Suppression of the Society of Jesus
|Society of Jesus|
History of the Jesuits
The suppression of the Jesuits in the Portuguese Empire, France, the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma and the Spanish Empire by 1767 was a result of a series of political moves in each polity rather than a theological controversy. Monarchies attempting to centralize and secularize political power viewed the Jesuits as being too international, too strongly allied to the papacy, and too autonomous from the monarchs in whose territory they operated. By the brief Dominus ac Redemptor (21 July 1773) Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits took refuge in non-Catholic nations, particularly in Prussia and Russia, where the order was ignored or formally rejected. The scholarly Jesuit Society of Bollandists moved from Antwerp to Brussels, where they continued their work in the monastery of the Coudenberg; in 1788, the Bollandist Society was suppressed by the Austrian government of the Low Countries.
By the mid-18th century, the Society had acquired a reputation in Europe for political maneuvering and economic exploitation. The Jesuits were regarded by their opponents as greedy plotters, prone to meddle in state affairs through their close ties with influential members of the royal court in order to further the special interests of their order and the Papacy.
Monarchs in many European states grew progressively wary of what they saw as undue interference from a foreign entity. The expulsion of Jesuits from their states had the added benefit of allowing governments to impound the Society's accumulated wealth and possessions. However, historian Charles Gibson cautions, "[h]ow far this served as a motive for the expulsion we do not know."
Various states took advantage of different events in order to take action. The series of political struggles between various monarchs, particularly France and Portugal, began with disputes over territory in 1750 and culminated in suspension of diplomatic relations and dissolution of the Society by the Pope over most of Europe, and even some executions. The Portuguese Empire, France, the Two Sicilies, Parma and the Spanish Empire were involved to one degree or another.
The conflicts began with trade disputes, in 1750 in Portugal, in 1755 in France, and in the late 1750s in the Two Sicilies. In 1758 the government of Joseph I of Portugal took advantage of the waning powers of Pope Benedict XIV and deported Jesuits from America after relocating the Jesuits and their native workers, and then fighting a brief conflict, formally suppressing the order in 1759. In 1762 the Parlement Français, (a court, not a legislature), ruled against the Society in a huge bankruptcy case under pressure from a host of groups - from within the Church, but also secular intellectuals and the king's mistress. Austria and the Two Sicilies suppressed the order by decree in 1767.
As the Napoleonic Wars were approaching their end in 1814, the old political order of Europe was to a considerable extent restored at the Congress of Vienna after years of fighting and revolution, during which the Church had been persecuted as an agent of the old order and abused under the rule of Napoleon. With the political climate of Europe changed and more stable, and with the powerful monarchs who had called for the suppression of the Society no longer in power, Pope Pius VII issued an order restoring the Society of Jesus in the Catholic countries of Europe. For its part, the Society of Jesus made the decision at the first General Congregation held after the restoration to keep the organization of the Society the way that it had been before the suppression was ordered in 1773.
After 1815, with the Restoration, the Catholic Church began to play a more welcome role in European political life once more. Nation by nation the Jesuits became re-established.
The modern view is that the suppression of the order was the result of a series of political and economic conflicts rather than a theological controversy and the assertion of nation-state independence against the Catholic Church. The expulsion of the Society of Jesus from the Roman Catholic nations of Europe and their colonial empires is also seen as one of the early manifestations of the new secularist zeitgeist of the Enlightenment. It peaked with the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. The suppression was also seen as being an attempt by monarchs to gain control of revenues and trade that were previously dominated by the Society of Jesus. Catholic historians often point to a personal conflict between Pope Clement XIII (1758–1769) and his supporters within the church and the crown cardinals backed by France.
In addition to 1767, the Jesuits were suppressed and banned twice more in Spain, in 1834 and in 1932. Spanish ruler Francisco Franco rescinded the final suppression in 1938.
They were also exiled from Russia in 1820.
The suppression of the Jesuits in France began in the French island colony of Martinique, where the Society of Jesus had a major commercial stake. They did not and could not engage in trade, buying and selling to make a profit, any more than any other religious order could do, but their large mission plantations included large local populations that worked under the usual conditions of tropical colonial agriculture of the 18th century, not easily distinguishable from the hacienda system. As the Catholic Encyclopedia expressed it in 1908, "this was allowed, partly to provide for the current expenses of the mission, partly in order to protect the simple, childlike natives from the common plague of dishonest intermediaries."
Father Antoine La Vallette, Superior of the Martinique missions, managed these transactions with great success, and like secular proprietors of plantations he needed to borrow money to expand the large undeveloped resources of the colony. But on the outbreak of war with England, ships carrying goods of an estimated value of 2,000,000 livres were captured, and La Vallette suddenly went bankrupt for a very large sum. His creditors turned to the Order's Procurator at Paris to demand payment, but the Procurator refused responsibility for the debts of an independent mission— though he offered to negotiate for a settlement. The creditors went to the courts, and an order was made in 1760, obliging the Society to pay, and giving leave to distrain in the case of non-payment.
The Fathers, on the advice of their lawyers, appealed to the Parlement of Paris. This turned out to be an imprudent step. For not only did the Parlement support the lower court, May 8, 1761, but having once gotten the case into its hands, the Jesuits' enemies in that assembly determined to strike a blow at the Order.
The Jesuits had many opponents. The Jansenists were numerous among the enemies of the orthodox party. The Sorbonne joined the Gallicans, the Philosophes, and the Encyclopédistes. Louis XV was weak; his wife and children were in favor of the Jesuits; his able first minister, the Duc de Choiseul, played into the hands of the Parlement, and the royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour, to whom the Jesuits had refused absolution, for she was living in sin with the King of France, was a determined opponent. The determination of the Parlement of Paris in time bore down all opposition.
The attack on the Jesuits was opened by the Jansenist sympathizer, the Abbé Chauvelin, April 17, 1762, who denounced the Constitution of the Jesuits, which was publicly examined and exposed in a hostile press. The Parlement issued its Extraits des assertions assembled from passages from Jesuit theologians and canonists, in which they were alleged to teach every sort of immorality and error. On August 6, 1762, the final arrêt was proposed to the Parlement by the Advocate General, Joly de Fleury condemning the Society to extinction, but the king's intervention brought eight months' delay and meantime a compromise was suggested by the Court. If the French Jesuits would separate from the order, under a French vicar, with French customs, as with the Gallican Church, the Crown would still protect them. In spite of the dangers of refusal the Jesuits would not consent. On April 1, 1763 the colleges were closed, and by a further arrêt of March 9, 1764, the Jesuits were required to renounce their vows under pain of banishment. At the end of November 1764, the king signed an edict dissolving the Society throughout his dominions, for they were still protected by some provincial parlements, as in Franche-Comté, Alsace, and Artois. But in the draft of the edict, he canceled numerous clauses that implied that the Society was guilty, and writing to Choiseul, he concluded "If I adopt the advice of others for the peace of my realm, you must make the changes I propose, or I will do nothing. I say no more, lest I should say too much."
Malta was at the time a vassal of the Kingdom of Sicily, and Grandmaster Manuel Pinto da Fonseca - himself a Portuguese - followed suit, expelling the Jesuits from the island and seizing their assets. These assets were used in establishing the University of Malta by a decree signed by Pinto on 22 November 1769 - an important lasting effect on the social and cultural life of Malta. The Church of the Jesuits (in Maltese Knisja tal-Ġiżwiti), one of the oldest churches in Valletta, retains this name up to the present.
The independent Duchy of Parma was the smallest Bourbon court. So aggressive in its anti-clericalism was the Parmesan reaction to the news of the expulsion of the Jesuits from Naples, that Clement XIII addressed to it (January 30, 1768) a public warning, threatening the Duchy with ecclesiastical censures, not a tactful move. At this all the Bourbon courts turned in fury against the Holy See, and demanded the entire dissolution of the Jesuits. As a preliminary, Parma at once drove the Jesuits out of its territories, confiscating all their possessions.
The royal decree banishing the Society of Jesus from Spain and the Spanish dominions reached Manila on May 17, 1768. Between 1769 and 1771 the Jesuits in the Philippines were transported to Spain and from there deported to Italy.
Poland and Lithuania
Jesuit order was disbanded in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1773; however the order branches in the lands of the Russian Partition of the First Partition of Poland were not disbanded, as Russian Empress Catherine did not acknowledge the Papal order. In the Commonwealth, many of the Jesuit order possessions were taken over by the Commission of National Education, the world's first Ministry of Education. Lithuania was also very suppressionable by society.
Portugal's quarrel with the Jesuits began over an exchange of South American colonial territory with Spain. By a secret treaty of 1750, Portugal relinquished to Spain the contested Colonia del Sacramento at the mouth of the Uruguay River in exchange for the Seven Reductions of Paraguay, the autonomous Jesuit missions that had been nominal Spanish colonial territory. The native Guaraní, who lived in the mission territories, were ordered to quit their country and settle across the Uruguay. Owing to the harsh conditions, the Guaraní rose in arms against the transfer, and the so-called Guaraní War ensued. It was a disaster for the Guaraní. In Portugal a battle of inflammatory pamphlets denouncing or defending the Order escalated. The Jesuit fathers were forbidden to continue the local administration of their former missions, and the Portuguese Jesuits were deported from South America.
On April 1, 1758, the Count of Oeiras (later Marquess of Pombal) persuaded the aged Pope Benedict XIV to appoint the Portuguese Cardinal Saldanha, to investigate the allegations against the Jesuits. Benedict was skeptical as to the gravity of the alleged abuses. He ordered a "minute inquiry", but so as to safeguard the reputation of the Society, all serious matters were to be referred back to him. Benedict died the following month on May 3. On May 15, Saldanha, having received the papal brief only a fortnight before, declared that the Jesuits were guilty of having exercised "illicit, public, and scandalous commerce", both in Portugal and in its colonies. He had not visited Jesuit houses as ordered, and pronounced on the issues which the pope had reserved to himself.
Pombal implicated the Jesuits in the Távora affair, an attempted assassination of the king on September 3, 1758, on the grounds of their friendship with some of the supposed conspirators. On 19 January, 1759, he issued a decree sequestering the property of the Society in the Portuguese dominions and the following September deported the Portuguese fathers, about one thousand in number, to the Pontifical States, keeping the foreigners in prison. Among those arrested and executed was He then denounced Gabriel Malagrida, the Jesuit confessor of Leonor of Távora for crimes against the faith. Malagrida was executed and in 1759, the Order was civilly suppressed. The Portuguese ambassador was recalled from Rome and the papal nuncio expelled. Diplomatic relations between Portugal and Rome were broken off until 1770.
Jesuits were supported by Emperess Catherine, so the order dissolution was delayed in the Russian Empire. However, few decades later pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church influenced Tsar Alexander I to exile the Jesuits in 1820.
Spanish Empire and Naples
The Suppression in Spain and in the Spanish colonies, and in its dependency, the Kingdom of Naples, was the last of the expulsions, with Portugal (1759) and France (1764) having already set the pattern. The Spanish crown had already begun a series of administrative and other changes in their overseas empire, such as reorganizing the viceroyalties, rethinking economic policies, and establishing a military, so that the expulsion of the Jesuits is seen as part of this general trend, known generally as the Bourbon Reforms. The aim of the reforms was to curb the increasing autonomy and self-confidence of American-born Spaniards and reassert crown control. Some historians doubt that the Jesuits were guilty of intrigues against the Spanish crown that were used as the immediate cause for the expulsion.
The expulsion was carried through in secrecy, and the ministers of Charles III kept their deliberations to themselves, as did the king who acted upon "urgent, just, and necessary reasons, which I reserve in my royal mind;". The correspondence of Bernardo Tanucci, the anti-clerical minister of Charles III in Naples contain all the ideas which from time to time guided Spanish policy. Charles conducted his government through Count Aranda, a reader of Voltaire, and other liberals. At a council meeting of January 29, 1767, the expulsion of the Society of Jesus was settled. Secret orders, which were to be opened at midnight between the first and second of April, 1767, were sent to the magistrates of every town where a Jesuit resided. The plan worked smoothly. That morning, 6000 Jesuits were marched to the coast, where they were deported, first to the Papal States, and ultimately to Corsica, which was a dependency of Genoa (though soon to be passed to France). Historian Charles Gibson calls the Spanish crown's expulsion of the Jesuits a "sudden and devastating move", in order to assert royal control. However, they were a vulnerable target for the crown's moves to assert more control over the church, since other religious orders and the diocesan clergy as well as the civil authorities were hostile to them and did not protest the expulsion. There were popular protests in some areas against the expulsion, including Mexico, which were put down by the crown by force; however, "royal magistrates and prelates seemed to vie with one another in carrying out the royal orders."
In Mexico, the Jesuits had been active in evangelizing the Indians on the northern frontier, but their main activity was in educating creole elites, many of whom themselves became Jesuits. Of the 678 Jesuits expelled from Mexico, 75% were Mexican-born. There were protests in Mexico at the exile of so many Jesuit members of elite families, but the Jesuits themselves obeyed the order. Since the Jesuits had owned extensive landed estates in Mexico, which supported both their evangelization of the indigenous as well as their education mission to creole elites, the properties were a source of wealth for the crown. The crown auctioned them off, benefiting the treasury, and the creole purchasers gained productive well-run properties. Many American-born Spanish (creole) families were outraged at the crown's actions, regarding it as a "despotic act." One of the Mexican Jesuits who lived out his life in Italian exile was Francisco Javier Clavijero, who wrote an important history of Mexico with emphasis on the indigenous peoples.
Due to the isolation of the Spanish missions in California, the decree for expulsion did not arrive in June 1767, as in the rest of New Spain, but was delayed until the new governor, Portolà, arrived with the news on November 30. Jesuits from the fourteen operating missions at the moment reunited in Loreto, whence they left for exile on February 3, 1768. The Jesuit missions in Baja California were turned over to the Franciscans and the missions in Alta California which would otherwise have been Jesuit institutions were founded by the Franciscans.
It took until 1768 for the Royal order to reach the Jesuit missions in the south of the Philippines, but by the end of the year, the Jesuits had been dispossessed throughout the Spanish dominions.
In Naples Tanucci pursued a similar policy. On November 3 the Jesuits, without a trial or even an accusation, were simply marched across the frontier into the Papal States, and threatened with death if they returned.
The change in the Spanish colonies in the New World was particularly great, as the far-flung settlements were often dominated by missions. Almost overnight in the mission towns of Sonora and Arizona, the "black robes" (as the Jesuits were often known) disappeared and the "gray robes" (Franciscans) replaced them.
The suppression of the order had longstanding economic effects in the Americas, particularly those areas where they had their missions or reductions — outlying areas dominated by indigenous peoples such as Paraguay and Chiloé Archipelago. In Central Chile the suppression of the order led among other things to a sharp decrease in the import of black slaves from Peru, which although small in comparison to neighboring colonies had led the order to own the largest number of black slaves in Chile, 1300 approximately. It should be clarified here that the Jesuit Order never owned slaves for the purposes of slavery--to create a source of free labor. The Order's aims were to Christianize people. If for the purposes of legal defense of the slaves they had to carry them in the books as slaves, something that has not been clearly verified, it does not mean that Jesuits enslaved anyone to create a source of free labor. In Misiones, in modern-day Argentina, their suppression lead to the scattering and enslavement of indigenous Guaranís living in the reductions and a long-term decline in the yerba mate industry from which it only recovered in the 20th century.
With the suppression of the Society of Jesus in Spanish America, Jesuit vineyards in Peru were auctioned, but new owners did not have the same expertise as the Jesuits, contributing to a production decline in wine and pisco.
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- Charles Gibson, Spain in America, New York: Harper and Row 1966, p. 83 footnote 28.
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- Haring, ibid.
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