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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Quesnel, Pasquier,

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a celebrated French priest or the Oratory, was born of Scottish descent, at Paris, in 1634. He studied at the Sorbonne, and in 1657 entered the Congregation, to which his two brothers belonged also. Those were times that tried men's souls. All France was agitated by the controversy which threatened the exodus of Holland from the domain of Romanism. The heresy of Jansen had found warm advocates in France also, and Quesnel was himself one of the most ardent of these. In 1671 he brought out his Abrege de la Morale de l'Evangile, which constitutes only the opening of the now celebrated work of his, Le Nouveau Testament en Francais, avec des Reflexions Morales (first complete ed. Paris, 1687, and often since). This work most unequivocally condemned much in the papacy, and advocated pretty boldly many features of Jansenism. Voltaire says that thirty pages of this book, properly qualified and softened, would have prevented much of the disturbance which Jansenism created in France. In 1675, Quesnel made the breach wider by his publication of the works of Leo I and of St. Hilary of Aries, greatly enriched by marginal notes, in the interest and defence of the rights of the Gallican Church. Of course, the book was placed on the Index, and its author proscribed at Rome. The superior of the Oratorians, pere Abel de Sainte-Marthe, was himself an enthusiastic Jansenist, and positively endorsed Quesnel. But when the archbishop of Paris, De Harlay, exiled Sainte-Marthe, Quesnel found France a very undesirable home, and he determined to go beyond its borders. In 1681 he was not even left to make his choice, for he was in that year driven from Paris. At first he went to Orleans.

His persistent refusal to abandon Jansenism made him uncomfortable here also. In 1684, finally, his order promulgated an anti-Jansenistic formula and demanded the signature of all its members. Quesnel refused to comply, and, feeling insecure, retired to Brussels, where he found the great Arnauld living, also in exile, on account of his Jansenistic proclivities. The two theologians became intimate companions and wrought much together, until the death of Arnauld, in 1694, terminated their relations. One of the most telling labors in defence of Jansenism brought out at Brussels by Quesnel was his Reflexions Morales. Notwithstanding its favorable treatment of Jansenism, the work, by its spirit of devotion and fervor, attracted many readers and warm admirers. Its beauties made even the moderate Ultramontanes forget the Jansenistic proclivities of the pen that wrote it, and all bestowed high encomiums on it. Several bishops were loud in its praises. Even the ultra- Jesuits would read it to catch its holy influences; and Voltaire (Siecle de Louis XIV, vol. ii) asserts that it was freely read at Rome.

He tells the story that the abbd Renaudot, one of the most learned men in France, being at Rome the first year of Clement Xi's pontificate, went one day to wait upon this pope, who loved men of letters, and was himself a man of learning, and found him reading Quesnel's book. "This," said his holiness, "is an excellent performance; we have no one at Rome capable of writing in this manner. I wish I could have the author near me." Yet this very pope in 1708 published a decree against it, and afterwards, in 1713, issued the famous bull Unigenitus, in which were condemned a hundred and one propositions extracted from it. We must not, however, look upon this condemnation of Clement XI as a contradiction to the encomium he had before given; it proceeded entirely from reasons of state. The warmest advocate of the Reflexions was cardinal de Noailles (q.v.). While still bishop of Chalons he had defended Quesnel's works. Later, in the archiepiscopal see of Paris, he again espoused the cause of the PortRoyalists, and, of course, of Quesnel. In 1696 he even brought out an edition of the Reflexions at Paris. But the Jesuits were at work, and they finally succeeded in securing the pope's disapproval of the work, and in blackening the character of its author. They accused him of plotting against the authorities and as a dangerous and seditious person.

In 1703 Quesnel was arrested by order of king Philip V, at the instigation of the archbishop of Malines, and put in prison. He was rescued, however, by Jansenistic friends, and made good his escape to Amsterdam, where he spent the remainder of his days building up Jansenism in Holland and strengthening it in France and Belgium also. He died in 1719. The titles of all his writings fill in Moreri several columns. We have room here to mention only, L'Idee du Sacerdoce et du Sacrifice de Jesus-Christ (Par. 1688, 12mo): Causa Arnaldina (ibid. 1697, 8vo): La Paix de Clement IX, ou Demonstration des deux Faussetes Capitales avancees dans l'Histoire de cinq Propositions contre la Foi des Disciples de Saint-Augustin, etc. (ibid. 1701, 2 vols. 12mo): Consultation sur le Famneux Cas de Conscience (ibid. 1704, 12mo): La Discipline de Eglise (ibid. 1698, 2 vols. 4to): Tradition de I'Eglise Romaine sur la Predestination des Saints et stur la Grace Efficace (ibid. 1687. 4 vols. 12mo). See Guettei, Hist. de l'Eglis e de France, vols. x and xi; Ceillier, Dict. Hist. des Aut. Ecclesiastes; Jervis, Hist. of the Church of France (see Index); Reuchlin, Gesch. v. Port- Royal, vol. ii; Neander, Christian Dogmas; Hagenbach, Hist. of Rationalism, p. 381; Princeton Review, 1856, p. 132; Moreri, Dict. Historique, s.v. (J. H. W.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Quesnel, Pasquier,'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/q/quesnel-pasquier.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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