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.



Dec. 18, 1710 — April 27,1723.

1. On the death of Codde, John Christian van Erkel, a canon of Utrecht, and pastor at Delft, was undoubtedly the ablest champion of the national Church. Van Heussen might surpass him in profound research into the ecclesiastical annals of his country, as Broedersen probably did afterwards in intimate acquaintance with the details of the present struggle; but, on the whole, he united learning, eloquence, firmness, and the advantage of an easy and popular style, to a degree which gave him a decided advantage over any of his contemporaries. It was desirable, therefore, by striking a blow at this eminent man, to intimidate his party. Accordingly, on the 22nd of December, 1710, he was cited by Bussi to appear at Cologne, within the peremptory term of twenty-four days, to answer for the Protest of the clergy of Holland, attributed to him; and failing to appear, was to incur ipso facto the penalty of greater excommunication. Several anxious consultations followed. At length Van Erkel replied by a protest, which he forwarded on the 15th of January to Bussi. The Nuncio kept his word, and fulminated the threatened sentence. The States endeavoured, without any great success, to arrange the quarrel. Van Erkel, resolving not to fall into the error of Codde, remained quietly at his post, performed its accustomed duties, and replied to the excommunication [231] by a protest, which he published, and which had a considerable run[1].

2. The Nuncio also issued what he termed an Instruction for the confessors of the United Provinces. He there distinguished the refractory priests into three classes: — 1. Those excommunicated by name. 2. Those who had accepted any ecclesiastical office from any other authority than that of the Nuncio. 3. Those who, though instituted by him, had afterwards joined the national party. With respect to the first and second classes, the faithful were warned that sacraments which require jurisdiction, such as penance and marriage, were absolutely null and void if received at their hands; and that no sacrament could be received from them without sacrilege, except only penance in articulo mortis. With respect to these priests also, though invincible ignorance in the party receiving the sacraments from them exempted from sacrilege, it did not exempt from the necessity of reiterating penance and marriage. In the case of priests of the third class, such reiteration was not required. An instruction so monstrous, and so entirely opposed to the general belief of the Church, that, pendente lite, all sacraments are valid, occasioned a ferment throughout Holland, and the Nuncio himself found it advisable to offer terms of accommodation through M. Verhoefstadt, pastor at Bois-le-duc, who was connected with both parties.

[The date of this Instruction ought to have been given, constituting, as it does, the formal commencement of the schism. It was Jan. 13, 1711. - Author’s Corrigenda]

3. Accordingly the Chapter, though with very little hope of success, accredited Cornelius Steenoven and William Daellenoort as its deputies to Cologne. The former we have seen the faithful companion of Codde [232] in his journey to Rome. He was a member of the Chapter, and pastor at Amersfoort. Daellenoort was the last-elected member of the Chapter[2]. Arrived at Cologne, they found to their great astonishment that they were required to acknowledge Daemen as Vicar-Apostolic, to recognise the non-existence of the Chapters, and (now for the first time proposed to them) to sign the Formulary of Alexander VII. To the first demand they consented, on condition that the States should consent to Daemen’s recall, and that this condescension, for the sake of peace, should not prejudice their inalienable right to elect their own prelate. The second they absolutely refused. The signature was a question which gave rise to greater discussion; various formulae were suggested; but, on the advice of Van Espen and Petitpied, were finally declined. In the meantime, a crowd of young Jesuit priests was poured over the country, and the fierce harangues of some of these almost surpass credibility. One taught that it was better to go to a Calvinist temple than to a Jansenist church; another, that Jansenist baptism no more conferred remission of sins than did circumcision. The Chapter had its choice: delation, persecution, excommunication, on the one hand; promotion, riches, the favour of the Court of Rome, on the other. They now saw Bussi a cardinal; they knew what Sasbold Vosmeer, Rovenius, Van Neercassel, and Codde had suffered. They learnt that the memory of the last-named prelate was branded by the See of Rome as heretical; and there were not wanting those who would have had them take warning from the fate of those bishops. But they answered in the spirit, if not in the words, of their countryman, Philip van Artevelde: —

[233] “But had they thought, or could they but have dreamed,
The great examples that they died to shew
Should fall so flat, should shine so useless here, —
That men should say, ‘For liberty these died,
Therefore let us be slaves,’ — oh, with what shame,
Their blushing faces buried in the dust,
Had these great spirits parted hence for heaven!”

4. By the death of Catz, the office of Dean and that of Vicar-General became vacant. Van Heussen, already invested with the latter dignity, now succeeded to the former, and the other vicariate was conferred on Cornelius Staekenburg, a pastor at Utrecht. It was the happiness of the Church of Holland that, amidst the storms with which she was beset, her Chapter was possessed by one spirit, so that the changes in its constitution, brought about by death, in no degree altered its purpose or affected its resolution. A long and weary series of negotiations ended as it began. By this time Archinti, afterwards Cardinal, was appointed to the nunciature of Cologne, and Santini became Internuncio at Brussels: the latter merely taking those functions which would not expose him to civil punishment; and the former, being out of the way of danger, charging himself with those that contravened the law. This truly apostolic arrangement was worked to the utmost for the oppression of the persecuted Church of Holland. But among the Roman party one man stands prominent as the defender of the rights of Utrecht, and as having endeavoured to bring about a real and satisfactory peace. This was the Abbé Tosini, the author of that extremely rare work, Storia e Sentimento sopra il Giansenismo. Happening to be at Utrecht during the negotiations for the celebrated peace of 1713, he there became acquainted with the fortunes and sufferings of that Church, and he imagined that he had discovered a [234] way of putting an end to its miseries. He set out with these two principles, — the continued existence of the Chapters, and the true archiepiscopal character of Vosmeer and his successors. But, he said, there was no valid reason why the Formulary should be refused; and hearing that Van Erkel had put forth a treatise against its imposition, he besought him not to publish it. The work, however, appeared[3]; and, strange to say, made a convert of the Abbé himself. Thenceforth he devoted himself more entirely to the re-establishment of peace, and his last proposal annulled the signature of the Formulary. The clergy were to swear that they received all the doctrinal Bulls of the Holy See on the subject of Jansenism; were, pro hâc vice, to receive their bishop from the Pope, but were to have their right of election acknowledged, and for the future allowed[4]. Archinti, a man not without merit, seemed at first to give in to the scheme; the proposal was submitted to Clement XI., but it had no result.

5. Fifteen years had now elapsed since an ordination had been held in Holland. The elder clergy were beginning to die off; their places were necessarily supplied by partizans or creatures of the Jesuits; the leaders of the national party were advanced in years; and it was evident that, unless means could be found to procure a fresh supply of priests, Ultramontanisrn would shortly be triumphant. Add to which, that the appearance of the Ball Unigenitus seemed to make the breach wider than ever, and to call more imperatively for some remedy. There could [235] be no doubt that the Chapter possessed the right of issuing letters dimissory, the see vacant; the only question was, what bishop would be found courageous enough to brave the indignation of Rome by receiving and ordaining upon them. There was an English Carmelite, by name Marison, who had sometime previously made a tour in Holland. Being in London in the August of 1714, he sounded Giffard, Bishop of Madaura, and Vicar-Apostolic, on this delicate subject. That prelate at first seemed disposed to promise his assistance, but his courage failed, and he declined to interfere. Marison thought that he might hope for better success in Ireland. The prelates there were diocesan bishops, and not vicars-apostolic, and might therefore be supposed to sympathize with a Church struggling to retain that which themselves enjoyed. To Ireland he accordingly went, and in the person of Luke Fagan, Bishop of Meath, he found a prelate willing to come to the assistance of Utrecht. Some difficulties, indeed, were to be overcome. Thus, Feb. 11, 1715, he writes: “Je ne perd point de temps pous vous marquer que j’ai employé tous mes soins aupres du Marchand pour l’engager a continuer son commerce avec les marchands chez vous[5].” They were, however, removed. Van Heussen gave letters dimissory, as “Vicar-General of the Metropolitical Chapter of Utrecht, the see vacant,” to twelve candidates, and they were, in four several ordinations, raised to the priesthood by Bishop Fagan. Among the number was Peter John Meindaarts, afterwards Archbishop of Utrecht. He, however, required a solemn promise from each of the candidates that they would never reveal the circumstances of their ordination during his life. A curious event occurred some [236] years afterwards. The secret was not so well kept as to prevent an indistinct rumour from reaching the Court of Rome that some Irish bishop had ordained priests for Utrecht. Fagan, by this time Archbishop of Dublin, received orders to discover which prelate had done so. He convoked the Irish bishops; put the question to each of them individually; and returned for answer that, after examination, he was persuaded that none of the bishops, of whom he had enquired, had held any such ordination.

6. When it was known that twelve priests had been ordained for the Church, of Utrecht, the Internuncio was furious. The snare he had woven with so much care was broken. Who could have had the effrontery to disregard the Papal will? At last the bright idea struck him that these orders must have been conferred by some Greek bishop. When disabused of this notion, he believed, or at least professed to believe, that the twelve priests had never been ordained at all.

7. He, however, cited before himself at Cologne fourteen persons, whom he imagined to have been ordained, though at that time eight only had received the order of priesthood. His information was so bad, that some of the persons thus suspected were married; and one or two were Protestants. Finding his citations a mere subject of ridicule, Archinti committed the enquiry into the hands of John Byevelt, a pastor of no great eminence at the Hague. This man held a kind of court at Gouda; but his deliberations were speedily cut short by a summons to appear before the States. He returned to the Hague, and there discovering that the curate of Daellenoort, the canon whom I have before mentioned, had, without doubt, been recently ordained, he commenced proceedings against him. At this period he was raised to the [237] Vicariate Apostolic as the reward of his services. At Hilversum, where the national party was, and to this day is, very strong, his nomination occasioned a riot. On this, the States of Holland banished him; he retired to Utrecht, but in a few months was expelled from that province also. He then took up his abode at Arnheim, and thence exercised jurisdiction over those who would obey him.

8. This infusion of new blood raised the courage of the heroic Chapter. It is wonderful, and may not be without its lesson to us, that eight simple priests, without wealth, influence, or position, with nothing but the right on their side, could hold their own against all the intrigues of the Company and the fulminations of the Court of Rome. They now determined to try what assistance they could obtain from France. The Bull Unigenitus was exciting the deepest indignation in that kingdom: the residence of Quesnel, Petitpied, and other distinguished writers of the party in Holland, served as a link between the two countries. The case was now laid before the doctors of Louvain, and the three questions were put: “Is the Church of Utrecht to be considered as collapsed, and reduced to the condition of a mere mission? Has the metropolitical Chapter survived? Does the Vicariate represent that Chapter?” By a Resolution of May 25, 1717, Van Espen, supported by four other doctors, replied to the first question in the negative; to the two latter in the affirmative. In the course of that year and the next, first eleven doctors of the Faculty of Paris, then fifty-two, then thirty more, and then the whole faculty, gave in their “adhesion” to the Resolution[6]. In the meantime three bishops [238]had signified their willingness to ordain on the letters dimissory of the Chapter, the see vacant. These were — Soanen of Senez, whose subsequent deposition by the Council of Embrun I have already noticed; Lorraine of Bayeux, and Caumartin of Blois. The Bishop of Senez[7] ordained four priests in 1718; among these was Barchman Wuytiers, afterwards Archbishop of Utrecht.

9. Theodore de Cock, finding time hang heavy on his hands at Rome, employed himself in composing a work against the memory of Codde, false and libellous in its assertions, and ungenerous and useless, had it been true. This produced a crushing reply from Van Erkel, addressed in a dedicatory epistle to all the neighbouring bishops and collegiate chapters: —

“This Church[8],” he writes, “founded more than a thousand years ago by the toils and the blood of saints, has been preserved through most troublous times, together with the Catholic faith and the laws of our forefathers, (and oh! what men they were,) intact and inviolate. The same Church, contending now as strenuously as in times past for the faith, carrying on its work with equal solicitude, its adversaries pitilessly seek to cut up root and branch, to overwhelm it in its own ruins, to rob it of its beauty, and to reduce it to an obscure mission.”

This apology has been the means of preserving to us several important documents, which might otherwise have perished.

10. In the year 1719 Hugh Van Heussen, the great pillar of the national Church, was called to his rest. [239] He died just before God brought to pass the means of her perpetuation; three months more would have shewn him the possibility of her obtaining an archbishop of her own. The Batavia Sacra will be his imperishable monument. John Christian Van Erkel was elected Dean, and Cornelius Steenoven Vicar-General[9], in his place.

11. It was felt that the time was now come for more vigorous measures. We have already seen that on the 5th of March, 1717, four bishops, namely, De la Broue, of Mirepoix; Colbert de Croissy, of Montpelier; De L’Angle, of Boulogne; and Soanen, of Senez, had, in conjunction with the Sorbonne, appealed against the Bull Unigenitus to the future OEcumenical Council. The Church of Utrecht now followed their example, and on May 9, 1719, appealed to the same council, not only against that Bull, but against the injustice inflicted on itself since the suspension of Codde to the date of the act[]. Copies were sent to the bishops appellants, and to the University of Paris; and answers, breathing the most sincere sympathy, were in due time received[10]. This Appeal[11], undoubtedly [240] written by Van Heussen, is a very able document. It commences with a long quotation from the Appeal of the University of Paris; proceeds to comment on the unfairness of condemning a French book from an unfaithful Latin translation; notes the far greater harshness exhibited to Quesnel than that used towards Luther or Wickliff; quotes the doctrine of Adrian VI., himself a native of Utrecht: “Certum est quod Pontifex potest errare etiam in eis quae tangunt Fidem; haeresin per suam determinationem aut Decretalem asserendo Plures enim fuerunt Romani Pontifices hoeretici;” justifies the principle of such an appeal; and instances the numerous appellants against the Bull Unigenitus. It then reverts to the more especial injuries sustained by the Church of Utrecht, and includes them in the appeal. The document is signed by the eight canons, and by forty-three of the clergy of the archdiocese. Among these I notice the names of Kemp the historian; Van der Croon, afterwards Archbishop; and Meganck, Dean at the time of the Council of Utrecht, forty-four years later. The clergy of Haarlem gave in a raisonnée adhesive to that of their brethren: it is signed by twenty-two of their number — the most famous among them being Jacob Krys, of whom we shall presently have to speak; Jerome de Bock, afterwards Bishop of Haarlem; and Nicolas Broedersen, in after years Dean of the Metropolitical Chapter, of whom we shall hear more. And then follows the touching notice: —

“Nor must Hugo Van Heussen, at the time Dean of the Chapter, and Vicar-General, the see vacant, and the principal promoter of the appeal, be separated from the other signatures. Seized with a mortal disease, and finding himself near death, he made a brief declaration, as fitted a dying man, in this form: ‘If the Chapter of the Metropolitical [241] Church shall appeal from the Constitution of Clement XI., which begins with the word Unigenitus, to the future council, I affirm that I, Vicar of the said Chapter, and Dean, adhere to that Appeal.

“ ‘Hugo Van Heussen.
“ ‘Done at Leyden, Feb. 11, 1719.’ ”

He died only three days after. Two clergy of the diocese of Leeuwarden also adhere; the last time that any of that diocese have supported the national Church. The total number of signatures — and probably every effort was made to procure them — was 75: a sad falling off from the 300 who in 1701 had protested in favour of Codde.

12. But now a remarkable personage appears on the scene, whose casual visit to Amsterdam affected the whole fortunes of the Church of Utrecht, who was the means of animating her drooping spirits, of providing her with the episcopal succession, and of perpetuating her to the present day. Dominique Marie Varlet had studied in Paris, and had for five years been a diligent parish priest in the country, when he was sent into Canada, and subsequently became Vicar-General of Louisiana, under the Bishop of Quebec. In this huge mission — for it extended from the Lakes of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico — he laboured for several years; when, being at Quebec at the end of 1718, he learnt that he had been appointed Bishop of Ascalon in partibus, and coadjutor to Pidou de Saint Olon, Bishop of Babylon, and that he was to return to France without loss of time, for the purpose of being consecrated. He did so; and on arriving at Paris received instructions from the Congregation that the consecration was to take place at once, but that during his stay in the metropolis, and in his journey to the future scene of his labours, he was to preserve a strict incognito. He was consecrated on Quinquagesima [242] Sunday[12], 1719. On the same day he received news of the death of S. Olon, which had occurred a year and a half before, so slowly did intelligence then travel. This redoubled his eagerness to reach the East: the usual way through Turkey was then impracticable, on account of war, and he was glad to find a companion in a French Consul appointed to Schiraz, with whom he left Paris on the 18th of March, 1719, intending to take the route through Russia.

13. Anxious to preserve his incognito, he had not thought it necessary to pay a visit to the Nuncio at Paris; and, as he did not reach Brussels till midnight on Saturday the 25th, and was obliged to continue his journey on the following day, neither did he pay his respects to Santini in that city. These circumstances became afterwards of importance. It had been the intention of the travellers to hurry on to Lübeck; but, hearing of a vessel that was about to leave Amsterdam for S. Petersburg, the Consul altered his plans, and bent his way to that city. They arrived there early on the morning of Palm Sunday, April 2. The Bishop was in some difficulty how to act. If he lodged at an inn, he could not observe the fast; and, in any case, it was necessary to obtain the permission of the authorities before he could say mass — a permission which his incognito would scarcely permit him to seek. While he was considering the course to be pursued, Jacob Krys, whom we have already seen as one of the ablest supporters of the national Church in the diocese of Haarlem, paid him a visit, and represented that in his own house the Bishop would be able to observe Holy Week becomingly; [243] while, from the credit he had with the magistrates, a request for permission to say mass might safely be omitted. The Prelate accepted the invitation without any further knowledge, he says, of the state of affairs than that the Church of Utrecht was involved in some difficulties with that of Rome[13]. During the course of the week, Krys and his friends laid before the Bishop the wretched state of their Church, deprived of confirmation for nearly twenty years. Indignant, as he well might be, at this tyranny on the part of Rome, he was unwilling to interfere. Doubtless the hardship was great; doubtless they who were causes of, or accessories to, this spiritual loss, would render a terrible account hereafter. But still Antwerp was not so very far distant, and the eastern provinces were not so remote from Münster. It was represented in return that, whatever might be the case as regarded those in easy circumstances, the poor could not travel so far; and the Bishop was conjured, by all the bonds of charity, to interfere at least on their behalf. For some time he refused; but he was detained by a contrary wind, and at length the arguments of his hosts prevailed. On the 19th, 21st, and 23rd of April he confirmed six hundred and four persons. On the 25th he sailed for S. Petersburg. This courageous and charitable action was never forgotten, nor forgiven, by the Court of Rome. That so crying an injustice was exposed and remedied was, and to this day is, an unpardonable offence in the [244]eyes of Ultramontanes. Our narrative must follow the Bishop’s wanderings.

14. Detained by contrary winds in the Baltic, he did not arrive at S. Petersburg till the last of May; and though he lost no unnecessary time, he could not reach Moscow till the 10th of July. Navigating the Mosca and the Volga, he made Astrachan on the 10th of September, where he was well received by the Capuchin Fathers, and invited to preach on the Nativity of S. Mary, there observed with singular devotion. In his onward progress, his usual ill-fortune attended him. The Caspian is generally crossed in three days; storms and head-winds protracted his passage to fifteen. On landing, he and his little company made for Schamaké[14], which he reached on the 1st of November. Here it was necessary to wait till permission could be obtained from the government to advance. A Jesuit who was settled here invited the Bishop to use his church; the invitation was cordially accepted; at length it was, without any reason, withdrawn. The Armenians were much scandalized at this want of respect shewn to a prelate, and expressed their discontent in no measured terms. On the Epiphany, Isaiah, Patriarch of Albania, who was in the communion of Rome, performed the office in the great church; the Bishop of Babylon was also present, and dined with him afterwards.

[The apparent contradiction of dates is explained, if the reader will remember that, in the Uniat Church, old style was used. - Author’s Corrigenda]

15. Thus the winter passed away. On the 15th of March, as the Bishop was sitting with one of his priests, Father Bachou, a Jesuit, was announced. After some indifferent conversation, the visitor requested the priest to retire, saying that he had something for M. Varlet’s private ear. He then took a paper from his pocket. “This,” said he, “I have [245] been charged by the Bishop of Ispahan to deliver to you;” and, unfolding it, he continued, “It is a suspension.” The Bishop, much displeased at this informal method of procedure, and fearing some trick, folded it again, and merely said, “I will look at it, and see what it is.” Bachou then bade him adieu, and never returned. On examining the document, it purported to emanate from the Bishop of Ispahan, and bore date the 17th of December[15]. On the 15th, it stated, letters had been received from the Propaganda, dated on the previous 7th of May, which suspended the Bishop of Babylon from all exercise of order and jurisdiction. The reasons assigned were: — 1. That he had not visited the Nuncio at Paris, nor sworn to observe, and to cause to be observed in his diocese, the Bull Unigenitus. 2. That he had not visited the Internuncio at Brussels, to receive his instructions, and had nevertheless acted in his episcopal character in Holland, to the great scandal of the faithful. So gross was the injustice of this suspension, that even Ultramontane canonists pronounced it, afterwards, utterly null and void, and agreed that the Bishop might safely have disregarded it. In fact, he was disposed to do so; but reflexion convinced him that he would never be allowed to work with any effectual success in his diocese; and he believed that, if he stated the case to the Propaganda, the crying injustice of the sentence would be allowed by them. True, they had ordered that every bishop should swear at his consecration to observe the Unigenitus; but this order had not reached Paris at the time he left it; and if it had, as a French subject, he was at that time forbidden to obey it. He therefore left [246] Schamake on the 6th of May, and, retracing his former route, arrived at Amsterdam in the early spring of 1721. Here he was warmly welcomed by the heads of the national party; they requested him to take up his residence in that city, till Providence should open him the way to the recognition of his innocence.

16. In the meantime his agent was busy in amassing evidence and procuring audiences at Rome. The Cardinal de Noailles and the Superiors des missions étrangères at Paris represented to the Bishop of Babylon that his stay at Amsterdam might prove prejudicial to his interests, and that he had better, during the progress of the negotiations, reside in France. The accession of Innocent XIII., who was esteemed moderate in his views, gave him further hopes; and after residing some time in Paris, he passed the rest of the year with De Caylus, Bishop of Auxerre, one of the most strenuous opponents of the Unigenitus. While here, he composed a memorial to the Propaganda, which he accompanied with a “consultation” of Gibert, the most celebrated of the living French canonists[16]. The summer passed away in negotiations. At length, in August, the Bishop informed his agent that, in any arrangement, the three following things were essential: — He would never accept the Unigenitus; he would never apologize for having confirmed at Amsterdam; and he would never resign. On this, De Montigny, his agent, replied that the affair was for the present hopeless; and Varlet, finding it indeed to be so, determined to return to Amsterdam. Probably De Caylus, whose own position was sufficiently delicate, was unwilling to harbour for an unnecessarily long time a Bishop so obnoxious to the Roman Court, though the two continued in strict [247] friendship till separated by death. To Amsterdam, therefore, the Bishop of Babylon came: it was in the beginning of 1723. He again attempted to negotiate both with the Propaganda and with Innocent XIII., but received no answer to his letters. He therefore at length followed the example of the Church of Utrecht, and of several of the French bishops, and by act, dated Feb. 15, 1723, appealed both against his pretended suspense and against the Bull Unigenitus. This is a most masterly production; and, if not evincing the full learning which Varlet’s later compositions shew, altogether worthy of the friend and fellow-labourer of Van Espen. His protest against his own suspension is grounded on six nullities: — 1. The absence of any sufficient cause. 2. The incompetence of the judge. 3. The absence of due form. 4. The want of citation. 5. The want of monition. 6. The neglect of the Bishop of Ispahan to exhibit his powers as the Pope’s official. He caused this appeal to be registered in the Archives at Haarlem, and demanded and obtained, by a canonical fiction, from Jacob Krys, as Protonotary Apostolic, the letters called Apostoli, by which, on appeal made, the judge transmits the appellant to a yet higher tribunal[17].

17. In the meantime, the Church of Utrecht had not been idle. The Chapter was resolved to use every means for the procuring an Archbishop. The difficulty, of course, lay in the practice that had by degrees been introduced, of requiring a Papal Bull as necessary to the consecration of a prelate. But all the best canonists and theologians regarded the innovation as a mere ecclesiastical arrangement, which might be proper in ordinary circumstances, but could not be turned into an instrument for the destruction of a great national Church. Thus argued the Portuguese [248] theologians, when, on the accession of the House of Braganca, from the fear of displeasing Spain, Rome for so many years refused Bulls; thus argued the assemblies of the French clergy in 1650 and 1682; thus, in 1718, with regard to the bishops nominated during the minority of Louis XV., and who had not accepted the Unigenitus. In all these cases, the Court of Rome only avoided the danger by conceding what was demanded; but the Church of Holland, being weak, comparatively small, incapable of enriching the Papal treasury, and under a secular government which would not interfere in its behalf, might of course be insulted with impunity.

18. A letter of congratulation addressed by the Chapter to Innocent XIII.[18] (June 11, 1721), represented to him the glory with which he would surround his name, if he would take pity on the twenty years’ widowhood of the Church of Holland. The letter was unanswered. An industrious and faithful agent, Pierre Levage, was despatched to Rome; and negotiations were also opened with the Internuncio at Brussels. It was resolved, by a capitular act, that every means should be taken — in sermons, in confession, by conversation — of instructing the people on the right of a national Church to a bishop; and that, by the contemplated election, the canons would commit no offence against Catholic unity. Van Erkel was commissioned to compose some popular dialogues on the subject. He performed his task very ably. The first part appeared at Delft in 1722[19], under the title of Samenspraek tusschen Pieter Regthart en Joan Warmond (“Dialogue between Peter Right-heart and John True-mouth”); and the question is treated as popularly [249] and amusingly as a subject so dry in itself could be made. It was also resolved to establish an ecclesiastical seminary for the use of the diocese; and this in time took the form of the present institution at Amersfoort. On the 30th of September another letter was addressed to the Pope, and was accompanied by a memorial on the present state of the Church of Utrecht[20], and the necessity of a bishop; — still no reply. At length a memorable Consultation was procured from Van Espen and two other doctors of Louvain[21], and published under the title of “A Dissertation on the Miserable Condition of the Church of Utrecht.” It is divided into five sections. The first asserts the necessity of a bishop in a national Church to be jure divino; shews it to be equally asserted by the canons; and, in the present case, to be extreme: the second proves that the right of election lay in the Chapter; that the Vicariate was the perpetuation of that Chapter; that the right had never been lost; that, consequently, the right lay in the present canons: the third, that if the Roman See refuses Bulls, the Chapter may proceed to election and consecration without them; the fourth, that one bishop may, in case of necessity, consecrate; and the fifth considers the question, Who are those nearest bishops that are bound, in such a case, to assist[22]?

19. The next proceeding of the Chapter was to obtain the sentiments of the principal Catholic universities on the “Consultation.” Nineteen Doctors of the Sorbonne, with the consent of a great number of their brethren, approved of it; the University of Nantes would have given in its public adherence, had not the tyrannical Council of Conscience interfered; several [250] Doctors of Rheims urged forward the business; the great authorities of Louvain had already spoken; Serry, Theological Professor at Padua, was in the same sentiments; and many doctors and dignitaries besought the Chapter to act on its undoubted right.

So urged, it next sounded the government authorities as to their sentiments; for it must be remembered that no Archbishop of Utrecht had as yet been consecrated, under that title, since the Reformation. The dispositions of the magistrates were favourable; a Protestant lawyer, Slicher, even published a pamphlet to shew that the subjection of its Roman Catholic citizens to a national episcopate would be advantageous to the State.

It is true, there were not wanting those who, while fully recognising the right of the Chapters to proceed to an immediate election, advised delay and management: Rome would be more complaisant; the clergy would be more thoroughly instructed, — the people would be better prepared. There is a noble letter from D. Thierry de Viaixnes to such an objection, which is preserved in the Archives: —

“Comment, mon T. C. Monsieur, pouvez vous me demander par quels liens votre église sera pour lors visiblement liée avec l’église universelle? Je réponds en deux mots; par les mêmes liens qui l’y attachent à présent.”

While things were in this state, Levage wrote that it would be hopeless to look for his reception as the agent of the Chapters; he must act as procurator for the clergy of Holland, or not act at all: and shortly afterwards he informed his clients that if, as was asserted at Rome, they were appellants from the Bull Unigenitus, their representation could be of no effect.

20. Convinced at last that they had nothing to expect from the Papal Court, the Chapter assembled at the Hague on Tuesday, the 27th of April, 1723. [251] All the canons were present: John Christian Van Erkel, the Dean, Cornelius Steenoven and Gisbert Van Dyck, Vicars-General; Daellenoort, Oosterling, Van der Croon, Kemp, and Broedersen. It must have been a solemn moment when, the Mass of the Holy Ghost having been said, the choice was actually to be made. Eight priests, strong in their good cause; resolute, at whatever cost, to uphold their national Church; utterly destitute of all earthly help; were about to take a step from which powerful kingdoms had shrunk, and to vindicate for themselves and their people the inherent rights of the Christian episcopate. Van Erkel addressed them. There were three ways in which they might proceed. The election might be by inspiration, by proxy, or by scrutiny. To which did his reverend brethren incline? I gather that it was known that the choice would not be unanimous, or the first would have been pursued. The election by scrutiny was adopted. On this, Oosterling, Van der Croon, and Broedersen were appointed scrutators, and took the usual oath, to act with perfect impartiality, and not to reveal how the votes were given. They[23], with Jacob Krys as Protonotary, and two priests named Van Haen as witnesses, proceeded to the scrutiny, and shortly afterwards announced that the Chapter had elected, by a majority of votes, Cornelius Steenoven to be Archbishop of Utrecht. The Prelate-elect, after some natural resistance, consented to the office and danger imposed upon him; and the Chapter, proceeding to the Church, sang Te Deum for the prosperous termination of their work.

The real struggle had yet to commence.

[1] It is called “Admonitio ad probos omnes cordatosque Catholicos, super sententià excommunicatoriâ: per J. Erkelium, J. U. L. Eccl. R. C. Ultraj. Canon.” Delphis, 1711.

[2] See the list at the death of Codde in Tractat. Hist. i. 156.

[3] It is called Protestatio, &c., tertio asserta, and, like all Van Erkel’s works, is masterly. I wonder that Tosini’s Storia is not in the Dictionnaire des Livres Jansénistes. Perhaps its extreme rarity caused it to be overlooked.

[4] Tosini prints this document himself, tom. iii. p. 442, whence it is copied by De Bellegarde, p. 289.

[5] Recueil, p, 125.

[6] The whole of the documents connected with this very important testimonial to the rights of the Church of Utrecht, are given in Van Espen’s Works, vol. v. pp. 382 — 396.

[7] In the account given in the Dictionnaire des Livres Jansénistes, it is said that Van Heussen, in his letters dimissory, gave the extra tempora, which is usually regarded as a papal privilege; and that Soanen scandalized his Church by not himself celebrating at these ordinations. But a writer so badly informed as to speak of Stanoven, Valler, Bishop of Babylon, Van Hussen, &c., is perhaps no great authority on such a matter. (Tom. ii. p. 406.)

[8] This passage is in p. 2 of the (unpaged) Preface to the Defensio. (Utrecht: Van den Eynde, 1717.)

[9] The Chapter, in the May of this famous year, consisted of the following canons: John Christian Van Erkel, Dean; Hugo Gael, ex-pastor at Rotterdam; Cornelius Staekenburg, Vicar-General; William Frederick Van Daellennoort, whom I have already mentioned; Matthias Oosterling, pastor at Delft, and a man of learning; James Timmer, pastor at Rotterdam; Gisbert Van Dyck, vice-pastor at Utrecht. Shortly afterwards, on the death of Gael, he was succeeded by Theodore van der Croon, pastor at Gouda, afterwards Archbishop; on that of Stackenburg, he was succeeded in the vicariate by Van Dyck, in his canonry by Willebrord Kemp, pastor of S. Gertrude at Utrecht, and the vernacular historian of the Church; while, on the resignation of Timmer, who seems to have been a waverer, his place was filled by the staunchest of the staunch, Nicolas Broedersen, afterwards Dean, and the celebrated author of the Tractatus Historici. — Compare the signatures to the Appeal, pp. 15, 16, with Tract. Hist. i. 158.

[10] They are given in Kemp, vol. i. 168 — 176.

[11] It is in small 4to., the size of most of these brochures, and contains 25 pp. The imprint is “Delphis apud Henricum Rhenanum,” i.e. Van Rhijn. 1719.

[12] By the Ex-Bishop of Condom, the coadjutor of Quebec, and the Bishop of Clermont. All these early particulars are from the Preface to the “Apology,” — to which I shall so often have occasion to refer.

[13] I must confess that there has always appeared to me some want of straightforwardness in this part of the Bishop’s account. It was not more than eight years since he had left France; the condition of Utrecht was even then in every man’s mouth; he could hardly have failed to hear of it even in the country; and during his course of study in Paris he must have received some information on the subject. It is curious, too, that Krys alone, of all the priests in Amsterdam, should have happened to receive intelligence of his arrival. But this in no way detracts from the general truthfulness of the Bishop’s account; and doubtless he had no idea of the length to which matters had proceeded.

[14] It is spelt Khamache in our maps, and was then the capital of Shirwan.

[15] All the details are given in the Preface to the First Apology; also in a letter of M. Felix, Varlet’s companion, dated Schamake, Mar. 26, 1720, and printed in the Recueil, p.145.

[16] They are, both in Latin and French, in the First Apology, p. 40 and p. 56.

[17] This was not done till July 27, 1724.

[18] It is given in Kemp, vol. i. p. 177.

[19] They were published — the first part, 1722, in 64 pp.; 2nd, 1723, in 72 pp.; 3rd, 1723, in 70 pp.; 4th, 1723, in 78 pp.; 5th, 1724, in 56 pp.

[20] They are given in Kemp, vol. i., pp. 183 and 189.

[21] Amandus Bauwens and F. Verschuwen.

[22] This Resolution is given in Van Espen’s Works, tom. 5, pp. 396 — 415.

[23] These details are given by Kemp, who was himself present as a canon, vol. ii. pp. 3 — 5.


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