by Philippe Dieudonné
(Leuven: University Press, 2003)
Philippe Dieudonné has written before on the subject of the Clementine Peace of the Church. His “Fragilité de la Paix de l’Église” appeared in 1980, and then “Aux Origines de la Paix de l’Église: de la crise de 1665 à l’intervention du comte de Brienne” in 1994.
From his survey of the historiography, we learn that a thorough study of this question did not exist until his own dissertation. In fewer than three hundred pages he creates a synthesis using older published material and the newest archival discoveries. He indicates that wading through the documentation is daunting. We do not lack sources, rather there is too much! Dieudonné is a specialist, indebted for guidance to Lucien Ceyssens and Bruno Neveu. This serious study is a life’s work, though as a civil servant in Liège his time was divided and he describes the production of the volume as a “slow gestation”. However, this type of fine care is uncommon, and the quality is higher because of the way the book came into being. The author has thought long and hard about his subject. He proposes to be non-partisan in his method.
The author simplifies the project, stating that he will not refer much to Port-Royal since it had no direct bearing on the negotiations which led to the Clementine Peace. He adds, agreeing with Jean Orcibal, that Jansenism is not definable. It was an elite movement of the few, with special characteristics, but it eludes a tidy definition. The early Jansenists were impassioned men of letters, seeking to sway public opinion. Whether or not Jansenism was a heresy is open to debate, but Dieudonné suggests that it was a distortion of orthodoxy rather than an outright heterodoxy. In other words, they pushed some perfectly orthodox themes too hard, to the neglect of others, and this led to a doctrinal imbalance. Finally, Jansenism was pessimistic. It viewed the seventeenth century and ecclesiastical history as decadent. Well known as the sons of Trent, the Jesuits were part of that decay, “ignorant ultramontanes” who were not advocates of the pure Primitive Church so admired by Protestants and Jansenists. Antijesuitism was therefore really antiromanism.
Negotiations leading toward the Peace of the Church, a dream of Antoine Arnauld, bypassed François Annat, the royal confessor, and pursued a more direct route to the monarchy. Others were bypassed, including Archbishop Hardouin de Beaumont de Péréfixe of Paris, and the French ambassador in Rome, Charles d’Albert d’Ailly (le duc de Chaulnes). The actors “in the loop” included the French secretary of state Hugues de Lionne, the nuncio Pietro Bargellini, and three French bishops who were enthusiastic mediators―Henri de Gondrin of Sens, Félix Vialart of Châlons, and César d’Estrées of Laon.The Peace was a compromise, but not a good one. The Holy See was compromised or deceived. The Gallican Church had deep anti-papal sentiments, and Rome underestimated their intensity. Did the pope deliberately allow himself to be deceived, for the sake of a greater good, in the hope of a future gain? The negotiators did not act in good faith. They witheld information concerning the “procès-verbaux” of the famous four refractary bishops―Nicolas Choart de Buzenval of Beauvais, Nicolas Pavillon of Alet, Henri Arnauld of Angers, and Étienne de Caulet of Pamiers. The idea was that the disobedience of 1665 (not to mention numerous other offenses of a doctrinal nature) would be forgiven for the obedience of 1668-1669. The impasse over the bull of Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi) would be transcended, or would it? Dieudonné says Clement IX (Giulio Rospigliosi) had a new dilemma. Should he react with full force by exercising his authority in an extraordinary way, once he finally knew the truth, or should he smooth things over with a naïve compromise?
In January 1669, Clement sent a brief of reconcilation to the refractary bishops, thanking them for their sincere submission (not true since they had not renounced their former errors), and another letter congratulating the mediator bishops (who had successfully protected their friends). The Jansenists and their Gallican allies had “pulled a fast one” and they were initially satisfied with Rome’s response. Cleverly the French got what they wanted; that included King Louis XIV, who wished to minimize papal assertions in his kingdom.
Even so, the author shows how the Peace of the Church was ambiguous and ephemeral. Antoine Arnauld was never reinstated in the Sorbonne, the documents of the Peace were not published in the usual proper way, hardly any ceremonial medals were struck, the Jansenists were still irritating to Louis XIV’s government, nuncio Pietro Bargellini never became cardinal, the Jesuits (forced to be silent) were unhappy, and in the wake of the Peace most delicate consciences were disturbed, including that of Clement IX, who died prematurely. Schism was avoided, but at the price of genuine unity. At best, the Peace ushered in a brief period of tension and uncertainty.
Published in Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, Volume 75, fasc. 14 (January-June) 2006: 204-206.
Reverend Brian Van Hove, SJ