Gallicanism and Ultramontanism in Catholic Europe in the 18th Century Foreign correspondence and other documents from the archive of the Jansenist Archbishops of Utrecht, 1723-1808
From the Utrecht Archives, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Project advisor: Dale K. Van Kley, Ohio State University
General Background In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries two persistent and often intertwined controversies divided Catholics in Europe, one theological, the other political. The theological debate centered on the respective roles of divine grace and human free will in the work of eternal salvation. The position taken by the followers of the Dutch theologian Cornelis Jansen (1585-1638) was deeply pessimistic. “Fallen” humanity had no ability to do anything left to its own resources to merit salvation, which was either granted by the grace of God or was not. In some ways their position was close to that of the Protestant Calvinists concerning predestination. Theologians of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) who took an altogether more optimistic stance on the capacities of human nature for moral good without divine grace and to contribute of its own free will to the work of salvation opposed them from the start.
The political debate concerned relations of the Catholic churches in various countries with the state on the one hand and with the papacy in Rome on the other. In the so-called Gallican (named for the French Catholic Church) view, the church in a given country should enjoy a certain independence from Rome and largely govern itself, for example, in the matter of appointing bishops. They also believed that a general council of the Church was a higher authority than the pope. The so-called Ultramontanes ("beyond the mountains", meaning the party of the Papacy of Rome) on the other hand were convinced that local churches should always be subservient to Rome. The Jesuits in particular became associated with this view, while Gallicanism was especially strong among those of a Jansenist theological bent. This situation applies of course paradigmatically to France, where the controversies were particularly acute, but also characterized Catholicism in the Dutch Republic, which unlike France had been under Protestant rule since the late sixteenth century. The coalescence of these two controversies in the northern Netherlands in the early eighteenth century led to the foundation of a schismatic Catholic church, variously known as the Church of Holland, Church of Utrecht and later as the Old Catholic Church, which broke with Rome in 1723 under its own archbishop and hierarchy. Though always small in numbers the Church of Utrecht enjoyed a great deal of esteem and exercised considerable influence on Catholics elsewhere in Europe, especially with Jansenist clergy in France and the southern Netherlands (Belgium) and in exile in the Dutch Republic, who resisted the efforts of Pope and King to crush their movement.
Contents of the Collection The collection contains original letters, writings and other documents, mostly in manuscript, produced by the Utrecht archbishops, other Dutch Jansenists and by hundreds of foreign correspondents, both major and minor figures of the Jansenist movement, its sympathizers and opponents from the early 18th century until the early 19th, ranging from the highest dignitaries of the church, such as cardinals, arch-bishops and bishops to simple priests and nuns. The laity is also well represented from the ranks of the nobility and magistracy to persons of lesser quality. Much of the corres pondence emanates from abroad, especially France and the southern Netherlands (Belgium), but also from Italy, and some others or comes from Jansenists living in exile in the Dutch Republic. The majority of the documents are in French, followed by Dutch and Latin, with some Italian and Spanish.