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

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

Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1858.




1725 — 1733.

1. The death of Cornelius Steenoven was undoubtedly a great blow to the Church of Holland, not only from the loss of a faithful and diligent pastor, but because his decease, so shortly after his elevation to the episcopate, was stigmatized by the Ultramontanes as a notable punishment of sacrilege. This argument, however, was, as we shall see, pushed a little too far, and recoiled on its inventors. The Chapter assembled at Utrecht six days after the Bishop’s death, and nominated as Vicar-General, the see vacant, Gisbert van Dyck, whom we have previously seen entrusted with the same office, and Cornelius John Barchman Wuytiers, at the same time raised to the place in the Chapter vacant by the decease of Archbishop Steenoven. The latter was a man of noble family; had studied, first with the Oratorians at Huissen, then in the College of Viglius at Louvain, and then at S. Magloire in Paris, where he resided several years. During that period he was one of the priests ordained by Bishop Soanen of Senez.

2. A curious and delicate point now occurred. The Chapter of Haarlem, persisting in its selfish separation from Utrecht, had, nevertheless, to perpetuate its rights, elected a Grand Vicar, on the express condition that he should exercise no functions pertaining to that office. As early as 1715, the Chapter of Utrecht had [262] consulted the theologians of Louvain on the subject. It was granted on all hands that, if the Chapter of a suffragan diocese neglect, within the appointed time, to nominate a Vicar, their right lapses to the Metropolitan. The question therefore rose, — If the metropolitical see is vacant, does the right devolve to its Chapter? The divines found the enquiry one of difficulty. The Bishop, qua Bishop of a certain diocese, forms one body, they said, with his diocesan Chapter; whether the Metropolitan qua Metropolitan does the same, was a more difficult point[1]. They had, however, at length decided in the affirmative; and the Chapter of Utrecht, now acting on that resolution, nominated Barchman Wuytiers to the Vicariate of Haarlem. The Chapter of that Church was stimulated into action, and by a capitular act denied that the choice of a Grand Vicar had fallen to the Metropolitical Chapter by right of devolution. While this bye-controversy was proceeding, the Chapter assembled for the election of an Archbishop on the 15th of May[2]. The same formalities were observed by which the former election had been distinguished, but on this occasion the votes were unanimous, and the choice fell on Barchman Wuytiers. While application was made to Rome for the Papal Bulls, and — with the same strange foresight as before — for a dispensation that the consecration might be performed by one Bishop only, we must turn our attention to other matters.

3. Among the crowd of works which deluged Holland on the election of Steenoven, the “History of [263] the Church of Utrecht,” by Hoynck[3] van Papendrecht, a canon of Mechlin, made the greatest sensation among those that favoured the Papal side. It appeared at Brussels and Cologne, in the shape of a small thin folio, containing, in the first place, a brief but most inaccurate sketch of the history of the Church of Utrecht, from its erection to a metropolis till the futile vicariate of Byevelt, then an appendix of letters, and then six dissertations against the rights of the Chapter, the last entitled “On the Illicit Consecration of Steenoven,” — in whose lifetime it appeared. It must be confessed that the good Canon is not very complimentary to his Ultramontane friends; for Govaerts, the impostor Desirant, and De Cock had all attacked the national party; yet in his dedication he complains that the cause of truth had found “no defenders.” No doubt the favourite theory of the partizans of Rome had, up to this period, been that Vosmeer and Rovenius had been true Archbishops of Utrecht, because in their days a Catholic prince was de jure sovereign of the United Provinces; but that the Peace of Münster had converted those prelates into Vicars-Apostolic, because there could be no national episcopate where there was not a Catholic monarch. Hoynck, however, saw the absurdity of such arguments, and such a conclusion, and he therefore boldly affirmed that, from the change of religion, Church and Chapter had collapsed, and that even Vosmeer was a mere Vicar-Apostolic. And this is the theory of modern Ultramontanes. A second, and much enlarged, edition of Hoynck’s, carried his assertions to an amusing pitch of daring. He there affirms that the see of Utrecht is not vacant; it is so [264] utterly destroyed, that the Pope, even if he wished, could not revive it: a maxim on which Pius IX. has not acted. Hoynck, however, did good service to the afflicted Church by the answers which he elicited. Broedersen’s first Tractatus Historicus, which I have so often quoted, though tedious and long-winded, is perfectly crushing. Van Erkel’s Defensio Ecclesiae Ultrajectinae demolishes the unfortunate Canon, if not more thoroughly, at least more smartly. The Bishop of Babylon’s “Second Apology” remained without an answer; and Van Espen employed his matchless pen in a “Vindication of the Resolution of the Doctors of Louvain.”

4. But this great doctor was now himself in trouble, a trouble occasioned by his generous defence of Utrecht. One Damen, a doctor of Louvain, in attacking the consecration of Steenoven, declared it not only — in the words of the Papal Bull — execrable and illicit, but absolutely null and void; for, said he, three consecrating bishops, except by dispensation from Rome, are of the essence of ordination. Van Espen, consulted on the question by the indefatigable Van Erkel, completely demolished the Ultramontane partizan. He quoted the example of Pelagius, consecrated by two bishops only; of Evagrius, by Paulinus alone; of Siderius of Palaebisca, by Philo of Cyrene; and the first English consecrations, by S. Augustine. In later years, a Bishop of Nyssa in partibus, Vicar-Apostolic in China, had consecrated (1721) two bishops, without even any assistant priest. The Prince-Bishop of Liége had, Dec. 31, 1724, been elevated to the episcopate by a single bishop in partibus. In the same year, the Bishop of Antwerp had consecrated, unassisted, the Bishop of Rhodes. More remarkably still, a Bishop of Paraguay had, in 1657, distinctly [265] without dispensation, been consecrated by less than three bishops, and the Congregation of Rites allowed that the act was valid. At a later period, Herbert[4], a Canon of the Roman Catholic Chapter of London, reinforced this array, by mentioning that Stoner of Thespia in partibus was consecrated by Lucan alone; Petre, his vicar, by Giffard alone. Van Espen’s treatise is known as the Responsio Epistolaris[5]; and though the writer was in his eightieth year, it exhibits no decline of vigour or learning, if compared with his earlier performances. It was published in Holland, and the editor unfortunately prefixed a short preface, in which he urged that the consecration was not only valid, but licit. Damen made a feeble reply, and was encountered by an adversary really as formidable as Van Espen, in the person of Philip Lawrence Verhulst, one of the ablest writers that Holland ever produced, and of whom we shall soon hear more. Damen, worsted in argument, betook himself to force. He appealed to the Council of Brabant, and after two years of negotiations[6] and chicanery, by a packed University tribunal, the book was condemned, and the author threatened with pains and penalties for a scandalous and pernicious work. No alternative but submission or flight remained to the great canonist. A niece, who had resided with him for a quarter of a century, and who, with true womanly feeling, cared infinitely less for the validity of consecrations by one bishop[7] or for the Church of Utrecht, than for a beloved and revered uncle, besought him, if he possibly could, to make some retractation that would satisfy his adversaries without compromising his own character: —

[266] “No, he replied; “I have for years studied the cause of the clergy of Utrecht, for which I suffer: and after diligent prayer for the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and careful consideration of the objections of the Papal party, I am more and more convinced of the justice of my first impressions, and am so certain of the equity and importance of this cause, that, if I hesitated to defend it, I should have occasion to fear lest Jesus Christ should be ashamed to own me as His disciple before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge.”

He withdrew, not without some risk, to Maestricht, where he took up his abode in the February of 1728.

5. We have anticipated the course of events. Even before the death of Steenoven, the terror, as well as indignation, felt by the Papal Court may be judged by the extraordinary means taken to crush the Church of Utrecht. All Catholic princes were requested to use their influence at the Hague, for the banishment of those who supported it. Even the Republic of Venice wrote on the subject; and the States, in civil terms, bade it mind its own business. Rome now offered their High Mightinesses to allow a Bishop of Haarlem, if they would forbid the consecration of Barchman: but this mean and pitiful concession was made in vain. Other methods were therefore to be tried. The Bishop of Babylon was now on a visit at the Helder. In this dreary desert of sand, shared almost equally by men and sea-gulls, where that tremendous dyke of Norwegian granite protects the flat waste from the race of the German Ocean through the Hell’s Door, (whence the name,) into the Zuyder Zee, — a spot the inconceivable monotony and barrenness of which can be realised only by him that has visited it, — there existed then, and there exists still, a faithful remnant of the National Church. A lady warmly attached to the Ultramontane party was heard to boast that the Bishop of Babylon would not long trouble the country. [267] A few days subsequently, that prelate received a pressing invitation from the captain of a strange vessel, perfectly unknown to him, to honour him by dining on board. He politely refused, and the ship instantly left the harbour. Had he accepted the invitation, there can be no doubt that he would have been carried off.

6. An offer of reconciliation to Rome was now made. The Papal Court, it was said, was beginning to open its eyes to the true state of the case. The Bishop of Babylon had warm friends among the Cardinals. If he would but consent to defer the consecration, things might yet go well. There could be no hurry. Premature action might defeat its own end, and put a stop to all hope of reconciliation. The honesty of these offers was soon manifested by the Brief of Benedict XIII. (Aug. 23, 1725) against the election of Barchman Wuytiers, in which terms more outrageous than those employed against Steenoven were unsparingly used. On this occasion the Pontiff gave a curious proof of his infallibility as to facts. Allusion was made to the death of Archbishop Steenoven, as a visible mark of the Divine vengeance. “So also was that of the layman Doncker,” proceeded the Brief, “a great supporter of that party, who died in impenitence and damnable disobedience.” On the Sunday after receiving this instrument, M. Doncker, who was a highly respectable parish priest in Amsterdam, and in perfect health, publicly read this Brief from his pulpit; and we may conceive him then to have addressed his audience on the reasonableness of the Formula, and of the Vineam Domini Sabaoth. Those, we may remark, who drew up the next Brief against Archbishop Barchman’s consecration learnt caution, and named no one but the prelate, — whose [268] name, however, they were still so unlucky as to spell wrong.

7. The steps taken by the Chapter on this were the same as on the previous occasion. The neighbouring Bishops were requested to attend the consecration; they were those of Antwerp, Roermonde, S. Omer, and Rhodiopolis in partibus, coadjutor of Cologne. No answer having been received from them, application was made to the Bishop of Babylon, both by the Chapter and by fifteen of the clergy of Haarlem, the first being that Doncker who had been slain by the Papal Brief[8]. That prelate consented to grant their request, and on the 30th of September, 1725, being the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, and in the church of S. James at the Hague, he consecrated Barchman Wuytiers Archbishop of Utrecht. The letter in which the new prelate announced his consecration to the Pope was met by the usual reply: a Brief of Dec. 6 declared him and his clergy excommunicated and schismatic, as well as all those who should in any way assist or encourage him. The Archbishop rejoined by another appeal to the Future Council, to which his clergy gave in their adherence, and which he explained to his people by a Mandement, which was much admired. In his letter to the Pope, Archbishop Barchman had offered to resign his see if tranquillity could thus be restored to his Church. Thierry de Viaixnes manifested some uneasiness on the point. “It is perfectly unnecessary,” was the reply: “if I resign, it will only be on these three conditions: — 1. No Formulary; 2. no Unigenitus; and the rights of the Chapters recognised.’’

8. The letters of communion which were received [269] at Utrecht amounted to more than a hundred, and were signed by at least two thousand ecclesiastics, principally French. Besides the bishops who had congratulated Archbishop Steenoven on his election, it is said on good authority that there were at least thirty French prelates who secretly acknowledged the rights, and gladly received communications from, the Church of Utrecht. The National Church was still further strengthened by the arrival of thirty-one Carthusians, compelled to leave France on account of the imposition of the Unigenitus in their order as a rule of faith; and fourteen Cistercians from the Abbey of Orval, in the duchy of Luxembourg. These were settled by the Archbishop in various localities of his diocese, and, on their settlement, they formally appealed to the future OEcumenical Council[9].

9. One of the most remarkable events which distinguished the episcopate of Barchman Wuytiers was the attempt made by him to bring about the union of the Eastern and Western Churches. The first idea appears to have arisen among some of the doctors of the Sorbonne, and more especially to have interested Monsieur Boursier, whose reputation for learning and piety gave him considerable influence at Paris. When Peter the Great was residing in that metropolis, among its other remarkable institutions, he visited the house of the Sorbonne; and some of the doctors took occasion to lament in his presence the divisions which separated Eastern from Western Christendom. He promised to submit any memorial which they might address to him to the consideration of his bishops — at that time under the influence of Theodosius, Archbishop of Novgorod, and Theophanes of Pskoff, by no means indisposed to forward a union with Rome. [270] Those prelates took the documents into their consideration, and returned two replies to the proposals which they had received. Their answers were unfortunately addressed to the infamous Cardinal Dubois, the same who traversed the negotiations between our own Archbishop Wake and Dupin for the reconciliation of the Anglican and Gallican Churches, — and he at once quashed the whole proceedings. They were renewed on occasion of the reception of the Princess Galitsin, the wife of Prince Dolgorouki, at that time in Holland, into the Roman Church. She made her profession of the Latin faith to Archbishop Barchman, on the Feast of S. Barnabas, 1727, and requested from him a priest of the Roman communion who might take charge of her family in Russia. He made choice of Mons. Jubé, ex-incumbent of Asnières, in the diocese of Paris, who had found it necessary to retire into Holland on account of his refusal to accept the Bull Unigenitus. The affair was discussed both at Utrecht and at the Sorbonne, and it was at one time proposed to invest him with the episcopal character; and it was understood that Javoski, Archbishop of Riazan, Lapatinski, of Tver, and the Metropolitan of Kieff, were by no means unwilling that the consecration should take place. Archbishop Barchman, however, contented himself with giving Mons. Jubé all the powers that could be entrusted to a priest, and that ecclesiastic, after visiting Paris, and receiving the blessing of the Archbishop, Cardinal de Noailles, took his departure for Moscow. He was received in the most favourable manner, and the negotiations seemed to be happily proceeding, till the death of Peter put an end to them, as it did to those which at the same time were pending between the Russian and the Scotch bishops. His successor, the Empress Anne, had conceived a mortal [271] hatred to the whole family of the Dolgoroukis: anything in which they had interested themselves was to be crushed; and M. Jubé, after inventing all the pretexts for delay which his ingenuity could furnish, was obliged to return to Holland.

10. During the progress of these negotiations in Russia, the attention of Archbishop Barchman was directed to another mission of great interest. It was proposed to endeavour to convert the islands of Laos, on the Malabar coast, and to form those missionaries in India who had refused to accept the Unigenitus, into a mission independent of the Propaganda. The Bishop of Babylon and the Archbishop exerted themselves strenuously in carrying out the project, and their efforts were redoubled when they received the intelligence that, on the death of the Bishop of Laranda in partibus, Vicar-Apostolic of Tonkin, the Court of Rome refused to appoint any successor, because his clergy, almost to a man, rejected the Bull. Great interest was also felt at Paris with respect to the scheme, and Father Terrasson, of the Oratory, was to have been appointed head of the mission. But before the ecclesiastics who composed it could sail, Tessier, Bishop of Rosalia in partibus, and Vicar-Apostolic of Siam, without whose co-operation success was hardly to be expected, drew back. He could not, he said, risk the certain indignation of the Court of Rome for the uncertain benefits derivable from such a mission: his brethren had better overcome their scruples, and receive the obnoxious Bull as best they might. The attempt, however, might in all probability have been notwithstanding made, had not the death of Archbishop Barchman intervened.

11. The increasing years and declining health of the [272] Bishop of Babylon naturally rendered the Archbishop anxious to provide for the maintenance of the succession in the Church of Utrecht. The episcopate, so wonderfully bestowed on that communion, must not, he felt, be lost by its own negligence. On all accounts it seemed most proper to fill the see of Haarlem, which had remained vacant since 1587. It was not only the first of the suffragans of Utrecht, but the number of Catholics in that diocese was greater than in any other, except Utrecht itself; the Chapter had perpetuated itself under its ancient title without adopting, as in the metropolitical see, the name of Vicariate; and till the year 1717, had named Vicars-general during the vacancy of the see. The canons, however, had, as we have seen, little by little deserted the cause of the National Church; their Vicars-general had been raised to that phantom of an office on the express condition that they should not exercise its rights; and, as I have already related, the Metropolitical Chapter had nominated, by right of devolution, another ecclesiastic to that dignity. After consulting various theologians, and more especially Van Espen, Archbishop Barchman gave formal notice to the Chapter of Haarlem that they were bound to proceed to the election of a bishop, and that if they neglected within the space of three months to do so, the nomination to the episcopate would devolve to himself, as Metropolitan. They allowed the three months to pass, and the Archbishop, after procuring another “consultation” from Van Espen, adopted by the French canonist Le Gros, convened his Metropolitical Chapter for the 16th of June, 1727. The principal among the clergy of Haarlem were invited to attend, and the Bishop of Babylon was present, as holding the place of a suffragan. After the mass of [273] the Holy Ghost, and a discussion as to the respective merits of various ecclesiastics proposed, the unanimous choice of the assembly fell on Theodore Doncker, whom we have already mentioned. The Archbishop had intended at once to proceed to his consecration, but various writings of his own on the subject of usury had at this time raised a storm which threatened the welfare, if not the existence, of the National Church; and the elevation of Doncker to the episcopate was for the present deferred. On his death, which occurred in 1731, the clergy of Haarlem made new efforts to obtain a prelate, — efforts, however, which were not crowned with success till some years later.

12. An event which occurred at Amsterdam at the commencement of 1727, occasioned as much sensation in that city as the miracles, real or imaginary, of the deacon Paris had done in France. A girl, by name Agatha Leenderts Stouthandel, who had been for some years suffering from dropsy, with a complication of other disorders, pronounced incurable by the physicians, had a strong impression produced on her mind that if she could communicate from the hand of the Archbishop, she should be cured. She did so on the Feast of the Epiphany, and, it is said, instantly recovered perfect health. Barchman appointed a commission, consisting of three of his clergy, to enquire into the authenticity of the alleged miracle. Their report is given by Kemp[10]. In the three months which their enquiries occupied, they received the depositions of three medical men, a hundred and thirty Catholics, and more than thirty Protestants, all of whom attested the reality of the disease, and the [274] suddenness of the cure. It seems hard to resist such a weight of evidence, which it was never even attempted by the Roman party to break down. The only circumstance which would seem in any degree to derogate from the authenticity of the miracle, was the fact that the avowed and principal wish of Agatha Stouthandel, in communicating, was not so much her own restoration to health, as the procuring an irrefragable testimony to the righteousness of the cause which the National Church supported. The Jesuit writers of the time ridiculed the occurrence, but made no attempt to discredit the witnesses.

13. During the course of these events, Archbishop Barchman was engaged in drawing up the constitution of the Seminary at Amersfoort: the excellence of his rules is proved by their remaining still in force. Nor was he behindhand in asserting from time to time the rights of his Church by his pen. He had the melancholy satisfaction of attending the death-bed of the exiled Van Espen, and of assisting at his funeral. I have visited, in the once magnificent church of S. George at Amersfoort, the tomb of this great canonist. He preferred, says his epitaph, exile from his country in extreme old age to the desertion of justice and truth, by giving up the cause of the Archbishop and clergy of Utrecht, and acquiescence in the too-famous Unigenitus. His tomb is in the family vault of the Foeyts, and at the entrance to the choir. Archbishop Barchman’s pastoral letters of Dec. 30, 1725, on the duties and responsibilities of a bishop; that of April 10, 1730, on the death of Benedict XIII.; and the letter which he addressed to Bishop Soanen, of Senez, on the result of the Council of Embrun, received the highest commendations at the time, and are still much valued.

[It ought to have been mentioned that Van Espen, believing his residence at Maestricht unsafe, had taken up his abode at Amersfoort. - Author’s Corrigenda]

[275] The Archbishop’s death occurred suddenly at his house at Rhijnwijck, near Utrecht, on the 13th of May, 1733. The Bishops Soanen, of Senez, Caylus, of Auxerre, and Colbert, of Montpellier, lament it as one of the greatest blows that the Church could have suffered[11].



[1] The correspondence on this subject, which is interesting, may be seen in Van Espen’s Works, vol. v. pp. 313, 314.

[2] The Chapter then consisted of Van Erkel, dean; Daellenoort, Oosterling, Van Dyck, Van der Croon, Kemp, Broedersen, and Barchman Wuytiers.

[3] This name is spelt very variously: I follow Hoynck’s own orthography, as given in a book in my possession, once belonging to him.

[4] The letter dated Feb. 16, 1728, is in the Recueil, p. 277.

[5] Van Espen, Opp. tom. v. p. 484.

[6] All these negotiations are related at great length, and not very clearly, in De Bellegarde’s Vie de Van Espen, pp. 167, sqq.

[7] Vie de V. E., p. 99.

[8] Both letters are given in the “Second Apology” of the Bishop of Babylon, pp. 487, sqq. That of Utrecht, by Kemp, vol. v. p. 95.

[9] Kemp, part vi. p. 80.

[10] vol. ix. pp. 53 — 68.

[11] Dom Pitra, in his Hollande Catholique, represents the episcopate of Barchman as one scene of confusion and internal disputes. The difficulties which really occurred on the subject of usury, and in which men equally earnest might fairly take different sides, are magnified by him into a perfect schism. The unanimity with which the election of his successor was made is a sufficient proof that there was no real division in the Church.


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