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“Reformist Catholicism, Approximate Protestantism, and the Limits of Toleration in the Dutch Republic: Pierre Le Clerc and the Provincial Council of Utrecht, 1758-1769"


Dale Van Kley

Along with the Tuscan Synod of Pistoia in 1786, a congress of Rhenish archbishops in Ems the same year, and the two national councils in Paris in 1797 and 1801, a provincial church council convened by a Catholic clergy in the Dutch Republic in Utrecht in 1763 is one of the high points of a movement of reformist Catholicism during the “century of lights.” By holding councils independent of the papacy, that movement aspired to effect a return of the church to a more collegial and decentralized polity as well as a more Augustinian and rigorous penitential theology and less “superstitious” piety.

An excommunicated Catholic minority within a larger tolerated Catholic minority in a tolerant Protestant republic, in 1763 this clergy took advantage of a European-wide movement against the Jesuits to prove its orthodoxy to Rome by condemning the protestanizing doctrinal deviations of one its French members. The member, Pierre Le Clerc, took his revenge by publicly “outing” the council and forcing this clergy formally to excommunicate him, whereupon he appealed his excommunication to a future council just as the Utrecht clergy had earlier also appealed its excommunication by Rome. Yet Le Clerc’s ironic revenge did not prevent this council’s published Acts from resonating widely among reformist Catholics throughout Europe, especially in France.

About the Speaker

Dale Van Kley is emeritus professor of history at Ohio State University. His research focuses on Early Modern European history, particularly the French Revolution and French Catholicism.

This event is part of our monthly history colloquia series. These lectures are open to the Calvin community - students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends - and all are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Come early to enjoy refreshments and conversation, and feel free to ask questions or join the discussion at the end.

November 2016
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