Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution

Article excerpt

Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution. By William Doyle. [Studies in European History.] (New York: St. Martin's Press. 2000. Pp. x, 109. $11.95 paperback.)

For the larger public Jansenism is moral rigorism; for a religious historian it is a movement that disrupted post-Tridentine Catholic renewal; for a secular historian it is what the subtitle of the work announces: resistance to authority. From whatever angle, its history is complex: many participants, many books and pamphlets, and a lot of ideological side-tracks/digressions. What was it all about? A book, of course, Augustinus by Cornelius Jansenius, and five "propositions" or excerpts, that were or were not in this book. The book was condemned; the five propositions were condemned, but the Janenists said that the book could not be condemned because it represented the thought of St. Augustine, that the five propositions could be censured, but since they did not appear in the book it did not matter. Rome evidently did not appreciate this arrogant attitude, nor did the French monarchy which could not bear such an independence of thought. Therefore, more condemnations came, followed by more resistance. Another book was condemned, Quesnel's Reflexions morales, and 101 propositions in it. This time the Jansenists said that they were in the book, but they could not be condemned as they represented the authentic Catholic tradition. They appealed to public opinion; they denounced the Pope and bishops who had betrayed the faith; they secured the elimination of their arch-enemies the Jesuits; they also destabilized the monarchy since it had sided with their opponents. …

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