Jansenism: Christian Movement of the XVII and XVIII Century Essay

Jansenism: Christian Movement of the XVII and XVIII Century Essay

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In 1709, French monarch Louis XIV ordered police to the abbey of Port-Royal des Champs in an attempt to control the Jansenists; followers of a spiritual movement founded by Cornelius Otto Jansen, also known as Jansenius (1585-1638). Monarchial fears of Jansenism persisted, and two years later the abbey would be destroyed completely, the bodies of Jansenists exhumed, and the area converted into farmland. Although Louis XIV believed he had successfully destroyed the potential Jansenist threat to his authority, the movement would later reemerge, and in 1762 the parlement of Paris was considered a Jansenist stronghold. Once established in the Paris parlement, the Jansenists would dissolve the Jesuit Order, or Society of Jesus, labeling the organization as perverse and destructive of religious principle. The Jansenist campaign for Jesuit persecution was interpreted by many French intellectuals, including the famous philosopher Voltaire, as revenge for the Order's endorsed destruction of the abbey Port-Royal des Champs.1
Jansenism returned to France during the Age of Enlightenment, a period in European development represented by strict adherence to Enlightenment-influenced philosophy. Philosophies produced during this era often opposed faith in things unknown in favor of secular beliefs in human progress; and appeared to delegitimize the notion of divine grace, labeling it incompatible with natural law. Enlightenment philosophy has also been interpreted as a direct attack on the Catholic Church, a challenge to papal dogmatism, and has been credited with dissolving Jesuit authority in France. However, due to popular historiographic emphasis on philosophical discourse during the Enlightenment era, the Jansenist role in Jesuit pers...


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...ovements. Yet, it can be said that both 'Jansenisms' effectively straddle the border between political and religious theaters. From a religious perspective, Jansenism was initially condemned by the Catholic Church for it's resistance to Molinist reform efforts. When examined in political context, French monarchs appear to suppress the Jansenists in response to the foreign policies of Cardinal Richelieu. The Age of Enlightenment allowed for an excess of new religious and political philosophies, and it was in this environment that Jansenism would return to France. With authority of the monarchy threatened with revolution, the government was no longer able to use the Gallican church as a suppressive instrument. Furthermore, due to the work of dedicated intellectuals, such as Arnauld and Pascal, Jansenists were able to delegitimize Jesuit and papal power in France.

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