Cornelius Jansen is known as the intellectual father of Jansenism, a movement not unlike Calvinism in a few respects, like its emphasis on original sin and predestination. Jansen's book, Augustinus (published 1640), focuses on the works of Augustine to argue for these doctrines.

Opponents to Jansenism didn't waste any time; Wikipedia indicates that Jesuits "designated" Nicolas Caussin and François Pinthereau to write anti-Jansenist works in the 1640s. By the following decade, the movement had been condemned by the Pope.

Of course, Augustine was and is a highly regarded Christian theologian, though the Catholic church today recognizes that he was sometimes mistaken. But I'd like to know if the anti-Jansenists were willing to make that admission, or if they focused their attack solely on Jansen's arguments. So my question is:

Did the anti-Jansenist writings published before the papal condemnation ever directly say that Augustine was wrong on a particular point, or did they exclusively argue that Jansen and his followers had misused or misinterpreted Augustine?


1 Answer 1


On the contrary, the detractors of Jansen argued that the doctrine of the Augustinus [or, what they said it was] wasn’t the one of St Augustine. Two examples of it in:

The titles of those books are quite clear, and if you are unsure, just consider the summary of the first one, e.g.:

Chap. III: Éclaircissment de quelques passages de S. Augustin dont abusent ceux qui veulent lui faire dire contre sa pensée que Jésus-Christ n’est pas mort pour tous les hommes.

Finally an other quotation from the Refutation des critiques de Monsieur Bayle sur Saint Augustin (1782), by the jesuit Charles Merlin:

L’Augustin de Jansenius n’est qu’un centon composé de plusieurs textes de Saint Augustin pris à contre-sens.

Translation: The Augustine of Jansenius isn’t anything else than a mingle-mangle of Saint Augustine’s texts in the wrong sense.

  • I think Nathaniel is aware that Jesuits argued that Jansenists had misused and misinterpreted Augustine, which your answer demonstrates. However, I don't see how your answer goes anywhere beyond that; the question asked, "Did they exclusively argue that Jansen and his followers had misused or misinterpreted Augustine?" It's a hard question to answer, and I'm not sure if you have. Nov 7, 2016 at 1:45
  • Exclusively is a bit hard to answer. However, e.g. on moral questions they sometimes assumed to have different positions than Augustine (Lessius) ; but that wasn't in texts written against jansenists as they attacked the Augustinus on theological questions (the grace efficacious by itself).
    – Luc
    Nov 7, 2016 at 9:49

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