Quesnel, Pasquier

, a celebrated French ecclesiastic, was born July 14, 1634, at Paris. He entered the congregation of the Oratory, Nov. 17, 1657, and devoted himself wholly to the study of Scripture, and the Fathers, and the composition of works of piety. When scarcely | twenty-eight, he was appointed first director of the Institution of his order, at Paris, under father Jourdain; and began, in that house, his famous book of “Moral Reflections” on each verse of the New Testament, for the use of young pupils of the Oratory. This work originallyconsisted only of some devout meditations on our Saviour’s words; but M. de Lomenie, who, from being minister and secretary of state, had entered the Oratory, the marquis de Laigue, and other pious persons, being pleased with this beginning, requested father Quesnel to make similar reflections on every part of the four Gospels. Having complied, M. de Laigue mentioned the book to Felix de Vialart, bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne and that prelate, who was. much celebrated for his piety, adopted the work in his diocese, and recommended the reading- of it by a mandate of November 9, 1671, after having had it printed at Paris by Pralard the same year, with consent of the archbishop Harlai, the royal privilege, and the approbation of the doctors. Father Quesnel afterwards assisted in a new edition of St. Leo’s works. When De Harlai banished father De Sainte Marthe, general of the Oratory, he obliged father Quesnel, who was much attached to him, to retire to Orleans 1681. The general assembly of the Oratory having ordered, in 1684, the signature of a form of doctrine, drawn up in 1678, respecting various points of philosophy and theology, father Quesnel refused to sign it, and withdrew into the Spanish Netherlands, in February 1685. He took advantage of the absurd mixture of philosophy and theology introduced into this form. After this he went to M. Arnauld at Brussels, residing with him till his death, and there finished the “Moral Reflections” on the whole New Testament; which, thus completed, was first published in 1693 and 1694, and approved in 1695, by cardinal de Noailles, then bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne, who recommended it by a mandate to his clergy and people. When the same prelate became archbishop of Paris, he employed some divines to examine these “Reflections” carefully and it was after this revisal that they were published at Paris, 1699. This edition is more ample than any other. The celebrated archbishop of Meaux was also engaged on the subject; and “The Justification of the Moral Reflections, against the Problem,” appeared under his name 1710. The famous Case of Conscience gave occasion for renewing the disputes about the signature of the Formulary, and the | subject of Grace. Father Quesnel was arrested at Brussels, May 30, 1703, by order of the archbishop of Malines, and committed to prison but Don Livio, a young Spaniard, employed by the marquis d’Aremberg, released him September 13th following, and he remained concealed at Brussels till October 2; then quitted that place for Holland, where, arriving in April 1704, he published several pieces against the archbishop of Malines, who condemned him by a sentence dated November 10, 1704. This sentence father Quesnel attacked, and wrote in 1705 two tracts to prove it null one entitled, “Idee generale du Libelle, public en Latin,” &c. the other, “Anatomic de la Sentence de M. l’Archeveque de Malines.” Several pieces appeared, soon after, against the book of “Moral Reflections” two had been published before one entitled, “Le Pere Quesnel heretique” the other, “Le Pere Quesnel Seditieux.” These publications induced pope Clement XI. to condemn it altogether, by a decree of July 15, 1708; but this decree did not appease the contest, and father Quesnel refuted it with great warmth, 1709, in a work entitled “Entretiens sur le Décret de Rome, contre le Nouveau Testament de Chalons, accompagne de reflexions morales.” In the mean time, the bishops of Lucon, la Rochelle, and Gap, condemned his book by mandates, which were to be followed and supported by a letter addressed to the king, and signed by the greatest part of the French bishops. This was sent to them, ready drawn p but the plan was partly defeated for a packet intended by the abbe Bochart de Saron for the bishop of Clement, his uncle, and which contained a copy of the letter to the king, fell into the hands of cardinal de Noailles, and much contusion ensued. At length, the disputes on this subject still continuing, pope Clement XL*

*

The abbé Renaudot, one of the most learned men in France, being at Rome the first year of Clement XL'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 we see published a decree against it, and afterwards, in 1713, issued the famous bull Unigenitus; in which an hundred and one propositions extracted from it were condemned,

at the solicitation of Louis XIV. published, September 8, 1713, the celebrated bull beginning with the words, “Unigenitus Dei Filius,” by which he condemned father Quesnel’s book, with 101 | propositions extracted from it, and every thing that had been written, or that should be written, in its defence. This bull was received by the assembly of the French clergy, and registered in parliament, in 17 14, with modifications. Cardinal de Noailles, however, and seven other prelates refused, and lettres de cachet were issued by Louis XIV. against them but after his decease, the cardinal and several other bishops appealed from the bull to a general council, all which proceedings produced disputes in the French church that lasted nearly to the time of the revolution.

Quesnel died at Amsterdam, December 2, 1719, in his eighty-sixth year. He had been the author of many books of practical piety, and of many pieces in defence of himself, a list of which may be seen in Moreri. 1