Jansenism and Irish Catholicism
“Jansenism”. The Oxford Companion to Irish History. 2007.
“Jansenism was viewed with great suspicion by Rome, and 17th-century Irish synods toed the Roman line. Indeed, while its moral rigorism made it attractive to elements of the Counter-Reformation church, Jansenism’s theological and political radicalism alienated both local hierarchies and Catholic monarchs. This was especially the case in France and most Irish clerical students there associated with the milieux hostile to the movement. Indeed their anti-Jansenist opinions were singled out for criticism by the pro-Jansenist journal Nouvelles ecclésiastiques, Irish clerics, in general, being more attracted to Jesuit-style humanism. The success of the anti-Jansenist bull Unigenitus (1713) marginalized the movement but it survived as a popular millenarian-cum-miracle cult. Neither as a theology nor as a political attitude did Jansenism recommend itself to the Irish Catholic community, either at home or abroad. The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with mere moral rigorism.”
—Dr. Thomas O’Connor. Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer at the Department of History, National University of Ireland. He is the author of Irish Jansenists 1600-1670: politics and religion in Flanders, France, Ireland and Rome (Dublin, 2008), Strangers to Citizens: the Irish in Europe 1600-1800 (Dublin, 2008), An Irish Jansenist in seventeenth-century France: John Callaghan 1605-54 (Dublin, 2005) and An Irish Theologian in Enlightenment Europe: Luke Joseph Hooke 1714-96 (Dublin, 1995).
John Healy, Maynooth College: Its Centenary History (Dublin, 1895), p. 274
“During the eighteenth century many of the most eminent Churchmen in France were, to some extent, tinctured with these Jansenistic views, even when repudiating the Jansenistic errors regarding the operation of grace and free will. But although so many of our Irish ecclesiastics were educated in France during the eighteenth century, none of those who came to Ireland ever showed the slightest trace of this Jansenistic influence, either in their writings or their sermons. Nor has any respectable authority asserted, so far as we know, that the French Professors of Maynooth were in any way tinged with the spirit of Jansenism.”
—Most Rev. John Healy, D.D., LL.D., M.R.I.A.
“Off the playing-fields [of Maynooth seminary] at the end of a short avenue of tall cypresses, there is a little cemetery. Here are the graves of some of the greatest men in the history of modern Irish Catholicism. Here, also, are the graves of Irish boys who had consecrated themselves to God but whom God took to Himself before they reached the priesthood. A few French priests rest here, too. For the original staff at Maynooth consisted of Irish priests from Paris and some French colleagues whom they brought with them. (To this day the College gown is an adaptation of that worn by the clerical professors at the Sorbonne in pre-Revolution times.)
Those gentle dead are sometimes accused of having brought Jansenism into Ireland. My friend, Mr. Tom Wall, Assistant Librarian at University College, Dublin, has written admirably on this silly accusation and on the whole history of the remarkable part played by Irish priests in Paris in the Jansenist controversy. The so-called Jansenism of late nineteenth century Ireland was nothing more than an element of Victorianism that came over with the compulsory English after the Famine.”