Project Canterbury

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.






1661 — 1686.

1. It cannot be denied that the episcopate of De la Torre had been highly disastrous to the Church of Holland. It was not simply that the Jesuits had ob­tained an accession of influence, and an increase of numerical strength, but the arrangement long since devised to propitiate the civil power in the United Provinces was now continued in order that Rome might not take umbrage. De la Torre had entirely dropped the title of Utrecht, and it was scarcely re­sumed by his successors. At the same time — as innu­merable documents remain to prove — in the election to which the clergy proceeded, they proposed, beyond all doubt, to provide themselves with a true arch­bishop, and not to nominate a mere vicar-apostolic for the approval of the Papal Court. That choice fell on John van Neercassel, Grand Vicar for the two preceding years of the archdiocese. Born at Gorcum, and a relation of Estius, who composed the History of the Nineteen Martyrs named from that town, he pur­sued his studies in the college of S. Pulcheria at Louvain, and thence removed to Paris, where he entered the Oratorian Convent. That order, as we have seen, was earnest in defence of the doctrine of [159] S. Augustine; and no doubt it was through their teaching that the young divine embraced those tenets to which he clung during his long and laborious life, and which have made his memory hateful to Molinists and to Ultramontanes[2]. Having removed to Saumur, he next visited Mechlin, and for some time taught theology in the archiepiscopal seminary there.

2. A beautiful letter, addressed to him by his late superior, Nicolas Jourdain, has been preserved[3]: —

“Let those,” says the old man, “who teach, learn from you, not by word and tongue, not by pen and ink, only, but in deed and in earnest, humility, union, concord; play the messenger of peace; join in the bowels of Christ the things that are severed; perfect in the unity of faith and love that which is already joined, — that all may be consummated into one. Be ignorant — or at least act as if you were ignorant — of strife, parties, debates, contentions, which lacerate the Body of Christ; despise no man, vex no man, adore no man; use in all things a Christian balance, for Christian justice is entrusted to you; bear in mind of what Body, of what Head, of what Spirit, you are a member; and how holily you must act as the representative of the Mediator of God and man, Christ Jesus.”

How well Van Neercassel carried out the instruc­tions which he thus received, his future history will shew. On his return to Holland, he laboured for some time at Rotterdam, and then at S. Gertrude’s at Utrecht. On the death of Wachtelaer, he was chosen Grand Vicar; and on that of Zachary de Metz, was unanimously elected coadjutor and future successor to the Archbishop of Ephesus. The nomination was confirmed by Alexander VII.; but on the death of De la Torre, which occurred, as we have seen, shortly after, the Pope raised Baldwin Catz to the vacant see, [160] leaving to Van Neercassel his coadjutorship and right of succession. This was an attaint to the rights of the clergy, which was severely felt in Holland.

3. Catz was also a native of Gorcum[4], and after exercising his ministry at Spaerwoud for some years, he became confessor of the convent in den Hoek at Haarlem, Dean of that diocese, and Vicar of those of Groningen and Leeuwarden. He had refused, in 1655, to become the coadjutor of De la Torre, be­cause his nomination would have infringed the rights of the clergy. But, though his health was much en­feebled, and his mind was far less vigorous, he was now unable to resist the whispers of ambition. By whom it was that he was suggested to the Pope as a fit successor to De la Torre has never clearly been known, but popular belief pointed out Cardinal Albizzi as chief of the intrigue. A weary series of negotiations followed; Neercassel was only too happy to resign his rights; the clergy remonstrated in vain; and Roman influence carried the day. A kind of concordat was entered into at Haarlem, by which it was agreed that Catz should continue to govern that Church, while Neercassel remained at the head of the archdiocese; an informal arrangement, which, had it continued long in force, must inevitably have entailed confusion and discord on its promoters. Catz was consecrated under the title of Archbishop of Philippi, Van Neercassel under that of Bishop of Castoria, at Cologne, Sept. 9, 1662. They were received with the greatest joy at the places where they rested, in their [161] voyage down the Rhine, and thus entered on the government of the Church of Holland in the autumn of the same year.

4. Baldwin Catz had always borne the character of a pious, but not an able, man. As director of the Béguinage at Haarlem, he had been much beloved; but it was soon apparent that he was unequal to the weight of that diocese. A few months only had elapsed from his consecration when he began to give proof of impaired intellect[5]. His mental infirmity increasing, it was thought fit to remove him to the Oratorian House at Louvain, where he departed this life May 18, 1663. He had been a greater and a happier man if he had refused in his age that mitre which he had re­jected in his prime. On his decease, Van Neercassel became, of course, both de jure and de facto, Arch­bishop of Utrecht.

5. The episcopate of the new prelate was the breath­ing-time which it pleased God to afford the Church of Holland, before the fearful struggle in which the commencement of the next century was involved. The Protestant magistrates vied with each other in paying compliments and shewing courtesy to the Bishop; his native place, Gorcum, received him with distinguished marks of honour; the old placards were either recalled or avowedly permitted to fall into dis­use; the number of Catholics increased daily; and the happiest concord subsisted between the various [162] sections of the clergy. The old disputes with Haarlem were arranged: the Chapter acknowledging the prelate to possess the same powers as if he had been con­secrated to their own Church; and he maintained their capitular rights to be as complete and entire as those of any Chapter in Christendom. In like manner he confirmed the vicariate of Utrecht, attesting it to be “the column of the Church Catholic militant in Belgium[6].” His labours in his province are attested by a multitude of little diaries which he kept during their course, and which are preserved in the archives. One specimen may serve: —

“1665. Oct. 5. Visited C. R[7]. in RY. The oratory, very fair: the holy oils not kept with sufficient attention. Promise of amendment for the future. The office usually said in the houses of the nobility. On complaint made, the pastor de­sired to begin precisely at half-past eight, and to visit his parishioners more frequently. He lives in a hired house. There is no revenue, except fifty florins. He has four Klopjes, but no wardens. He seems a little tenacious of his own opi­nion. Asked as to his confessor; he replied that he gene­rally went to Father Baers.”

6. Another point which occupied much of the atten­tion of Van Neercassel was the subject of mixed mar­riages. It had been the general opinion, up to that time, in the Church of Holland, that the presence of a priest was necessary to the validity of matrimony. Nothing, it is manifest, so much irritated the Pro­testants as to be told that all their marriages were but [163] legalized adulteries, all their children illegitimate, all their lives one series of immorality. Again, if a wife were converted to the Roman Church, she was bound to leave her husband till re-married to him; and, on his refusal to undergo that rite, might be married to any other person; and so vice versa. Van Neercassel was the first to elaborate what is now the Roman prac­tice in the like case. Distinguishing the natural and civil contract from the sacrament, he allowed that all marriages celebrated according to the laws of the coun­try in which they took place were valid, and hence obligatory and indissoluble; though they should after­wards be hallowed, in the case of conversion, by the benediction of the Church. This was approved by the Roman Penitentiary in 1671; and finally, the same doctrine, after having been taught and defended by Van Espen, was made the law of the Roman Church by Benedict XIV. in 1741.

7. Almost simultaneous with the elevation of Van Neercassel to the see of Utrecht was the definite pro­mulgation of the celebrated Formulary, that the five propositions were condemned as being of Jansenius, and in the sense of Jansenius; and the commence­ment of a more active persecution by the Molinists and Ultramontanes. Undoubtedly, the Bishop of Castoria took an active part in supporting and in sympathizing with his brethren. With the protesting bishops he was on the most intimate terms. Arnauld and Quesnel were his valued friends. The second-class leaders of the Augustinian party, as they gra­dually came forward, began to look to Utrecht as a future home, in case they should ever be overwhelmed by the persecution of lettres du cachet and the Bastille.

“At this time,” writes a furious Molinist, “every door was thrown open to French and to Belgian Jansenism, An active [164] correspondence is carried on between Neercassel and the chiefs of the sect. Noms de guerre are devised, cyphers arranged at Paris, Brussels, Louvain, and Utrecht. This route is covered with messages and lies. Neercassel made his pilgrimage to Port Royal. Pupil and member of the Oratorians, he transplanted this institution into Holland. Arnauld is at Leyden, and prepares the asylum of Warmond for Quesnel, Gerberon, Van Espen, Duguet, D’Etemare.”

8. I have already shewn how, in France, Gallican views naturally allied themselves with so-called Jan­senism. In Holland, the same alliance was even yet more natural. The clergy, traditionally attached, from the time of à Kempis, and Geert Groote, and Herph, to the Augustinian views of grace, found those tenets unfashionable in the court of Rome, and exposing those who held them to censure, to persecution, to suspicion of heresy. At the same time, they saw their own ecclesiastical rights trampled under foot; they found that the more they yielded, the less mercy was shewn by their opponents; and when the Formu­lary involved the recognition of papal infallibility in questions de facto, they ranged themselves, almost to a man, on the side of the persecuted party, and be­came the defenders of the protesting bishops, of Ar­nauld, and their followers.

9. The Jesuits, in the meanwhile, were extending their influence, and adding to their stations, in Hol­land. Van Neercassel again and again complained to the Propaganda; and there are no less than eight de­crees[8] by which the Regulars are admonished to pay due obedience to their ecclesiastical superiors. Still they persisted in their efforts. In Overyssel and Zea­land there were instances where the Jesuits, although insufficient in numbers for the work of the Christian [165] priesthood, refused to allow the assistance of secular priests in their stations, preferring the loss of souls to the diminution of their own influence. A touching letter from the Catholics at Vlissingen[9], (Flushing,) to Adrian van Outheusden, sets forth some of the diffi­culties of those who were left to the care of the Je­suits. The object is to procure the assistance of a resident secular priest: —

“If any of the Catholics at Flushing is seized with illness, a messenger is despatched to the Jesuit Fathers at Middelburg. They come in a hurry, confess and communicate the sick man, and return to Middelburg. He thus remains, chained to his bed; and there is no priest to invoke the Di­vine grace upon him, nor to comfort him. Then we have old men and old women among us, who are not strong enough to get as far as Middelburg. Then the Jesuits dare not stay here, because the community at Middelburg, our good friends, would not consent to it; … and the Catholics of Mid­delburg give them more money than we can do, by which the Jesuits are supported. Fourthly, if the weather is stormy or rainy, a man who would have gone to church stays at home, for Middelburg is an hour’s distance from Flushing. So, too, if anyone is ill here, and the weather is extremely unfavourable, the Jesuit Father stays at home, and thinks, ‘Almighty God will preserve the sick man till to-morrow.’ But, alas! that morrow often does not come, — as happened last summer in the case of two Catholics.”

He adds that, on the receipt of two hundred florins yearly, it had been promised that a Father would be supplied from Middelburg. It would appear that the money had been raised, but no priest made his ap­pearance. The date is April 29, 1678. And this seems a fair example of the manner in which the Jesuit missions were carried on. The suppression of several stations by the Propaganda in 1669 enraged [166] the members of the Society to a higher pitch than ever, and the result was an accusation of Jan­senism against the courageous bishop who thus dared to assert his own rights. The five articles delated by the Jesuits were declared by the Holy Office exempt from all censure; nevertheless Van Neercassel found it expedient to visit Rome towards the conclusion of 1670. M. de Pomponne, ambassador from the court of Versailles at the Hague, furnished him with letters of recommendation to Paris; and, fortified with these, and with similar documents from Christina of Sweden, from the Grand-Duke of Tuscany, and from the Prin­cess de Conti, he arrived in Rome Nov. 21, 1670.

10. He was received in the most flattering manner by Clement X. and the principal cardinals, and had an offer of apartments in the Propaganda, though he preferred taking up his abode at the house of his tried friend the Cardinal de Medicis. A week after his arrival, he thus writes to the Chapters[10]: —

“Our rivals asserted that I should never come here, either because my propensity to study would not allow me to give up the time necessary to the journey, or because my vene­ration towards the Holy See was not sufficient to induce me to undertake the fatigues of so long a pilgrimage. They now suffer for their mistaken opinion. I neither ought nor wish to conceal thus much in their praise, — that I am most offi­ciously visited by them. Perhaps they think that I shall be fascinated by such testimonies of their benevolence and honour, or think that I am to be noticed at Rome, that Rome may be persuaded how much they have honoured me in Bel­gium. Whatever be the cause, they shew themselves in a very different light here from that in which they have appeared there. I entreat you to offer your prayers for me more frequently and more fervently than usual, that I may lack neither prudence nor fortitude, by which I may defend our common [167] cause in that place where talent is most practised, art most dexterous, and a way of acting is in fashion which is unknown to me, and to which I am altogether unaccustomed.”

A little later he describes his first interview with the Pope, and the eager enquiries made by Clement as to the state of the Church in Holland. In subsequent epistles we find him expressing his gratitude for the timely assistance rendered by the great and good Car­dinal Bona; Ottoboni and Caraffa were also among his warmest advocates; while Albizzi, a man of no very high character, “raged like a lion” against the clergy. In short, all that was then holiest and most learned in the court of Rome was on the side of the Church of Holland; — it may be a more doubtful com­pliment that the ex-Queen Christina was among its most zealous defenders.

11. Justice at length prevailed. By decrees of Jan. 25 and March 17, 1671, the Propaganda decided the principal points in dispute in favour of the Bishop, and he instantly prepared to quit Rome. It is said — but the truth of the assertion seems doubtful — that before leaving the Eternal City he was persuaded to set his hand to the Formulary. If he did so, it was simply in conformity with the Pacification of Clement IX., then in full vigour; but it was whispered that he never forgave himself for the weakness which induced him to sign a document of which he utterly disapproved. On his journey home, the same simplicity and piety appeared in his whole demeanour and equipage which had previously distinguished him. He was accom­panied by but a single servant, one of whose duties it was to read to the prelate every night till he fell off to sleep. The plainness of his attendance excited great ridicule at the court of Rome, and Questo vescovo sta in ristretto was their comment. He never lost an [168] opportunity of preaching, for which he had a peculiar talent. In travelling through the diocese of Minister, he was attended by crowds of auditors, an envious representation of which was made to the Prince-bishop. “So far,” he replied, “from bearing any ill-will against my brother of Castoria for preaching to such a multi­tude of hearers, I glory in his having power to under­take a task to which I myself am incompetent.”

12. On his return to Holland, our prelate became involved in new dangers, and animated by new hopes of usefulness. The States, at the commencement of 1672, found themselves engaged in war both with France and England. By the naval forces of the latter the homeward-bound Smyrna fleet was attacked; and the battle of Solebay, where the Earl of Sandwich fell on the one side, and Van Gent on the other, was fought with an indecisive result. In the meantime, the army of Louis XIV., swelled by the contingents of Cologne and Münster to the number of 170,000 men, and officered by such generals as Turenne and Condé, passed into the United Provinces. William of Orange had but 70,000 to oppose to this overwhelming force; his soldiers were demoralised by long peace; ammuni­tion he had none; not a single Dutch officer was prac­tically acquainted with the art of war; and the young prince, prudently resolving to defend only Holland Proper, abandoned Guelderland, Overyssel, and Utrecht to the enemy. The city of Utrecht was surrendered, and the French troops occupied it during seventeen months. Most of the villages in the Sticht are cele­brated for some bloody combat between the invaders and the native troops; fortress after fortress, and town after town, was won; but it was not till the loss of Naarden that the Dutch took refuge in the last terrible effort of patriotism. Opening the sluice-gates near [169] Muiden, they admitted the waters of the Zuyder Zee into the flat country, and by the barrier thus opposed to the invaders, Amsterdam was saved. In the mean­time, the situation of the Catholics, however much improved for the time being, was one of considerable danger; for if the French should finally be expelled, any expression of sympathy or pleasure would undoubt­edly be remembered against them. The cathedral was reconciled[11] by the Cardinal de Boulogne on the 10th of July, 1672; Van Neercassel performed his functions as ordinary there; and his sermons were attended by a prodigious concourse of people. When the exactions of the French generals became intolerable, it was he who was requested to visit Paris, for the pur­pose of making the king acquainted with the state of affairs: he complied; but the events which occurred during his journey rendered it useless. The intolerable demands of the French and English aroused a deadly spirit of resistance. The former insisted on the sur­render of all the frontier towns, and of many in the heart of the country, on a fine of twenty millions of livres, and on the annual presentation of a gold medal to Louis, with an acknowledgment that Holland owed her liberty to him. For the Catholics it was stipulated that the churches should be shared by them, and that their priests should be paid by the State. England demanded the sum of £1,000,000, a division of the Indian trade, and a surrender of the honour of the flag; a Dutch fleet, even on the Dutch coast, being expected to lower to the smallest British vessel.

13. It was resolved to re-abandon the country to [170] the sea, rather than to accept of terms like these: calculations were made, which proved the capability of the navy to transport 200,000 to the colonies: the Prince of Orange refused the offer of the inde­pendent sovereignty of Holland, on condition of aban­doning the other provinces, and declared his deter­mination to die, if need was, in the last ditch, for his country. Spite of the brutal murder of the De Witts, and the general despair, step by step the invaders were driven back, and the desultory war that continued was ended by the peace of Nymegen in 1678. When Utrecht was re-surrendered, the sti­pulations affecting the Catholics were as follows[12]: — 1. Free exercise of religion. 2. Marriages celebrated between themselves during the French occupation to be valid. 3. Indemnity for all things said and done during the same period. 4. The priests to enjoy, in common with the ministers, freedom from the occu­pation of their houses by the soldiers. The cathedral was again given up to the Reformed worship.

14. Van Neercassel, while the war continued, did not think it prudent to return to his see. He took up his abode, first at Antwerp and then at Huissen, where he founded and directed a Diocesan Seminary, and where, in 1677, he held a provincial synod[13]. His circum­stances at this time were very much restricted; the more, therefore, is it to his credit that he should have refused so many offers of assistance. As early as 1664, he had declined an abbey which M. de Pontchateau had offered to resign in his favour. “I never,” he writes, “will have any other bride than the afflicted Church which I serve: God makes me a better and a more certain offer than this, and I am rich enough in [171] the hope of heavenly rewards[14].” In like manner he declined a pension of a thousand crowns on the bishopric of La Rochelle, and shortly afterwards an­other, which was pressed on his acceptance by the Spanish ambassador.

15. A series of useful works marked the period of Van Neercassel’s retirement: his “Confirmation in the Faith” and “Consolation under Afflictions;” his trea­tise on “The Honour due to the Blessed Virgin and to the Saints;” and his work “On the Reading of Holy Scripture.” He also composed a treatise addressed to Dominicus Snellaerts, Canon of Ghent, on “The Validity of English Orders.” Cardinal Cazanata had, for important reasons, requested to be furnished with the best information on the subject. Van Neercassel complains of his want of books; and as he appears to have assumed that Scory, Coverdale, and Hodgskin were simple laymen, he had little difficulty in decid­ing the question in the negative. It is well known that his illustrious friend Bossuet, who had studied the matter in dispute, never entertained the slightest doubt about the original validity of English orders, though, from some misinformation, he conceived that the apostolic line had been broken during the govern­ment of Cromwell. Our prelate’s more celebrated work, the Amor Poenitens, we shall presently have occa­sion to notice. While still in exile, he took a considerable part in that exposure of the corrupted morals of the Jesuits, which led to the condemnation of sixty-five of their propositions by Innocent XI., March 2, 1679.

16. About this time the territorial jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht was increased. In the year [172] 1678, Van Cort, who was Superior of the Oratory of Mechlin, and one of the most prononcé of the Augustinian party, found himself in danger from the over­bearing Molinism of his archbishop. Now it so hap­pened that the then Duke of Holstein was — as many of his successors have been since — in want of ready money: and he determined on selling the little island of Noordstrand, opposite Husum, in Sleswick. It is an island of pasture-downs, such as one of the patri­archs might have delighted to feed his flocks in. Van Cort purchased this island with the intention of re­moving all the Oratorians of his institution there, and of placing it under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht. Various obstacles interfered with the real­ization of the scheme. The island was repurchased by the Duke of Holstein (but it is doubtful if he ever paid the money); yet seventy years later a kind of colony was still in existence there, which professed ecclesiastical obedience to the see of Utrecht.

[This account of Noordstrand is not perfectly accurate. It had for a long period been tenanted by a colony of Dutch: originally planted there to keep up, and attend to, the dykes: hence Van Cort’s idea. A remnant of the National Church remains there still. (Schets, p. 21.) - Author’s Corrigenda]

17. In the spring of 1681, Arnauld, as we have seen in a former part of this history, came into Holland, and took up his residence at Veen, a village near the sea of Haarlem, and not far from Leyden. He thus writes to M. de Pontchateau of his journey: —

“We are now in the Fortunate Isles. I had imagined this country, according to what had been told me, as a swamp from which one could with difficulty extricate one­self, or heaps of mud and mire, like the village of which I wrote to you so piteously eighteen months ago. It is anything but that. There are everywhere neat little canals, by which you can go wherever you wish in a boat. But you can also go on foot, through streets as clean and dry as the walks of a garden. For they strew them with fresh sand every year, — or if they fail to do this, they are fined. They are, moreover, the best people in the world, almost all Catholics, and regarded as the most devout of all the Church of Holland. [173] They have two churches: one smaller, in the house of the priest, where they say mass every week-day at 8 o’clock; and the other larger, for Sundays and festivals. The service was said here very solemnly on the Feast of Pentecost, with music and symphony, — that is to say, organ and viols. There were a great many communicants, not only on the festival, but also the next day. The pastor gave the veil to four re­ligious on the festival. There are seventy there. Is not that wonderful for a village? All that is necessary for the support of the priest, the church, and the poor, is not drawn from any fund, nor from any tax, but comes simply from voluntary offerings; and, nevertheless, they have very rich ornaments and beautiful plate.”

Arnauld, at a somewhat later period, in writing to the Mère Angélique, gives a pleasing picture of Van Neercassel’s employments at this time: —

“He has since given us great apprehensions, for having been very ill, and not being yet quite recovered, he has been obliged to fatigue himself extremely in ordaining on different days; it has caused a return of the fever, which I do not think has quite left him yet. How flourishing the Church would be if she had many such pastors! One appears to be in the time of those ancient bishops who only distin­guished themselves by the zeal and charity with which they guided their flocks, and in whom nothing of the world was seen. His retinue consists only of his almoner, who serves him as secretary and valet; but God gives him Timothies, Phoebes, and Theclas, with whom he almost always lives in a holy retirement, — which has something in it so gentle and so edifying, that all breathes of piety in this domestic church[15].”

The correspondence between Arnauld and the Bi­shop of Castoria was frequent and intimate: —

“Friday next,” writes that prelate on Oct. 6, 1682, “will be the day of our departure for Amsterdam, from whence we shall set off peracto officio to go straight to Thorenvliet[16], [174] without passing by Leyden. We shall hope to be there early on Monday morning.

“M. Van Heussen thinks that prudence, and even your con­venience, demand that you should not go by the Delft boat, because there will doubtless be a great many people, for it is the time that the Jesuit students return to their classes. So that those only would be there who belong entirely to the Fathers. M. Gael could procure you a boat from Rotterdam, in which the principal cabin, and even all the boat, would be at your service. I pray you to consider this. Even the friends from Brussels, as M. Timothée [Van Heussen] as­sures me, have apprehensions about your coming in the boat from Delft[17].”

18. A dispute arose about this time, which at one period almost threatened the disruption of the Church of Holland. The right of presentation to liv­ings, possessed before the Reformation by the lord of the manor, was claimed by those families which still retained the ancient faith, though the churches built and the revenues allotted by their ancestors had long since been appropriated to the maintenance of the Reformed religion. The places in which Catholic wor­ship was now carried on had been built partly by collections, partly by the beneficence of individuals; and it seemed unjust that the Catholic nobility should claim a right, when the foundations on which that right had been established had perished. Rovenius, as early as 1650, had referred the question to four celebrated doctors of Louvain; and they in a “Con­sultation” had decided against the right of patronage. The question being once more mooted, Van Neercassel now obtained a second Consultation, signed by six of the same faculty, confirmatory of the former docu­ment. Those interested in the support of the corrup­tion offered a douceur to Nicolas Dubois, a theological [175] professor at Louvain, whose pen was well known to be venal, if he would defend it. He did his best, but with such ill-success as to be compelled by the Inter-nuncio at Brussels to give in a retractation on Easter-day, 1683. Van Neercassel replied to this dissertation, little worthy of such an honour as it seems to have been. Rome acted vigorously on his side, and the nobility found their pretensions set at nought. In some few instances they called in the assistance of the Protestant magistrates; and this was more especially the case at Ryswick, where, on the strength of a decree fraudulently obtained from the Propaganda, the secular presenter endeavoured to intrude his no­minee. That body, however, did in this instance what it scarcely ever does; it confessed itself deceived, severely rebuked M. Cibo, the secretary, and for some time refrained from addressing to him the despatches for Holland. Van Neercassel was completely trium­phant.

19. One of the doctors who had signed the Con­sultation[18] at the request of the Archbishop, was after­wards to play a conspicuous part in the affairs of the Church of Holland, to sacrifice all his earthly interests to her welfare, and finally to die in her communion. This was Zegers Bernard Van Espen, then rapidly acquiring the reputation of being the first canonist of his own or of any age. We must devote a few lines to a brief account of his life, for his name is as a household word in the history which I am writing. But first we must try to imagine that quaint old city of Louvain as it was in the seventeenth century, with its forty-three colleges and its six thousand scholars, [176] its dark narrow streets swarming with the stu­dents that thronged the first school of canon law, its academical processions, its disputations for degrees, its sombre quiet, the more striking in the very heart of the “cockpit of Europe;” nothing talked of but this “Resolution” or that “Consultation;” an opinion of Van Vianen’s, or D’Aubremont’s, or Van Espen’s, the subject of far more lively interest than a march of Condé’s or a victory of Turenne’s. Then those dull galleried rooms, crowded with their pale, sodden stu­dents, the endless lectures in the strict faculty of theology, or of that of medicine, of history, or of politics; the formal visits and learned discourse of the rectors of the various colleges, — the Falcon, S. Pulcheria, S. Willebrord, the Holy Ghost, the Philoso­phers. This was the atmosphere in which for sixty years Van Espen lived and breathed, the very spirit of the place: each mail brought him cases for resolu­tion, with its Casus positio, its Quaestiones, its Quaeritur ex superabundante; not a post but went charged with his reply to this doctor or that chapter, to this uni­versity or that bishop: doubts were resolved on ques­tions of marriage, excommunication, dispensations, compatible benefices, competence of jurisdiction, true intention, and the like, — with their Ita resoluta, their Ita censeo, their Sic statuitur, salvo meliore. Zegers Bernard Van Espen — his first Christian name was the maiden name of his mother — was born at Louvain in 1646, and passed through his university career with a singular reputation for purity of manners, as well as depth of learning. After his ordination to the priesthood, he was nominated to the professorial chair called “The Lecture of Six Weeks;” and on attain­ing his doctorate, in 1675, took up his residence in the college of the Pope, where he resided for the [177] twenty-six following years, profoundly immersed in the study of the canons and of ecclesiastical history.

20. Louvain was then the head-quarters of the teaching of S. Augustine, and the college of the Pope had the highest reputation in the university. Van Vianen, the president, Huyghens, who afterwards filled the same office, Van Espen himself, and Steyaert, who at a later period deserted the cause alike of S. Augus­tine and of his friends, were united in the bonds of the closest intimacy, taught with the same spirit, joined in the same consultations, and formed, as it were, a kind of standing synod to the whole of the Belgian clergy. It is related that De Berghes, Arch­bishop of Mechlin, holding at the commencement of his episcopate a general examination of his clergy for their collation to cures, was struck with the marked difference between the various candidates. “Where have these — and these — studied?” he enquired. “At the college of the Pope,” was the reply. “I am per­fectly aware,” returned the good prelate, “that I have not myself the learning requisite for the due manage­ment of my flock; but at least my intentions are good, and I design to provide myself with the ablest counsellors. Who is president of that college?” And thus Van Vianen became the real head of the Belgian Church. The ecclesiastics formed by him and by Huyghens were known everywhere in their cures, not only for their sound learning, but for their piety. The doctors of Louvain had always prided themselves on their study of Holy Scripture; that of ecclesiastical history had been somewhat neglected. To this Van Espen applied himself with indefatigable diligence, and the whole university soon took its tone from his master mind. The employment of his day was simple and invariable. He was in chapel at five, and employed [178] the two following hours in prayer. At seven he said, or assisted at, mass. Then he studied, or lectured, or attended disputations, till half-past one, when he dined. From half-past two till three he spent in prayer, usually in the garden of the college, and the rest of the day was given to study. On festi­vals he was always in his place in the church of S. Peter, of which he was ex officio canon, that office being attached to the Lecture of the Six Weeks. Forty crowns was the whole income which he derived from both; but he never would accept anything more, except that for five years he held a small canonry at Aire, in Artois. It was one of the pious customs of the college of the Pope, that there was a spiritual retreat annually for the ecclesiastical students. Van Espen’s sermons on these occasions were so simple, so full of fervour and of unction, that the lay stu­dents, who were not in the habit of attending such exercises, were allowed, at their earnest request, to assist at these. He gave a weekly lecture on Eccle­siastical History; and amidst occupations enough to have crushed an ordinary man, was always remark­able for his cheerfulness and quiet gaiety, and for the liberal manner in which he placed his time at the disposal of his friends, and even of those whose dispo­sitions towards him were less benevolent. Such was the man who will constantly appear on the stage as the chief defender of the afflicted Church of Utrecht.

21. While in his retreat at Huissen, Van Neercassel employed himself in the composition of his greatest work, the Amor Poenitens. The corrupted morals of the Jesuits had fearfully and fatally injured the doc­trine of Absolution. A man without contrition, with­out love to God, without a steadfast and sincere pur­pose of amendment of life, presented himself at the [179] tribunal of penitence, — confessed, or rather professed, his sin, — went away and relapsed, — again confessed, and was again absolved; nothing, in fact, was easier, as the Jesuits boasted, than confession so made and penance so administered. To counteract the poison of such teaching, Van Neercassel composed the work in question. Not only because it gave the handle to the first direct attack on the Church of Holland as a Jansenist communion, but from its intrinsic merits, I shall give a sketch of its contents before proceeding to relate its history[19].

22. The author commences by establishing — and it seems strange that the lax morals of the Jesuits should have rendered it necessary to establish — that the duty of man is to love that God by whom he was created, redeemed, regenerated; that he can never fail in this duty without offending his Maker, nor return to His favour without returning to that. That a man who does not love God remains in sin, of whatever sacra­ments he is made partaker; and that this more espe­cially holds true of the sacrament of Absolution. That, hence, the servile fear of hell, in conjunction with either baptism or penance, does not suffice to justifica­tion, That remission of sin is only given to those who turn from it, not to those who remain in it; that free­dom from sinful acts is not sufficient, unless the heart be also free from evil desires; that to the obtaining of pardon contrition is necessary, by which is meant not only sorrow for past, but a firm resolution against future, sin, which resolution cannot be stable without the love of God as a ruling principle. That sin cannot truly be said to be hated when it is only hated from the fear of hell. That the ceasing from sin, even of [180] thought, requires no slight and feeble exercise of the will. That it is impious to assert that it is not a necessary duty of every Christian to love God, but merely not to hate Him[20]. That, in order to be justified, a man must love God as the source of righte­ousness, and not merely of temporal prosperity. That the covenant entered into at baptism is a covenant of love; and hence the great difference between the Jewish and Christian dispensations; the one being a law of fear, the other of affection. Hence the Bishop considers the validity of death-bed repentance, than which, according to his Jesuit opponents, nothing was easier, and shews that, in the teaching of the Fathers, it was always held in the highest degree perilous and unsatisfactory; in support of which assertion he brings forward the testimony of one whom his enemies could not well refuse to hear, — Scotus. He proceeds to discuss the sentiments of S. Thomas on the general question of the necessity of the love of God to justifi­cation, and then that of the later school divines; and triumphantly shews that they coincided with his own. He next proves, in opposition to Luther, that the fear of hell, though insufficient by itself to justification, is not sinful; and that though contrition be neces­sary to valid absolution, it is not necessary to valid confession. Discussing the nature of contrition, he shews, with S. Thomas of Villanova, that grief for sin, to render it worthy of that name, must have these [181] five conditions, — it must be pure, pious, deep, per­petual, and especial for each remembered fault. He then cites the more illustrious of the Jesuit writers to evince that the fear of hell, joined to the sacraments, is not sufficient to justify; shews that the opposite doctrine was never taught at Trent; that the Fa­thers of Trent did not teach, as it had been asserted, that the fear of hell, conjoined with the sacrament of Penance, is sufficient to justification; but only that this fear, in and by itself, does not render the sinner more sinful; that the sacraments of the new law confer grace only on those who love it; that no wise man desires to be free from the necessity of loving God, the exemption from such love being no privilege, but a dis­grace; that love may supply the absence of the sacra­ments, but sacraments can never supply the absence of love; that none can be excused from the precept of love, if it were only on account of its ease and plea­sure; that, in other matters, God bestows different abilities on men; but in the power of loving Him, all are equal. Hence the writer proceeds to the calum­nies of Lutherans, and then defends the Diocesan Catechisms of several of the dioceses of Germany and Belgium from the attacks of various modern writers, — as those of Cologne, Mayence, Liége, Merseberg, Trèves, and those of Peter Soto, Richardot, and Fre­deric of Nausea, Bishop of Vienna: he also treats of the sentiments of Eckius and Gropper. He next ex­plains S. Thomas’s method of reconciling the efficacy of contrition with the power of the keys, goes through the teaching of Gratian, the Master of the Sentences, Albertus Magnus, and S. Bonaventura, and proves them all to have taught that true contrition in and by itself justifies the sinner even before absolution. Next he treats of those passages of Scripture which are [182] twisted by Protestants against the Catholic doctrine of merit, especially: “When ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants;” “Doth he thank that servant?” “If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?” “In Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Hence he proceeds to the marks of true repentance, with which he concludes the first volume. In the second he considers the question to whom absolution is to be given; when to be deferred, and when to be denied. He enters at large into the question of conversion, and cites the teaching of many of the Fathers on that subject; replies to the objections of laxer casuists against deferred absolution, and to the passages of Scripture on which they are grounded; discusses the question when it is necessary that absolution should be preceded by satisfaction, and when not; urges at great length the reception of S. Charles Borromeo’s “Instruction to Confessors” as their code of laws, and ends by proposing ten rules for the salutary ad­ministration of the sacrament.

Such is a brief outline of this famous work, a work which gave occasion to a lengthened correspondence between the author and Arnauld, who suggested cor­rections and amendments, adduced fresh arguments, and cited other passages from the Fathers.

23. It was foreseen that in the lax system then prevalent on the subject, violent opposition must be expected to the published work. It came forth, there­fore, fortified by a prodigious number of approbations and opinions. Foremost are those of Arnauld of An­gers, Foucquet of Agde, Montgaillard of S. Pons. In the Low Countries, several of those who afterwards distinguished themselves in the struggles of the Church of Holland also approved. Thus I find the names of [183] Lindeborn, the celebrated historian of the bishopric of Deventer; Staekenberg, so long vicar-general; Codde, afterwards archbishop; Van Erkel, the most able and resolute of all the national writers, and afterwards dean; Van Heussen, the author of the immortal Batavia Sacra; and De Swaen, Dean of Haarlem.

24. On the appearance of the work it was received with a general burst of applause. “It is an admirable composition,” says Cardinal Grimaldi. “It is,” writes Casoni, “the very doctrine of the Fathers and of the Church, and can be opposed by none but by such as call darkness light and light darkness.” “It must be admired,” says Cardinal le Camus, Bishop of Grenoble, “by every one who has any acquaintance with ec­clesiastical antiquity.” “Your teaching,” writes the Eagle of Meaux, “of the necessity of divine love, at least commenced, is most excellent and most necessary at this time.” De Berghes, Archbishop of Mechlin; Genet, Bishop of Vaison; Leyton, Vicar-apostolic in England; and De Choiseul, Bishop of Tournay, cha­racterized it in the same terms. De Seve, Bishop of Arras, whose pastoral epistle on the subject was ap­proved by thirty prelates of the Gallican Church, speaks of Van Neercassel after his death as “that most excellent pastor who so courageously defended in this book the cause of the Catholic faith.”

25. The correspondence of Arnauld with Van Neer­cassel, and of both one and the other with their agent, M. de Vaucel, at Rome, was lengthened and important.

“Libri,” writes the Bishop, Jan. 14, 1684, “de amore poenitenti necdum in urbe allati sunt, de quo multum doleo. Heri accepi libellum[21] qui ei oppositus est a viris mihi non [184] ignotis. Necdum totum percurrere potui. Quid tibi, V. C., de illo videtur? Respondendum ne illi? Et si respondendum, qua ratione id optime fiet? Omnia exemplaria libri de AMORE POENITENTE distracta sunt. Nonne expediet ut negligatur libellus iste, donee in secunda Editione AMORIS POENITENTIS detur locus amovendi difficultates, quas iste libellus apponit? Tuum, Vir Clementissime et amicissime, de his judicium libenter audiam[22].”

On the 29th of the following April M. de Vaucel thus writes from Rome to Arnauld: —

“The Amor Poenitens begins to create a sensation. The P. Van-Eik[23] highly approves of the first part, which is on the love of God; but as to the second, which is de recto usu clavium, he pretends that it carries things to an extremity which is likely to cause scruples to some consciences, and to trouble the Church. M. Casoni has requested, through the interposition of Cardinal Cazanati, that he would give his objections in writing, that they should be sent to the Bishop of Castoria to explain them, or that he may pay such atten­tion to them as he shall think proper in the new edition that he intends to publish. Time may be gained by these means, and the Father is prevented from making a sensation, and from giving vent to his natural vehemence and impetu­osity[24].”

On the 22nd of July De Vaucel again writes: —

“I do not wait for the next post to write to you, being very glad that you should know what passes touching the Amor Poenitens, and that M. Gotterindi (M. Van Neercassel) may be also informed of it through you. The second part is not now so much spoken against as the first, which is that which we always thought would be the most exposed to chicanery and calumny[25].”

He proceeds to speak of the composition of the [185] Roman Inquisition with great apprehension; says that there were only four or five cardinals of whose appro­bation he felt certain; but that a letter from Cardinal Grimaldi was daily expected, and would be of great weight in the defence of the book. Arnauld replies, Aug. 14, 1684: —

“Your last letter, I confess, made me somewhat nervous; but I soon regained my confidence. I cannot believe that under a Pope so excellent, and who has hitherto evinced so much zeal for the purity of Christian morals, so great a scandal should arise in the Church of God. For it would assuredly be a very great scandal that a book so pious and so solid, written by so holy a bishop, should be branded by a condemnation from Rome, at the solicitation of some re­ligious who are known to be his declared enemies.

Hoc Ithacus velit, et magno mercentur Atridae.

“Nothing could more rejoice the heretics, or give them occasion to insult the Catholics with greater insolence. I have been sufficiently long in this country to know the mis­sion of Holland, especially regarding the secular clergy. I have seen nothing more edifying; and I do not think that in a country of the like extent, there are so great a number of good pastors in any other part of Christendom. Yet I know that a great part of this is due to the care and vigilance of their bishop, both for the pains which he has taken to admit those only into the priesthood who were able subjects, and who had a decided vocation for it, and for having worked with indefatigable zeal to prevent any disorder from creeping in among them — those even which are more easily tolerated in certain countries, because they are more common there. The example of his holy life, and entire devotion to his minis­try; the wisdom of his conduct, which has gained him so much esteem even among Protestants, and the fervent exhor­tations which he often made in different places, have spread abroad everywhere with so much efficacy, that which S. Paul calls the sweet savour of Jesus Christ, — that nothing appears to me more horrible than the endeavour of those who would [186] change this savour of life into a savour of death, by traducing the doctrine of this excellent prelate by their false accusations. But God will dissipate their evil counsels, and a single word of the chief vicar of Jesus Christ will appease this temper, by imposing silence on their turbulent spirits[26].”

26. In replying to difficulties raised by more friendly critics, Van Neercassel gladly availed him­self of the learning of his friend: —

“The Bishop of Grenoble,” says De Bellegarde, in his edition of Arnauld’s letters, “after having borne testimony that he had read the book of the Amor Poenitens with great consolation, and that he had remarked in it a depth of solid doctrine with which some vicious men and relaxed confessors could not agree, but which all those who have any taste for antiquity, and any love for the Church, admire very much, points out four particular places “upon which” he says, “some persons of piety would have desired a little explana­tion” 1. On the difficulty of reconciling his opinion regarding the efficacity of attrition with the Council of Trent, which imagines a contrition which cannot alone justify the sinner, but which can do so with the sacrament. 2. On the custom of the ancient Church of submitting all mortal sins to public and canonical penance. 3. On the discipline of the Church, in the first ages, of never giving the sacrament of Penance twice to a great sinner. 4. Finally on that which is said, that the greater part of the Christians, in the first ages, kept their baptismal innocence. M. Van Neercassel, in his answer, gave the Bishop of Grenoble the explanation which he desired on these four points in such a manner, that the answer formed a treatise rather than a letter. It was sent on the 16th of February in the same year[27].”

27. The letter of Cardinal Grimaldi, so earnestly ex­pected by De Vaucel, at length arrived. It is dated from Aix, Oct. 13, 1684, and is worthy of that illus­trious prelate[28]: —

[187] “I hear that the Amor Poenitens of the Bishop of Castoria has been attacked in Rome, and I am persuaded that his Holiness will honour this prelate with his particular pro­tection, for his noted virtue, learning, and extraordinary merit, and for the great service which he renders to the Catholic Church of Holland, and in the conversion of heretics; whence it may be believed that his Holiness would not allow our religion, and the person of this worthy bishop, to receive such a deep wound as would be the case if he were disgraced by the condemnation of his book. I must, moreover, respect­fully allude to the fact that, although the censure passed by his Holiness on so many relaxed propositions may have been received with infinite rejoicing by almost all the faithful, there are nevertheless several who have not submitted to it without pain, and they are precisely those who cavil and make themselves the adversaries of this book; which (as those theologians that I have near me inform me) is a won­derful work, approved by all the most learned men, and the doctrine is neither new nor dangerous; but on the contrary, entirely agreeable to the sacred canons, to the holy decrees of the chief pontiffs, to the sentiments and to the practice of S. Charles, and of all the good bishops of France. The great evil of the present day in the Church, as his Holiness knows as well as and better than I do, is that of relaxed morals, and it is this evil towards procuring a remedy for which he applies himself in every way. Suppose the Bishop of Castoria had a little exceeded the just mean in defence of the impugned truth, in common with many other great men; it would be sufficient merely to warn him of it, as we are certain that the singular humility of this good bishop would willingly submit to advice; although I can assure you that his book does not want favour, but justice, since the author advances nothing which is not founded on the authority of the holy fathers, and the councils, and declares that it is not his intention to re-establish the rigour of the ancient canons, but only to make known the rules which confessors ought to follow, that holy things may not be given to dogs, and to explain with edification the merits of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of Penance. The love which we ought to have for the Church, and which is known to be so great in yourself, [188] has moved me to beg you to represent respectfully in my name to his Holiness that which I take the liberty of men­tioning in this page, hoping that his Holiness will have the kindness to impose silence on the opposers of this book, as is to be desired for the reasons and consequences assigned.”

“Van Neercassel,” writes De Bellegarde, in his edition of Arnauld’s letters, “took a journey to Brussels at the end of May, where he deliberated at his ease with M. Arnauld and his companions in retreat, on what was to be done touching the Amor Poenitens. ‘The great respect that I have,’ says this prelate, in his letter to M. Ernest of the 23rd of May, ‘for the counsel of your father, (M. Arnauld,) and your bro­thers, (M. Arnauld’s companions in retreat,) has made me resolve to return to Brussels, to enjoy their conversation and counsels. They will then consider the letter to the Pope, and a refutation of the libel of the Jesuit Faber[29].’ ”

28. It is thus that the most furious of Molinist books, the Dictionnaire des Livres Jansénistes, speaks of the Amor Poenitens; (it would seem that the author found some difficulty in discovering any passages on which to found his favourite accusation of heresy). “This is the same Bishop of Castoria whose trea­tise called Amor Poenitens was condemned at Rome” (which it never was) “by Alexander VIII. ‘Do you imagine,’” says M. Arnauld, in his work against M. Steyaert, “‘that after the Donec corrigatur, which you call the solemn decree of the Pontiff, we are obliged to take the excellent book of this holy pre­late for a wicked publication?’” — and this is all that our author seems to be able to say against the trea­tise in question.

On all sides, the indignation with which this work was received by the Jesuits amounted to frenzy. Its clear, fluent style, so different from the jargon of their then fashionable writers, its apt quotations [189] from their own authors, its appeal to undeniable decisions of the Holy See, its calm exposure of the portents which Bauny and others had obtruded on the Christian world, filled them alike with dismay and rage. It was, of course, denounced at Rome; and the old cuckoo-cry of Jansenism was raised against its doctrine. The Congregation drew up an informal decree, which forbade the distribution of the work, “till corrected.” Innocent XI., however, for­bade the publication of that decree. “The book is a good one,” said he, “and the author is a saint[30].” In the meantime the Amor Poenitens sold well; and Van Neercassel resolved on defending his teaching and improving the work itself. One hundred and seven­teen propositions had been extracted for censure; the Archbishop composed an Apology in their defence. Faber the Jesuit attacked the work, but could find only eight statements which he qualified as erroneous. Van Neercassel silenced him in a Reply. Cardinal Cappizzuchi pressed for the absolute condemnation of the book; and Vaucel, Van Neercassel’s agent at Rome, refuted this Molinist. During the brief re­mainder of Van Neercassel’s life, he was disquieted no more on the subject; but in 1690, under Alexander VIII., the suppressed decree was allowed to be made public, in spite of the strongest remon­strances from the friends of the then deceased pre­late. As, however, that decree merely forbade the circulation of the work till it was corrected, and as it had been corrected for the second edition, it may be doubtful how far that edition was affected by the decree in question. A French translation of it, under [190] the title of L’Amour Pénitent, appeared in 1740, in three volumes, duodecimo.

29. The last persecution to which the Church of Holland has been subjected by the State broke out in 1685. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes excited the greatest indignation throughout the United Pro­vinces; vast numbers of the refugees found an asy­lum there, and by their tales of hardship and cruelty excited popular feeling into a kind of frenzy. Wal­loon congregations sprang up everywhere, and have existed to this day. It was seriously contemplated to forbid all exercise of the Catholic worship throughout the States; in the North, the Catholics were heavily taxed for the support of the French fugitives; while those of Holland proper and West Friesland not only saved themselves from this impost, but won the con­fidence of the magistrates by coming forward with a ready and handsome contribution. In the province of Groningen, always the most bigotedly Protestant, the Catholic nobles were deprived of all jurisdiction, lawyers forbidden to plead, and merchants, in some instances, to pursue their trade. In the town of Groningen, a Klopje, who had procured Catholic baptism for a nephew, was thrown into prison, and only released on payment of a fine of 400 florins. At Leeuwarden, a brother of the pastor was torn in pieces by the mob. At Utrecht, Arnheim, and Zutphen, priests were banished or heavily fined. At Amsterdam, where Van Neercassel himself resided, and where James II. of England possessed consi­derable influence, far greater lenity was shewn; and it was to the intrigues of the Jesuits that the magis­trates of that city principally turned their attention.

30. But all these troubles, as the Archbishop wrote, exercised rather than afflicted the faith. There were [191] at this time about three hundred thousand Catholics in the United Provinces; three hundred secular and a hundred and twenty regular priests. The dioceses of Utrecht and Haarlem were the most flourishing part of the province; in the former, the metropolis had thirty priests; and only two out of the thirty-two principal towns were without any. So well regu­lated were the clergy, that when two were sent to do penance in a monastery out of the country — one for drunkenness, the other for a sin of impurity — there was as great a sensation through the whole province, as if a portent had happened. Of the Regulars, Domi­nicans, Franciscans, and Carmelites worked well under the Bishop of Castoria; the eighty Jesuits alone still maintained themselves, often in secret, sometimes in open, opposition to his authority. Strangely enough, the only part of the province where the clergy were ill-regulated, was that in which alone the Catholic religion was openly tolerated, Guelderland and the Duchy of Cleves. The benefices here were in the gift of the Elector of Brandenburg, who disposed of them to the highest bidder, and simony was followed by every kind of licentiousness. At the collegiate church of Emmeric, the provost was always absent, the dean always intoxicated, the canons always on the point of reformation, but never reformed. The convent of noble Canonesses at Elten was always in a disgraceful condition; but this was taken from the Archbishop’s jurisdiction in 1677.

31. In the spring of 1686 Van Neercassel deter­mined to undertake the visitation of the eastern portion of his province. It is said that he left Am­sterdam with the presentiment that he should never return; he arranged his worldly affairs before leav­ing the city, and his letters to Cardinal Altieri and [192] to his agent Vaucel, at Rome, convey his impression that the end of his days was near.

The diary left by this devoted servant of God during his last journey is so interesting, that I shall give it entire. I searched for it in vain among the Archives, but it seems that the fragment left us is all that was ever committed to writing[31]: —

“We set off from Leyden — Van Heussen, Pesser, and my­self — on the 24th of April, after I had delivered a sermon to the priests of Rhynland, in which I recommended to them the doctrine which is according to purity, and union in it. The same day I exhorted the priests in Anelander-veen to be unanimous in sound doctrine, and to be lights to the people both in word and example. We stayed one day at Utrecht, and saluted some friends and fellow-servants in the work of the Lord, and the gathering in the harvest of souls.

“April 26. We happily reached Huissen, and were there received with great affection, especially by the Sisters. The magistrates waited on us, — though the burgomaster is not a Catholic.

“April 27. Heard several of the Sisters.

“April 28. We preached to a great multitude of the neighbouring Catholics; I in the Great Church, Van Heussen in the Oratory of the Sisters. The same day administered the sacrament of Confirmation to some hundreds of men.

“April 29. Preached in the Oratory to those that were to be confirmed, and strengthened them with that sacra­ment.

“April 30 was altogether taken up in hearing and exa­mining the religious, whom I found penitent for their rebel­lion against episcopal government, and at the same time glad that they had not been able to reject it. The same day confirmed some, commencing with a short instruction and exhortation.

“May 1. Preached in the Great Church, and Pesser in [193] the Oratory of the Sisters; conferred the sacrament of Con­firmation on a large number, all of whom received it with great devotion.

“May 2. Preached to the Sisters, and exhorted them to seek and love their Lord Jesus, as the Fountain of all con­solation and righteousness. Admonished the father of his office.

“May 3. Set out from Huissen for Emmerick; visiting the parishes of Loo, Groetsen, Duyven, Zeventer, and Elten. In all these churches found good parish priests; and ex­horted the people to serve God faithfully. Preached at great length at Zeventer on the words, ‘Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.’ Administered the sacrament of Confirmation to about 1,400 there. Citizens and labourers everywhere received us with joy, and came to meet us with a banner.

“May 4. At Emmerick. Visited by the clergy and the better citizens in the convent.

“May 5. Preached in the archidiaconal church at Emme­rick, accompanied thither processionally by the clergy and people. Some eight or ten thousand present. Confirmed nearly two thousand; — the Communion of the Lord’s Body given to a prodigious number.

“May 6. Preached in the convent; confirmed and commu­nicated about three hundred.

“May 7. To Weel; where from Doesburg, Dotinchem, Zutphen, Deventer, and the Veluwe, and from various parishes of the province of Zutphen, a huge multitude had assembled, and a good many priests. Celebrated, and preached on the words, ‘I am the Vine, ye are the branches.’ Confirmed about 2,000. The same day, some countrymen of the province of Zutphen interceded for a priest, infirm through age, and suspended for six years, — that either he might be allowed to say mass, or have a pension assigned him on which he might live, and in his retirement take thought of his salvation.

“May 8. At Emmerick. Confirmed about 100 men in the convent, after preaching. Heard the greater part of the Sisters.

“May 9. At Emmerick. Again preached to those that [194] came to be confirmed from Ulft and Genderink. Heard the rest of the Sisters, and exhorted them to act up to their profession. Bade farewell to the canons, and the fathers of the Society.

“May 10. Had the Sisters together into the choir, and ex­horted them to follow a life answerable to their vocation. Found many of them to be of deep piety, none of dissolute life, or deviating from chastity. The same day gave the tonsure to a few candidates; grieved for it, since I expect but little fruit. Left Emmerick; went by Anhold, and slept at Bochold.

“May 11. Received with great charity by the Bernardines in Hogenbrialo; who lent us their carriage and horses to go to Glan, which we reached late at night.

“May 12. Preached before a large audience, and ad­ministered the sacrament of Confirmation to about 1,400 catholics.

“May 13. Preached again, and confirmed as many as yesterday.

“May 14. Came a priest of Deventer to me, with a Minorite, resident in the Veluwe.

“May 15. Consoled the Sisters in Glan under their po­verty, and the sufferings by which they are oppressed; and presided at the election of a prioress. Sister Columba Terhoent chosen.

“May 16. Confirmed about a hundred men. Their devo­tion truly admirable: the continued and heavy rain did not deter them from a long, muddy journey. The same day bade farewell to the priests; called the Sisters together, reminded them of their duties, and heard their confessions. The Sisters at Glan, pious, chaste, and simple-minded, thoroughly content in their poverty.

“May 17. Celebrated, (confirmed one of the Sisters,) and came to Lingen.

“May 18. At Dermpt, near Lingen. Celebrated, preached; confirmed about 300 persons. The chief inhabitants of the place, not Catholics, present at the sermon.”

32. Here the diary ends. Pesser had continued it, but his account, unfortunately not printed by Van [195] Heussen, is not to be found in the Archives. It appears that Van Neercassel and his companions, having reached Dermpt, bent their course westward to Hardenberg; and thence, probably by the Vecht, to Zwolle, the capital of Overyssel. It was now the end of May, and the weather was unusually hot. The Bishop had scarcely reached this town, when he was seized with a fever, which the physicians soon pro­nounced mortal. On Thursday, in Whitsun-week, the 6th of June, after confessing and communicating with great devotion, he departed this life; drawing his last breath just as the attendant priest was recit­ing the words, “He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.” The bystanders not unnaturally thought of that peace into which the deceased prelate had entered, and that vision with which he was indeed satisfied. On the following Tuesday the funeral procession left Zwolle; Pesser, and Van Weire, the Bishop’s faithful and attached servant, accompanying the corpse; Van Heussen; Terhoente, arch-priest of the district; Staekenburg, a deputy from the clergy of Utrecht; and Van Blokhoven, following in another carriage. After a journey of seventeen hours, through a country where they had expected molestation from Protestant prejudices, they reached the convent of Glan; and there, on the next day, they committed their beloved prelate to his rest in the same choir where, but twenty days before, he had pursued his labours as a good servant of Christ. Fourteen priests were present; others would have been so, had not the services of the following day, Corpus Christi, detained them at home.

33. Thus, in the sixtieth year of his age, and the twenty-fourth of his episcopate, died John Van Neercassel, [196] the last Archbishop of Utrecht who departed this life in the communion of Rome. Worn out by incessant labours, harassed by the disobedience of inferiors, troubled by fightings without, and annoyed by discussions within, the Church, he bore the burden and heat of the day manfully, and no doubt entered into his rest gloriously. “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing[32].”



[1] I follow the usual reckoning of the Church of Holland in not count­ing Baldwin Catz in the series of her archbishops, because de jure he never ought to have possessed that autho­rity, and de facto he never exer­cised it.

[2] See, for example, Dom Pitra, Holl. Cath., pp. 246, sq.

[3] Bat. Sacr. ii. 477.

[4] For Baldwin Catz, see De Bellegarde, pp. 163 — 167; Bat. Sacr., ii. 474 — 476; Tr. Hist., ii. 89 — 104; Defens. Eccl. Ult., pp. 61 — 63. His letters, in the archives, are bound in one volume with those of Zachary de Metz. So far as I have read them, they completely bear out the character given him by con­temporary writers — of a kind and good, but weak man. In his por­trait, the very small head, and pe­culiar expression of mouth, tell the same tale.

[5] The Acts of the Congregation thus speak: — “Scribit D. Internuntius … quod cum ab ipso susceptae administrationis principio noxios valetudini suae id genus labores sentire coepisset, utpote qui antea vitae quietae assuevisset, sic paullatim ei de-bilitatum sit cerebrum, ut deinde in manifestum delirium delapsus sit. Unde cum nihil profuisset eum a negotiis removere, propinqui ejus de Medicorum, pluriumque Missionariorum consilio, eum e publico conspectu rapiendum judicarunt, duxeruntque Lovanium ad Collegium Patrum Oratorii: ubi cum nullis aliis tractat, quam cum domesticis; spem plane modicam facientibus Medicis, fore ut unquam convalescat.”

[6] Dom Pitra’s want of good faith is conspicuous in his remark on this document. Van Neercassel writes: “tanquam columen Ecclesiae militantis in Foederato Belgio.” (Bat. Sacr. ii. 480.) D. Pitra observes, (H. Cath., p. 246): “Les operations du Vicariat, qu’il appelle modestement la colonne de l’église militante.” This one misquotation is a very good specimen of many.

[7] This abbreviation would very well stand for Cornelius Ramsdonck, pastor in Ryswick, which would also agree with the remark about the houses of the nobility. But if the Bat. Sacr. be correct, that priest died some years previously.

[8] The dates are — June 23; Nov. 10, 1663: Jan. 26, 1664; Dec. 18, 1665; Feb. 25, 1666; April 30, 1667; Aug. 3,1669; Jan. 21, 1671.

[9] Def. Eccl. Ultraj., p. 499.

[10] Tr. Hist., v. 281.

[11] I looked in vain in the archives for any account of this interesting event in Van Neercassel’s own cor­respondence. There is no trace of any letter which contains any particulars of the French occupation. Possibly, when it became evident that the city would have to be re-surrendered, it was thought more pru­dent to destroy all such documents.

[12] These stipulations I copied from a paper in the archives.

[13] Tr. Hist. iii. 90.

[14] Yet, in spite of facts like these, D. Pitra can write (p. 247), — “Quant a Neercassel, il n’y a pas un seul de ses actes centre les réguliers qui ne trahisse une secrète cupidité, et n’exhale l’odeur de cet aerarium qui engloutissait alors toutes les ressources de la mission.”

[15] Arnauld, Oeuvres, vol. ii. p. 11.

[16] The seat of Van Heussen.

[17] Arnauld, OEuvres, vol. ii. p. 158.

[18] All the documents connected with this affair will be found in the works of Van Espen, (Louvain, 1767,) tom. v. pp. 1 — 9. It was, on a small scale, what the late “Schism of Goa” was on a larger, with re­spect to the Direito de Padroado, claimed by the Portuguese monarchs.

[19] The first edition of this work was published at Utrecht in 1683. That which I use, however, is the second, Emmeric, 1685.

[20] Most readers will remember the remarkable irony with which Pascal discusses these assertions of the Je­suits. The propositions which Van Neercassel quotes are these, — the first condemned by Alexander VII., the other by Innocent XI.: — 1. “No man is bound to elicit an act of faith, hope, and charity at any time of his life, ex vi of the precepts per­taining to those virtues.” 2. “Whether he sins mortally who only once in his life elicits an act of love to God, we dare not define.” 3. “It is ‘probable’ that, rigorously speak­ing, the precept of love to God does not per se bind a man once every five years.” 4. “It only binds then when we are under obligation to be justified, and have no other way of being so.”

[21] The title was In librum cui titulus AMOR POENITENS, SIVE DE DIVINI AMORIS AD POENITENTIAM NECESSITATE, &C. AUCTORE JOANNE EPISCOPO, CASTORIENSI, Animadversionum Decas prima, per Joannem Peresium Theologium. Moguntiae, typis viduae Nicolai Heyl. (75 pages in 12mo.)

[22] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 382.

[23] An Augustinian Father resi­dent at Rome, and a moderate Molinist. He was afterwards silenced.

[24] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 414.

[25] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 441.

[26] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 446.

[27] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 489.

[28] The original Italian is given by De Bellegarde: Arnauld, OEuvres, vol. ii. p. 524, note a.

[29] Arnauld, vol. ii. p. 527.

[30] Il libro é buono e l’autore é un Santo. The author of the infamous Dictionnaire calls this “une fable inventée par le parti.” It stands on M. Vaucel’s authority, who speaks of it as current in Rome; and it was never contradicted till many years after, in the Causa Quesnelliana.

[31] It is printed in the Bat. Sacr. ii. 487, 488.

[32] The epitaph, still to be read on his tomb, is not without its beauty: —

“Ecclesiae et Veritati
illi pascendae, isti tuendae
sic deperiit, ut uni placere studeret:
sic docuit, ut unctio docere videretur:
sic defendit, ut victorem semper faceret.
regendae onus tremendum
quod horruit vocatus,
subiit invitus,
gessit indefessus,
oppressus pondere diei et aestus
cum vitâ deposuit.”

The Jesuits, of course, attacked the memory of the deceased prelate, and had their epitaph too: “Qui nova hujus dogmata sectaris, ejus exitum perhorresce.” Van Heussen very promptly answered by his Scarabaeus a tumulo depulsus. D. Pitra has lately endeavoured to excite a prejudice against Van Neercassel, by printing des feuilles qui sont venues entre nos mains, and which he attri­butes to Van Heussen. D. Pitra has, he says, carefully examined the ar­chives: he must, therefore, know that Van Heussen’s hand is so pe­culiar as to render it quite impossible to doubt whether a piece be, or be not, of that author’s.


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