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Episode 60: Jansenism - Interview with Shaun Blanchard
Episode 6031st May 2024 • Five Books for Catholics • Five Books for Catholics
00:00:00 00:41:08

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In this episode, Dr. Shaun Blanchard discusses the Jansenist controversy, its impact, and some of the best books on the subject:

  1. The Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal
  2. Adoration and Annihilation: The Convent Philosophy of Port-Royal by John J. Conley S.J.
  3. The Wanton Jesuit and the Wayward Saint: A Tale of Sex, Religion, and Politics in Eighteenth-Century France by Mita Choudhurye
  4. The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution, 1560-1791 by Dale K. Van Kley
  5. Jansenism: An International Anthology by Shaun Blanchard and Richard T. Yoder

Five Books for Catholics may receive a commission from qualifying purchases made using the affiliate links to the books listed.

In 1640, a theological treatise entitled Augustinus was published posthumously. Its subtitle was St. Augustine’s Teaching against the Pelagians and the Massalians on The Health, Sickness, and Medicine of Human Nature. Its author was Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638), who had been a professor at the University of Leuven and Bishop of Ypres, Flanders. In it, Jansen opposed certain Jesuit theologians, such as Luis de Molina, for their conception of grace and divine predestination. He defended instead what he took to be St. Augustine’s doctrine on these matters. Before long, proponents of this school of Augustinianism were branded Jansenists by their opponents. Moreover, very soon they were widespread in France, thanks largely to one of Jansen’s like-minded friends from his student days, Jean du Vergier de Hauranne (1581-1643), better known as the Abbé de Saint-Cyran. Saint-Cyran exerted this influence as a spiritual director and confessor of the Abbey of Port-Royal des Champs and through his association with the Arnauld family. Among the most influential figures associated with Port-Royal and the Jansenist movement were the Arnauld siblings (Marie-Angélique, Agnès, and Antoine) and Blaise Pascal. The movement was opposed vehemently by Jesuits, French monarchs, and was even censured by various popes. Many historians believe that, though long gone, the Jansenist controversy influenced the development of modernity and the Church decisively. 

Shaun Blanchard is Lecturer in Theology on the Fremantle campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia. He writes on a variety of topics in early modern and modern Catholicism, publishing in outlets like Commonweal, America, Church Life Journal, and The Tablet. He is the author of The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansensism and the Struggle for Catholic Reform (OUP: 2020) and, with Ulrich Lehner, co-edited The Catholic Enlightenment: A Global Anthology (CUA: 2021). With Stephen Bullivant, he co-wrote Vatican II: A Very Short Introduction (OUP: 2023) and with Richard T. Yoder, he has co-edited Jansenism: An International Anthology (CUA Press, forthcoming 2024).

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