Louis & Religion
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Louis & Heresie

His care to maintain a certain orthodoxy, and the conception which he had formed of the religious unity of his kingdom, expressed themselves in his policy towards the Jansenists, the Quietists, and the Protestants.

Louis XIV and Jansenism

Since the days of Mazarin, Louis had felt "that the Jansenists were not well-disposed towards him and the State." A certain number of them had been implicated in the Fronde; they wished to obtain, in spite of Mazarin, the recall of Cardinal de Retz, Archbishop of Paris, who had escaped from his prison at Nantes and gone to Rome; some of them applauded the triumphs over Louis's armies won by Condè, who was in alliance with the Spaniards. Louis, in September, 1660, caused the "Provinciales" of Pascal to be examined by a commission, and the book was burned. His desire, expressed in December, 1660, to the president of the assembly of the clergy, induced that body to draw up, in February, 1661, a formula condemning "the doctrine of the five propositions of Jansenius contained in the "Augustinus," which formula was to be signed by all ecclesiastics; and the superiors of the two monasteries of Port-Royal received orders to dismiss their pupils and their novices. Mazarin, on his death-bed, in March, 1661, told the king that he must not "tolerate either the sect of the Jansenists or even so much as their name." The vicars-general, who governed the Diocese of Paris in the absence of de Retz, explained, in a charge published in May, 1661, that the signature required was compatible with reserves on the question of fact -- i.e., the question whether the five propositions were in fact contained in the "Augustinus." The royal council and the pope condemned this charge, and in 1664, Archbishop Hardouin de Péréfixe made two visits to Port-Royal (9 June and 21 August) and demanded of the religious their signatures without reserve. The religious of Port-Royal refused, and thereupon, on 26 August, the police expelled those of Port-Royal de Paris, and, in November, those of Port- Royal des Champs. Later, in 1665, lest they might have a disturbing effect on the various convents in which they had found shelter, they were all collected in the des Champs convent and placed under a police guard.

The concern felt by Louis on the subject of Jansenism was so great that, in 1665, he appealed to Pope Alexander VII to break down the opposition of Pavillon, Bishop of Alet, who did not recognize the right of assembly of the clergy to legislate for the Church, and was carrying on a campaign against the formula drawn up by that assembly and against the obligation to sign it. France was presented with the spectacle of a joint effort of the pope and the king; the royal council annulled a charge in which Pavillon, after having given the required signature to another formula drawn up by the pope, developed some new Jansenistic theories on grace; the pope, without arousing any feeling on the king's part, himself appointed a commission of French bishops to try Pavillon and three other bishops who refused to make the unreserved submission. Presently, in December, 1667, nineteen bishops wrote to the king that the appointment of such a commission by the pope was contrary to the Gallican liberties. The difficulties appeared insurmountable; but the nuncio, Bargellini, and the foreign secretary, Lionne, found a way. The four bishops signed the formulary and caused it to be signed, at the same time explaining their action in a letter expressed with such intentional ambiguity that it was impossible to make out whether their signatures had been give pure et simpliciter or not; the pope, in his reply to them, took care not to repeat the words pure et simpliciter and spoke of the signatures which they had given sincere. It was Lionne who had suggested to the pope the employment of this word sincere. And thanks to these artifices, "the peace of the Church" was restored.

The question of Jansenism was revived, in 1702, by the case of conscience which the Jansenists presented to the Archbishop of Paris: "Is a respectful and silent submission to the decision of the Church sufficient in regard to the attribution of the five propositions to Jansenius?" Again the pope and the king were unanimous against Jansenism. In February and April, 1703, Clement XI called upon Louis XIV to intervene, and in June, 1703, Louis XIV asked Clement XI for a Bull against Jansenism. To keep peace with the Jansenists, however, the king at the same time begged the pope to particularly mention in the Bull that it was issued at the instance of the French Court. Clement, not wishing to yield to this Gallican suggestion, temporized for twenty-six months, and the Bull "Vineam Domini" (15 July 1705) lacked the rhetorical precautions desired by Louis. The king, nevertheless, was glad to take it as it was. He hoped to make an end of Jansenism. But Jansenism from that time forward maintained its resistance on the ground not of dogma but of ecclesiastical law; the Jansenists invoked Gallican liberties, asserting that the Bull had been issued in contravention of those liberties. More and more plainly the king saw in Jansenism a political danger; he thought to destroy the party by razing the convent of Port-Royal des Champs, dispersing the religious and disinterring the buried Jansenists (1709-11); and he sacrificed his Gallican ideas to the pope when he forced an extraordinary assembly of the clergy, in 1713, and the parliament, in 1714, to accept the Bull "Unigenitus" which Clement XI had published against Quesnel's book. But at the time of his death he wished to assemble, for the trial of Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, and the bishops who resisted the Bull, a national council to which he was to dictate, and Clement XI, naturally, scouted this idea as bearing the marks of Gallicanism. Thus was Louis XIV ever anxious for an understanding with Rome against Jansenism, and in this alliance it was he who displayed the greater fury against the common enemy. At the same time, he brought to his warfare against Jansenism a Gallican spirit, making concessions and displays of politeness to the Holy See when the conduct of the struggle required, but on other occasions using methods and terms to which Rome, rightly impatient of Gallican pretensions, was obliged to take exception .

Louis as conqueror of heresy
Louis as conqueror of heresy
Louis fights against heretics
Louis fights against heretics

Louis XIV and Quietism

His personal interest in the question of Quietism was shown in 1694, when, at the suggestion of Madame de Maintenon, he ordered three commissioners -- Noailles, Bossuet, and Tronsen -- to draw up the Issy articles for the signature of Madame Guyon and Fénelon. In July, 1697, he asked the pope, in a personal letter, to pronounce as soon as possible upon the book "Maximes des Saints"; in 1698 he again insisted, threatening that if the condemnation were deferred, the Archbishop of Paris, who was already causing the "Maximes" to be censured by twelve professors of the Sorbonne, should take action. Here again, as in the matter of Jansenism, Louis evinced a great zeal for correctness of doctrine and, on the other hand, an obstinate Gallicanism ready at every moment to prosecute a doctrine apart from and without the pope, if the pope himself hesitated to proceed against it.

Louis XIV and Protestants

Strict justice, strict application of the Edict of Nantes, but no favour -- such was Louis's policy towards the Protestants after 1661. It was a policy based on the hope that the union of all his subjects in one faith would sooner or later be easily accomplished. From 1661 to 1679 means were sought to limit as much as possible the application of those concessions which Henry IV had made to the Protestants by the famous Edict, and Pellisson, a convert from Protestantism, organized a fund to aid Huguenots who should come over to the Catholic Church. From 1679 to 1685 a more active policy was followed: Protestants were excluded from public office and from the liberal professions, while the police penetrated into Protestant families in order to keep watch upon them. Louvois's idea of quartering soldiers in Protestant households to bring them to reason was applied, after 1680, in Poitou by the intendant Marillac in the cruel fashion which has remained famous under the name of dragonnades. The king blamed Marillac, but in 1684, at the instigation of Louvois, the dragonnades recommenced in Poitou, Béarn, Guyenne, and Langeudoc, with more excesses than the king knew of. Misled by the letters of Louvois and the intendants, Louis believed that there were no more Protestants in France, and the Edict of 18 October, 1685, revoked the Edict of Nantes and ordered the demolition of places of worship, the closure of Protestant schools, the exile of pastors who refused to be converted, and the baptism of Protestant children by Catholic parish priests. On the other hand, article xii of the edict provided that subjects could not be molested in their liberty or their property on account of the "alleged reformed" religion, so that, in theory, it was still permitted to anyone to be individually a Protestant. By these measures Louis imagined himself to be only registering an accomplished fact -- the extinction of the heresy. Innocent XI, while praising the king's zeal, in the consistorical allocution of 18 March, 1686, expressed satisfaction with those French prelates who had censured the dragonnades, and begged James II to use his good offices with Louis to obtain gentler treatment for the Protestants.

The fugitive and proscribed Protestants thought of returning to France, even in spite of Louis. Jurieu in his "Avis aux Protestants de l"Europe" (1685-86), and Claude in his "Plaintes des Protestants" (1686), gave utterance to the idea of a union of all the Protestant powers to force upon the King of France the return of exiles. In the success of William of Orange, in 1688, Jurieu saw an indication that England would soon reinstate Protestantism in France, and that an aristocratic government would be substituted there for the monarchial. These prognostications were developed in the "Soupirs de la France esclave," which was issued in parts by subscription. In 1698, when the peace of Ryswick was being negotiated between Louis and William, two Protestant committees, at the Hague, made an attempt to commit Holland and England to the demand of liberty for French Protestants, but William confined himself to vague and politic approaches to the question in his dealings with Louis, and these were ill received. In a letter to Cardinal d'Estrées (17 January, 1686), Louis had flattered himself that, out of from 800,000 to 900,000 Protestants, only from 1200 to 1500 remained. The collective abjurations were generally far from sincere; the new converts were not practicing Catholics; and the policy of the authorities, in regard to those new converts who remained too tepid, varied strangely in the several provinces. Was it still lawful in France for an individual, as an individual, to remain a Protestant? Article xii of the edict of revocation implicitly said "Yes;" Louis and Louvois, in their letters, said "No," explaining that all, even to the very last individual, must be converted, and that there ought no longer to be any religion but one in the kingdom.

In 1698 intendants and bishops were consulted as to the measures to be taken in regard to the Protestants. Bossuet, Archbishop Noailles, and almost all the bishops of northern and central France declared for a purely spiritual propaganda animated by a spirit of gentleness; Bossuet maintained that Protestants must not be forced to approach the sacraments. The bishops of the South, on the contrary, leaned to a policy of constraint. As a result of this consultation, the edict of 13 December, 1698, and the interpreting circular of 7 January, 1699, inaugurated a milder regime and, in particular, forbade anyone to compel Protestants to approach the sacraments. Lastly, at the end of his reign, Louis ordered a new inquiry into the causes and the persistence of the heresy, and decreed, by the declaration of 8 March, 1715, that all Protestants who had continued to reside in the kingdom since 1685 were liable to the penalties of relapsed heretics unless they became Catholics. This amounted to an implicit admission that the edict of 1685 had meant to command all Protestants to embrace Catholicism. The alliance between the revolted Protestants of the Cevennes (the Camisards, 1703-06) and England, the enemy of France, had driven Louis to adopt this policy of sternness.

The attitude of Innocent XI in regard to the persecution of Protestants and the grave and mature deliberation with which Clement XI proceeded against the Jansenists prove that, even at those very moments when the religious policy of Louis XIV was resting upon, or was invoking, Rome, the full responsibility for certain courses of precipitancy, of violence, and of cruelty must rest with the king. Aspiring to be master in his Church, he chastised Protestants and Jansenists as disobedient subjects. Though there may have been a parallelism of action and a reciprocity of services between Louis and the Holy See, still the ideas which inspired and guided the religious policy of the king were, in fact, always unlike those of the contemporary popes. "Louis XIV," says the historian Casimir Gaillardin, "assumed to direct the conversion of his subjects at the whim of his pride, and by ways which were not those of the Church and the sovereign pontiff."

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX


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