Is Jansenism today the same as historical Jansenism?

I hear people speak about Jansenism infiltrating the Church at times in modern times. Is there any basis to this and also is this the same movement that was historically named Jansenism? A definition of it says it is
A system of grace developed by Cornelius Jansen, or Cornelius Jansenius (1585-1638), theologian at Louvain and later Bishop of Ypres. As a school of theology, it should be seen in two stages, namely the original position of Jansenius and its later development by his followers.
Jansenius’ own teaching is contained in the book Augustinus, which he spent years in writing and was published two years after his death. According to Jansenius, man’s free will is incapable of any moral goodness. All man’s actions proceed either from earthly desires, which stem from concupiscence, or from heavenly desires, which are produced by grace. Each exercises an urgent influence on the human will, which in consequence of its lack of freedom always follows the pressure of the stronger desire. Implicit in Jansenism is the denial of the supernatural order, the possibility of either rejection or acceptance of grace. Accordingly those who receive the grace will be saved; they are the predestined. All others will be lost. Jansenism was condemned as heretical in five major propositions by Pope Innocent X in 1653. It was recondemned by Pope Alexander VII in 1656, when Jansenists claimed that their doctrine was misrepresented.
The later developments of Jansenism were built on the earlier foundations but went beyond them in a number of ways. Stress on God’s selective salvation produced a general harshness and moral rigorism, denying God’s mercy to all mankind. Disregard of papal teaching led to an arbitrary attitude toward the use of the sacraments, notably reducing the frequency of penance and the Eucharist, and giving rise to Gallicanism, which denied papal primacy and infallibility. In 1794, Pope Pius VI condemned a series of eighty-five propositions of the Italian Jansenists led by Scipione de’ Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia and Prato. Among the propositions was the claim that the authority of the Church depends on the consent of its members and that the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop is independent of the Pope.

So when I hear the term used in modern context is this to be understood as the same theological view that the historical Jansenism had?

When I hear Jansenism mentioned in modern context, it seems to me to just be used as a slur against those that affirm the Catholic teaching that one must be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion.


Yah that’s kind of what I thought.
That’s actually what confused me about it to be honest is people seem to use it for different reasons like they just throw the word out there having no idea what it means.
Someone once told me " the Church had a period of Jansenism following the spirit of Vatican 2 where people stopped viewing the tabernacle as the center of worship and instead focused on other aspects of worship to replace it."
I looked up what exactly Jansenism is because I had no idea what this guy was talking about and I still don’t. It’s almost like he heard the term used in a negative context and decided to just spew it for anything he felt like saying. Because that definitely has nothing to do with it historically.

Catholic Encyclopedia, Jansenius and Jansenism:

Such is, in outline, the historical account of Jansenism, its origin, its phases, and its decline. It is evident that, besides its attachment to the “Augustinus” and its rigorism in morals, it is distinguished among heresies for crafty proceedings, chicane and lack of frankness on the part of its adherents, especially their pretence of remaining Catholics without renouncing their errors, of staying in the Church despite the Church itself, by skilfully eluding or braving with impunity the decisions of the supreme authority. Such conduct is beyond doubt without a parallel in the annals of Christianity previous to the outbreak of Jansenism in fact, it would be incredible if we did not in our own day find in certain groups of Modernists examples of this astonishing and absurd duplicity. The deplorable consequences, both theoretical and practical, of the Jansenist system, and of the polemics to which it gave rise, may readily be gathered from what has been said, and from the history of the last few centuries.

Forget, J. (1910). Jansenius and Jansenism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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Thank you for this excellent citation! This is exactly the kind of example I was looking for.
So basically Jansenism today is referring to someone who claims to be Catholic but doesn’t really follow the Church teachings or renounce when they have false views.
So basically calling someone that isn’t really calling someone a Jansenist in the context that they follow what it originally stood for but more so the fact that Jansenisms original subscribers were told they were wrong in belief a couple times yet continued subscribing to the heresy regardless while retaining that they were still true Catholics and refusing to renounce their erroneous beliefs and a lack of respecting authority in the Church. That’s interesting.

Historically, Jansenism is said to have continued as an influential movement within the Church in France all through the nineteenth century, and possibly later. But are there still people now who describe themselves as Jansenists, and who proclaim the same doctrines as the original Jansenists? Possibly there are, but we never seem to hear of them as an organized faction operating under that name, do we?

One thing we do see quite often is the so-called Jansenist crucifix, where Jesus is shown hanging from the cross with his arms close together, to symbolize that his salvation embraces only a select few.



You are welcome. It seems that it is a general term for behavior, but also note that you may encounter persons, even on this forum, that hold ideas of Jansenius or Baius today. Jansenius concluded incorrectly from writings of St. Augustine, that the will is essentially deficient and can perform no morally good work at all without grace and that God does not have universal salvic will, denying free will of man in the acceptance and use of grace.

For example:

Jansenius taught, as did Baius, that supernatural grace was part of the very essence of man. Hence, when grace was lost due to original sin, the nature of man was essentially impaired. If man’s nature, then, is essentially corrupt, the will is no longer master of its decisions. Its freedom is only freedom from external violence, not freedom from necessity.2 The will is then incapable of doing good and cannot resist the grace of God.3 It must always obey the strongest impression or, what Jansenius calls, the “delectatio victrix”. This means that we must act according to that which gives us most pleasure.4 … According to Jansenius, fallen man cannot help sinning continually. This is because he is deprived of grace.5 He claims that God refuses to give grace to some people among whom are sinners and infidels, and that those to whom God does give grace cannot resist it.6 In other words, Jansenius denies the doctrine of sufficient grace.7 Grace, in the teaching of Jansenius, necessitates the consent of the will. Thus man sins because he lacks grace and consequently his damnation is not due to his own free will but to the predestination of God who refuses to give him the grace sufficient to be saved. A consequence of this teaching is that Christ did not die for all men and does not wish all men to be saved.8

– The Condemnation of Jansenism by George E. Tiffany,

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If I’m not mistaken though didn’t Baius refute his errors after the Papal Bull?
The problem with condemning Cornelius Jansen over his work, Augustinus was that it was published two years after his death, so God knows if he would have submitted to the Pope. Technically I don’t think he was in error because he never got a chance to be corrected. Or can someone be posthumously called heretical? Actually that’s probably allowed as John Wycliffe was posthumously called a heretic in 1415 when he died 30 years earlier.
But Jansens followers were the ones who promoted his writing more than anything and began an popular movement in the 17th century.

There used to be a website (no longer active) of an actual Jansenist, who considered all the Popes who condemned Jansenism to be heretics and antipopes, but that’s about it.

As far as in the Church, the reformed Mass and certain liturgical archeologisms commonly associated with it resemble Jansenist ideas of liturgy, but that’s about it. If anything, the more common problem today is the opposite extremes to Jansenism.

Popes often condemned the errors not the particular man:

  • Pope St. Pius V 1566-1572, codemned the errors of Michael de Bay (Michael Baius) in the Bull Ex omnibus afflictionibus, Oct. 1, 1567.
  • Pope Gregory XIII 1572-1585, confirmed condemnation made by Pope St. Pius V in the Bull Provisionis nostrae, Jan. 29, 1579.
  • Pope Urban VIII, condemned the work Augustinus with bull In eminenti in 1642.
  • Pope Alexander VII 1655-1667, condemned five errors of Cornelius Jansen in the Constitutions Cum occasione, May 31, 1658.
  • Pope CLEMENT XI 1700-1721, condemned the errors of Paschasius Quesnel in the dogmatic Constitution, Unigenitus, Sept. 8, 1713.

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