Sunday, 1 December 2013


The existing hostility of French Republicans to the Jesuits is no isolated or exceptional phenomenon, nor it it at all peculiar either to France or to the Republic. It is or course true, as we have been copiously reminded in the course of the recent debates in the French Chambers, that the Monarchy of the Restoration maintained an equally unfriendly attitude towards the Order, while about a century ago the Court of France joined the other Catholic powers in demanding its suppression. But this is only a very small part of the truth. From its very foundation the Jesuit Society has somehow or other enlisted against itself the jealous hostility both of civil and ecclesiastical authorities in every Roman Catholic country of Europe, not less than of Protestants, against whose advance it was specially organised. This is surely a sufficiently remarkable fact, and it does not become less remarkable when we reflect that the conflict appears always to have been keenest in those countries where the Jesuits were most intimately known. The Order was founded by a Spanish knight, and it bears in its character and constitution the traces of its Spanish origin. Yet it was Charles III. of Spain who brought about the league of Catholic sovereigns which led to its suppression by Pope Clement XIV. In Italy, again, the new Society found its earliest home, and has always had its head quarters and the base of its operations ; and in Italy—and among their own former pupils—the Jesuits have met their bitterest and most uncompromising assailants. We have said that from the first they had provoked the animosity of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and in saying this we did not refer only or chiefly to the rivalry — often exceedingly bitter— between the secular and regular clergy, which dates from the earliest introduction of religious orders into the Church, and is intelligible enough, even apart from the justice or injustice of their mutual recriminations. Yet even here it may be worth noting that no other order— not even the Franciscans, who were the best hated of all during the later middle ages— ever managed to draw on itself the same intensity of mingled hatred and distrust. It is more material to remark, what is at first sight far more inexplicable, that not only bishops but the Popes themselves have from the days of Ignatius downwards shown a deep distrust of the Society expressly organised by him for the maintenance and augmentation of Papal autocracy. Paul III. inserted a clause in the original bull of authorisation, limiting the number of members to 60,and although he was afterwards induced to withdraw a restriction so fatal to their aims, Sixtus V., by far the ablest pontiffs of the sixteenth century resolved on enforcing several sweeping changes in their constitution, including a change of name, about which they were extremely sensitive, and was only prevented from carrying out his intentions by the shortness of his reign. Two centuries later Clement XIV. was willing enough to accede to the universal demand of Catholic Europe for their suppression ; and it is an open secret that there is little love lost between the Jesuits and the present occupant of the Papal throne. It must be allowed that such facts require an explanation, which is not adequately supplied by their own proud boast of how completely their founder's prayer has been answered, that they might be hated of all men, like him whose name they have assumed, and for his name's sake.
There may be said, roughly speaking, to be three current phrases of opinion which maybe taken variously to interpret the traditional instinct or prejudice against the Jesuits. We have first the popular Protestant hypothesis, of which Mr. Whalley used to be the spokesman in Parliament, and which found a ghastly illustration in the sensational religious works of the days of our grandmothers. According to this view the Jesuits are a kind of secret police of the Evil One, being occupied in promoting the interests of their Church, which are identified with their own, by fair means or foul, with a diabolical craft only exceeded by their diabolical wickedness. They have spies or familiars, male or female, in every court, in every society, in almost every private family —especially in Protestant families ; they are united in a chronic conspiracy against the peace alike of households and of empires. It was not beneath them to bribe or coerce the reporters, as he publicly complained in Parliament, into garbling their version in the Times of the somewhat inaudible language of a venerable Irish peer lately deceased, and it is not beyond their capacity to control by invisible and unsuspected agencies the policy of States, and virtually to shape the destinies of the civilised world. They are gifted with the preternatural power, as well as the Satanic malice, of the genii of Eastern fable, while, unlike them, they are closely bound together, in a federation of evil for the pursuit of a common end. They are disguised at this moment, in spite of the labors of the Church Association, in the surplice of Anglican rectors, while "the female Jesuit" plies her seductive arts under the innocent semblance of a Protestant kitchenmaid. Let no one imagine that we have dressed up a mere scarecrow of our own, or laid on one touch of coloring which it would not be easy to match in the familiar pictures drawn by Protestant alarmists. No rational person of course accepts this startling caricature—which may be a delineation of the Freemasons sometimes found in foreign Jesuit treatises—but even the silliest caricature has usually some kind of basis, however inadequate, and there could hardly be so much smoke if there was no fire. More plausible, and less wildly inaccurate, is the opposite hypothesis, formerly prevalent among English Liberals, and accepted with a difference by many earnest Roman Catholics, that the Jesuits are much like other orders in the Church of Rome, more zealous and energetic perhaps, and therefore naturally more offensive to those who regard with dislike or fear the progress of the Roman Catholic religion, but not otherwise distinguishable from the general mass of religions corporations from which they are so sharply and unfavorably discriminated by the recent action of the French Government. This view on the surface looks reasonable enough, and it is really nearer the truth than the Protestant bogy view, but it is not the less quite unequal to the exigency of facts. Benedictines, Dominicans and Franciscans have been in their day as zealous and as influential as Jesuits, and the Dominicans, moreover, were officially connected with the hateful and hated Inquisition, yet none of these vast and powerful organisations have ever encountered, either within the pale of their own church or beyond it, a tithe of the suspicion and enmity so persistently roused by the children of Ignatius. Some third hypothesis is manifestly required, which, without violating the dictates of experience and common sense, shall yet do justice to the admitted facts of the case past and present. And that hypothesis may, perhaps, be not inaptly summed up in the well known saying about the Jesuits,ubi bene, nihil melius : ubi male, nihil pejus. They have been powerful alike for good and for evil, but always powerful, and always using their power, whether well or ill, for the aggrandisement of their Order. They have acted all along as an imperium in imperio, confronting "the White Pope" with "the black Pope," and not unfrequently pitting the one against the other with a large measure of, at least, temporary success. And hence from their first origin the Popes have been very naturally suspicious of these self-chosen prætorians, as the Roman Emperors were jealous of the Prætorian Guards and the Sultan of the Janissaries, lest they too should aspire to make and unmake and mould the rulers before whose throne they bowed in professedly absolute subjection.
No estimate of the Jesuits would be a fair one which ignored the real service's they have rendered to the highest interests of their church, and indeed to the cause of Christian civilisation. They have been effective preachers, and were for a long time the ablest and most accomplished teachers of youth throughout the continent of Europe ; even now when they seem to a great extent to have lost their educational cunning, their schools in France are pronounced by independent critics, like Mr. Matthew Arnold, to be at least equal in intellectual working, and decidedly superior in moral culture, to the best of the Government lycees. They have on the whole maintained unbroken, in spite of the worse than questionable ethical system exposed by Pascal, a far higher standard of moral purity in their own body than any of their rivals either amongst religious orders or the secular priesthood. And they have shown themselves devoted, untiring and very successful missionaries in heathen lands. But even here their career has been marked by strange aberrations, inconsistent at once with their religious profession and with the principles of morality, as in the famous controversy about the "Chinese Rites," described at length in Mr. Cartwright's "Historical Sketch." And that very controversy would alone suffice to remind us that, after full allowance has been made, as it ought to be made, for ubi bene, nihil melius, there is also another and a darker side to the picture. The ambitious design which was indelibly impressed by Ignatius Loyola on the constitution — we might add the very name — of his order has proved throughout the secret both of its weakness and its strength. To that supreme end all considerations, moral and religious, not excluding their most cherished theological principle, have been subordinated. From the first they were not content to trust to their enormous educational and spiritual influence, but aspired also to "shape the whispers" of all the Catholic thrones of Europe, and to undermine all the thrones which they regarded as anti-Catholic. They governed the French Church through the mistresses of Louis XVI., and they plotted persistently against the crown and life of Queen Elizabeth. They did not scruple to make good their position at the French court by more than conniving at Gallican opinions — which could never have been their own — and actually helped to frame the declaration of Gallican liberties. When threatened with expulsion from France in the last century, they offered to purchase a reprieve by teaching the Four Gallican Articles, which directly contravene the fundamental principles of Jesuit theology. The influence has everywhere been used, and perhaps consistently used, in the service of both civil and ecclesiastical despotism, but the means employed have not unfrequently been such as no plea of conscience could excuse. When the order was dissolved by the authority of the Holy See, which they of all men were bound to respect as final and absolute, they held together in defiance of it under the shelter of the schismatic Governments of Russia and Prussia. They are not only "Catholics first and patriots afterwards," in whatever country their lot may be cast, but Jesuits first and Catholics afterwards. The interests of the Church are to their minds summed up in the interests of their own order, and a pope who opposes them, like Ganganelli, is, ecclesiastically speaking, no better than a suicidal maniac, whose dangerous perversity it is the truest charity to restrain. Still more of course are secular governments which pursue an anti-Catholic — that is an anti-Jesuit — policy to be treated as natural enemies ; while in dealing with governments which could be made subservient to their purposes they would adopt, as they have shown in France, in Mexico, in China and in Russia, a policy of the extremest Erastianism. That a society numbering many thousands of members, spread over the face of the world and organised on the strictest principle of military discipline, so resolute in its ambitious aims, and so versatile and unscrupulous in its methods of prosecuting them, should be viewed with jealousy by civil governments and not least by the governments of Roman Catholic countries, where its influence is most likely to be felt— can be no matter of surprise. Their official organ, the Civilta Cattolica, specially authenticated by a brief of Pius IX, declared shortly before the Vatican Council that "Christian States have ceased to exist; human society has relapsed into heathenism, and is like an earthly body with no breath from heaven." The Syllabus and the Vatican Council, the two crowning achievements of modern Jesuitism, were their chosen instruments for reversing this fatal tendency of modern civilisation. It is not wonderful that the civil power, thus rudely challenged, should have learnt to regard the Church which they claimed to represent, and under the last pontificat practically ruled, as "an organisation bristling with dangerous sentiments," and the Jesuit order itself as "the Prætorian Guard of dangerous ecclesiastical Cæsarism."

 The South Australian Advertiser 31 May 1880,

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