaining to grace. Jansen then studied the state of the angels and man after the Fall, assuming a very pessimistic standpoint in which he presented as absolute the power of concupiscence over free will, thenceforth inclined to sin. Finally, Jansen proved the impossibility of a state of pure nature, thus attacking a thesis defended by the Molinists. The third tome goes to the core of the problem by studying the healing of human nature and its restoration by the grace of Christ the Redeemer. Vigorously affirmed are the Augustinian theses concerning the necessity of grace for every good work, the infallibility of grace without nevertheless suppressing freedom, and the absolute gratuity of predestination. On all these points, Jansen adopted in their entirety the most rigid of St. Augustine's formulas and adhered especially to the last, the most rigid, in which he had expressed his thought. He spurned the Thomist idea that liberty is capable of opposites, is a potestas ad opposita, and maintained that an act is free when it is in accord with the profound spontaneity of nature, to which he gives the name of will, even if this nature cannot act otherwise; in his eyes, free and voluntary are identical. This will is moved only by delectation. In the state of corrupt nature, it is invincibly drawn to seek this delectation in the love of self and in creatures, and grace is necessary to put it right. Grace is an inclination of love that enters the will and there diffuses charity, inclining the will toward a completely spiritual delectation, which renders it conformable to the will of God. These two delectations, therefore, are the true principles of men's acts; that which leads the will to assent is called delectatio victrix, victorious delectation. Finally, in order that there be no misunderstanding regarding his intentions, Jansen added to his work an appendix called the Parallelon, which had the purpose of establishing the consistency of thought between the Pelagians and the Molinists, thus giving Augustinus a very controversial turn.

The work was finished just before the author's premature death on May 6, 1638. In his will Jansen had entrusted its publication to his friends and disciples Henri Calenus and Liber Froidmont and at the same time had submitted the work to the judgment of the Holy See. Despite the precautions taken by Jansen, his project became known, especially by the Jesuits, who endeavored to prevent the publication of the work. At their intervention Stravius, the Internuncio of Brussels, opposed the publishers with the decrees of Paul V (1611) and Urban VIII (1623), which forbade any publication on the subject of grace. But these decrees had never been officially served at the University of Louvain, which consequently attached no importance to them. Since they had already gone to considerable expense in the printing, Calenus and Froidmont used this as an argument to obtain permission in September 1640 to put the work up for sale. However, in view of the difficulties that they had encountered, they did not include at the beginning of the work the dedicatory letter to Urban VIII that Jansen had composed. Despite its considerable bulknearly 1,300 folio pages in two columns of close printingcopies of Augustinus were disseminated rapidly across Europe, especially in France. In 1641 it was reprinted in Paris with the approval of six Parisian doctors; other editions followed in Rouen in 1642 and 1643. The French editions added to Augustinus an austere treatise by the Franciscan F. Conrius that condemned to hell children who died without Baptism. There were no further editions. It remained however at the center of the Jansenist controversy. The bull In Eminenti (1643) censured it with other works for not respecting the papal restrictions. cum occasione (1653) condemned as heretical five propositions "on the occasion" of its publication: 1. Some of God's commandments are impossible for the just who wish and endeavor to obey them, considering the forces they possess; the grace that would make their fulfillment possible is also lacking. 2. In the state of fallen nature, no one ever resists interior grace. 3. To merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, it is not necessary that man be free from internal necessity; it is sufficient that he be free from external constraint. 4. The Semi-Pelagians admitted the necessity of an interior prevenient grace for every action, but they were heretical in that they held that this grace was such that man could either obey or resist it. 5. To hold that Jesus Christ died or shed His blood for all men, without excepting anyone, is Semi-Pelagianism.

ad sanctam beati petri sedem (1656) precised the presence of the propositions in the book and their condemnation in the sense given to them by Jansenius.

See Also: jansenism.

Bibliography: l. ceyssens, Sources relatives aux débuts du jansénisme et de l'antijansénisme, 16401643 (Louvain 1957); "Les cinq propositions de Jansenius à Rome," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 66 (Rome) 449501; 821886; "L'authenticité des cinq propositions condamnées de Jansenius," Antonianum 50 (Rome) 368424. j. orcibal, Jansenius d'Ypres (15851638) (Paris 1989)

[l. j. cognet/

j. m. gres-gayer]