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A History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland;
with a Sketch of Its Earlier Annals,
And some Account of the Brothers of the Common Life.

By the Rev. J.M. Neale, M.A.

Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1858.




1. James de la Rorre had been consecrated, May 19, 1647, under the title of Archbishop of Ephesus; and it afterwards became a point of importance that the ceremony had been performed by one bishop[1], or according to others, by two bishops, only. In the month of August following he administered confirmation to a large assembly at Spanbroek, a village between Alkmaar and Schagen, in North Holland. On this he was banished, his private estate was confiscated, and he himself took up his residence at Antwerp.

2. Rovenius was no sooner in the grave than the Jesuits recommenced their intrigues. Paludanus, an Augustinian, who had distinguished himself by an attack on the Augustinus of Jansenius, was presented to the internuncio at Brussels as a candidate for the Vicariate Apostolic; on the reply that it was already conferred, he was put forward as a fit coadjutor and successor to De la Torre. Here, again, he was baffled, it being discovered that his own age was greater than that of the man whom he proposed to succeed. “Had a regular, and a stranger to the country, been appointed to the office, religion,” says De la Torre, “would have been at an end[2].”

3. Firmly as this prelate resisted so open an attack, he was not proof against persuasion and intrigue. The [154] Jesuits asserted that they had the power of obtaining for him an episcopate in the Low Countries, less onerous and more wealthy than that of Utrecht; and having induced him only fourteen days later to enter the sacristy of their house at Brussels, they obtained from him an act by which he permitted them to establish eleven new stations, and to increase the number of their missionaries in those which they already possessed. This document is known by the name of the Concessiones Ephesinae[3].

4. The chapter of Haarlem was vigorous in defence of its rights. They represented to the Archbishop that, without their consent, he could not allow so flagrant a violation of their jurisdiction. The weak prelate endeavoured to retrace his steps, and the Jesuits themselves gave him the opportunity. Not content with taking possession of the posts that had been assigned to them, they presented a petition to the Propaganda, in which they set forth, more boldly than ever, their often-repeated assertion, that the Church in Holland had come to an end; that all jurisdiction had perished, and that therefore they needed no further authorization for their stations than that of the superior of their mission[4]. De la Torre resolved to undertake the journey to Rome, and his clergy gave him as companion Abraham van Brienen, who had already visited the Eternal City in his company. Van Brienen was pastor of S. Gertrude at Utrecht, a man celebrated, besides his learning and holiness of life, for the ready wit with which, in his sermons, he seized the weak point of an heretical argument, and reduced it to an absurdity[5]. The deputies lost no time in presenting [155] a memorial to the Propaganda, in which the Archbishop gave a full account of the state of his diocese and province, vindicated his clergy from the calumnies charged against them, and exposed the intrigues of the Jesuits. It must be confessed, however, that so far as style and arrangement is concerned, a certain degree of weakness is visible in this document[6].

5. The Propaganda at once took the matter into consideration. By the instructions of July 2, confirmed by a Bull of Alexander VII., bearing date Sept. 20, the Jesuits, in common with the other religious orders, are enjoined to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the ordinaries throughout Holland; and this important success was announced by the prelate, on his return to Holland, in two pastoral letters: and we find him vigorously carrying out the decree of the Propaganda against a Carmelite friar who obstinately refused obedience to it.

6. While at Rome, an affair was commenced which shortly entailed vexatious consequences on the Church of Holland. De la Torre was anxious to obtain a coadjutor, and was desired by the Pope to furnish him with a list of ecclesiastics whom he thought qualified for the dignity. Among the eight names which he furnished, the last was that of Zachary de Metz, a canon of Thorren, near Liége, who had been acquainted with the Nuncio Chigi (now elevated to the chair of S. Peter) at Cologne, and who was now at Rome on the somewhat unedifying errand of procuring a dispensation which should enable him to hold a second canonry at Maestricht. His name was inserted merely [156] out of compliment to the Pope, but the note was added that he was unknown in Holland, and would probably be prejudiced in favour of the regulars. Baldwin Catz, Dean of Haarlem, was first nominated; on his refusal, various negotiations took place, in which the rights of the clergy to elect were entirely overlooked. The Chapter of Utrecht at length furnished a list of four, among whom the great and good John de Neercassel, then Vicar-General of the archdiocese, stood first. The Pope passed by all, and finally resolved on De Metz. He was consecrated under the title of Bishop of Tralles, and on going into Holland, took up his residence at Amsterdam. Here his hasty temper involved him in many difficulties, and embroiled his whole Church.

7. He had obtained a permission from the magistrates to reside in the capital; but the open way in which he conducted religious ceremonies, and especially his habit of wearing his episcopal vestments in public, soon gave great offence, and excited fears that another persecution would be the result. His domineering spirit was resented by the clergy, and he was presently involved in an open rupture with the Chapters of both Utrecht and Haarlem. Acting rather as ordinary than as coadjutor, he at length proceeded so far as to annihilate the latter Chapter, but was forced to retract this document. In vain did De la Torre, writing from Antwerp, remind him that he was only invested with subordinate authority, that the Propaganda had not elevated him to the episcopate to enable him to destroy the clergy, but to assist them. The grand vicars of Haarlem (who were De la Torre’s pro-vicars) were in continual opposition to the Bishop of Tralles, and were obliged to act strenuously against his aggressions. De Metz was in necessitous circumstances, [157] to relieve which he had recourse to a collection of alms, which gave great offence. His applications to Rome for an income were met with no more consoling reply than

“Nos mitram dedimus: tu caetera cures.”

I hurry over an epoch that has but little of interest, especially as more exciting times are approaching. Zachary de Metz was seized with a tedious illness in the beginning of 1661, which brought him to the grave July 15 of that year.

8. In the meantime, the state of affairs at Brussels was not more favourable. It would seem that De la Torre had always been ambitious of a superior station; and shortly after his return, the Jesuits engaged to use their influence for his presentation to a see in the Low Countries, provided he would make some fresh concessions. He yielded, but not without afterwards expressing his regrets. The see of Ypres falling vacant, he was, after some tedious negotiations, presented to it, but too late for his own advantage. He had given several proofs of an enfeebled mind, and these at length amounting to positive madness, he was confined in the monastery of Huybergen, where he departed this life Sept. 16, 1661. The acts of his last five years were afterwards rescinded by the Propaganda.



[1] The celebrated Paradanus, Abbat of Vleerbech, in Flanders, says one, (Recueil, p. 164); Van Heussen, two. Bat. Sacr. 459.

[2] See his letter, bearing date Dec. 17, 1651, to Sivolt, Defens. Eccl. Traj. 456.

[3] It is given at full in Bat. Sacr. ii. 459.

[4] This document is printed at length in Tract. Hist. i. 95.

[5] Van Heussen possessed an account of his journey to Rome, written very amusingly by himself. If it is in the archives, it escaped my search. Van Brienen died in 1683, after more than fifty years’ pastorate. His meditations on the Advent and the Passion, written under the name of Van der Mat, and reprinted at Leyden in 1709, are very excellent.

[6] Broedersen (Tr. Hist. i. 96) only gives extracts. The document itself is preserved in the archives.


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