Arnauld (1591-1661), about reforms to her convent. Nuns from Port-Royal became renowned for their piety, and their help was sought all over France for the reform of convent discipline. The abbey then became the spiritual centre of Jansenism in France, the movement based on the ideas of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, particularly those discussed in his posthumous work Augustinus (1642). Jansen advocated greater personal holiness, lay reading of and meditation on Scripture, lay participation in church services, scrupulous attention to morality, and less frequent communion for the faithful. These ideas were shared by Angelique Arnauld's brother Antoine, a priest and teacher at the Sorbonne, who published in 1643 De la fréquente communion, which was also an attack on the Jesuits.
Two papal bulls in 1653 and 1656 condemned some of the ideas contained in Augustinus, and in 1661 Louis XIV ordered all members of the French church to sign a statement indicating their adherence to the bulls. The nuns at Port-Royal refused, commenting that some (Jansenist-inclined) theologians argued that the papal bull misrepresented what Jansen had said, and that, as women, they were clearly not capable of making judgements about theological matters on which learned men disagreed. They pointed out that God's law (as stated by Paul in the New Testament) ordered women to keep silent on matters of theology, and that they were simply obeying this higher law rather than Louis' command. The nuns at Port-Royal may have learned how to use stereotypes about women's weakness and duty of obedience to their advantage from the writings of Teresa of Avila, whom Angelique Arnauld in particular greatly admired, and who had been made a saint in 1622. Louis XlV's newly appointed Archbishop Peréfix questioned the women, ordering them to sign the anti-Jansenist statement because of their duty of obedience to him and to their king. But most of them remained firm, stressing the primacy of God's law over man's law, and noting that their God-given power of reason indicated that the king and archbishop had ulterior motives. Peréfix then refused them the sacraments, exiling many of them to other convents, and placing those who remained under house arrest. A truce with the papacy quieted the debate for several decades, but in 1705 the Port-Royal nuns were ordered to accept another anti-Jansenist papal bull. They again refused, and in 1709 Louis XIV demolished the convent and banished the nuns to other houses.
The writings ofthe Port-Royal nuns, including reports of their interrogations by Archbishop Peréfix, became part of a body of Jansenist literature that continued to circulate, though Jansenism itself was increasingly suppressed and many Jansenist priests fled France. Jansenist laity continued to hold underground prayer meetings, and there is some evidence that women read and
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