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

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

Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1858.




1. Hitherto the prelates who had presided over the separated Church of Holland had rather been distinguished for the gentleness of their disposition, and their acknowledged piety, than for their talents and determination. Van der Croon, in particular, recalls to our remembrance James de la Torre, and the unfortunate Concessiones Ephesinae, which had disgraced his episcopate. The Chapter having learnt from the controversy between the Archbishop of Mechlin and their late prelate, that conciliatory measures were perfectly unavailing, elected an ecclesiastic of very different stamp, Peter John Meindaerts, at that time Archpriest of Leeuwarden, and Dean of Friesland. He was one of those who had been ordained priest in 1716, as I have before related, by Luke Fagan, Bishop of Meath. The usual notice of the election, and request for a dispensation, were despatched to Rome; the ordinary silence was preserved by the Papal See: as on former occasions, the Bishop of Babylon was adjured to have pity on the widowed Church; and by him, accordingly, the Archbishop-elect was consecrated, on S. Luke’s Day, 1739. It afterwards appeared that, twelve days before this event, Clement XII. had issued a Brief, by which he declared the election itself null and execrable.

2. This Brief reached Holland, together with the news of its author’s death; and the new Archbishop, therefore, did not consider it necessary to appeal. But [283] Benedict XIV., by his Brief of Jan. 14, 1741, rendered such a step unavoidable. It contained stronger language, the more remarkable as proceeding from so moderate and learned a Pontiff, than any previous document of the same kind. In it the Archbishop is characterized as a child of iniquity, a most unnatural son of the tenderest of fathers, a deceitful and savage wolf, an accomplished seducer, a madman, whose case is almost desperate. The appeal bears date July 1, 1741, and shortly afterwards an event took place which rendered a decisive step on the part of the Church of Holland immediately necessary. This was the decease of the Bishop of Babylon, who died the death of the righteous, at the Hague, on May 14, 1742. Not unnaturally, the character of this prelate has been drawn in the blackest colours by Ultramontane writers. But his intimate friendship with great and good men, like Arnauld and the rest of the Port-Royalists, and the particular esteem which Van Espen entertained for his character and writings, would have secured him, even if his own acts had not done so, an honourable memory in the annals of the Church. His letters, many of which I have read in the Archives, are full of a tenderness and unction which one might not have expected from an author of the ponderous learning which distinguishes his two “Apologies.”

3. The succession in the Church of Holland now hung on a single life, and it was felt on all sides that a second intervention of Providence, such as that which had against his will sent the Bishop of Babylon from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Zuyder Zee, was not to be expected. Difficulties which had hitherto appeared insurmountable were now at once got over, and the Chapter at Haarlem still refusing to act, the Archbishop, with the consent of that part of [284] the clergy of the see which acknowledged his authority, nominated Jerome de Bock to the bishopric of Haarlem, and consecrated him on Sept. 2, 1742. The usual Briefs of excommunication followed this proceeding; and the clergy, in their appeal to the Future Council, took the opportunity of declaring that, having once placed themselves under the protection of an appeal, it was useless to renew it on every fresh Brief issued by the Court of Rome; and in point of fact, more than forty years elapsed before another was thought necessary.

4. We will now give a glance at the numerical strength and local position of the National Church at this period. The archbishopric consisted of five arch-priestdoms: — Utrecht, with twelve parishes — namely, Utrecht, with its six; Amersfoort, with two; Hilversum, Kuilenburg, Vianen, and Polsbroek, with one each; Rhijnland, containing Leyden, Zoetermeer, and Roelevaartjesveen, with one each; Delfland, containing Delft, with two parishes; the Hague, Ryswyck, and Eykenduinen, with one each; Schieland, containing Rotterdam, with two parishes; Schiedam, Delftshaven, and Kralingen, with one each; South Holland, containing Dordrecht and Gouda, with two parishes each; Schoonhoven, Oudewater, Briel, and Gorcum, with one each. The bishopric of Haarlem contained Amsterdam, with eight parishes; Haarlem and Enkhuizen, with two; Zaandam, Krommenie, Aalsmeer, Egmonden, and the Helder, with one each. Besides this, one parish at Leeuwarden, and the island of Noordstrand, in the duchy of Sleswick, were in the jurisdiction of the Archbishop. This gives a total of fifty-two parishes — thirty-three in the archbishopric, seventeen in the bishopric of Haarlem, one in that of Leeuwarden.

[285] 5. Bishop de Bock survived his consecration less than three years, and on his decease John van Stiphout was raised to the vacant see. Broedersen, then Canon, afterwards Dean, of Utrecht, who had, in 1729, published the first of his treatises in reply to Hoynck’s book, was engaged in a correspondence with friends at Rome, and especially with Cardinal Passionei, who had himself been in Holland, and was interested in the rights of its Church. As matters appeared promising, an Exposition of Doctrine was forwarded to Rome in 1744, of which it may be well to give some account. After a short protest, in which the clergy declare their unshaken adherence to the faith of the Church, they adopt the five articles forwarded by the Bishop of Comminges to Alexander VII., in 1663[1], and by him approved. They are all concerned with the question of Grace. The second runs thus: —

6. “Interior grace is twofold: the one efficacious, which always produces that effect to which it impels the will; the other inefficacious, which excites the will to an effect which it does not produce. The former of these graces is that which the Thomists call simply, properly, and absolutely efficacious. To this resistance may indeed be always opposed, as the same school teaches; but never such resistance as to deprive it of that effect to which it impels the will. Which, in other words, they thus express: it may be resisted in a divided sense, but not in a composite sense. The second grace is that which they sometimes call excitant, sometimes inefficacious, sometimes sufficient, — all these terms meaning one and the same thing. To this the will resists, against this the will struggles, and deprives it of that effect to which it excites, and for which it bestows sufficient power (the word [286] sufficient being taken in the meaning of the Thomists, which has been before explained). The will may consent to it, but yet in point of fact never does consent, in the absence of efficacious grace; not through defect of antecedent power, but from its free determination and concupiscence. But although that grace, considered in and by itself, does not obtain the effect to which it tends, to which it excites the will, and to which by the antecedent will of God it is destined, and therefore it is false to assert in this sense that all grace of Christ always obtains that effect which God wills; yet if it be considered in conjunction with the absolute will of God, it may most rightly be called efficacious in this sense, because it always operates on the heart of man that which God’s absolute will intends that it should operate. The Thomists hold it for certain that help, which is merely sufficient in respect of our action, is always efficacious in respect of that other action for which it is destined by the absolute decree of the Divine will; and therefore, according to their teaching, all grace is efficacious of some effect; that effect, namely, for which it is proximately ordained, and which God by His absolute will intends, according to that saying of Isaiah, ‘My word which goeth forth out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void.’”

7. The fifth is on Predestination, and is conceived thus: —

“The doctrine of gratuitous predestination has obtained, and that deservedly, the principal authority in all Catholic schools. The sum of that doctrine, as received by all its defenders, is as follows: — That to the elect alone, if we regard — not the antecedent, but — the absolute and efficacious will of God, eternal salvation is destined by the absolute decree of God, together with that series of graces and benefits by which they are most certainly set free who are set free; of which benefits the chief is the gift of perseverance, which none will deny to be proper to the predestinate. Hence it follows that Christ, Whose absolute will is always the same with that of the Father, willed, simply and absolutely, to change this decree neither by His prayers nor by His death. Therefore He willed, absolutely and efficaciously, to merit eternal salvation and the gift of perseverance for those who, [287] as He saith in the Gospel, were given to Him by the Father, and whom no man should pluck out of His hands. On this head all the defenders of gratuitous predestination are agreed; they only exclude that general notion of Christ’s death having been borne for all, by which it is meant that it bestowed on all men grace so sufficient as not additionally to need efficacious grace to will or to do. But, in rejecting that opinion, it is not forbidden, nay, rather it is perfectly consonant with truth, to assert that Christ died and shed His Blood for all men everywhere; both because He willed, with an antecedent will, the salvation of all, and also because He paid a sufficient price for all. But it is false and heretical to say that Christ died only for the salvation of the predestinate, since He merited sufficient grace (using the word sufficient in a Thomistic sense) to enable them to attain to salvation for many that shall be lost, and for all that were ever justified; although no man uses well those sufficient graces, and perseveres in the righteousness he has received, unless he be assisted by those richer and efficacious helps.”

They then quote the approbation which these Articles had met with from almost every Thomist of eminence, from more than one General of the Dominicans, from the Doctors of Louvain, and from Steyaert, the bitter enemy of the Jansenists; and the approbation with which they had been honoured by Alexander VII.

8. Next they proceed to adopt the Articles presented by the University of Louvain, in 1677, to Innocent XI., principally with respect to the corrupted morals of the Jesuits. Of these it may suffice to quote those that follow: —

Of the Theological Virtues.

“1. The fundamental and primary commandment of the Divine law is this: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and thy neighbour as thyself.’

“2. Although some of the schoolmen understand the word charity of that affection alone which consists of our friendship [288] with Him, through the remission of sins, S. Augustine and other fathers are accustomed to take it for any love of the Supreme Good for its own sake.

“3. Hence the same holy doctor speaks of charity as in its infancy, advanced, adult, robust, perfect; and the latter of two kinds — the one of the present, the other of the future, life; which distinction is also frequently employed by S. Thomas.

“4. Therefore, charity and concupiscence, taken as generic terms, are nothing else than good or evil will; they are the good and evil root, of which the one can only bring forth good, the other only evil, fruit.

“5. Every work, that it may be perfectly good and without any spot even of venial sin, must proceed from such charity, and must by it be referred to the Lord God; for, as S. Augustine testifies, no fruit is good which does not spring from the root of charity.

“6. But this reference to God need not be through perfect charity, — it is sufficient that it be through imperfect charity.

“7. Neither is it necessary that it should be from actual charity, or from that charity off which the mind is actually sensible at the time.

“8. For this continual reflection on what we have in hand is impossible, through the many distractions of this life.

“9. It suffices, therefore, that our works be referred to God by virtual charity.

“10. This continual and virtual love must have reference, not only to God, but also to our neighbour. God forbid that it should be enough for Christian righteousness only not to hate God, or only to shew external kindness to our neighbour!

“11. We lie under an equal obligation of exercising faith and hope, and by these we are bound constantly to adhere, at least virtually, to the Divine Majesty.

“12. Faith must be the firmest of all assents. S. Clement of Alexandria rightly teaches that it is of more force than any demonstration. Wherefore, whoever thinks that it may be only a probable belief, has already been condemned with Peter Abaelard.

[289] “13. It must not be natural, but altogether supernatural, and dependent on the authority of God who speaks; and by it are believed the divine promises and revelations.

“14. The faith which is necessary to righteousness and salvation must have express reference to the One Essence of the Divine Majesty and to its Three Persons; also to God as the Rewarder, and to Christ as the Mediator. It must also have learnt His incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection.

“15. Faith, expressly referring to all these, is the necessary medium of justification.

“16. Hence, bishops, priests, curates, and other directors of souls, are most rigidly bound to instruct their people on all of them, which precept has been rightly renewed by the Council of Trent.”

Of Falsehood and Homicide.

“1. We must so employ words as that the expressions we use (the circumstances which are within the understanding of the auditor being also taken into consideration) may be in agreement with that which we intend.

“2. If the contrary take place with an oath, it is perjury; if without an oath, it is falsehood; neither of which can be excused by any expediency or necessity.

“3. God has not given the power of life and death to private persons in such a manner as that it is lawful to kill an aggressor for the preservation of property, nor of honour, nor even of chastity.

“4. Some affirm that it is lawful to slay the man who unjustly seeks your own life; others deny it: the latter on the authority of S. Augustine; the former on that of S. Thomas.”

Of Contrition and Confession.

“1. Frequent confession and communion, if only performed rightly, are exceedingly laudable and advantageous.

“2. The frequent confession of even venial sins — although without fault they may remain unconfessed, and can be expiated by many other remedies — is nevertheless right and useful, and free from all presumption.

[290]”3. The servile fear of hell is by no means in itself evil, but good and useful; but attrition, which is based upon this fear alone, even when joined with the sacrament, is not sufficient for justification, because, for the reception of that grace, it is necessary that we should believe and hope in God, and love Him for Himself. True attrition is grief of heart for, and abhorrence of, committed sin, together with a resolution of not committing it again, which excludes the desire of sinning. But it need not include perfect charity, for that reconciles a man to God before this sacrament is actually received.

“4. Nevertheless, although imperfect, it must yet be the true love of God by which the penitent loves the Lord God as the Fountain of all righteousness, and therefore deserts and hates his sins. Some call this kind of charity, the love of God above all things.

“5. If the penitent be questioned concerning former habits of sin, especially when they have become inveterate, in order that its cure may be the more easily discovered, he is bound to answer.

“6. Also the circumstances which notably aggravate each particular kind of sin are to be expressed.

“7. The denial, or procrastination of absolution, is sometimes necessary, sometimes useful, sometimes pernicious. Wherefore, not only knowledge, but wisdom also, is necessary to a priest. He must therefore beseech from the Lord God the grace of discerning spirits.

“8. The aforesaid procrastination, or denial, if it be only useful, and not necessary, cannot take place, if the penitent be unwilling to submit to it.

“9. The reasons which make it necessary are especially three: — The first is ignorance of the necessary articles of faith. 2. A defect of disposition; as, for example, of contrition. 3. A proximate occasion of sin, which is either so from the nature of the thing, or from the character of the person.

“10. Some examples under the last head are adduced by Gregory VII. in his Roman Synod: ‘We call those false penances which are not imposed, as the Fathers teach they [291] should be, in analogy with the sin. Therefore, if a soldier, or a merchant, or the holder of any office which cannot be exercised without sin, or one who unjustly detains the property of another, or one who bears malice in his heart, should allow that he cannot exercise that true repentance by which he may inherit eternal life, unless he lays aside his arms and bears them no more, (save only by the council of religious bishops, in defence of a righteous cause,) or relinquishes his traffic, or gives up his office, or expels malice from his heart, or restores the property which he has unjustly seized, he cannot be absolved. But, until he is prepared to give up these things, lest he should fall into despair, we exhort him to do whatever good he can, that the Almighty God may dispose his heart to repentance.’”

To these they add twelve Articles sent by De Noailles to Benedict XIII., and approved by him: they are little else than an abstract of those of Louvain.

9. These Articles were extremely well received at Rome; Benedict XIV. caused them to be read over to him, and allowed the message to be sent as indirectly from himself, that he found nothing to object to in any of them. The negotiation was again set on foot; but Rome insisted in the first place on the acceptation of the Formulary and the Unigenitus, the revocation of all appeals, and on the Archbishop’s seeking absolution, at all events ad cautelam. These conditions were indignantly rejected. There was, however, a certain Augustinian, named Antony Hochkirchen, who offered his services to the Church of Holland, and affirmed — to use his own expression — that with a golden key he could do anything. “I cannot,” said he, “work miracles. I can only employ human means; and rely upon it, the Italians will never give something for nothing.” The Archbishop and the Chapter were not particularly eager to commence negotiations on such a basis; but a rich layman [292]having offered a thousand ducats, Hochkirchen commenced his operation. After the lapse of two years, however, it was found that this man had been cajoling both parties, and his services were accordingly discontinued.

10. While the affair was proceeding, Van Erkel was taken from his labours, and was most worthily succeeded in his deanery by Willibrord Kemp, and he by the indefatigable Nicholas Broedersen. The latter employed the services of Father Norbert, who displayed great activity and zeal in promoting the union. His proposal to Rome was that the Pope should cease to insist on the acceptation of the Unigenitus by the Church of Holland, simply and solely for the reason, or rather on the pretext, that it was contrary to the law of the land. The clergy of Utrecht, however, learnt that it was intended to represent them as accepting in their hearts the constitution, and as merely declining to manifest an external submission to it, from the fear of civil consequences. They, therefore, took care to explain themselves clearly on this head, and the negotiation thus came to an end. A third was set on foot under the auspices of the Marquis Nicolini, celebrated alike for his learning and his piety. It was broken off by the death of Benedict XIV. Cardinal Tamburini, one of the candidates for the vacant chair of S. Peter, pledged himself, in case of election, to bring about the reunion of Utrecht. But on the accession of Clement XIII. even Nicolini confessed that for the present he could see no hopes of success.

11. The question of a third Bishop had long occupied the attention of Meindaerts. In the diocese of Leeuwarden there existed one congregation and one pastor attached to the National party. It seemed, therefore, desirable to choose that see for the new Bishop. [293] Others, however, were rather for the appointment of a coadjutor; and the discussion of the two schemes occasioned considerable delay. De Caylus employed the last months of his life in endeavouring to balance their advantages; and it was not till after his death, on the strength of a “Consultation” from Paris, and the advice of Verthamon, Bishop of Luçon, that it was resolved to adopt the diocesan scheme. The Archbishop and Canons, therefore, assembled in the month of September, 1757, and were on the point of proceeding to the election, when a representation was made from Leeuwarden that the States of that Province would take any such nomination ill. It was then resolved to adopt the title of Deventer, a title merely, for not a single soul in the diocese belonged to the National communion. From want of diocesan superintendence, the congregation at Leeuwarden has long since become extinct. Bartholomew John Byeveld, one of the Canons, was by Meindaerts chosen Bishop of Deventer, and consecrated on the Conversion of S. Paul, 1758. It was believed that Benedict XIV. was inclined to answer the news of this election in a favourable manner, but the event disappointed any such expectation. The Bull was conceived in the usual terms of condemnation. The letter in which Archbishop Meindaerts replied, is considered the masterpiece of all those issued under similar circumstances. It was translated into French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and three editions were disposed of in France in the space of a month. Probably in consequence of this letter, no brief was issued against the consecration of Bishop Byeveld.

[1] These articles were drawn up by La Lane and Girard, approved at Rome, but declared by the Council of Conscience, and its presiding spirit, Annat, insufficient. Ferrier, their Ultramontane adversary, says, “Sed ita ad Thomistarum doctrinam accedebant, ut non recederent a Janseniana:” on which the Abbé Guettée remarks, “Il n’y a qu’un Jésuite qui pût apercevoir une nuance ausse délicate.” (x. 387.)


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