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Religious Controversialist and the Issues of Unigenitus, Jansenism, and Gallicanism

  • Gerald Cerny
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Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 107)

Abstract

Jacques Basnage’s systematic and sustained criticism of the papal bull Unigenitus Dei Filius between 1714 and 1719 publicized a unique Protestant interpretation of papal prerogative, Jansenism, and Gallicanism in a vociferous controversy monopolized by divided Roman Catholic apologists and antagonists.1 His four anonymous polemics2 exclusively devoted to the question of Pope Clement XI’s condemnation of Pasquier Quesnel’s Nouveau Testament en français, avec des réflexions morales sur chaque verset, pour en rendre la lecture plus utile et la méditation plus aisée, and the disputes it provoked in the French Roman Catholic Church, have eluded historians interested in Jansenism3 and in early eighteenth-century Gallicanism.4 This oversight does not preclude that the Huguenot refugee’s disquisitions remain without interest. On the contrary, their examination reveals Basnage to have been thoroughly versed in the protracted quarrels that immobilized the Gallican Church, the French monarchy, and the papacy during the second-half of the seventeenth and the first-third of the eighteenth century. Jacques Basnage’s four anonymous tracts also disclose their author to have been a formidable religious controversialist of the first order who used contemporary events to postulate disguised Calvinist solutions to otherwise exhausted disputations.

Keywords

National Council Religious Truth John XXIII Blind Obedience Papal Authority 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    French Roman Catholic works on the condemnation of Pasquier QuesneP’s Réflexions morales, as it came to be known, by the bull Unigenitus numbered around 180 alone in 1714 (Louis Cognet, Le jansénisme [Paris, 1968], 102).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Réflexions désintéressées sur la Constitution du Pape Clément XI qui condamne le Nouveau Testament du Père Quesnel, dans lesquelles on examine les Droits du Pape, les Libériez de l’Eglise Gallicane, les Plaintes des Augustiniens, & les différens remèdes qu’on y peut apporter (Amsterdam, 1714); L’Unité, la visibilité, l’autorité de l’Eglise et la vérité renversée par la Constitution de Clément XI, Unigenitus, et par la manière dont elle est reçûë (Amsterdam, 1715); 2nd ed. (Amsterdam, 1716); A vis sur la tenue d’un Concile national en France, ou Réponse aux Difficultez proposées par M. Du Pin contre ce Concile (n.p., 1715); L’Etat de l’Eglise Gallicane sous le Reigne de Louis XIV et sous la Minorité du Roi Louis XV (Rome [Amsterdam?], 1719).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the resurgence of interest in Jansenism and the Unigenitus affair, see esp. Edmond Préclin and Eugène Jarry, Les luttes politiques et doctrinales aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, vol. XIX of Histoire de l’Eglise depuis les origines jusqu’á nos jours, éd. J.-B. Duroselle and E. Jarry, 2 vols. (Paris, 1955-56), I, 193-219, 234-44; Jean Delumeau, Le Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire (Paris, 1971), 155-91; and the following works: Augustin Gazier, Histoire générale du mouvement janséniste, 2 vols. (Paris, 1922); Antoine Adam, Du mysticisme à la révolte. Les jansénistes du XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1968); Cognet, Le jansénisme; René Taveneaux, ed., Jansénisme et politique (Paris, 1965); Jacques-François Thomas, La querelle de l’Unigenitus (Paris, 1949); Jacques Parquez, La bulle Unigenitus et le Jansénisme politique (Paris, 1936); Edmond Préclin, Les jansénistes du XVIIIe siècle et la Constitution civile du clergé. Le développement du richérisme. Sa propagation dans le bas clergé, 1713-1791 (Paris, 1928); Jean Carreyre, Le Jansénisme durant la Régence, 3 vols. (Louvain, 1929-33); Georges Hardy, Le Cardinal de Fleury et le mouvement janséniste (Paris, 1925); B. Robert Keiser, Miracles, Convulsions, and Ecclesiastical Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris (Princeton, 1978).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Albert Le Roy, Le Gallicanisme au XVIIIe siècle. La France et Rome de 1700 à 1715. Histoire diplomatique de la bulle Unigenitus jusqu’à la mort de Louis XIV, d’après des documents inédits (Paris, 1892); Victor Martin, Le Gallicanisme et la réforme catholique. Essai historique sur l’introduction en France des décrets du concile de Trente (Paris, 1919); idem, Le Gallicanisme politique et le clergé de France (Paris, 1929); Aimé-Georges Martimort, Le Gallicanisme (Paris, 1973); idem, Le Gallicanisme de Bossuet; Gazier, Bossuet et Louis XIV.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The Réflexions désintéresséesare in the form of two letters addressed to “A. M. D. M. B.” by the writer “J. D. F.” The letters are dated January 19, 1714 (ibid., 1-227) and March 30, 1714 (ibid., 228-83). They are followed by a postscript dated April 10, 1714 (ibid., 285-304), which is entitled “Récit historique de ce qui s’est passé jusqu’à présent sur la Constitution de Clément XI du 8 Septembre 1713.” The work culminated with the publication of a surprisingly rich collection of documents (ibid., 305-410), beginning with the papal bull Unigenitus.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    One would have expected Basnage to have written “efficacious grace and gratuitous predestination.” Instead, he selected “efficacious and victorious grace” because his message was essentially Paulian rather than Augustinian. It should be noted that the bitter enmity of Jansenists toward Calvinists in their seventeenth-century polemics mitigated against Basnage’s sympathetic endorsement of Jansenist notions of gratuitous predestination as original thought.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Jean Meuvret, “Les aspects politiques de la liquidation du conflit gallican (juillet 1691-septembre 1693), ” Revue d’Histoire de l’Eglise de France, lXXXIII (1947), 257-70. Pierre Blet has recently re-examined Louis XIV’s posture to the papacy in “Louis XIV et le Saint-Siège, ” XVIIe siècle, l31 (1979), 137-54. His conclusion is: “En dépit des malentendus réciproques, malgré les intransigeances des canonistes romains et les suggestions imprudentes de conseillers clercs, Louis XIV suivi dans ses rapports avec le Saint-Siège les voies de la mesure et de la modération” (ibid, l154).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Réflexions désintéressées, l10. In his treatise Basnage preferred to employ the term “Augustiniens” instead of “Jansénistes.” Note his comment: “II ne faut point chicaner ici sur le tître de Janséniste……” (loc.cit.).Basnage was following the practice of French Jansenists who rejected the name which had been fabricated by their adversaries; instead, they preferred to be called “disciples de Saint Augustin.”Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., 45. Quesnel’s Réflexions morales, lwhich had been published in various editions between 1668-92, had been read and praised by generations of Roman Catholic churchmen, including Cardinal Albani before he was elected pope as Clement XI in 1700.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Réflexions désintéressées, l233.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Basnage remarked that Quesnel’s propositions 48, 49, and 59, as enumerated in Unigenitus, lwere in conformity with Paul, but were condemned as heretical by Clement XI (ibid, l127).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Basnage wrote: “Saint Paul enseigne que les hommes sont esclaves &que c’est ‘Dieu qui les transporte en la glorieuse liberté des Enfans de Dieu’” (ibid., 130-31).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Basnage maintained that Jansenius and Quesnel merely reiterated what Augustine had originally expounded (ibid., 147).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid., 191.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., 208. Basnage dismissed the Jansenists by remarking: “Jansénisme n’est qu’un nom” (ibid., 214). He was, in part, critical of the sect because of Jansenius’s recantation to the pope on his death-bed (ibid., 214-15).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., 217.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See Préclin, Les jansénistes du XVIIIe siècle, l41–45.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    2nd éd. (Amsterdam, 1718); 3rd éd. (n.p., 1754). See Préclin, Les jansénistes du XVIIIe siècle, l60-65.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    The second edition published in Amsterdam in 1716 was undoubtedly occasioned by the noisy reception of the book in France and in Rome (see J. Basnage to G. Cuper, August 30 [1716], KBH, MS 72 D 58 k). The edition utilized in the text is the first edition, since Basnage made no later additions or corrections for the second edition.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    (Valenciennes, 1704), followed by three supplementary pastoral instructions printed in 1705.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Among the five opinions of Vivien de La Borde that Basnage found favor with were the following: that the Church must have the same fate as that of Jesus Christ; that bishops declaring on dogma should be entirely free and not coerced; that recourse could be made to a small number of deliberating prelates, who deciding against their own interests, cannot be suspected of being either deceitful or mistaken; that the Church does not loose its visibility or evidence by following the above principles; and that the authority of pastors in judgment of doctrine is not as absolute as imagined (L’Unité, la visibilité, l’autorité de l’Eglise et la vérité renversée, lxiv-xvi).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    In Guía espiritual que desembaraza el alma y la conduce por el interior.…(Madrid, 1676) [first translated into Italian and published in Rome, 1675], Miguel Molinos advanced interior annihilation of the ego for one to attain purity of one’s soul and a perfect, mystical contemplation. In France, his most prominent followers were Madame Jeanne-Marie Guyon, née Bouvières de La Motte, and Fénelon. See Paul Dudon, Le Quiétiste espagnol Michel Molinos(Paris, 1921); Alain Guy, “Le quiétisme de Molinos: bilan et portée, ” in Centre d’Histoire de la Réforme et du Protestantisme, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier, La controverse religieuse (XVIe-XIXe siècles), léd. Michel Péronnet, 2 vols. (Montpellier [1980]), II, 1-10.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L’Unité, la visibilité, l’autorité de l’Eglise et la vérité renversée, l113-33.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ibid,, l228, 230-31.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    The Difficultez sur la convocation et tenue d’un concile national en France dans les circonstances présentes(n.p., 1715) is probably the pamphlet which Basnage attributed to Du Pin, perhaps with the help of his Parisian informants. Nicéron did not list the work in his catalogue of Du Pin’s works (Mémoires, lII, 25-48). The most recent authority, Pierre Conlon, does not assign it to Du Pin, but lists it among anonymous works printed during 1685–1715 (Prélude au siècle des Lumières en France, lIV, 462, no. 17710).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    See Cognet, Le jansénisme, l93.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    See Préclin and Jarry, Les luttes politiques et doctrinales aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, II, 215-19.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    J. Basnage to P. Quesnel, November 27 [1717], Ancien Fonds d’Amersfoort, Port-Royal et Unigenitus, MS 966, Rijksarchief, Utrecht.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    See Joseph A.G. Tans, ed., Pasquier Quesnel et les Pays-Bas. Correspondance (Groningen and Paris, 1960).Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht. 1987

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  • Gerald Cerny

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