In the early 1640s a controversy erupted at the University of Utrecht over the teachings of Henri Regis, an early Cartesian, and his followers. The controversy became violent and, as Rector of the University, Voetius had to step in and try to rectify things. This he did by putting forward a set of theses sharply critical of Descartes. Things began to escalate from there. Regis responded, with Descartes's help. Trying to calm the situation, the Utrecht magistrates banned the new philosophy from the University of Utrecht on March 24, 1642.
This Querelle d'Utrecht sparked up by the Calvinists naturally tended to annoy the largely Catholic Cartesians. It's not surprising, therefore, that Voetius comes under sharp criticism in Malebranche's Search after Truth (IV.vi; LO 293-294). Malebrance calls Voetius "an insignificant man" and "an ardent and vehement declaimer," regarding him as an irrational demagogue stirring up religious hatred against Catholics and physics:
Descartes was a Catholic; he studied under the Jesuits, and he often spoke of them with admiration. This was enough to enable this malign spirit to persuade the enemies of our religion (who are easily excitable over matters as delicate as those of religion) that Descartes is an emissary of the Jesuits with dangerous plots, because the slightest appearance of truth in matters of faith has more force upon men's minds than in real and positive truths of physics or metaphysics, to which they have given very little effort.
The criticism for which Malebranche has the most scorn is that Descartes must secretly be an atheist because his arguments for the existence of God are so bad.
Malebranche, after insisting that truth loves gentleness and peace, and will ultimately triumph goes on to encourage Catholics to give him a fair chance:
It is not surprising that an enemy of Descartes, a man of a religion different from his, an ambitious man who dremaed only of raising himself upon the ruins of those above him, a declaimer without judgment, in other words, a Voët, speaks with contempt about what he does not understand and does not wish to understand. But we have cause for astonishment when men who are neither enemies of Descartes nor of his religion have accepted the adverse and contemptuous opinions against him because of the insults they have read in books composed by the enemy of his person and his religion.
This heretic's book, entitled Desperatea causa papatus, sufficiently shows his impudence, ignorance, enthusiasm, and his desire for appeaing zealous in order to believe on his word. For just as we should not believe all the fables he has amassed in this book against our religion, so also we should not accept on his word the atrocious accusations and insults he has invented against his enemy.
He ends by encouraging everyone to read Descartes objectively and fairly:
Let a man read his works then, so that he might have other proofs against him than simple hearsay; and I hope that after he has read them and meditated them, Descartes will no longer be accused of atheism, and that on the contrary he will have all the respect that one should have for a man who has demonstrated in a very simple and evident way not only the existence of a God and the immortality of the soul but also an infinity of other truths that were unknown until his time.
The Utrecht Crisis peeps in here and there throughout the correspondence and philosophical texts of the time. Voltaire, for instance, calls Voetius a 'theological scamp'; and Spinoza, accused of atheism, takes a sort of resigned comfort in the parallel between his case and Descartes's.
(Cross-posted at Houyhnhnm Land)