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.



1733 — 1738.

1. on the 22nd of July, 1733, the Chapter[1] met and unanimously elected Theodore van der Croon, one of the canons, and pastor at Gonda, to the archbishopric. He was a man of singularly gentle character, but had been the firm adherent of the National Church from the time that the schism had broken out. His name appears in the memorial addressed by three hundred of the clergy to the cardinals in defence of Archbishop Codde. Since that time he had been leading a retired life in his cure. It appears that there was not wanting a party in the Church of Utrecht who were for coming to terms with Rome at whatever cost. “Alas, alas!” writes one of these, in a letter preserved in the Archives, “how long is this schism to last? The death of Barchman was the happy moment at which it might have been finished. But, as I hear, they are proceeding to the election of Van der Croon. Alas, alas! the schism will then be confirmed for ever.” The Archbishop-elect and the Chapter[2] wrote, on the 26th of August and the 1st of September, to Pope Clement XII., to inform him of the election, and [277] to solicit a dispensation for the performance of the act by one bishop. After waiting nearly a year, Van der Croon addressed a second letter to the same Pontiff; and four neighbouring bishops were then invited to assist at the consecration. In the meantime efforts were not wanting, on the part of her adversaries, to put a violent end to the existence of the Church of Holland.

2. In the November of 1733, Acunha, Portuguese ambassador at the Hague, solicited an interview with the Bishop of Babylon, through the medium of the Princess d’Auvergne. This lady imagining, to use her own words, that the aged sinner was really anxious to be assisted in the work of repentance, endeavoured to arrange the meeting: but more discreet friends of the Bishop recalled to his memory his narrow escape from being carried off in the merchant-ship at the Helder, and requested him, if the interview were to take place, that it should not be, as proposed, at the Hague, but either at Utrecht or at the castle of Zeist. The meeting was fixed at the latter place; but to the great astonishment of the Bishop, he found on his arrival, not Acunha, but De Fénelon, the French ambassador, by whom he was earnestly entreated to return to his native country, promised an honourable reception, and benefices to the amount which he might regard as necessary for his comfort and dignity. The offer, of course, was politely declined, and Acunha bitterly reproached De Fénelon for not having seized so favourable an opportunity, and carried off the Bishop.

3. No reply having been received either from the Pope or from the prelates to whom they had addressed themselves, the Chapter again besought the assistance of the Bishop of Babylon, and on the 28th of October he consecrated the Archbishop-elect, Daellenoort and [278] Kemp assisting in the place of bishops. The action was followed, as before, by an excommunication from Rome; to which the Archbishop and the Chapter replied as previously, by an appeal to the future Council[3].

4. Van der Croon, whose judgment was not equal to his patience and forbearance, thought that if he addressed a letter to the Archbishop of Mechlin, then the Cardinal d’Alsace, the righteousness of his cause must convert that influential prelate to the side of the national Church. Against the advice of his Chapter, he forwarded a copy of the appeal, together with a short letter, in which he entreated the good offices of the Cardinal-Archbishop with the Court of Rome; and in due course of time received, through the press, a reply which commenced thus: —

“To Theodore van der Croon, false Bishop: a right judgment, and not to deride the Church of God.

“Whence comes the hardihood, Theodore, and the presumption, which has induced you to write to me? Who are you, and whence come you? I am, you will say, Archbishop of Utrecht. Who gave you the episcopate? From whom do you hold the title? Your usurpation of the name is the subject of ridicule to the nation: the Church detests it, the Pope condemns you; every Catholic Bishop refuses to recognise you; the Protestants themselves will not tolerate you.”

After proceeding in the same strain, —

“Your appeal,” he adds, “to the Future Council, Theodore, is futile, invalid, and shameful: the example of heretics is the only example which you have followed; and the act itself is another reason why I never have had, and never will have, ecclesiastical communion with you. Your appeal will be ever considered by me damnable and execrable. I need no further reason for refusing to hold with you and with yours any conversation, any union, any correspondence; nor will I, following the commandment of S. John, even bid you God speed.”

[279] In the same strain the Cardinal, or rather the writer whose pen he employed, runs on through twenty quarto pages: —

“You obtain nothing, you avail nothing, when you assert that you ‘have never done or thought anything against the one holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and the authority of the Holy See, to which you will cling with undivided communion, even to your last breath.’ I have seen double-tongued men, but never one more impudent than yourself. You who glory shamelessly and impudently, and that in addressing me, a Cardinal of the Roman Church, — that you have adhered to all the appeals put forth by your party during the last fifteen years, from the decrees of the Holy See, whether dogmatical or regarding the state of the Churches in the United Provinces; you who do not blush to spit in my face when you write that you have never departed from the canonical path; who have written, and set your name to it, that you would rather die with Steenoven than be of one mind with the Roman Pontiff; and, while you refuse to obey him, vociferate like a fanatic, ‘Let me die the death of the righteous.’ Where is your shame? where is your modesty? The lord look upon it and require it!”

5. To this letter Van der Croon opposed a “Defence,” in which he gives a detailed and temperate account of the history of the separated Church of Holland. In replying to his opponent, he is careful to treat the work which bore his name as if it were — which indeed was the case — the composition of writers engaged by a party, and for a party cause. He dwells on the fact that the bitterest adversaries of the Church of Utrecht had never ventured even to accuse her of false doctrine; that if a Church were schismatical because its prelates were consecrated without Papal Bulls, Meletius and Flavian of Antioch, Acacius and Ignatius of Constantinople, instead of being reckoned among the saints, should have been numbered among the schismatics; [280] while in later times, and in the same diocese, there was the case of Rudolf Diephold, excommunicated by Martin V., and re-established by Eugenius IV., which proved the futility of the Cardinal’s arguments.

6. The writer whom the Archbishop of Mechlin had before employed, replied by a letter of four quarto pages, and bearing date Sept. 18, 1736. It would probably be difficult to find a pamphlet of greater virulence. The partizans of the Ultramontane faction openly expressed their disgust, and Clement XII. seems to have felt it but due to himself to address a Brief to the Archbishop of Mechlin in condemnation of his intemperate zeal. He begins, indeed, by commending his efforts for the maintenance of the rights of the Holy See, but concludes by earnestly exhorting the Archbishop to confine his future endeavours for the welfare of the Church of Holland to his prayers. On this, and on other documents, Van der Croon based a second “Defence,” which remained without reply[4].

It is worth while to notice that, in the four great controversies between the two parties, the Church of Holland has always silenced her opponents. Thus it was in the first, between 1709 and 1714, carried on on the one side by the notorious Bernard Desirant, and Bonaventura Van Dyck, on the other by Van [281] Erkel, who proved himself more than a match for both his opponents put together. So also in the second, (1725 — 1730,) when Hoynck van Papendrecht encountered Van Espen, Van Erkel, and Broedersen. So, again, in that which I have just related. And so, lastly, as we shall see, between the Abbé Buys on the part of the national clergy, and Le Sage Tenbroek on that of the intruders.

7. The vexed question of a diocesan at Haarlem was agitated during the whole episcopate of Van der Croon. Difficulties presented themselves on all sides: the fear of offending Rome, the dread of overstepping the bounds which might seem prudent to the more moderate Gallican party, and the apprehension of what the States themselves might feel with respect to the second national episcopate. It was proposed rather to nominate a coadjutor to Utrecht; and Verhulst, the most able of all the writers who have ever defended the Church of Utrecht, was strongly in favour of this measure. But, after all, more timid counsels prevailed. The Bishop of Babylon still lived: and while he survived there was no fear that the national episcopate should come to an end.

It was amidst these difficulties that Archbishop Van der Croon departed this life, in the fifth year of his episcopate, on the 9th of June, 1739.

[1] The Chapter consisted of Van Erkel, Van Daellenoort, Van Dyck, Van der Croon, Kemp, Broedersen, Valkenburg, Meganck; — the former elected in the place of Barchman Wuytiers, the latter of Oosterling, who was dead. Tract. Hist. i. 161.

[2] The proceedings of Van der Croon and his Chapter are related at length in the Acta quoedam Ecclesiae Ultrajectinae, published by De Hondt, at the Hague, in 1737, and dedicated by Van der Croon, in a letter, to the archbishops and bishops of Germany. It is a thin quarto of 176 pages.

[3] It is given in the Acta quoedam, pp. 37 — 73, and is one of the longest among the many appeals of the Church of Utrecht.

[4] Van der Croon’s conclusion is very striking. The Cardinal had ended his second reply by the quotation from S. Augustine, — “Erit ergo mihi ad defensionem testis haec Epistola in judicio Dei, qui novit, quo animo fecerim.” “Utinam,” exclaims Van der Croon, “potius con-tremescens ad ilium divini nominis testificaturam! Haec in Augustini verbis sancta, a te quo vel colere usurpari potest? Hoc tu rescriptum alterum optas in judicio Dei ad-hiberi? Avertat a te Dominus affec-tum tam funestae imprecationis! Nisi enim ante tremendum ilium diem Christi Sanguine et tuis lacrymis deleatur utrumque rescriptum, quid aliud erit, nisi propriae condemna-tionis frustra tunc deflendum Chi-rographum? Tibi exitum opto me-liorem; et jam nunc spiritum poeni-tentiae et humilitatis.” — p. 176.


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