ARTICLE IV. – 18,-Quesnel is dismissed from the Congregation of the Oratory. 19. -He publishes several unsound works in Brussels. 20.-Is imprisoned, escapes to Amsterdam, and dies excommunicated. 21. -The Book he wrote. 22.-The Bull “Unigenitus,” condemning the Book. 23. -The Bull is accepted by the King, the Clergy, and the Sorbonne; the followers of Quesnel appeal to a future Council. 24.-Several Bishops also, and Cardinal de Noailles, appeal to a future Council likewise, but the Council of Embrun declares that the appeal should not be entertained. 25.-The Consultation of the Advocates rejected by the assembly of the Bishops; Cardinal de Noailles retracts, and accepts the Bull; the Bull is declared dogmatical by the Sorbonne and the Bishops. 26.-Three principles of the system of Quesnel.




18. While Clement XI.  still sat on the Chair of St. Peter, Quesnel published his book, entitled, ” The New Testament, with Moral Reflections,” &c., which the Pope soon after prohibited by the Bull Unigenitus. Quesnel was born in Paris, on the 14th of July, 1634, and in 1657, was received by Cardinal de Berulle into his Congregation of the Oratory. In a General Assembly of the Oratory of France, held in 1678, it was ordained that each member of the Congregation should sign a Formula, condemnatory of the doctrine of Baius and Jansenius, but Quesnel refused obedience, and was consequently obliged to quit the Congregation, and left Paris; he then retired to Orleans (1).


19. As he was not in safety in France, he went to Brussels, in 1685, and joined Arnauld, who had fled previously, and was concealed there, and they conjointly published several works, filled with Jansenistic opinions. They were both banished from Brussels, in 1690, and went to Delft, in Holland, first after wards, to the Pais de Liege and then again returned to Brussels. Quesnel, after having administered the last Sacraments to Arnauld, changed his dress, adopted a feigned name, and lived concealed in that city, where he was elected by the Jansenists as their chief, and was called by them the “Father Prior.” From his hiding place, he unceasingly sent forth various pamphlets, defending and justifying his conduct, in opposing the Decrees of the Popes, and the Ordinances of the Sovereigns, condemning the Appellants. This appears from the sentence passed on his conduct, by the Archbishop of Mechlin (2).


20. The Archbishop of Mechlin, in 1703, determined to extirpate the tares sown by the works of Quesnel, and, empowered by the authority of the King of Spain, his Sovereign, caused a strict search to be made for the author and his faithful friend, Gerberonius, and on the 30th of May, they were both confined in the Archiepiscopal prison. Gerberonius remained there until 1710, when Cardinal de Noailles induced him to retract and sign the Formula, and he was liberated, but Quesnel was detained only about three months, having escaped through a small hole made in the wall by his friend (he was a very small man), and taken refuge in Holland, where he continued to write in favour of Jansenism. He was called a second Paul, after his escape, by his disciples, and he himself, writing to the Vicar of Mechlin, says, that he was liberated from his prison by an angel like St. Peter. The difference was great, however; St. Peter did not concert the means of escape with his friends outside, by writing with a nail on a plate of lead, and telling them to break a hole at night through a certain part of the wall of his prison, as Quesnel did (3).


(1) Tour Comp. Theo1. t.  5 p. 1 Disc. 9 p.396   (2) T our p. 397; Gotti c . 110 s.1  n. 3 (3) Tour. p. 300; Gotti, n. 5.


A process was instituted against him in Brussels, and on the 10th of November, 1704, the Archbishop declared him excommunicated, guilty of Jansenism and Baiism, and condemned him to inclusion in a Monastery till the Pope would absolve him (4). Quesnel took no other notice of the sentence than by writing several pamphlets against the Archbishop, and even attacked the Pope himself, for the condemnation of his works. The unfortunate man, obstinate to the last, died under Papal censure, in Amsterdam, on the 2nd of December, 1719, in the eighty-fifth year of his age (5).


21. We should remark concerning the book of Quesnel, ” The New Testament with Moral Reflections,” &c. (it was published in French), that in 1671, while he still lived in France, he only published, at first, a small work in duodecimo, containing the French translation of the Four Gospels, and some very short reflections, extracted principally from a collection of the words of Christ, by Father Jourdan, Superior of the Oratory. By degrees, he added to it, so that sixteen years after the printing of the first edition, in 1687, he published another, in three small volumes, adding other reflections on the whole of the New Testament. In 1693, he published another larger edition in eight volumes, and another again in 1695, with the approbation of Cardinal de Noailles, then Bishop of Chalons, first making some slight corrections onthe edition of 1693. He published the last edition of all in 1699, but this had not the approbation of the Cardinal. In a word, for twenty-two years, that is from 1671 to 1693, he laboured to perfect this work, but not correcting, but rather adding to the errors that deformed it; for in the first edition five errors alone were condemned the twelfth, thirteenth, thirtieth, sixty-second, and sixty-fifth; in the second, more than forty-five were published; and they amounted up to the number of one hundred and one in the later editions, when they were condemned by the Bull Unigenitus. We should observe, that it was only the first edition of 1671, that had the approbation of the Bishop of Chalons, and the subsequent editions, containing more than double the matter of the first, were printed with only the approbation given in 1671 (6).


(4) Tour. p. 405. (5) Tour. d. 406.  (6) Tour. p. 409, 410.


The followers of Quesnel boast, that the work was generally approved of by all; butTournelly (7) shows that the greater part of the Doctors and Bishops of France condemned it. They also boast that Bossuet gave it his approval, but there are several proofs, on the contrary, to show that he condemned it (8).


22. When the complete work appeared in 1693, it was at once censured by Theologians, and prohibited by several Bishops, and it was condemned by a particular Brief of Pope Clement XI., in 1708. Three French Bishops prohibited it by a formal condemnation in 1711, and Cardinal de Noailles felt so mortified at seeing these Edicts published in Paris, condemning a work marked with his approbation, as heretical, that he condemned the three Edicts. This excited a great tempest in France, so the King, with the consent of several Bishops, and of Cardinal de Noailles himself, requested Pope Clement XL to cause a new examination of the work to be made, and, by a solemn Bull, to censure any errors it might contain. The Pope, then, after, two years examination by Cardinals and Theologians, published in 1713, on the 8th of September, the Bull Unigenitus Dei Films, &c., in which he condemned a hundred and ten propositions, extracted from the work, as false, captious, rash, erroneous, approximating to heresy, and in fine, respectively heretical, and recalling the propositions of Jansenius, in the sense in which they were condemned. The Bull, besides, declared that it was not the intention of his Holiness to approve of all else contained in the work, because while marking these hundred and ten propositions, it declares that it contains others of a like nature, and that even the very text of the New Testament itself, was vitiated in many parts (9).


23. His Most Christian Majesty, on the reception of the Bull of Clement from the Nuncio, ordered an assembly of the Bishops, to receive and promulgate it solemnly, and, in fact, after several private Conferences, the Assembly was held on the 23rd of January, 1714, and the Bull was received, together with the condemnation of the hundred and one propositions, in the same manner as the Pope had condemned them, and a form of acceptation was drawn up for all the Bishops of the kingdom, that the Bull might be everywhere promulgated, and also a Formula by which the Clergy should declare their acceptance of it.


(9) Tour cit.


The followers of Quesnel said, that the form of Acceptation was restricted and conditional, but if we take the trouble of reading the Declaration of the Assembly, given word for word by Tournelly (P. 431), we will clearly see that there is neither restriction nor condition in it. This Declaration was subscribed by forty Bishops; eight alone refused, and the principal among them was Cardinal de Noailles; they had some difficulty, they said, about some of the condemned propositions, and considered it would be wise to ask an explanation from the Pope on the subject. When the acceptation of the Bull, by the Assembly, was notified to Louis XIV., he ordered, on the 14th of the following month of February, that it should be promulgated and put into execution through the whole kingdom. The Bishops wrote to the Pope in the name of the Assembly, that they had received the Bull with joy, and would use all their endeavours that it should be faith fully observed; and the Pope, in his reply, congratulated them on their vigilance, and complained of those few Bishops who refused to conform to the Assembly. The Faculty of Paris, also, accepted the Bull on the 5th of March, 1714, imposing a penalty, to be incurred, ipso facto, by all  members of the University refusing its acceptance. It was received in the same way by the other Universities, native and foreign, as Douay, Ghent, Nantz, Louvain, Alcala, and Salamanca (10). Notwithstanding all, the partizans of Quesnel scattered pamphlets on every side against the Bull. Two of them, especially, made the most noise, the ” Hexaplis,” and the ” Testimony of the Truth of the Church ;” these were both condemned by the Bishops congregated in 1715, and those who still continued pertinaciously attached to their erroneous opinions, had only then recourse to an appeal from the Bull of the Pope to a General Council. 


24. Four Bishops, to wit, those of Montpelier, Mirepoix, Sens, and Boulogne, appealed on the 1st of March, 1717, from the Bull Unigenitus, to a future General Council. These four were soon after joined by twelve others, and soon after that by eighteen dissentients. This was the first time in the Catholic Church, that it was ever known that the Bishops of the very Sees where a Dogmatical Bull was accepted, appealed against it.


(9) Tour. cit.


The appeal was, therefore, justly rejected by both the secular and Ecclesiastical authorities. In the year 1718, Cardinal de Noailles subscribed to the appeal of the Bishops, but still it was annulled by the Pope, and towards the end of the year 1718, about fifty of the Bishops of France published commandments to their Diocesans, ordering them to yield unreserved obedience to the Bull: ” Quippe quæ universalis est Ecclesia judicium Dogmaticum, a quo omnis appellatio est nulla” (11). The defenders of Quesnel only became more violent in their opposition to the Bishops after this, and the press groaned with their pamphlets; so in the year 1727, a Provincial Council was held at Embrun, in which the Bishop of Sens was suspended for refusing to subscribe to the Bull which was declared to be the dogmatical and unchangeable judgment of the Church, and it decided that the appeal was, ipso jure, schismatical, and of no avail. The whole proceeding there received the sanction of the Pope, Benedict XIII., and the King (12).


25. The Appellants then had recourse to the lawyers of Paris, and they published a ” Consultum,” in which they undertook to invalidate the judgment of the Council, on account of several irregularities. They were then joined by twelve Bishops, who signed a letter to the King, against the Council, but he strongly censured the production, and ordered that all the Bishops should be assembled in Paris in an extraordinary Assembly, and record their opinion on the Consultum of the lawyers. On the 5th of May, 1728, the Prelates assembled, and made a representation to the King that the Consultum was not only not to the point, but that it smelt of heresy, and was in fact heretical. The King, therefore, published a particular Edict, ordering the Consultum to be set aside (13). Soon after this, in the same year, Cardinal de Noailles, now very far advanced in years, yielded to the admonition of Benedict XIII., and revoked his appeal, and sincerely accepted the Bull, prohibiting all his Diocesans from reading Quesnel’s works. Lie sent his retractation to the Pope, who was delighted to receive it. In about six months after, he died (14).


(11) Tour. cit. (12) Tour. cit. (13) Tour. cit. (14) Tour. cit.


In the year 1729, the Faculty of the Sorbonno again solemnly accepted the Bull, and revoked as far as was necessary (quantum opus est), the appeal which appeared under the name of the Faculty. The Decree was signed by more than six hundred Masters, and was confirmed by the other Universities of the kingdom, and by the Assembly of the Clergy, in 1730. Finally, the whole proceeding was approved by Clement XII. in the same year, and the King ordered, by a solemn Edict, that the Bull should be observed as the perpetual law of the Church, and of the Kingdom. On the death of Benedict XIII., in 1730, his successors, Clement XII. and Benedict XIV., confirmed the Bull (15).


26. Before we conclude Quesnel’s history, we may as well see what his system was. It comprised, properly speaking, three condemned systems those of Baius, of Jansenius, and of Richer. The first condemned propositions of Quesnel agree with Jansenius’s system of the two delectations, without deliberation, the celestial and the terrestrial, one of which necessarily, by a relative necessity, conquers the other. From this false principle several dreadful consequences follow, such as that it is impossible for those persons to observe the Divine law who have not efficacious grace; that we never can resist efficacious grace; that the delectatio victrix, or conquering delectation, drives man of neces sity to consent; and several other maxims condemned in the five propositions of Jansenius. Some also, I recollect, savour of the doctrine condemned in the second, ninth, and tenth Propositions of Quesnel. In his second Proposition he says : ” Jesu Christi gratia, principium efficax boni cujuscunque generis, necessaria est ad omne opus bonum; absque ilia (here is the error) non solum nihil fit, sed nec fieri potest.” Hence he re-establishes the first Proposition of Jansenius, that some of the Commandments of God are impossible to those who have not efficacious grace. Arnold, as Tournelly tells us, asserted the same thing, when he says (16) that Peter sinned in denying Jesus Christ, because he wanted grace, and for this he was condemned by the Sorbonne, and his name expunged from the list of Doctors. Quesnel says just the same in his ninth proposition : ” Gratia Christi est gratia suprema, sine qua confiteri Christum (mark this) nunquam possumus, et cum qua nunquam ilium abnegamus ;” and in the tenth proposition : ” Gratia est operatic inanus Omnipotentis Dei, quam nihil impedire potest aut retardare.” Here another of the heretical dogmas of Jansenius is renewed : ” Interiori gratiæ nunquam resistitur.” In fine, if we investigate the doctrines of both, we will find Jansenius and Quesnel perfectly in accordance.


(15) Tour. cit. (16) Apud Tour. p. 745.   


27. Quesnel’s propositions also agree with the doctrine of Baius, who says, that between vicious concupiscence and supernatural charity, by which we love God above all things, there is no middle love.  Thus the forty- fourth Proposition of Quesnel says : ” Non sunt nisi duo amores, undo volitiones et actiones omnes nostræ nascuntur: amor Dei, qui omne agit propter Deum, quemque Deus remuneratur, et amor quo nos ipsos, ac mundum diligimus, qui, quod ad Deum referendum est, non refert, et propter hoc ipsum sit malus.” The impious deductions from this system of Baius the reader will find in the Refutation of his heresy (Conf. xii).


28. The last Propositions of Quesnel agree with the doctrine of Richer, condemned in the Councils of Sens and Bagneres. See his ninetieth Proposition : ” Ecclesia auctoritatem excommunicandi habet, ut earn exerceat per primos Pastores, do consensusaltem præsumpto totius Corporis.” As the Bishops said in the Assembly, in 1714, this was a most convenient doctrine for the Appellants, for as they considered  themselves the purest portion of the Church, they never would give their consent to the censures fulminated against them, and, consequently, despised them.