The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Jesuits

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JESUITS, a religious order of the Catholic Church whose members, like those of similar societies, solemnly bind themselves to aspire to perfection by leading a life of chastity, by renouncing the possession of all personal property, and by obedience to lawful superiors in all that does not contravene the law of God. A certain number of them add a special vow of obedience to the Pope. They are called the Society or Company of Jesus, the latter designation expressing more correctly the military idea of the founder, which was to establish, as it were, a new battalion in the spiritual army of the Catholic Church. There are no female Jesuits, nor are there crypto or secret Jesuits. Romances are mostly responsible for such myths. Nor does the society form, as is sometimes fancied, a sort of sect within the Church. R. W. Thompson, ex-Secretary of the United States navy, in his ‘Footprints of the Jesuits,’ asserts that they are such, and independent of the Pope, and in one instance he accuses them of being idolaters. As a matter of fact the Society of Jesus has always inculcated ardent devotion to the Pope, the most uncompromising orthodoxy and an intense Catholic spirit. The descriptions of Jesuits as crafty, unscrupulous men constantly engaged in dark plots against all who stand in their way, are inventions of their enemies and have no foundation in fact. Finally they are not monks, as they are sometimes described. Technically they are classed among churchmen as clerics, living according to a rule and are properly regular clerics.

The special object of the society beside the personal sanctification of its members is to propagate the Christian faith chiefly by teaching and preaching. Their teaching is restricted mainly to the higher studies, and includes literature, mathematics, science, philosophy, theology and the cognate branches. Their preaching addresses itself to all classes, but, by predilection, and at stated periods in a Jesuit's life, by express injunction, it concerns itself with catechizing the ignorant and instructing the inmates of hospitals and penal institutions, while it addresses itself also to more cultured and spiritual audiences. One special and characteristic feature of its ministry is known as the “Spiritual Exercises” or “Retreats” which it may he regarded as having introduced, or revived in the modern church, and are now a universal ascetic practice with the clergy and religious communities as well as with a considerable number of the laity. A “Retreat” is a withdrawal from worldly occupations for a more or less protracted period in order to scrutinize the state of the soul and to take means to amend one's life, or to strive for higher Christian perfection. The method of these “Exercises” is laid down in a small manual written by the founder of the society. The book itself, which is at first sight fragmentary, and only suggestive in its character, is not easily understood or explained except by those who are trained to interpret it

The society was founded by Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish nobleman, who after bring disabled in fighting for his country, betook himself to the solitude of a cave near the little town of Manresa, Spain, where he passed some months in prayer and severe bodily austerities. Later, desirous of working more effectively for the salvation of his fellow men, he determined to become a priest, and for that purpose studied in the universities of Alcala and Salamanca, and finally in Paris, where he gathered about him six companions, among whom were Francis Xavier, the future Apostle of Japan, Peter Faber, whom, with Ignatius and Xavier, the Church was to honor subsequently as a saint, and also Salmeron and Laynez, who were conspicuous luminaries at the Council of Trent which was then about to be convened against the doctrines of Luther, Calvin and others who had just then arisen.

On 15 Aug. 1534 these seven men organized themselves into a society and pronounced their vows in the crypt of a little chapel in what is now Rue Antoinette, a short distance below the crest of the hill of Montmartre in Paris. It was only six years afterward that Pope Paul III gave them and the others who had joined them meantime his solemn approval.

The peculiarities of their organization were the occasion of much antagonism at the very outset on the part of some of the most eminent men of the Catholic Church. The Inquisition strongly suspected its purposes and doctrines. The name of the “Society of Jesus” was objectionable to Pope Sixtus V. Unlike other orders they were to be dispensed from reciting the divine office in common, and were to wear no distinctive habit. The length of probation and the general structure of the society were unusual. The members were first the professed who were relatively few. In them the governing power resided, and they were distinguished by a special vow of obedience to the Pope. Then came the spiritual coadjutors, or priests, who did not take the special vow of obedience to the Pope. Preparing for either category were the students or scholastics, and lastly there were lay brothers who were to devote themselves to domestic duties. Those who applied for admission were to pass two years of noviceship, and not one as in other religious orders, and were then admitted to what are called simple vows which could be easily dispensed with by proper authority if the subject were subsequently found unfit. Following the noviceship, two years were given to a review of the classical studies; then came three years of philosophy, mathematics and the physical sciences; five years of college teaching and four years of theology, to end only with another year of seclusion and prayer, after which the candidate was permitted to take the solemn vows which bound him irrevocably to the order as a spiritual coadjutor or professed. The probation of the lay brothers was protracted to 10 years. The Jesuit renounces by vow all ecclesiastical dignities, and accepts them only in unusual circumstances and by express command of the Pope, under pain of sin in case of refusal. As the establishment of the Society of Jesus coincided with the Protestant Reformation the efforts of the first Jesuits were naturally directed to combat that movement Under the guidance of Canisius so much success attended their work in Germany and other northern nations, that, according to Macaulay, Protestantism was effectually checked. In England where Elizabeth had inaugurated a movement against her Catholic subjects, and previous to that under Henry VIII the Jesuits stopped at no danger to go to the rescue of their brethren in the faith; and what they did there was repeated in other parts of the world. “In spite of oceans and deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and penal laws, of dungeons and racks, of gibbets and quartering blocks, the Jesuits were to be found under every disguise, in every country; scholars, physicians, merchants, servingmen, in the hostile court of Sweden, in the old manor houses of Cheshire, among the hovels of Connaught arguing, instructing, consoling, animating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying.”

Such is the testimony of Macaulay, a Protestant historian. Though many died as martyrs on the scaffolds and in the prisons of England and elsewhere, yet their skill in evading detection as well as their courage in living in the midst of their enemies and their great success in winning converts well explain the hatred with which they were regarded in Protestant countries from the beginning while it gives us the historical origin of the tradition of cunning and deceit which has always been associated with the name of Jesuit.

Under James I they were accused of complicity in an alleged attempt to blow up both houses of Parliament, and though clearly proven to be innocent of the charge, Father Garnet, who was said to have been cognizant of the plot, was executed, and the accusation is still believed. Guy Fawkes' Day commemorates the event and perpetuates the calumny. It is probably in connection with this occurrence that the supposed Jesuit doctrine of “the end justifying the means” was first accredited to them and the accusation made that “it was their office,” as Macaulay assures his readers, “to plot against the thrones and lives of apostate kings, to spread evil rumors, to raise tumults, to inflame civil wars and to arm the hands of the assassin.” The first one who is accused of formulating the doctrine of the end justifying the means is Father Wagemann of Innsbruck 1762. Even the murders of Henry III and Henry IV of France were ascribed to them, and under Charles II of England six Jesuits were accused by Titus Oates of conspiracy and put to death. These and other charges have been repeatedly disproved, yet writers of romance, and even writers of history, never fail to find readers credulous enough to accept them as true.

While the Jesuits were propagating the faith in Europe they were sending missionaries to every part of the world to preach the Gospel to heathen nations. Greatest of all these apostles was Saint Francis Xavier whom all Protestant writers unite in glorifying and whom the pagans almost worshipped as a deity. His name is still mentioned with enthusiasm among the pagans in Japan and the Occident. The conversions which he effected and the miracles he wrought almost defy belief. It is a testimony to the solidity of his teaching that although Catholicity was apparently obliterated in Japan by a series of bloody persecutions, the French missionaries who entered the country in 1860 found 30,000 Japanese Christians there. In spite of the absence of priests, the doctrines and practices received from Francis Xavier which meant death to profess openly had been handed down from father to son for a period of nearly 300 years. One blot on the reputation of the society in this field was the shameful apostasy of one of their superiors; but he atoned for his sin by a subsequent martyrdom.

In America the French Jesuits undertook the task of evangelizing the Indians, and at one time had 3,000 civilized and christianized Hurons under their control. In what is now New York, Father Jogues was cruelly tortured and slain on the banks of the Mohawk in 1646. In 1649 Garnier, Daniel and others were shot to death; and at the same time De Brébeuf and Lallemant were burned at the stake while their flesh was slashed with knives and their hearts cut out and eaten by the Indians of Lake Superior. Others died from want and exposure. It was Jogues who discovered Lake George to which he gave the name of Lac du Saint Sacrement. Later on Le Moyne came upon the salt springs near Syracuse. Marquette discovered the Mississippi which he named the River of the Immaculate Conception. He explored it as far as the mouth of the Arkansas, and returning home was the first white man with his companions to travel over the territory of what is now the city of Chicago. Wisconsin has erected a statute to his honor. Other Jesuits reached the Pacific coast and established the missions of California which they handed over to the famous Franciscan Junipero Serra when the society was suppressed. English Jesuits had come over with Lord Baltimore; and before that five Spanish members of the order had been slain by the Indians on the banks of the Rappahannock. The “Relations” of the French Missions have been recently published by an American publishing house and form 72 volumes of missionary and scientific information which the Atlantic Monthly considers the most precious material that could be desired for the history of this country. Similar records have been kept by the Jesuits of other nationalities. Marquette's diary and maps of the discovery of the Mississipi decided the controversy between France and England about the possessions of the western territory.

The missions of South America conducted by the Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits were remarkable in their character and extent. Father Anchieta, a native of Brazil, was particularly distinguished for his missionary success as well as his gift of miraculous powers. Peter Claver devoted himself to the thousands of negro slaves who were brought to the port of Cartagena. Other Jesuits traveled through Chile and Peru. Seventy of them on their way thither were said to be killed by Calvinists who intercepted them at sea. But their most famous work was what are known as the ‘Reductions’ or Christian Commonwealths of Paraguay. The description of these missions forms one of the most brilliant chapters of Chateaubriand's ‘Génie du Christianisme’; but a recent work entitled ‘A Vanished Arcadia’ by Cunningham-Graham gives a more reliable and scholarly account of what was accomplished there. Voltaire says: “When in 1768 the missions of Paraguay left the hands of the Jesuits, they had arrived at perhaps the highest degree of civilization to which it is possible to conduct a young people.”

“For nearly 200 years they controlled a district as large as France,” writes Cunningham-Graham, “where they had established 32 towns in which there were 160,000 Indians whom they had converted and civilized, teaching them agriculture, the mechanical arts, commerce and even forming among them a small army of defense. The annual income of the country was about 1,000,000 reales. The missionaries were finally expelled by Charles III, and the country fell back into its primitive condition of a tangled wilderness.”

The reasons of their expulsions were first the jealousy of the Spaniards at being excluded from the territory, secondly the anger of the colonists at being prevented from enslaving the Indians, and thirdly the ungrounded suspicion that there were gold mines in the missions. An impression in the royal mind that the Jesuits had reflected on the circumstances of his birth made him an easy instrument in the hands of the enemies of the society. “Curious as it may appear,” writes Cunningham-Graham, “the bitterest opponents of the Jesuits were Catholics, and Protestants have often been their apologists. Buffon, Raynal and Montesquieu with Voltaire, Robertson and Southey have written favorably of the internal government of the mission and the effect it produced. When the Spanish general was tent to dispossess them, he set about it with more preparation than Cortes or Pizarro made for the conquest of Mexico or Peru. But there was no resistance, and all the wealth the fathers had was the poor clothes on their backs.” The destruction of these missions was probably a part of the prearranged plan for the annihilation of the whole society.

The missions of Japan which Francis Xavier had inaugurated continued after his death in spite of ihe fierce persecutions in which many Jesuits perished. He had been unable to reach China and died on a lonely island off the coast. Ricci, Verbiest, Schall and others carried out his project and became the advisers of the emperor as well as his astronomers, mathematicians and mechanicians. The great bronze astronomical instruments carried off by Germany on the occasion of the invasion of that country by the allied powers of Europe were the work of the Jesuits of the 17th century. As soon as the mission was started, great numbers of Jesuits came from Europe, half of them generally dying on the passage. In 1661 they possessed 151 churches and 38 residences there, and had written as many as 131 works on religion, 103 on mathematics and 55 on physical and moral sciences.

Numberless other missions were established elsewhere; de Nobili for instance lived like a Brahman in India to reach that particular caste, and was almost suspected of apostasy for doing so. He is said to have made 100,000 converts. Jesuits overran the whole Indian peninsula and crossed the Himalayas into Tibet. Africa had long before been penetrated, and one of the first members of the society was Patriarch of Ethiopia. The present explorers of the Dark Continent find remnants of former missions far in the interior. They had gone from Mexico to the Philippines in the earliest days; they had entered Tartary and Lebanon, and when their own efforts were thwarted they induced others to take their places. Thus De Rhodes, a Jesuit expelled from Japan, founded the Société des Missions Etrangères, a body of secular priests who have given a great number of saints and martyrs to the Catholic Church.

While the Jesuits were engaged in missionary work among the uncivilized peoples of the world they erected splendid churches all over Europe, and furnished such orators to the pulpit as Bourdaloue in France, Vieyra in Portugal and Segneri in Italy. The ‘Book of Spiritual Exercises,’ according to Saint Francis de Sales, “has converted as many souls as it has letters.” But their apostolic work was not restricted to preaching, and we hear of a single French Jesuit who during his 40 years of ministry had established as many as 146 hospitals for the poor. They founded orphan and Magdalen asylums. They were the confessors of kings and princes and delegates of the Holy See, but they extricated themselves from these honorable charges as soon as it was possible to do so. At the time of the suppression they controlled and directed the majority of the ecclesiastical seminaries of Europe.

The success of the society in the work of education forms a great chapter in its history. Their method is found in what is known as the ‘Ratio Studiorum’ or Plan of Studies. It is a complete system of pedagogy and covers the whole field from the lowest class of grammar up to philosophy and theology. The plan was first conceived by Ignatius himself, and subsequently elaborated by one of his successors, Claudius Aquaviva. Compayré, one of the chief pedagogists of the present time, denounces it as a mere system of memorizing. Bacon says of it: “Never has anything more perfect been invented.” Their colleges at one time covered all Europe, and in the single school of Louis le Grand they had as many as 3,000 students. Kings assisted at its public academic exercises. Among their scholars they can claim some of the greatest men of modern times, as for instance Popes Gregory XIII, Benedict XIV, Pius VII, Saint Francis de Sales, Bossuet, Fleury, Flechier, Montesquieu, Malesherbes, Tasso, Galileo, Corneille, Descartes, Molière, Mezzofanti, Muratori, Buffon, Gresset, Canova, Tilly, Wallenstein, Condé, the Emperors Maximilian, Ferdinand and others. Even Voltaire was one of their pupils. The disturbed conditions of modern times prevent a similar brilliant showing, but many of the most distinguished Catholic churchmen of to-day have studied in their schools, and notably Leo XIII who was trained by them from his college classes to the end of his theological course.

Within their own ranks they have furnished great scholars in all branches of philosophy, theology, history, philology, literature and science. It is sufficient to name such men as Suarez, De Lugo, Bellarmine, Toletus, Lessius, á Lapide, and to note that the treatises of Jesuit writers form the textbooks in all the theological seminaries of the Catholic Church to-day. They have written in almost every language and on every conceivable subject, and the mere catalogue of their writers, though not yet complete, already fills more than seven large quarto volumes. Their missionary enterprises were never disjoined from scientific investigation.

Their history is marked by ceaseless activity, in launching new schemes for the spread of the Catholic faith, and by absolute fearlessness in opposing error regardless of any consequences to themselves. These two characteristics may explain why even by some Catholics they are regarded as a disturbing element in the Church. One of their most noted disputes with churchmen was with the Dominicans on grace, during which the Jesuit doctrine of grace was formulated. The contest lasted for nine years, and although great theological learning was adduced on both sides a truce was imposed by the Pope without any decision being arrived at. Of far greater consequence was their war with the Jansenists. It was chiefly on this occasion that the society was accused of laxity in their moral code and that their great antagonist Pascal won fame by his ‘Lettres Provinciales’ which like the famous ‘Monita Secreta’ of former times purported to be the private instruction of superiors to members of the order. After this contest their expulsion from France was an easy task, as the Jansenists wielded great political influence and were backed by the irreligious element which was growing rapidly there.

They have been expelled over and over again from almost every Catholic country in Europe, always, however, coming back again to renew their work when the storm had subsided; and this fact has been adduced as a proof that there is something iniquitous in the very nature of the organization. Worse still in 1773 the entire order was suppressed by a brief of Pope Clement XIV and all their goods confiscated. They then numbered 24,000 members and had establishments in all parts of the world and flourishing missions, all of which were immediately destroyed, but not one Jesuit uttered a word of complaint or protest. What is remarkable is that while Catholic Popes expelled them they were protected by the schismatic Catherine of Russia, and the Protestant Frederick of Prussia, the friend of Voltaire. This very protection was urged as a reproach against them and as a proof of their guilt.

With the exception of the disastrous financial speculation of Lavalette, which was the sin of an individual and not imputable to the entire society, as commercial transactions were absolutely prohibited by the statutes, the society is proved to be guiltless both in its partial suppressions and in its total abolition. This is clear from the very brief of Clement XIV which dealt the blow. In that document all the charges are enumerated, but not one is pronounced to be true. The society was suppressed as a political necessity and for nothing else. The encyclopædists of France regarded it as their most redoubtable opponent and had vowed its destruction. “Destroy the Jesuits,” said Voltaire, “and we shall make an end of the beastry Church.” In this work the Bourbon kings had to be enlisted. Madame de Pompadour, the king's mistress, whom the Jesuits had refused to absolve, influenced Louis XV; the Spanish and Portuguese ministers wrought on the fears of their sovereigns by forged documents containing threats and plans of assassination, and when all was ready the monarchs gave the Pope a choice of suppression of the society or schism. The Pope yielded, and is said by Pius VI and Pius VII to have lost his mind in consequence. The vindication of the society came immediately. The very Pope who suppressed them approved of their corporate existence in Russia. Pius VI who succeeded him in the following year readmitted them into Italy, and Pius VII on the fall of Napoleon re-established the society in all its integrity on 7 Aug. 1814.

Since its rehabilitation the society has continued to increase in spite of constantly increasing difficulties. In the beginning of 1916 it counted 17,008 members, of whom 8,448 were priests, and 4,413 scholastics in preparation for (he priesthood. The general of the society is Uledimir Ledochowski, who was elected 11 Feb. 1915. In the United States the beginning of 1917 there were 2,626 Jesuits, with colleges and churches in the principal cities and with flourishing missions among the Indians of the Rocky Mountains and Alaska. In Cuba and the Philippines their schools have achieved remarkable success, and the great meteorological observatories of Havana and Manila were established and are at present controlled by them. The chief houses for studies for the American members of the order are at Woodstock, Md., Saint Louis, Mo., and Montreal, P. Q.

In some countries of Europe the same hostility still pursues them. In the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 their houses were closed and the members driven out of the country. In the Kulturkampf inaugurated by Bismarck they were the first victims, and all the efforts of the Centre party have hitherto failed to secure their re-entrance into Germany. Similarly they were the first to be struck in the present religious persecution in France. On the other hand they have been the recipients of countless marks of esteem and affection on the part of Leo XIII, and he placed the Stamp of his approval on the society by adding many new names to its already long list of canonized saints and martyrs.

Bibliography. — De Ravignan, ‘De l'Existence et de l'Institut des Jesuites’ (1844); Foley, ‘Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus’ (5 vols., 1875); Huber, ‘Der Jesuiten Orden’ (1873); Genelli, ‘Life of Saint Ignatius’; Maynard, ‘Jesuits, their Studies and Teachings’ (1855); Michelet, ‘The Jesuits’ (1845); Nicolini, ‘History of the Jesuits’ (1854); Orlandini, ‘Historia Societatis Jesu 1540-1625’; Parkman, ‘Jesuits in North America’ (1868); Suarez, ‘De Religione Societatis Jesu’ (1634); Thompson, ‘Footprints of the Jesuits’; Thwaites, ‘Jesuit Relations’ (73 vols.); Weld, ‘Suppression of the Society of Jesus’ (1877).

T. J. Campbell,
S.J..