Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Little Girl with the Little Curl

On today, the Feast of Ignatius of Loyola, Jimmy Akin says,

Though it may be somewhat impolitic to say so, I've often remarked that Jesuits are like the "little girl with the little curl, right in the middle of her forhead." When they're good, they're very, very good, and when they're bad, their horrid.

And so it's always been, I suppose. They've also had a knack for getting into trouble, even when not being horrid.

The current Society of Jesus is, and is not, the Society of Jesus originally founded by the former Spanish soldier who wanted to build a spiritual army for the Church. The original Society, founded in 1541, was suppressed in 1773, the outcome of a long series of political intrigues. A rather serious set of events involving, among other things, commerce rights and the War of Paraguay, led to the Society being made illegal in Portugal in 1759. Jesuit power in Martinique combined with the dispute with the Jansenists combined with the French need to raise funds to compensate for what they were losing to the English navy led to their being made illegal in France in 1764. A faction of anti-clericalists in Spain managed to get them made illegal in Spanish dominions in 1767. In 1769 Clement XIV was made Pope, and found himself immediately hounded to put an end to the Jesuits once and for all. He gave in so far as to order the Suppression of the Society in all Catholic nations. And that, it seemed, was that.

But the Jesuits turned out not so easy to suppress. Much of the detail of putting the Suppression into effect was left to local bishops; in many places they were still allowed to teach as long as they did so under the authority of a secular priest rather than a Jesuit superior. And in Russia the Jesuits even kept most of their structure, since they were backed by the Imperial Court, who had the promulgation of the brief ordering the Suppression delayed. And in the meantime odd things were happening. The primary instigators in the Suppression had always been the Bourbon courts; but some of them were facing hard times due to little things like the French Revolution. During the time of Pius VI, Rome refused to issue anything official, and upheld the suppression, but the Pope often gave verbal assent to Jesuit undertakings, such as the aggregation of the English Jesuits to the Russian Jesuits in 1803. The US's first Jesuit college, Georgetown, became Jesuit during the Suppression, by association in 1805 with the Society in Russia. In addition, some former Jesuits joined together to form smaller societies that were Jesuit in all but name. The Society was officially restored on August 7, 1814; in effect, it extended the state of the Jesuits in Russia into the rest of the world. (The Russians threw the Jesuits out in 1820. Jesuits have often mused on the curious state of affairs whereby Russia, always hostile to the Jesuits, just shortly before they were suppressed become sufficiently open to them to preserve the Society intact there, and stayed open enough for this just long enough to see the Society restored everywhere else.) Things did not run smoothly for the Jesuits after that; the entire nineteenth century was on-again, off-again as they flourished, were exiled, returned, were persecuted by law, rebounded, and, in short, suffered every twist of fortune imaginable.

It was a Jesuit, I think, who once said that Jesuits are only not in trouble when they are taking a rest from being Jesuits.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.