“Grands hommes, éloquents, hardis, décisifs, esprits forts et lumineux; mais plus capables de pousser les choses à l’extrémité, que de tenir le raisonnement sur le penchant” – thus Bossuet describes the Jansenists, from his own official standpoint of moderation, and the few Irishmen who are among the salient figures in the annals of Jansenism never failed to live up to this description.
The first of these was a Dr John Barnewall who taught Jansenism in Louvain before ever the ill-starred Bishop of Ypres set pen to paper; the last of them was Matthew Barnewall, of the junior or Kingsland branch of this Dublin family, who played a spectacular role in the last desperate stand of the persecuted sect. I do not know what it can have been in the social position of these Lords of Trimlestown and Viscounts Kingsland that produced such ready vehicles of the spirit of extremism.
If the Irish would like now to claim the honour of having invented Jansenism, there are two other candidates even more promising than Barnewall. There is the Franciscan Florence Conry (1560/1-1629), exiled Archbishop of Tuam, the friend and inspirer of Jansenius and Saint-Cyran, whose grim treatise on the fate of infants dying unbaptised (Louvain, 1624-5), well received in Rome, was reprinted at the end of the Paris edition of the Augustinus (1640) and whose posthumous “Pilgrim of Jericho” was used and praised by Pascal. (He asked Saint-Cyran through Jansenius to take steps toward establishing an Irish college in Paris.) [According to the Dictionnaire de Port-Royal (Paris: Champion, 2004; henceforth DPR) John Barnewal (sic) was Conry’s disciple, His own disciple, Peter Walsh (1610 or 1618-1680), was one of the first readers of the Augustinus, but denied he was a Jansenist. A supporter of the English monarchy in Ireland, his friction with the nuncio Rinuccini (who said Walsh vomited more blasphemies in an hour’s preaching than Luther and Calvin in three years) led to his excommunication in 1646.]
Then there is the Corkman John Sinnich (d. 1666), rector of the University of Louvain, sent by that institution to plead in Rome against the first condemnation of the heresiarch’s masterpiece, In Eminenti, 1642. He returned disappointed in 1645, to continue the battle in Louvain. Sinnich’s Pilgrim of Jerusalem (1642) was no better than Conry’s Pilgrim of Jericho as regards orthodoxy, or so at least Colonia, the acid author of the Dictionnaire des livres jansénistes, assures us. Sinnich’s monumental work Sanctorum Patrum de Gratia Christi et Libero Arbitrio dimicantium Trias was second in importance only to the Augustinus for Arnauld and Pascal. [DPR: He questioned papal infallibility in matters of fact, but made a submission to papal authority in 1660.]
Perhaps this involvement of illustrious compatriots was one of the reasons for Luke Wadding’s (1588-1657) remarkable leniency at the congregation of cardinals and counsellors which met in Rome from September 1652 to April 1653 to examine the Five Propositions. It will be remembered that these propositions, which were to cause so much anxiety and division in the church of France, first saw the light of day at the July meeting of the faculty of theology at the Sorbonne in 1649 when its syndic, Nicolas Cornet, asked that a commission be set up to examine the dangerous ideas in question, which he had come across even in student theses, ideas tending towards a fatalistic predestinationism and undermining freedom of will and the universality of Christ’s redeeming death. Sixty-one doctors of the university, headed by that tireless lion of controversy, Antoine Arnauld, appealed against Cornet’s action and silence was imposed on both parties by Molé, president of the Parlement de Paris.
This could not check the sullen fermentation of the academic feud and there was always some new development or other to keep it from becoming stale, for instance the election of François Hallier to succeed Cornet, which was bitterly contested by the defenders of Saint Augustine. Meanwhile, aided by the Jesuits and Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), the ex-Sorbonnard, Haber, Bishop of Vabres had drawn up a petition to Rome which was signed eventually by no less than ninety-three bishops. Thirteen other bishops wrote to the pope asking him not to heed their confrères’ request and to leave the question of the Five Propositions in suspense. One of these was Henri Arnauld (1597-1692), Bishop of Angers, whose brother Antoine, once more did not hesitate to lend his pen to the fray.
All the Jansenist memorialists of this episode speak warmly of Wadding’s attitude, which does indeed contrast svmpathetically with the summary judgements of the other counsellors, reflexes of a too automatic orthodoxy. Wadding seems to have offered the hospitality of St Isidore’s, the Roman college he founded in 1625, to Louis Gorin de Saint-Amour, envoy of the thirteen bishops and of the Augustinian party at the university, just as he had to John Sinnich ten years before and to Bourgeois who came to Rome in 1645 to defend Arnauld’s De la fréquente communion. Wadding had also known Conry in Madrid.
But Wadding was not invited to take part in the Congregation of the Inquisition which went ahead with the drafting of Cum Occasione, the Bull which made it clear that the battle of Jansenism would be a bloodier one, bringing it into more dangerous resistance to the highest authorities of church and state than the piety and learning of its representatives and the hallowed respectability of its sources might have led the optimistic to expect. Nor was orthodoxy slow to show its teeth: an Irish Dominican, John Nolan, was arrested shortly after this by the Roman Inquisition, no doubt for his resistance to the Bull, though Saint-Amour, in the last sad pages of his journal, consoles himself with the opinion that this was not the reason, that the fortunes of Augustinianism could never have fallen so low. Be that as it may, Fr Nolan was clapped in the prison of the Inquisition where he died three years later.
L’AFFAIRE DES HIBERNOIS
But, returning now to the fair fields of France and to the year of grace 1651, we find Irishmen at the centre of two stormy controversies which broke out in the spring of this year. The first of these is known as L’affaire des Hibernois and concerns the untimely intrusion of a band of Irish seminarists on the grave deliberations of their betters. [The affair "shows how in this period of tensions and suspicions a small incident could take on substantial proportions. It invites us to pay closer attention to the 'hidden face' of the Augustinus controversy: the underground manoeuvres of the most extreme partisans" (Jacques M. Gres-Gayer, Le Jansnisme en Sorbonne 1643-1656, Paris: Klincksieck, 1996, p. 91).]
Only the Jansenist chroniclers give a full account of the beginnings of this affair. They play heavily on the myth, partly cultivated by the Irish themselves, that these students were poor, wretched exiles, whose simple-mindedness made them the bewildered prey of whoever wished to exploit it. That clashes somewhat with their reputation in the literature of the day for untiring disputatiousness, “a talent for argument which is to be reckoned with”, as Montesquieu says in his Lettres Familières, but the poet Rulhière combines both images and seems to suggest that their fanaticism in dispute was also lucrative, as they “viennent vivre à Paris d’arguments et de Messes”.
Vincent de Paul and the Jesuits were collecting the signatures of the ninety-one bishops, as we have seen, and they now began to make similar efforts to get another document signed by the Irish students in Paris. Why? St Vincent’s motives were perhaps the purer: he had been horrified by the destructive radicalism of the views expressed by Saint-Cyran in their conversations, though by no means approving Richelieu’s cruel treatment of him, and he had deplored the falling-off in sacramental practice due to the influence of Arnauld’s stern views on the dispositions needed for Communion. In addition, his order, along with the Eudists, had the responsibility of establishing the Tridentine system for the formation of priests, and he had the special duty of ensuring purity of doctrine among the future clergy of Ireland confided to his spiritual care. Whether he also intended, as T. Wall suggests, to “force the Jansenists to declare themselves, and thus clear the academic air of the Sorbonne” is doubtful, since it ill consorts with charity to make sacrificial lambs of a few students in order to foment strife among their professors.
The Jesuits, on the other hand, seem to have been chiefly ruled by one idea in all these battles, namely, the greater glory of the Society. After a hard struggle they had regained a position in France and been allowed to establish colleges by the edict of Henry IV in 1604. This king gave them his palace of La Flèche which became a prestigious school. It is easy to see how grave a threat was offered them by Jansenism on four fronts. Firstly, Saint-Cyran’s violent attack on Jesuit ethics and anti-episcopal theory, which had won the approval of the French clergy, had uncovered the Achilles’ heel of the Society, and this line of attack was ruthlessly exploited by Arnauld and Pascal, while the Jesuits in their efforts to defend themselves only sank deeper into a scandalous quicksand of humanism, laxism and liberalism. Secondly, on a higher theological plane, the Jansenist critique of their Molinist theories of grace, coupled with the superior appeal of Arnauld’s original and modern pen in his debate with their greatest theologian, the learned, temperate Petavius, was surely distressing. Thirdly, the social influence of the Jansenists among that brilliant aristocracy which resisted the centralising policy of Richelieu, though so dangerous to themselves, might well be envied by their opponents. Finally, the schools of Port-Royal had introduced modern methods of teaching which the Jesuits regarded as specious but which made their methods look old-fashioned.
Bad relations also existed between the Jesuits and the University of Paris who regarded them as educational rivals. An extraction from students of the university of a condemnation of the Five Propositions might do something to dampen public enthusiasm for the Jansenist party; and indeed the Irish declaration, as the gesture of a brave minority, did win for them the kind of sympathy usually accorded to the Jansenists, as Saint-Amour was surprised to find.
In June 1650 an Irish Vincentian, Fr Duggan, advised the Irish students to apply to a rich layman, M. de la Bidière, who intended to found a house where they might live as a community. At their first meeting this M. de la Bidière asked them to draw up the rules of the proposed establishment and the students went off rejoicing. When they next met, however, he insisted that they state that their superior would be a Jesuit or a Vincentian, and that they formally shake off the suspicion of Jansenism attaching to them by denouncing the Five Propositions. (Was there really such a suspicion and, if so, why?) [Gres-Gayer points to the Callaghan affair.] The Irish demurred and withdrew.
Back in their college the incident was the subject of much ardent discussion. Richard Nugent, a young Cloyne priest, president of a society of Irish students, and one of three doctors of theology who finally signed the document, was eloquent in his indignation at what had been asked of him, saying “I’d rather put my hand in the fire that sign such a declaration”. A little pressure was to make him discover that such words are easier to speak than to act upon. Nicholas Power [Poer] and John Moloney [Mollony] also praised highly the firmness of the students, but when Power was visited by two Jesuits at the Collège de Lisieux, where he lectured in philosophy, he began to see the matter in a different light. A mere signature was all that stood between the poor Irish and the standing and influence that would be theirs if they had a college of their own.
Gerberon tells us that the young man immediately made his wav to the Irish community at the Collège des Lombards, where his advocacy of the proposed signature caused him to abound in a Molinist sense which somewhat shocked these students of theology and made him look foolish in their eyes. This reference to the Collège des Lombards is perhaps anachronistic. An inspection in 1642 showed that this old Italian foundation had fallen into a shabby state and was inhabited only by printers and artisans. We do not hear of Irish residing there again until 1676, the year before it became the Irish college, and at that date it was sorely in need of repairs, so it is unlikely that a group of Irish students lived there fifteen years before. On the other hand, the Irish are mentioned in connection with other colleges. Thus, in a document of 1663 in the present Irish college archives, Edward Tyrrell is described as superior of the Irish community at the Collège d’Arras, Rue d’Arras. Irish groups were housed in hostels in Rue de Sèvres and Rue d’Enfer and it was on behalf of such a group that four priests were licensed to collect alms in 1624, the group being recognised as a seminary, not a college. Increasing numbers had diluted the unity this Irish group possessed and they were now scattered everywhere.
Having failed to convince the senior students, Power returned to his college, whither he next invited all the younger Irish students to a meeting in his room on 13 February 1651; the meeting was to be kept secret from the senior students. This information may be slanted, as only seven of the twenty-seven signatories of the Irish declaration were philosophers, the rest having already embarked on the study of theology. The students cannot have been models of discretion, for the seniors soon heard of it and carried the story to the astonished ears of Jean Courtin (1620-1691), rector of the university. Swift action was called for to prevent an insulting breach of the code of the university, so a beadle was sent to surprise Power’s conventicle in the very thick of their confabulations, and the embarrassed assembly was obliged to disperse.
In the following weeks, though, the students separately signed a document presented to them by Fr George White, a Vincentian from Limerick, whose spiritual prestige with the students was considerable. In his weekly talks to them at the Collège des Bons Enfants he railed fanatically against the Jansenists, identifying each by name and falling on his knees to pray that Ireland would never be tainted by heresy. (Once again we come across the suspicion that the students were so tainted in fact, though Jansenist historians insist on their ingenuous orthodoxy.)
Two deputations came to Vincent de Paul at this time, no doubt from the students who disapproved of the document, but he did not accede to their request that he stop Fr White’s activities. Ere long the damage was done. The document was signed with every guarantee of secrecy; news of it instantly reached the rector’s ears. Why did twenty-seven students sign a document so dangerous? Perhaps the answer chiefly is that it had been intimated to them that they would not be recommended for the ministry in Ireland if they didn’t. It should be remembered that, by an exceptional arrangement, these students were ordained before they began their studies, as mass-stipends were their only means of support. But no doubt motives of a higher order also influenced them, for the document strikes a rather high tone:
“Since in these most calamitous times novel opinions are being taught, preached, printed and spread in private conversation by certain people, and, what is worst of all, propounded in a catechism to the uninstructed and unsuspecting faithful, [this is an allusion to the Catéchisme de la Grâce of Matthew Feydeau, disseminated in 1649 by the Bishop of Amiens, condemned by Rome in October 1650, and defended by Arnauld early in 1651] and since there is a danger that some of the Irish, who study in greater number in Paris than in any city in the world, might be imbued with these opinions, which they might try to propagate in Ireland, our native land, so tenacious of the faith and religion of our fathers, instilling them in unsuspecting souls, and might thus perturb the Irish Church, so greatly afflicted for a hundred years and more by the insults and most fierce persecutions of heretics and so agitated by a cruel and perilous war of ten years duration, We the undersigned, wishing to oppose this danger to the best of our ability, firmly declare and promise that we will always adhere to all General Councils, Trent in particular, and to all decrees and censures of the Popes, especially those of Pius V, Gregory XIII, Urban VIII and Innocent X against Baius, Jansenius and their followers. We further promise never deliberately, either publicly or privately, to defend, teach, preach, much less put before the people in a catechism, any propositions suspect of error or heresy, or in any way condemned by any Pope, and especially the following: (the Five Propositions).”[The declaration was an "ultra-Roman formulary, for it made them promise 'to remain always attached to ALL the decrees and censures of the popes, and never to teach any propositions suspected of error or heresy or condemned by any pope whatever in any matter whatever" Journal de Saint-Amour, I, 134." The text of the document with the names of the signatories, ib., II, 165-6. (Gres-Gayer, 91)]
Wall attributes this composition to St Vincent, while he makes Nugent the moving spirit of the declaration, but this is to overlook the statement of Thomas Meade that he had drawn up the declaration and that he had given it first to Nicholas Power and then to Vincent de Paul. Thus Fr White was merely completing the work begun by Power and his fellow-student Meade, no doubt the best Latinist among the Irish, when he made his tour of the colleges to collect signatures.
Meade confessed authorship when he and the other graduate culprits were summoned to the room of the rector in the Collège de Navarre on 4 March to explain themselves before the Academic Council (the deans of the faculties of theology, medicine and law, and the four procurators of nations). At this meeting the faculty of theology was represented only by its vice-dean. The judgement of this tribunal was severe. By their temerity in passing judgement on a doctrinal question on which the faculty of theology, the Archbishop of Paris and the whole clergy of France had refused to commit themselves, the Irish had infringed the authority of the university and the rights of the Gallican Church. Only a formal revocation would save the graduates from being deprived of their degrees and the others from being expelled from their colleges and barred from the university. This the offenders promised to perform within eight days.
The Procurator of the German Nation, Maurice Power, revealed how the two Jesuits had instigated the action of his unfortunate namesake, and a letter from Philip O’Lonergan was considered by the council. In this letter O’Lonergan tells of promises of ecclesiastical advantage to those who signed, but it may be that these reflected Nicholas Power’s interpretation of the mind of Vincent de Paul rather than the actual policy of the saint. A petition was also presented from the non-signatories, upwards of sixty in number in the Jansenist reckoning, who had taken counsel with their superior, Dr Edward Tyrrell, and who now begged the rector not to judge the whole nation by the foolish action of a few. This petition was signed by Philip O’Lonergan, Maurice Power, Patrick Heffernan [Hifernan] and Cornelius Macnamara.
It should be noted that the first appearance of the Irish anti-Jansenist declaration in public was in the decree issued by the rector after this meeting and solemnly published by the Grand Beadle of the Nation of France. This makes it all the more unlikely that Vincent was using the Irish to make the Jansenists declare themselves. On the contrary, it was the rector who decided to make an example of them in order to warn the anti-Jansenist party in the faculty of theology that their murmurings, too, might be out of order. This is suggested by what happened at the general meeting of the university at the convent of the Mathurins on 21 March.
The gesture of the students may have savoured of immaturity, but the scenes now to be witnessed were far more disedifying. The syndic Hallier tried to voice his indignation at the rector’s action, for he knew that this general assembly was the official place to do so, but he was shouted down by other members of his own faculty who did not allow his claim to speak on their behalf. According to the rector’s Mémoires apologétiques he succeeded in disgracing himself. In any case, the meeting was so troubled that the rector had to leave without getting the normal approbation of his acts since the last meeting – or so at least the faculty’s “Conclusion... pour les Hibernois contre le Décret de Monsieur le Recteur... et contre les Jansénistes” was to claim.[Correction: Saint Amour, II, 167-8, gives the text of the assembly's approval. "The authority of this group of bachelors and doctors was really nil. That is indeed what prompted the intervention of the rector of the university, Jean Courtin. When he heard of the existence of the formulary, February 13, he 'resolved to make an example of it' and reprimanded the Irish for getting involved in a doctrinal question for which they had no qualification. After hearing them on March 4 the academic council judged the behaviour of the signatories severely: under pain of expulsion, they must commit themselves to revoking their subscription. It is Courtin who gave consistency to the affair, in having the decree of condemnation published, but he also exceeded his rights, in getting involved in a subject that concerned not administration but theology. He was blamed for this at the 21 March assembly of the University, even though, albeit in questionable conditions, the assembly confirmed the decree. The 27 signatories were encouraged to appeal the decree before the Parlement and the Faculty of Theology, to which they were affiliated. It is thus that the affair became public" (Gres-Gayer, 92).]
Meanwhile the twenty-seven students, far from making the promised retraction, had, in the course of their agitated discussions, once again changed their minds. Perhaps encouraged by Hallier’s display of support for them, both at their assembly and in a protest lodged with a notary after the assembly had dispersed in confusion, the Irish too had recourse to a notary on 22 March, declaring that their profession of faith had never been intended to decide contested questions as they had no authority to do so, and appealing against the decree of 4 March to the Parlement de Paris. Two days later the Parlement, in accord with its policy, issued an order that no action was to be taken against the Irish students, to the joy of the Irish and much to the chagrin of the rector, to whom the order was communicated on 29 March.
The meeting of the faculty of theology on 1 April was another occasion of division. Along came Nicholas Power and Thomas Meade, invited perhaps by Hallier, and the faculty heard for themselves the Irish story and their plea for protection against the ire of authority. Power ended his speech and found himself pinned by a sharp question of Professor de Sainte-Beuve: could he be so kind as to name the doctors implicitly condemned by the Irish statement? Before Power had time to blurt out the names of Arnauld, Bourgeois or La Lane, Hallier terminated the moment of consternation, murmuring that Power should first consult his advisers and motioning him to withdraw.
Hallier then complained to his colleagues that the rector had overstepped the mark in interfering in theological affairs. De Sainte-Beuve again threw a spanner in the works by suggesting that the only professor who taught the Five Propositions was one of the faculty not suspected of Jansenism at all. But, despite the opposition of De Sainte-Beuve and some thirty or forty others, the faculty rallied to Hallier, disapproving of the rector’s decree and the assent yawned to it (sic) by their own vice-dean. They appointed four doctors to prosecute the Irish cause “ubicunque” and “quomodocunque”, wherever and by every means. These phrases were taken as threatening possible recourse to Rome.
Much heartened, the Irish began to publicise their attitude; Hallier broadcast it in his letters; the Jesuits spread the news in Ireland and the Jesuit scholar Philip Labbe mentioned the Irish declaration in his collection of testimonia against Jansenism collected from the highest Catholic authorities. After the May meeting of the faculty of theology, the conclusion of the April meeting was printed in French and Latin and distributed throughout the city, despite vigorous protests from the pro-Jansenist doctors.
[Meanwhile a subsidiary controversy had broken out. La Lane’s Jansenist work, De la Grâce victorieuse, had been furnished with an approbation by Philip O’Lonergan, dated 27 April, in which he upbraided his compatriots for speaking out of place. Hallier made O’Lonergan the target of an attack and was answered in an anonymous defence of O’Lonergan (Gerberon says Hallier dared not attack La Lane and the six members of the Faculty who recommended his book.)]
The rector, infuriated, called an ad hoc meeting of the council on 31 May, and issued a second decree in which he particularly noted that, by appealing to the faculty of theolgy, the Irish had disregarded not only his authority but that of Parlement to which they had already committed their case. He also objected to the word “Jansenists” in the title of the faculty’s document. This decree was put before the June meeting of the faculty of theology the following day and they replied by getting a legal document drawn up in which the students’ behaviour and their own was vindicated.[At this June 1 meeting Hallier "did not succeed in obtaining a new disapprobation, it was thus the commission [set up by the Faculty of Theology at the April 1 meeting] that pursued the matter with Parlement." On June 19 Parlement "received the request and prohibited direct or indirect interference in the deliberations of the theologians. On July 1, Amyot reported to the Faculty on the latest developments and aske for approval of the printing, already done, of the Faculty's conclusion as well as of the report of what the deputies had done in the cause of the Irish. Some doctors opposed this, because of the content of the request to Parlement, which they estimated to be 'full of falsehoods'... They stressed in particular that the text contradicted the Faculty's position on the Bull In Eminenti, of which it had deferred the reception, and that the Faculty could not recognize the statement of the request of the Irish without examining and putting in question the Five Propositions, although it had committed itself not to return to this topic... This provoked numerous discussions and violent exchanges, and the meeting ended without any conclusion being approved" (Gres-Gayer, 94)]
Next the rector published his Mémoires apologétiques addressed to the Parlement, in which the Irish are accused of ingratitude to their alma mater and to the nation which had received them as guests, for by accepting all papal Bulls they had committed themselves to those directed against the French monarchy, such as Unam Sanctam. Their presumption in writing as if they were archbishops was also ridiculed. The anti-papal sentiments of this manifesto were ammunition for the Jansenists’ opponents in Rome.
At the July meeting of the faculty of theology, Hallier again tried to stir up indignation against the rector, but his colleagues were tiring of the affair; he contented himself with sending one of the four doctors appointed to defend the Irish, Amyot, to make an appeal to Parlement against the rector’s charges. This appeal was attacked in another Jansenist pamphlet. The story ends with a whimper, for the faculty of theology and the Irish were, it seems, obliged to accept both of the rector’s decrees, at a meeting held in his room on 28 July. A Fr Mulard continued the struggle incompetently in Rome – his credentials and his knowledge of academic affairs are called in question by Saint-Amour – and an Irish doctor of theology called Clonsinnil (a pseudonym?) published a “Défense des Hibernois disciples de saint Augustin” in September. But the publication of Cum Occasione finally settled the controversy in favour of the faculty of theology, in 1653.[Gres-Gayer says that I am completely wrong about the way the affair ended. "This affair which exposed the internal divisions of the University, contributed above all to revive the public controversies on the Five Propositions. People did not fail to exploit it at Rome to underline the bad spirit of the Faculty, which had reproached the Irish students for their fidelity to the pontifical decisions, and to scheme against the Augustinians, but the affair could only be of very secondary significance in the decision being prepared. If it seems rather confused, it is because it was a minor incident, which every tendency tried to use to its advantage, without much success. Both the adversaries and the protectors of the Irish failed to draw immediate profit from it, chiefly through lack of coordination, but above all because the Faculty as a whole was reluctant to follow them". Movements of reconciliation were afoot, and the heated ideologists were less well received. (Gres-Gayer, 94-5)]
JOHN CALLAGHAN, MALACHY KELLY
The other storm that broke about Irish heads in France in 1651 concerns a Dr John Callaghan (?1605-1664) of Killone (Carbry) near Macroom, Co. Cork. This zealous ecclesiastic was highly respected by Arnauld and his sister Angélique, the reforming abbess of Port-Royal, and he found a refuge in the Paris house of Port-Royal from 1647 to 1649. His life before this date I shall relate in connection with the controversies to which it gave rise.
In 1647 the Jansenist convent was flourishing and numbers were so high that in 1648 the overflow returned to the original rural abbey of Port-Royal-des-Champs, which had been abandoned in 1625 because of its noxious air. The Solitaries who had begun to settle in this historic Cistercian foundation in 1637 retired to a house called Les Granges, overlooking the sunken gully in which the abbey, with its church of the same date and by the same architect as the great cathedral of Amiens, nestled amid an abundance of trees. This site was heaven to the men of the world who escaped there from the pressures of court and city. It appears pseudonymously in Phèdre :
...ces paisibles lieux si chers à votre enfance,
Et dont je vous ai vu préférer le séjour
Au tumulte pompeux d’Athènes et de la cour
The only record of a stay of Callaghan here dates from some years later, when Mère Angélique sent her physician, M. Hamon, one of the Solitaries, from her own sick-bed to that of Callaghan at Port-Royal-des-Champs, though the sisters minding her felt that she herself needed the doctor more. During his stay in Paris, Callaghan lived with Antoine Singlin, the nuns’ confessor. He spent his time writing, the only form of action possible at the moment, the pastoral and political activities he would have preferred having been denied him because of his opposition to Rinuccini, the Papal Nuncio in Ireland.
Callaghan wrote an account of events in Ireland from 1641 to 1649 and then added a refutation of the Epistula nobilis Hiberni of Paul King OFM, a defence of Rinuccini published in 1649. Callaghan’s book Vindiciarum Catholicorum Hiberniae libri duo appeared in 1650 under the pseudonym of Philopater Irenaeus.
During his pleasant retreat Callaghan also improved his social connections, renewing acquaintance with Mme d’Aumont, one of the “belles amies” of the convent who had retired there to mourn extravagantly her widowhood – she carried about with her the heart of her deceased spouse. She had first met Callaghan in the company of her brother-in-law, the Bishop of Avranches, twelve years before. Her sister was the Lady of Cour-Cheverny near Blois, in the diocese of Chartres, and through her influence Callaghan became parish priest of this village in 1650.
Callaghan must have lost touch with country ways since his boyhood in Co. Cork, for he was unwise enough to begin straightaway to tamper with the cherished traditions of the parish. He abolished a special high mass held by the villagers and replaced the usual Hail Marv at the sermon with the Our Father. The public admiratio thus excited intensified to positive scandal when bizarre rumours began to circulate about the rigours of Callaghan’s confessional.
Meanwhile the Jesuits were entertaining even graver suspicions about him. Though set on the road to distinction by his education at La Flèche. Callaghan had linked himself with their enemies and now continued to cultivate the friendship of Saint-Cyran’s nephew, Barcos, who lived not far from Blois in the abbey of Saint-Cyran. His Jansenist sentiments were further emphasised when he took the part of the Irish doctors who petitioned against their countrymen at the University of Paris on 4 March.
On 29 March, Jean Brisacier, the rector of the Jesuit college at Blois mounted the pulpit to denounce Callaghan as an enemy of the unity, sanctity, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church and as a gateway of hell. He took as his text John 7:12: “There was much murmuring in the crowd about him. Some said ‘He is a good man’, but others said ‘No, but he leads the crowds astray’.” One of the high points of his sermon was a suggestive development on Eph 5:12: “It is shameful to speak of what these people do in private”.
John Callaghan was one of a handful of priests who were pioneers in inflicting Jansenism on the ordinary faithful and who were distinguished by their close paternal supervision of their flock. Unlike other such curés, e.g. Feydeau of Amiens or Hamel of Sens, Callaghan could not take shelter under a Jansenist bishop, for Bishop Lescot of Chartres had been delegated by the Sorbonne, years before, to conduct a theological interrogation of Saint-Cyran in the prison of Vincennes and, though he had shared the venerable captive’s views on Jesuit ethics, and listened silently to his views on penance, he had done nothing to help him.
Brisacier had a fine opportunity to strike a blow at Jansenist prestige by revealing the sect at work on an unsuspecting rural people, but he did his cause more harm than good by his rash vehemence. A reply to the calumnious sermon was drawn up by Etienne Lombard du Trouillas, a Provencal priest who had followed Callaghan to the region of Blois. and who was later employed, as tutor to her son, by the Duchesse de Longueville, that most powerful of the patronesses of Jansenism, a leader of the Fronde and formerly the mistress of La Rochefouchauld. Lombard defended his friend’s orthodoxy on the questions of indulgences, the Rosary, devotion to the BVM and in particular his strict views on sacramental practice.
It appears, even from this reply, that Callaghan had indeed introduced the innovations recommended by Arnauld into pastoral practice, in particular an oddly modern and psychological rehash of the ancient penitential disciplines, whereby one delayed reception of the sacraments until one felt worthy: “we try to revive the spirit of the old canons in those who have not strength to put the letter of them into practice”. There is an implication, à la Saint-Cyran, that the Church had fallen into a state of decrepitude since those bright early days.
Brisacier must have imagined that a quote from Scripture could never be used amiss against a heretic, when he used Eph 5:12 to shock his audience. This reply shows how such allusions can rebound on those who make them: “it is indeed shameful for hypocrites to speak of the prayer and fasting that holy men do in private”. Against Brisacier’s claim that “all those who do not live according to the present custom of the Catholic Church are not Catholics”, Du Trouillas builds a logical argument, worthy in its rigour and solidity of Arnauld (who may have been consulted), to show that it is more salutary and more virtuous not to take advantage of those relaxations whereby the Church accommodates the weakness of her children.
As for Callaghan’s views on grace, Du Trouillas claimed that it was Brisacier, never Callaghan himself, who was upsetting the simple faithful by talking to them on such deep matters. A Jansenist reading of Augustine is evidenced in the statement that “Christ died for all men as regards the sufficiency of the price… but as regards the application of the price he died… for his Church”, which differs only by a shade from Augustine as read by a string of orthodox councils, e. g. Trent: “Though he died for all, not all receive the benefit of his death, but only those to whom the merit of his passion is communicated”. In the fourth section, Du Trouillas attacks Jesuit laxism, telling how Brisacier had shocked a grande dame by his account of what is and what isn’t a proximate occasion of sin.
Next appeared a Latin satire, “Calaghanus an Satyrus” (Is Callaghan a Satyr?), which invited the Irish doctor to return to his swinish origins, and suggested that he had sold his soul to be a doctor. Though Arnauld ascribed it to P. Vavasseur, SJ, who had written a similar broadsheet against Bishop Godeau, Richard Bellings says it was the work of an Irish Jesuit, while Brisacier, realising that such scurrility would undermine his case, attributed the authorship to none other thatn Callaghan himself.
In any case, the commotion reached a new height when Brisacier’s book Le Jansénisme confondu… amplified the personal insults of the anonymous libel and dragged the entire community of Port-Royal into the morass of Callaghan’s supposed misbehaviour. This was the first public attack on the nuns and an ominous portent. One sentence in particular was to earn for Brisacier an unhappy immortality, for it is noted by all the Jansenist writers and by the flashing pens of Racine and Pascal, “des filles impénitentes, asacramentaires, incommuniantes, des vierges folles, fantastiques, Calaganes, désespérées et tout ce qu’il vous plaira ». Both Mme d’Aumont, grieved that she had been the unwitting cause of the exposure of her protégé to such an onslaught, and Mère Angélique, shocked at such uncharitableness in a priest and religious, wrote letters to their friend the Archbishop of Paris, who resisted all Jesuit pressures and and published a censure of the book on 7 January 1652. This censure kept Brisacier busy for more than a year writing works like the Lettre d’importance… (6 January 1652) and collecting dossiers which would vindicate his attack on the Janesnists.
Callaghan moved heaven and earth to redeem his reputation, and Arnauld wrote hundreds of pages in his defence. Callaghan first defends the nobility of his birth: born in 1605, the fifth son of Dermot Mac Callaghan and Catherine Mac Callaghan, his distant cousin and legitimate spouse, he had lived in reduced circumstances, because his father too had a youngest son and inherited nothing and because of the improvidence of his eldest brother. His family was a branch of the illustrious Mac Carthys, whose chief was Lord Muskerry, brother-in-law of the Duke of Ormonde, but far from taking pride in this, he had dropped the Mac, infallible index of gentility, from his name and had replaced the familyarms with the holy name.
Brisacier replied by producing a jeering letter from an lrish priest, Guillemus Belli: “well I knew you and your father, a poor wretch who lived in the woods near Blarney and sold firewood for bread in Cork City”, to which Arnauld replied by revealing that this travelling priest had been involved in a drunken brawl with a woman in the market-place of Blois.
Next, Callaghan denied that he had been a cleaner and corrector in the Jesuit school at Quimper for several years as Brisacier claimed; in fact he had never set foot in that town. Instead. he claimed to have studied rhetoric with the Oratorians at Nantes from 1626 to 1628, and philosophy at Rennes from January 1629 to 1630. Brisacier admitted that he had been mistaken, that Callaghan had stayed only one year at Quimper, and produced accounts to show he had been paid from 1626 to 1627, “for fear lest he ask us for the salary of the years he didn’t serve, I make him honourable amends and freely recognise that I was mistaken about the dates”.
Nevertheless, Callaghan’s reputation as a man of integrity depends to this day on the truth or falsehood of the Jesuit’s assertion that he swept the floors and slapped the pupils of Quimper, an assertion backed by statements, and even, in response to Arnauld’s challenge, sworn statements, which seem to exclude the natural explanation that there were two John Callaghans in question.
At La Flèche Callaghan was one of those extern students who lived as best they could in the town, and whom the historian of the college describes as the most determined section of the student population. He had charge of the brother of M. de Turbilly and of Baron de Boulloy, Seigneur d’Anjou, and neither lodged with the Jesuits nor depended on their charity. His teacher there, P. Bagot, taught predestination before merits, the sinfulness of every act of unbelievers and the absurdity of Molina’s scientia media, but had changed his views for political reasons, whereas he, Callaghan, had uprightly resisted his attempts to get him to write against Jansenius. Bagot’s account is that Callaghan snubbed him when he tried to recall him to orthodoxy.
I omit the futile controversy about the legitimacy of Callaghan’s doctorate, which he must have received in 1636 or 1637. It was on the benches of the Sorbonne that the Abbé Mazure, curé of St Paul, perverted him to Jansenism, as the insinuating Rapin relates, and his contradictory story that Ormonde’s sisters, Lady Muskerry and Lady Hamilton, introduced him to Mazure may be disregarded, since these ladies set foot on French soil only in 1651.
He then returned to Ireland, but was back in France in 1642, when his influence with the nuncio in Paris aroused the mistrust of the Irish Jesuits there, who complained of him to Luke Wadding. Mazure had him appointed chaplain to the Princesse de Guemené, yet another of Port-Royal’s elegant patronesses.
He returned to Ireland in 1645 as a secret agent of Jansenism, according to Rapin, who is followed somewhat uncritically by Boyle. His companions were Patrick Heffernan, Cashel, Edmund Butler (whom Rapin’s annotator identifies with the first superior of the Irish college, Edward Butler), Power, Mulryan and Cahill. Rinuccini quickly smoked out the agents of evil, and Callaghan founded instead a Jansenist college in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau with Heffernan and Cahill, Malachy Kelly being the superior and the Oratorians, Esprit and Camus, providing spiritual direction. From this community withdrew the orthodox students who condemned the Five Propositions.
This story of Rapin’s, riddled as it is with inexactitudes, must yet retain some interest for students of the Irish College, Paris. Callaghan’s chief business in Ireland seems to have been political rather than missionary. He had some unexplained trouble in the diocese of Waterford but was cleared at an assembly there. He was recommended for the see of Cork by the Supreme Council of the Confederate Catholics but his links with Ormonde and Muskerry made him an undesirable candidate in Rinuccini’s eyes. However, Rinuccini respected him and asked him to preach in Kilkenny shortly before his return to France as tutor to Muskerry’s son in 1647.
Brisacier’s charge that Callaghan had lost a contest with a Capuchin for the see of Cork is dismissed by him in his Lettre and he says that he has offered to return to Ireland only on condition of not being made a bishop. Brisacier was, of course, working on the age-old principle of apologetics, that all schism proceeds from disappointed aspirations to the episcopacy.
Callaghan also denies that he had been smitten by Rinuccini’s censure of May 1648, for he had left Ireland by then.
In his dossiers Brisacier also culled some tattle from critical parishioners of Callaghan, most of which fails to cast any doubt on the man’s rectitude. In a second “Lettre” Callaghan tells how his bishop, while chiding him for introducing changes on his own initiative, expressed approval of his defence (by Du Trouillas) which he considered adequate, and annoyance at the Jesuit’s description description of his subjects as “ignorant and sheepish. folk, easy to seduce”.
Brisacier’s pièce maîtresse, the apparently obvious heresy of Callaghan on the subject of indulgences, also failed to make any impact. Arnauld calls in question the competence of a heresy-hunter who dates Nicaea to the end of the fourth century and speaks of the Manicheans as opponents of Tertullian. He goes on to point out that indulgences refer primarily to canonical penances and only secondarily to the temporal punishment decreed by God, while their effect in the next life is as indirect as that of any good work, quoting Estius and Bellarmine in his support. Bishop Lescot also seems to have admitted the legitimacy of these views.
After his pastoral fiasco, Callaghan tried his hand at grander affairs. In 1653 he urged Charles II to appeal to Rome for assistance, and was ready to depart with Lord Taaffe in April, with a letter of recommendation from the Paris nuncio “to make the truth of the proceedings in Ireland appear” (Clarendon) at the court of Peter. But the watchful Fr Punch denounced his fellow-Corkman to Propaganda and sent Dr Tyrrell to the exiled Stuart monarch to open his eyes to the unsuitability of his envoy. Meanwhile the nuncio repented of his recommendation on discovering that Callaghan was backed by Jansenist funds, while the Protestants took fright at the freedom of religion for Catholics which the pair of ambassadors were empowered to promise. The expedition came to naught.
Clarendon, in a letter shortly after this, refers to Callaghan’s death, but this was probably a false report, or a reference to another Callaghan also connected with Port-Royal, and it is likely that the doctor lived on until 1664.
He desired to be buried in the Paris house of the community, the place where he had been most at home. However, the disruptions consequent on the efforts to make the nuns sign the Formulary of Alexander VII were then in full swing; non-signatories, i.e. those who reserved judgement on the authorship of the Five Propositions, had been deported to Port-Royal-des-Champs; and the ringleaders were confined in other convents. It was naturally impossible, therefore, that the bones of a Jansenist would find a resting-place amid the purged community.
He may have been buried in the rural convent, if there is any truth in the story that his bones were venerated with those of Saint-Cyran and Singlin by the remaining Jansenist nuns. If so, the fate of these bones was an historic one for, when the abbey was destroyed by royal command in 1709, its cemetery was subjected to a thorough harrowng and two thousand skeletons were carted away.
We have seen Malachy Kelly’s name linked with Callaghan’s, and elsewhere we hear that he was accused of Jansenism in 1653, though, in spite of this, he managed in 1677, at the cost of a legal battle, to supplant Butler, the officially-appointed superior of the Irish college. He retained this position until 1684. There is much evidence of Kelly’s long association with Port-Royal.
He acted as an intermediary between the Jansenists and the royalists who were on close terms in the years of Charles’s exile, no doubt from an apparent kinship in their situations. Thus, he communicated Ormonde’s letter of thanks for services rendered to the King to MM. Singlin and Bernier of Port-Royal in 1654, and, with his Jansenist friends, discreetly gathered money for Stuart military projects, a service for which Clarendon thanks him in a letter of February 1655. A letter of Kelly to Ormonde in 1657 reflects Jansenist disillusion with the Stuarts.
Kelly was also linked with the leading protectresses of the Jansenists. He insinuated himself into the Duchesse de Longueville’s residence by playing the part of a faux dévot, a Tartuffe, according to Rapin. He was Anne Marie de Gonzague’s confessor before she became Queen of Poland. He was the director of Sister de Ste Eustoquie of Port-Royal and we find her the “précieuse” Comtesse de Brégy, writing to him to him about the approaching storm in 1663 and recommending the signature of the formulary.
He was connected with Sir George Radcliffe, who tried to engineer a rapprochement between Anglicanism and Port-Royal. In 1665 he was linked with the four bishops who led the resistance to the Bull Regiminis Apostolici, as the Paris nuncio recalls in 1669 when writing to warn Propaganda that Kelly was aspiring to an Irish bishopric. The nuncio calls Kelly a “rabid Jansenist” and says the sect planned to have him and his relative Daniel Ryan appointed as Jansenist bishops in Ireland. Despite this reputation Kelly surfaced as almoner at Versailles and superior of the Irish, so he must have tempered or cloaked his attitude.
MICHAEL MOORE, MATTHEW BARNEWALL
Fear of Jansenist plots led to an investigation conducted by the internuncio at Brussels in 1676. Bishop John Molloney of Killaloe, who had been Procurator of the German Nation at the university in 1659, deposed that several Irish priests in Paris were eager propagators of the new doctrine. To clear themselves of suspicion thirty-eight Irish doctors and students declared their loyalty to Rome on 26 August 1676.
In 1687 when Michael Moore was to be appointed provost of Trinity it was said that he was “a person suspected for Jansenism and twice forced to abjure that heresy”. His stay at Trinity from 1688 was interrupted when he offended James II. This Moore was the most famous Irish scholar of his day. Born in Dublin in 1640 he studied at Nantes and Paris where he taught at the Collège des Grassins for ten years and then, under the patronage of Archbishop Noailles, at the Collège de Navarre. He was Procurator of the German Nation in 1671 and 1672 and, in 1677, he declined the position of rector (a post he was later to hold in 1701).
He held the position of rector of the Collège de Navarre from 1702 until his death in 1726 and was buried in the Irish College of which he had been a friend and benefactor. A slight shadow may be cast on his reputation as an ardent anti-Jansenist in these years by the friendship he showed to the last character in our story, Matthew Barnewall.
Barnewall was interrogated by the formidable D’Argenson, chief of police, the ravager of Port-Royal-des-Champs, when he was accused in 1712 of collusion with the Jansenist “cabale” and of distributing literature contrary to religion. The mud-bespattered and not easily legible copy of this interrogation in the Bastille papers gives an intriguing view of the clash of two worlds, that of the charismatic and that of the policeman.
One of D’Argenson’s tasks in his mission of bringing “clarté, propreté, sureté to Paris was the pursuit of those who falsely claimed noble titles, hence his first question to Barnewall was why he had changed his name to de Barneville. Barnewall replied that his cousin, the commissary of the Irish Capuchins. had told him that that was the ancient Norman form of their family name.
Barnewall then related how he came to France at the age of fifteen and studied humanities at the Collège des Grassins and philosophy at the Collège d’Harcourt (?), finishing his course of theology under Pirot and Desperiers at the Sorbonne in 1685 when he was twenty-five.
Moore may have first made Barnewall’s acquaintance as a young student from his own native city at the Collège des Grassins. The Pirot mentioned by Barnewall is not of course the unlucky defender of the laxists against Pascal, for that Pirot died in 1659, but a professor quoted by Nicole in 1691 to justify his Jansenist notion of delectatio victrix. If he did teach that efficacious love was “a love superior to every contrary love… a dominant love that never fails to have its effect”, then Pirot’s influence may have remotely prepared Barnewall’s passionate rejection of the Bull Unigenitus, 1713, which condemned 101 similar propositions of Paschal Quesnel.
After his ordination in Dublin his bishop wanted to entrust a large parish to him, but Barnewall asked to return to France for further education to make himself worthy of the responsibility. Returning in January 1687 he stayed with the Vincentians. who had him appointed curate of Moussou, near Teaumont-sur-Oise. After two or three years there he came back to Paris to look after a newly-founded Irish community which lasted only a year.
With his bishop’s permission, he next offered his services to the Oratorians. He lived in their Paris house for a year, then spent five years at Saint-Paul-aux-Bois, diocese of Soissons, as director of the diocesan seminary. The Oratorians next lent him to Le Camus, Bishop of Grenoble, who made him rector of his seminary. After six years he spent a month in Rome and then returned to Grenoble to take charge of a new minor seminary. Le Camus was not hostile to Jansenism, for he furnished his approval to Saint-Cyran’s Lettres Spirituelles in 1671.
A year later Barnewall wished to return to Ireland but was prevented by the troubles there, so en attendant he stayed with Michael Moore at the Collège de Navarre, where he had charge of the students. This was about the years 1703-6. He visited Rome again to represent the plight of Ireland to the pope and on his return took charge of a hospital in Senlis.
It was an Abbè Guillard who asked Barnewall to accompany Fr St Jean de Pardiac on a tour of the diocese of Senlis to distribute alms and edifying literature. The books they distributed seem innocuous enough, though one of them, Amelotte’s translation of the New Testament, is mentioned in the Dictionnaire des livres jansènistes. They also visited to together the dioceses of Auxerre, Beauvais, and Soissons.
As regards the charge of associating with Quesnel, Barnewall denies ever having answered the letter he received from him in Grenoble. He had not signed the formulary only because never asked, and would now promptly do so. But these guarded replies were insufficient to save Matthew from a year in jail. Nor did a string of plaintive letters from Bishop Desmarets of Avranches, who was to have so much trouble stomaching the “Unigenitus”, succeed in melting D’Argenson.
Perhaps the most incriminating evidence against the pair of evangelists was a letter of de Pardiac’s which had been intercepted by the police. It is just such a letter as a modern charismatic might write, but to police scrutiny every one of its spiritual phrases seemed subversive. What, for instance, could be meant by the heading: “Vive Jésus-Christ et ceux qui se dépaysent pour lui et pour l’Evangile”? Was it not clear evidence of the spirit of a “cabale” to describe the towns of Normandy in the same language as St Paul would use about the pagan cities of Asia Minor? – Caen is “very little evangelised”; at Lisieux “only Judaism and nonsense is preached”, while Pont l’Evêque “seems to know only the baptism of John”.
During his stay in the Bastille Barnewall wrote a letter asking that a copy of Maldonatus be returned to Moore who had lent it to him, and that Moore send on an “Imitation” and an English Bible “to look for the passages abused by the Protestants in order to combat them”.
This was not quite the end. On 12 January 1736 Matthew Barnewall was arrested once again at the site of Port-Royal-des-Champs, in the company of Simon Chopin, known as the “Eternal Father”, and twenty-four other members of the Augustinistes, so called after their leader Frère Augustin, who were the most extreme group of the Convulsionaries of St Medard. “Licence consorted with madness in this sect, one of whose doctrines was that in the state of convulsion one could not sin for it was God who acted”.
In the prison of the Conciergerie, Matthew kept his mind active, recommending a young man who wanted to learn to read to the charity of a correspondent and writing his testament, a fiery credo modelled on that of Bishop Soanen of Senez, leader of the opposition to “Unigenitus”. In this document he disowns the signature extracted from him in 1712 and condemns the formulary as a trap of the Jesuits to get the bishops into their power, a trap finally sprung in the “Unigenitus”. Invoking the name of the deacon Francois and the “oeuvre toute divine” of the convulsions and miracles worked at his grave, as well as “l’illustre Sinnich lrlandois”, Barnewall went down fighting in his eightieth year in 1740.
A. Bellesheim, Geschichte der katholischen Kirche in Irland, Mainz, 1890.
Patrick Boyle, The Irish College in Paris. London, 1901.
Liam Chambers, Michael Moore, c. 1639-1726. Dublin: Four Courts, 2005.
Ruth Clark, Strangers and Sojourners at Port Royal, Cambridge UP, 1932.
Patrick J. Corish, “A Jansenist agent in Ireland in 1646: Rev. John Callaghan, D. D.” Irish Ecclesiastical Record 22 (1923).
Gabriel Gerberon, Histoire générale du jansénisme. Paris, 1700.
J.-M. Gres-Gayer, Jansénisme en Sorbonne, 1643-1656. Paris, 1996.
Thomas O’Connor, Irish Jansenists 1600-70: Politics and Religion in Flanders, France, Ireland and Rome. Dublin: Four Courts, 2006.
René Rapin, S. J. Mémoires sur l’Église et la société, la Cour, la ville et le jansénisme, 1644-1669. Paris: Aubineau, 1865.
Thomas Wall, “Irish Enterprise at the University of Paris (1651-1653)”. Irish Ecclesiastical Record 64 (1944).
From: Liam Swords, ed., The Irish-French Connection 1578/1978. Paris: The Irish College, 1978 (updated).