Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem

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This letter was issued by Alexander VII, and is dated at Rome, 16 October, 1656, the second year of his pontificate. It is a confirmation of the Constitution of Innocent X, by which he condemned five propositions taken from the work entitled Augustinus of Cornelius Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres. The letter opens with an explanation of the reason for its publication. It observes that, although what has already been defined in the Apostolic Constitutions needs no confirmation by any future decisions, yet, since some try to cast doubt upon these definitions or to neutralise their effort by false interpretations, the apostolic authority must not defer using a prompt remedy against the spread of the evil. The letter then refers to the decision of Innocent X, and quotes the words of its title in order to show that it was a decision for all the faithful. But as a controversy had arisen, especially in France, on five propositions taken from the Augustinus, several French bishops submitted them to Alexander VII for a clear, definite decision. The letter thus enumerates these five propositions: (1) There are some divine precepts which are impossible of observance by just men willing and trying to observe them according to their present strength; the grace also is wanting to them, by which those precepts are possible. (2) In the state of fallen nature interior grace is not resisted. (3) For merit and demerit, in the state of fallen nature, libertas a necessitate (liberty to choose) is not necessary for man; libertas a coactione (freedom from external compulsion) is enough. (4) The Semipelagians admitted the necessity of interior preventing grace (praevenientis gratiae interioris) for each and every act, even for the beginning of faith (initium fidei); and in that they were heretical, inasmuch as they held that grace to be such as the human will could resist or obey. (5) It is Semipelagian to say that Christ died, or shed His blood for all men.

The letter then goes on to declare that, those five propositions having been submitted to due examination each was found to be heretical. The letter repeats each proposition singly, and formally condemns it. It next declares that the decision binds all the faithful, and enjoins on all bishops to enforce it, and adds, "We are not to be understood, however, by making this declaration and definition on those five propositions, as at all approving other opinions contained in the above-named book of Cornelius Jansenius." Moreover, since some still insisted that those propositions were not to be found in the Augustinus, or were not meant by the author in the sense in which they were condemned, the letter furthermore declares that they are contained in the Augustinus, and have been condemned according to the sense of the author.

Bullarium Romanum (ed. Turin, 1869), XVI, 245-247.

M. O'RIORDAN