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Unigenitus, the 1713 bull that condemned Jansenism, and Augustiniane, and Bible reading in particular

Unigenitus, is a 1713 bull that condemned Jansenism. Lewis XIV requested it, in an interesting battle against French bishops where he called in the Pope while trying to be careful to preserve the autonomy of the Church of France. It was a “Condemnation of the Errors of Paschasius Quesnell “.

The 101 statements condemned include quite a few on faith as God’s choosing who will be saved rather than the person choosing it himself:


14. How far soever an obstinate sinner be removed from salvation, when Jesus presenteth himself to be beheld by him in the salutary light of his grace, it must be that he give himself up, run forward, humble himself, and adore his Saviour. Mark v. 1693.

30. All whom God willeth to save through Christ, are infallibly saved. John vi. 40.

The most shocking are the ones where the Jansenists say that people should read the Bible, which the Pope condemned as heretical. How did the Roman Catholic Church retreat from this official teaching of the Pope, made after careful consultation as an official statement of doctrine?


79. It is useful and necessary at every time, in every place, and for every kind of persons, to study and know the spirit, piety, and mysteries of sacred Scripture. 1 Cor. xiv. 6.

80.The reading of sacred Scripture is for all. Acts viii. 28.

81. The obscurity of the holy word of God is not a reason for the laity to excuse themselves from the reading thereof. Acts viii. 31.

82. The Lord’s day ought to be sanctified by Christians with the readings of piety, and above all, of the holy Scriptures. It is damnable to wish to restrain a Christian from such reading. Acts xv. 21.

83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that a knowledge of the mysteries of religion ought not to be communicated to females by the reading of the sacred books. The abuse of the Scriptures has arisen, and heresies have sprung up, not from the simplicity of women, but from the haughty knowledge of men. John iv. 26.

84. To snatch the New Testament out of the hands of Christians, or to keep it closed to them, by taking from them that method of understanding it, is to shut the mouth of Christ against them. Matt. v. 2.

85. To interdict to Christians the reading of sacred Scripture, especially of the Gospel, is to interdict the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a certain kind of excommunication. Luke xi. 33.

86. To snatch from the simple people this consolation, of joining their voice to the voice of the whole Church, is a custom contrary to the apostolic practice, and to the intention of God. 1 Cor. xiv. 16.

Some say that excommunication can be wrongfully applied and the Christian should not fear it if it is done wrongfully:


91. The fear of unjust excommunication ought never to hinder us from fulfilling our duty; we are never [effectually] removed from the Church, even when we seem expelled from it by the wickedness of men, seeing we are by charity affixed to God, Jesus Christ, and the Church itself. John ix. 22, 23.

92.Rather to suffer excommunication and unjust anathema in peace, than to betray the truth, is to imitate the holy Paul; so far is it from being [so] to upraise oneself against authority, or to sever unity. Rom. ix. 3.

Some say that the Church has at least some evil within it:


97. It too often happens, that those members which are more holily and more strictly united to the Church, are looked upon and treated as unworthy, so that they should be in the Church, even as separated from it; but the just lives by faith, and not from the opinion of men. Acts iv. 11.

98. The state of persecution and punishments, which any one endures, as if a wicked and impious heretic, is, for the most part, the last and most meritorious probation, as being the one which renders a man most like unto Jesus Christ. Luke xxii. 37.

99. Pertinacity, prevention, obstinacy in being unwilling either to examine anything, or to perceive that one has been deceived, do daily, in the case of many, change into the odour of death that which God placed in his Church to be therein the odour of life, to wit, good books, instructions, holy examples, &c. 2 Cor. ii. 16.

100. The deplorable season, in which it is believed that God is honoured by persecuting truth and its disciples, this time hath arrived…. To be held and treated by the ministers of religion as impious, and unworthy all commerce with God, as a rotten member, capable of corrupting all in the society of the holy, is, for pious men, a death more terrible than the death of the body. In vain does any one flatter himself respecting the purity of his intentions, and a certain zeal for religion, by persecuting good men with fire and sword, if he is blinded by his own passion, or carried away by another’s, because he is unwilling to examine anything. We frequently believe we sacrifice the impious one to God, and sacrifice the servant of God to the devil. John xvi. 2.

The Pope makes it very clear that he condemns the propositions above as evil and that no good Christian can hold them:

We by this our constitution, destined to be in effect for ever, declare, condemn, and reprobate all and each of the previously inserted propositions as false, captious, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, and contumelious not only to the Church, but also to the secular powers; seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and savouring of heresy itself, and also as abetting heretics and heresies, and also schism, erroneous, near akin to heresy, several times condemned, and finally heretical…

We command all the faithful in Christ of both sexes not to presume to think of the aforesaid propositions, to teach them, to preach them otherwise than is contained in this same our constitution; so that whosoever shall teach, defend, publish them or any of them, conjointly or separately, or shall treat of them publicly or privately, even by way of disputing, unless perhaps for the purpose of impugning them, let him by the very fact, without other declaration, lie under ecclesiastical censures, and other penalties enacted by law against those perpetrating such acts.

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