Jansenism and old-catholicism

The doctrine on predestination has always been a controversial issue in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. On many occasions, bitter conflict has resulted from differing beliefs regarding the extent to which our actions can influence our own salvation. The theologist Cornelius Jansen or Jansenius (1585-1638) from Leuven argued that only a select few would receive the grace of God. Although this was met with fierce resistance from Rome, it found support in France and the Low Countries.

This story can be followed in the Special Collections.

The Jansenists were pursued in France and many fled north with their texts. Members of the clergy in Utrecht sympathised with the Jansenists. Even the Vicar Apolistic – the highest member of the Catholic clergy in the Dutch Republic – Peter Codde was accused of being a Jansenist and was deposed by the pope in 1704.

This led to protest, especially among Utrecht chapters who wanted to retain their independence. From 1723 onwards, the chapters ordained their own bishops and seceded from the Roman Catholic Church in the Utrecht Schism.

The Old Catholic Church had relatively few followers in the Netherlands, yet the seat of the archbishop of the Old Catholic Church is still in Saint Gertrude’s Church (Sinte-Gertrudiskerk) in Utrecht.

Utrecht University Library has three collections from the Old Catholic Church on loan:

  1. Ca. 4,500 volumes originating from part of the Central Old Catholic Library (COKB), of which the other books were distributed among Old Catholic bodies when it was closed down.
  2. The pre-1900 items from the parish library of Saint Gertrude’s Church, all of which have yet to be catalogued.
  3. Ca. 10,000 pre-1900 volumes from the library of the Old Catholic Seminary (Oud-Katoholiek Seminarie) in Amersfoort, of which over 3,000 volumes (including pamphlet collections) and over 200 letters and manuscripts still need to be catalogued. The titles of all the printed books are listed in the card catalogue in the Reference Library (Handboekerij) on the 6th floor.

The collection includes a lot of literature on Old Catholic Churches in the Netherlands and elsewhere. This includes key Jansenist sources and works about Jansenism, to which the Old Catholic Church is often compared. The oldest parts of the Jansenist literature consist of printed texts, which were written by Janesists who had fled from France, and were burnt or destroyed elsewhere.

Portrait of Cornelius Jansenius, ODK 580