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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.




1768 — 1797.

1. The Chapter assembled as usual after the decease of their last prelate, and unanimously elected Walter Michael van Nieuwenhuisen, who had been for many years Pastor of Dort. The usual formalities were observed: notice was given to the See of Rome; application was made for a dispensation, in case three bishops should not be found willing to assist at the election; and an invitation addressed to the neighbouring prelates to be present. The usual success having followed these endeavours, the Bishop-elect was consecrated on Sexagesima Sunday, 1768, by Van Stiphout, Bishop of Haarlem, assisted by the Bishop of Deventer and the Dean of the Metropolitical Chapter, in place of the three other prelates.

The ordinary Bull of Excommunication followed, but the usual appeal of the Church of Utrecht to the Oecumenical Council, as already made, was not repeated.

2. But the downfall of the great enemies of Utrecht was near at hand. Clement XIII., the tool of the Jesuits, and their slave, died on Candlemas-day, 1769. Even during his reign, the secularization of the Jesuits was earnestly demanded, and was the subject of ordinary conversation. Ricci, their general, maintained in a thesis that such an act was beyond the power even of the Pope. Obliged to retract that [331] statement, — “At all events,” he said, “I am free to believe that if the Pope consents to it he will be damned.” “That,” replied the Cardinal with whom he was talking, “is a matter of pious opinion, not of faith.” When Cardinal Ganganelli, who took the name of Clement XIV., ascended the pontifical throne, the Jesuits must have felt that their last hour had arrived. Yet they might have existed for a while longer, had they not chosen to print and circulate the Bull In Coenâ Domini, the annual publication of which Clement XIV. had suppressed. Overwhelmed with protestations from every part of Europe against the Company, the Pontiff made a retreat of two months in the summer of 1773; and in its course superintended the Bull Dominus ac Redemptor, by which he suppressed and extinguished for ever the whole order of Jesuits.

3. The earlier years of Van Nieuwenhuisen’s episcopate were, so far as his diocese was concerned, distinguished by no great event. But the remarkable movement in Tuscany, in favour of a Catholic reform, of which Scipio Ricci was the life and the spirit, produced, at no distant period, a crowd of testimonies in favour of Utrecht. Dignitaries of the University of Sienna, bishops of the Tuscan Church, heads of religious orders in the north of Italy, all vied with each other in congratulating the courageous defenders of the Church of Holland, and in affirming the purity of their faith. But a similar demonstration of feeling in Spain had nearly led to serious consequences.

4. It was the March of 1769. The Court of Spain was then soliciting the suppression of the Company of Jesus, and the canonization of D. Juan de Palafox, one of the holiest men of his age, and one of the most redoubtable enemies of that Society. Figueiredo de [332] Pereira had just published the third edition of his immortal Tentativa Theologica, which had been, though unfaithfully[1], translated into Italian, and of which a Latin version had appeared at Venice. Things were in this condition when D. Jozé Climent, Bishop of Barcelona, in a Pastoral Instruction, which recommended to his clergy a Spanish translation of Fleury’s Moeurs des Israelites et des Chrétiens, took occasion to deplore, with that historian, the disuse of provincial councils, and the episcopal isolation consequent on their discontinuance; and to mention, with applause, the Second Council of Utrecht, with the Acts of which he had been presented. The Nuncio at Madrid soon denounced this work at Rome, and the Inquisitor-General in Spain had orders to proceed against it. He thought it necessary to inform the Court, and by it the cause was taken out of his hands, and evoked to the Ecclesiastical Council. This was a body of five archbishops and bishops, and two generals of orders, by whose advice, in ecclesiastical matters, the king was governed; and the President, Rodriguez de Arellano, Archbishop of Burgos, pronounced his decision in the autumn of the same year. It was to this effect: that the cause of the Church of Utrecht was not then question for consideration; Rome might be perfectly justified in its course, or Utrecht might be entirely right in its opposition; but the matter for their decision was whether the Bishop of Barcelona had or had not transgressed the bounds of deference to the Holy See which every Catholic was bound to observe: —

“It was not likely,” he remarked, “that twenty or thirty bishops, the University of Louvain, a hundred doctors of the Sorbonne, and so many superiors of different orders, should [333] have supported the Church of Holland, had they not been in possession of proofs that that communion was perfectly orthodox. It was true that Rome had condemned the Church of Holland, but the cause had never been fairly heard: it should have been, in the first instance, decided on the spot; and then, if need were, carried to the Roman Pontiff; and that not only by the common right of every Church, but by especial privileges, and more particularly the Bulls of 1515 and 1517, appertaining to the Church of Holland.”

5. The Assembly at Madrid approved this report, and, in their address to the king, characterized not only that, but the other works of Dom Jozé Climent, as worthy of the age of S. Basil and S. Chrysostom; adding that, so far from having over-stated the case of the National Church in Holland, the moderation evinced with regard to it was in the highest degree praiseworthy: nor would it have been matter for blame had that prelate, whose learning marked him out as able to speak with authority, solicited his Majesty to intercede with the Court of Rome for its reconciliation with Utrecht.

6. The Court of Madrid received the address with great satisfaction, especially when taken in connection with the canonization of Palafox. This affair had now been in progress for more than eighty years, and nothing hindered the wished-for result but the natural opposition of the Jesuits. Juan de Palafox, Bishop, first of Puebla de Los Angelos, in America, and then of Osma, in Spain, had opposed the most vigorous resistance to the pretensions of the Company; and this had been among the points alleged by the Promoter of the Faith in the process — since carried to a successful termination — of his beatification. The commission entrusted with the examination of his writings had, even under Clement XIII., who was [334] devoted to the Jesuits, pronounced that they contained nothing worthy of any theological censure; and now, under Clement XIV., a man of a very different stamp, it seemed likely that the sanctity of the Spanish Bishop would be formally declared.

7. An ingenious artifice was therefore employed to prejudice the Court of Rome. A certain letter, bearing date December 15th, 1770, and signed by Meindaerts, was fabricated by the Jesuits, published with the imprint of Van der Weyde, the well-known “Jansenist” bookseller at Utrecht, and forwarded to Rome. In it the Archbishop was made to say that the known attachment of that prelate to the Five famous Propositions would in case of his beatification be equivalent to a retractation on the part of Rome of the Bulls which had been directed against them. The forgers of this document procured its transmission, by the post-office at Lille, to certain of the Roman Cardinals, and more especially to those who were known to be hostile to the proposed measure; and the editor of the organ of the Company, the Gazette of Cologne, took care to trumpet the intelligence of the new Jansenist plot as widely as possible over Europe. But the stratagem was soon discovered. It was remarked that the paper employed for the pretended Pastoral bore the water-mark of the manufactory at Albano, then conducted by the Jesuits, and the envelopes were of Roman manufacture.

8. The Archbishop and his two suffragans drew up a formal act, in which they disavowed this piece; shewed that it contradicted the known and published sentiments of the last Council of Utrecht, in which the Five famous Propositions were expressly condemned; that one of the names attached to it was that of a prelate who was dead three years previously; [335] and declared that the document in question was grossly injurious to the Holy See and to Palafox, and therefore — if for no other reasons — could not have emanated from the Church of Utrecht. Archbishop Van Nieuwenhuisen sent copies of this act to Clement XIV., to the Court of Spain, and to other quarters. To the Pope he at the same time addressed a letter expressing, in the strongest terms, his veneration for the See of Rome, and conjuring his Holiness to judge, by this artifice, of the other no less disingenuous means which had been employed to render the Church of Utrecht suspected. Clement XIV. was much gratified by the disavowal, and ordered that the original act should be deposited in the archives of the Apostolic Chamber.

9. This affair revived hopes of a reconciliation with Rome. Marefoschi, Secretary to the Propaganda, and at this time presented with the scarlet hat, felt a lively interest in the sufferings of Utrecht. De Hallwell, Bishop of Neustadt, explained its affairs to the Empress Maria Theresa, and engaged her good offices on behalf of a Church so afflicted, and yet so faithful.

Clement XIV. replied most graciously: the duty of his office, he said, would have compelled him to endeavour after a happy termination to the existing division; of course, the intercession of so beloved a daughter could not fail to add to his eagerness for the accomplishment of so happy an event; the Church of Utrecht had only to send deputies to Rome, furnished with full powers; and then, after the transaction of a few preliminaries, equally just and easy, he would treat with the members of the National Church, not as a Pope, but as a tender father. A long series of negotiations followed; and two deputies were actually ready to be sent to Rome [336] after the Easter of 1770. But another preliminary demand was made; an assurance from the sovereigns of the country that they were not opposed to the union; and the promise of acquiescence on the part of at least a large portion of the clergy who were not in the communion of the National Church. These two points were laboured at when intelligence was received that, pressed as he was by matters of the highest importance, such as the demanded extinction of the Company, the Pope could not examine the cause of the Church of Utrecht till those affairs were settled. Memorials were, however, prepared, documents arranged, everything made ready. The cause of the suffering Church was warmly taken up. The Court of Madrid instructed its minister at Rome, the Archbishop of Valencia, to agitate in its favour. On the vacancy of the see of Salzburg, the principal Church of Germany, the suffragans and canons assembled to elect a successor mutually promised that whichever of them should be chosen to that episcopate should strain every nerve in favour of the Church of Utrecht; and Count Colloredo, on being elected, nobly redeemed his pledge.

10. The preliminary demands of Rome were, however, attended with insuperable difficulties. They involved the withdrawal of the appeals to the Future Council, both as regarded the Unigenitus, and the wrongs suffered by the National Church. It was answered that, however eager the separated prelates might be for a reunion, they could not desist from their appeal without entirely abandoning the cause for which their predecessors had so long and so gallantly contended, and committing an act which, in the very nature of things, must be suicidal. Count Colloredo was earnestly entreated to put himself at the head of [337] the prelates of Germany, and to demand that which the Pope seemed inclined to give. He thought it, however, the most respectful way to press the offer on the attention of Cardinal Marefoschi; and then, by all parties, it was agreed that it would be better to allow the negotiations to pause, till the extinction of the Jesuits should have freed the Church of Utrecht from her worst enemies. But the publication of that Bull was followed by the illness of the Pope, — an illness arising from no natural causes, which commenced at the following Easter. While its result was doubtful, the friends of Utrecht at the Court of Rome conjured the Archbishop to be earnest in his prayers for the recovery of Clement, — an event, they affirmed, which would be speedily followed by the wished-for reconciliation. But it pleased God that his sickness should terminate in death; and the dispositions of Cardinal Boschi, who succeeded under the title of Pius VI., were soon found to be less friendly. Matters therefore relapsed into their former condition.

11. On the 16th of December, 1777, Bishop Van Stiphout departed this life. He had governed his flock with great prudence during thirty-two years, and was deeply mourned by his people. The Archbishop having given the Chapter the canonical time for another election, proceeded, by right of devolution, to nominate a successor. After some difficulty, the dignity was rather forced on than accepted by, Adrian John Broekman, who had been pastor at Culemburg, and was then President of the Seminary at Amersfoort. He was consecrated on the 21st of June, 1778. But on the preceding evening, Bishop Byevelt, of Deventer, departed this life; and thus the Church of Holland was again reduced, for a few hours, to a dependence on one bishop only. Byevelt’s [338] death, in the 65th year of his age, and the twenty-first of his episcopate, was the greater loss, because his manners were peculiarly engaging, and he possessed singular influence in the country. The Archbishop and new Bishop of Haarlem wrote to Pius VI., in the same strain as their predecessors had done to former Popes; and this in opposition to the advice of many French Canonists, who maintained that experience had demonstrated the uselessness of such an act; and that it seemed only to excite greater anger in the Court of Rome. Pius VI. replied by a Bull couched in the ordinary terms of “disobedience,” “sacrilege,” “schism,” “ravening wolves,” and the like. In the place of Bishop Byevelt, Nicolas Nellemans, Pastor at Delft, was raised to the vacant see, and consecrated on the Festival of SS. Simon and Jude. The same notification to Rome met with the same result as so many others, but the publication of this Bull was attended with a singular circumstance. It was promulgated with greater solemnity than usual on Jan. 18, 1779, the Feast of the Chair of S. Peter. At the moment of its publication the great bell of S. Peter’s split; and a few moments after, the huge lamp that hung before the Papal throne, and which weighed 300 pounds, fell, providentially without doing any harm. This occurrence is said to have created a great sensation at Rome.

12. In 1789 the Church of Holland lost De Bellegarde, its earnest and loving supporter and faithful historian. On the death of D’Etemare, in 1770, he had left Rhijnwyck, and had settled at Utrecht, and there carried on his numerous and laborious works with a zeal that old age could not diminish. He died rather suddenly on the 13th of December, in the 73rd year of his age. Not privileged to see the reunion [339] for which he had so fondly longed, he saw, at least, a growing and strengthening feeling in behalf of his Church, and died possessed of documents in its favour from some of the most eminent prelates of Europe. The most celebrated, besides those above-mentioned, are, Cardinal Marefoschi, Bortoli, titular Archbishop of Nazianzum; Climent, Bishop of Barcelona; Scipio Ricci, of Pistoia; Carsolli, of Aste; Herberstein, of Laybach; Rauttenstrauch, of Braun; the University of Siena; the University of Louvain; the Archbishop of Salzburg, in 1772; and numerous dignitaries in Tuscany, Spain, Portugal, Sardinia, at Pavia, and Vienna. “We promise to maintain,” say some of these documents, “that the Church of Utrecht is beyond all suspicion of heresy or schism, and we regard it as truly Roman Catholic.”

No other event of importance, in the internal history of the Church of Utrecht, occurred during the episcopate of Van Nieuwenhuisen. The revolutionary storm that burst over Europe attracted every thought and fear to itself. The good old Archbishop was taken from the evil to come, dying shortly after the institution of the Batavian Republic had been proclaimed; and the miserable people of Holland were reduced almost to despair under the oppression and tyranny of their French invaders. He died the death of the righteous, on Good Friday, April 14, 1797.

[1] Catalogo das Obras de Pereira, p. 53.


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