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The Seventeenth Century:
The Thirty Year War and The Enlightenment


Three historical highpoints define this century.

Missionary Activity

The Church's missionary activity continued with great intensity and progress. The Jesuit, St. Peter Claver (1580-1654) evangelized Columbia, other Jesuits penetrated Canada and missionary groups made their way through Africa. The Gospel was being preached in Japan and in America, missions were being established in the southwest - Florida, Georgia and Texas.

The Thirty Years War

Emperor Ferdinand of Austria in 1618 launched a war in Germany. His purpose for this war was to try and re-establish Catholic dominance in that country. After thirty years of fighting the war ended in a stalemate. Ferdinand's plans for a Catholic Germany failed. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. This treaty gave Catholics and Protestants "equality before the laws in Germany".

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was a movement founded on science and reason. This movement consisted of anti-religious elements and in many ways became a religion of its own. Two theological positions that emerged out of the Enlightenment which threatened the Church, especially in France, were: Jansenism and Gallicanism.

Jansenism was named after Bishop Cornelius Jansen. Bishop Jansen wrote a work in 1640 entitled "Augustinus". This work, published after his death, claimed that God gave grace only to those He "wished" to save. This theory was very much in line with the heresy of predestination taught by the Calvanists.

In practicing their faith, the Jansenists were greatly opposed to frequent communion, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and prayers to the saints and the Blessed Mother. By the end of the seventeenth century, papal condemnations and fierce opposition from the Jesuits helped bring an end to Jansenism.

Gallicanism was a movement fueled by kings and monarchs, specifically Louis XIV of France, to limit the power of the papacy and put that power in the hands of government. King Louis XIV went so far as to demand that Gallican beliefs concerning papal authority be taught in the universities and seminaries.