Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

An Apostolic Constitution issued by Clement XI against the Jansenists on 16 July, 1705. It was occasioned by the following incident: A Jansenist priest, ostensibly the confessor of a dying ecclesiastic, proposed seven questions to the doctors of the Sorbonne for solution. The most prominent of these questions was the one whether absolution can be granted to an ecclesiastic who confessed that he rejects, in the sense of the Church, the five propositions condemned by Innocent XII as Jansenistic ; but, since it was not clear to the penitent that these propositions are actually contained in the "Augustinus" of Jansenius, he thought it sufficient to observe a "respectful silence " ( silence respectueux ) concerning this question of fact, and, with this restriction, signed the formula prescribed by Alexander VII. Forty doctors of the Sorbonne, among them Ellies Du Pin, Petitpied, Bourret, Sarrasin, and Natalis Alexander, decided that absolution could not be withheld, since the case was neither new nor extraordinary, and since the penitent's opinion was not condemned by the Church. Though the decision was given secretly on 20 July, 1701, the Jansenists published the case in July, 1702, with the signatures of the forty doctors of the Sorbvonne: "Cas de conscience par un confesseur de Province . . . résolu par plusieurs docteurs de la Faculté de Théologie de Paris Lettre de M. . . . Chanoine de B. à M. T. D. A." It is reprinted in Du Plessis, "Collection judiciorum", III (Paris, 1736), 413-7. As probable authors of the "Cas de conscience " are mentioned: Eustace, the confessor of Port-Royal (Ste-Beuve, "Port-Royal", VI, 169); Fréhel, curé of Notre-Dame-du- Port, at Clermont (Le Roy, loc. cit. infra, 98); Du Pin (Guarnacci, "Vitae et res gestae pontif. E card.", II, cap. xi); Petitpied; Alquebille Perrier; and others. Whoever may have been its author, Roulland, a doctor or the Sorbonne, edited it, and Cardinal Noailles knew of its existence before it was published, and is even said to have promised his own signature. Its appearance caused a great stir among the Catholics of France, for the solution of the case was equivalent to the revival of one phase of Jansenism, the opinion that the pope has not the power to decide on questions on doctrinal fact, i.e. whether a certain book contains or does not contain errors against faith. The solution was condemned by Clement XI in his Brief "Cum nuper", dated 12 February, 1703. The pope at the same time urged King Louis XIV and Archbishop Noailles of Paris to take energetic measures against all recalcitrants. Despite the banishment of five doctors of the Sorbonne who refused to submit, the controversy continued, and King Louis XIV, seconded by the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, requested the pope to issue a Constitution condemning the so-called respectful silence. Since Louis XIV insisted that the Constitution should contain no expressions contrary to the Gallican Liberties, its issue was somewhat delayed and finally, after its contents had been communicated to the king, the Constitution "Vineam Domini Sabaoth" appeared at Rome on 16 July, 1705.

This Constitution begins with a confirmation of the three Bulls -- "Cum occasione" ( Innocent X ), "Ad Sacram", and "Regiminis Apostolici" ( Alexander VII ) -- that had been previously published against Jansenism, and contains their entire text. Then follows a defence of Clement IX and Innocent XII against the calumnies and misinterpretations of the Jansenists. To this is added a severe rebuke of those who, by what they term respectful silence, pretend to obey the Apostolic Constitutions while in reality they deceive the Church and the Holy See. The Constitution ends with a solemn declaration that a respectful silence is by no means sufficient, obsequioso illo silentio nequaquam satisfieri , that all the faithful are obliged to reject and condemn as heretical, not only with their mouth, but also with their heart, the sense which was condemned in the previously mentioned five propositions of the book of Jansenius, and which the words of the propositions naturally have. "Damnatum in quinque praefatis propositionibus Jansenii libri sensum, quem illarum verba prae se ferunt, ut praefertur, ab omnibus Christi fidelibus ut haereticum, non ore solum, sed et corde rejci ac damnari debere."

The Constitution arrived in France while the Assembly of the French Clergy was in session. It was accepted by the Assembly on 21 August, not, however, until it had been decided to accompany the Constitution with the declaration that "the papal constitutions are binding on the whole Church when they have been accepted by the bishops ", thus making it appear that the Constitution received its binding force by the acceptance of the bishops. On 31 August, the Constitution was made a state law. It was accepted by all the French bishops with the exception of Percin de Montgaillard, Bishop of Saint-Pons, who published a mandement in defence of "respectful silence ". The mandement was censured by Clement XI on 18 January, 1710, and the bishop finally submitted in a long letter to Clement on 28 February, 1713. The Sorbonne accepted the Bull on 1 Sept., 1705. The nuns of Port-Royal refused to accept it, except with certain restrictions, and, in consequence, the king obtained the pope's permission to suppress their monastery. (See PORT ROYAL.)

On 31 August, 1706, Clement XI addressed a Brief to Cardinal Noailles and another to Louis XIV, in which he scathingly reproved the French bishops for "usurping the plenitude of power which God has given exclusively to the Chair of St. Peter ", and demanded that they recant the scandalous declaration which they had appended to his Constitution "Vineam Domini". After various evasions Cardinal Noailles was finally prevailed upon, as the president of the Assembly, to sign, on 29 June, 1711, a document drawn up by the pope in which it was expressly stated that the acceptance of the bishops is not necessary to give the papal constitutions their binding force.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in whatever way Christ ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they said to me, 'Let us go ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people arrived and told him about ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2016 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his ... Read More