Monday, 11 October 2010
CASE 109 - Jensenism
Jansenism was a theology and a movement, condemned as a heresy by Pope Innocent X in 1655, that arose in the frame of the Counter-Reformation and the aftermath of the Council of Trent (1545–1563). It emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. Originating in the writings of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Otto Jansen, Jansenism formed a distinct movement within the Catholic Church from the 16th to 18th centuries, and found its most important stronghold in the Parisian convent of Port-Royal, haven for many important theologians and writers (Antoine Arnauld, Pierre Nicole, Blaise Pascal, Jean Racine, etc.).
The term itself was coined by its Jesuit opponents, who both have always hated each other and was later infiltrated by the knights hospitallier, who accused them of being close to Calvinists, as Jansenists identified themselves as rigorous followers of Augustinism. Several propositions supported by Jansenists, in particular concerning the relationship between humans' free will and "efficacious grace", were condemned by the Pope, and the movement thus deemed heretical.
The origins of Jansenism lie in the friendship of Cornelius Jansen and Jean du Vergier de Hauranne, who met in the early 17th century when both were studying theology at the Catholic University of Leuven. As the wealthier of the two, du Vergier served as Jansen’s patron for a number of years, getting Jansen a job as a tutor in Paris in 1606. Two years later, he got Jansen a position teaching at the bishop's college in du Vergier’s hometown of Bayonne. The duo studied the Church Fathers together, with a special focus on the thought of Augustine of Hippo, until both left Bayonne in 1617.
Du Vergier became the abbot of Saint-Cyran and was thus generally known as the Abbé de Saint-Cyran for the rest of his life. Jansen returned to the Catholic University of Leuven, where he completed his doctorate in 1619 and was named professor for exegesis. Jansen and Saint-Cyran continued to correspond about Augustine, especially Augustine's teachings on grace. Upon the recommendation of King Philip IV of Spain, Jansen was consecrated as Bishop of Ypres in 1636.
Jansen died in the midst of an epidemic in 1638. On his deathbed, he committed a manuscript to his chaplain, ordering him to consult with Libert Fromondus, a theology professor at Leuven, and Henri Calenus, a canon at the metropolitan church, and to publish the manuscript if they agreed it should be published, adding "If, however, the Holy See wishes any change, I am an obedient son, and I submit to that Church in which I have lived to my dying hour. This is my last wish."
This manuscript, published in 1640 under the title Augustinus, styled itself as expounding Augustine's system and formed the basis for the subsequent Jansenist Controversy. It consisted of three volumes:
Volume I described the history of Pelagianism and Augustine's battle against it and against Semipelagianism.
Volume II contained a discussion of the Fall of Man and original sin.
Volume III denounced a "modern tendency" (unnamed by Jansen but clearly identifiable as Molinism) as Semipelagian.