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Jesuit Apologetic

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The accusations brought against the Society have been exceptional for their frequency and fierceness. Many indeed would be too absurd to deserve mention, were they not credited even by cultured and literary people. Such for instance are the charges that the Society was responsible for the Franco-Prussian War, the affaire Dreyfus, the Panama scandal, the assassination of popes, princes, etc. — statements found in books and periodicals of some pretense. So likewise is the so-called Jesuit oath, a clumsy fabrication of the forger Robert Ware, exposed by Bridgett in "Blunders and Forgeries". The fallacy of such accusations may often be detected by general principles.

Jesuits are fallible

Jesuits are fallible, and may have given some occasion to the accuser. The charges laid against them would never have been brought against angels, but they are not in the least inconsistent with the Society being a body of good but fallible men. Sweeping denials here and an injured tone would be misplaced and liable to misconception. As an instance of Jesuit fallibility, one may mention that writings of nearly one hundred Jesuits have been placed on the Roman "Index". Since this involves a reflection on Jesuit book-censors as well, it might appear to be an instance of failure in an important matter. But when we remember that the number of Jesuit writers exceeds 120,000, the proportion of those who have missed the mark cannot be considered extraordinary; the Censure inflicted, moreover, has never been of the graver kind. Many critics of the order, who do not consider the Index censures discreditable, cannot pardon so readily the exaggerated esprit de corps in which Jesuits of limited experience occasionally indulge, especially in controversies or while eulogizing their own confrères; nor can they overlook the narrowness or bias with which some Jesuit writers have criticized men of other lands, institutions, education, though it is unfair to hold up the faults of a few as characteristic of an entire body.

The accusers

(1) In an oft-recited passage about the martyrs St. Ambrose tells us: "Vere frustra impugnata qui apud impios et infidos impietatis arcessitur cum fidei sit magister" (He in truth is accused in vain of impiety by the impious and the faithless, though he is a teacher of the faith). The personal equation of the accuser is a correction of great moment; nevertheless it is to be applied with equally great caution; on no other point is an accused person so liable to make mistakes. Undoubtedly, however, when we find a learned man like Harnack declaring roundly (but without proofs) that Jesuits are not historians, we may place this statement of his besides another of his professional dicta, that the Bible is not history. If the same principles underlie both propositions, the accusation against the order will carry little weight. When an infidel government, about to assail the liberties of the Church, begins by expelling the Jesuits, on the accusation that they destroy the love of freedom in their scholars, we can only say that no words of theirs can counterbalance the logic of their acts. Early in this century, the French Government urged as one of their reasons for suppressing all the religious orders in France, among them the Society, that the regulars were crowding the secular clergy out of their proper spheres of activity and influence. No sooner were the religious suppressed that the law separating Church and State was passed to cripple and enslave the bishops and secular clergy.

(2) Again it is little wonder that heretics in general, and those in particular who impugn church liberties and the authority of the Holy See, should be ever ready to assail the Jesuits, who are forever bound to the defence of that see. It seems stranger that the opponents of the Society should sometimes be within the Church. Yet it is almost inevitable that such opposition should at times occur. No matter how adequately the canon law regulating the relations of regulars with the hierarchy and clergy generally may provide for their peaceful co-operation in missionary, educational and charitable enterprises, there will necessarily be occasion for difference of opinion, disputes over jurisdiction, methods, and similar vital points which in the heat of controversy often embitter and even estrange the parties at variance. Such religious controversies arise between other religious orders and the hierarchy and secular clergy; they are neither common nor permanent, not the rule but the exception, so that they do not warrant the sinister judgment that is sometimes formed of the Society in particular as unable to work with others, jealous of its own influence. Sometimes, especially when trouble of this kind have affected broad questions of doctrine and discipline, the agitation has reached immense proportions, and bitterness has remained for years. The controversies De auxiliis lead to violent explosions of temper, to intrigue, and to furious language that was simply astonishing; and there were others, in England for instance about the faculties of the archpriest, in France about Gallicanism, which were almost equally memorable for fire and fury. Odium theologicum is sure to call forth at all times excitement of unusual keenness, but we may make allowance for the early disputants because of the pugnacious nature of the times. When the age quite approved of gentlemen killing each other in duels on very slight provocation, there can be little wonder that clerics, when aroused, should forget propriety and self-restraint, sharpen their pen like daggers, and, dipping them in gall, strike at any sensitive point of their adversaries which they could injure. Charges put about by such excited advocates must be received with the greatest caution.

(3) The most embittered and the most untrustworthy members of the Society (they are fortunately not very numerous) have ever been deserters from its own ranks. We know with what malice and venom some unfaithful priests are wont to assail the Church, which they once believed to be Divine, and not dissimilar has been the hatred of some Jesuits who have been untrue to their calling.

Proximity to Christ always invites attacks

What is to be expected? The Society has certainly had some share in the beatitude of suffering for persecutions sake; though it is not true, however, to say that the society is the object of universal detestation. Prominent politicians, who acts affect the interest of millions, are much more hotly and violently criticized, are much more freely denounced, caricatured, and condemned in the course of a month, than the Jesuits singly or collectively in a year. When once the politician is overthrown, the world turns its fire upon the new holder of power, and it forgets the man that is fallen. But the light attacks against the Society never cease for long, and their cumulative effects look more serious than it should, because people forget the long spans of years which in its case intervene between the different signal assaults. Another principle to remember is that the enemies of the Church would never assail the Society at all, were it not that it is conspicuously popular with large classes of the Catholic community. Neither universal odium therefore, nor freedom from all assault, should be expected, but charges which, by exaggeration, inversion, satire, or irony, somehow correspond to the place of the Society in the Church.

Not being contemplatives like the monks of old, Jesuits are not decried as being lazy and useless. Not being called to fill posts of high authority, or to rule, like popes and bishops, Jesuits are not seriously denounced as tyrants, or maligned for nepotism and similar misdeeds. Ignatius described his order as a flying squadron ready for service anywhere, especially as educators and missionaries. The principal charges against the Society are misrepresentations of these qualities. If they are ready for service in any part of the world, they are called busybodies, mischief-makers, politicians with no attachment to country. If they do not rule, at least they must be gasping, ambitious, scheming, and wont to lower standards of morality, at least to gain control of consciences. If they are good disciplinarians, it will be said that it is by espionage and suppression of individuality and independence. If they are popular as schoolmasters, it will be said that they are good for children, good perhaps as crammers, but bad educators, without influence. If they are favorite confessors, their success with be subscribed to their lax moral doctrines, to their casuistry, and above all to their use of the maxim which is supposed to justify any and every evil act:"the end justifies the means". This perhaps is the most salient instance of the ignorance and ill-will of their accusers. Their books are open to all the world. Time and again those who impute to them as a body, or to any of their publications, the use of this maxim to justify evil of any sort, have been asked to cite one instance of the usage, but all to no purpose. The signal failure of Hoensbroech to establish before the civil courts of Trier and Cologne (30 July, 1905) any such example of Jesuit teaching, should silence this and similar accusations forever.

The Jesuit legend

It is curious that at the present day, even literary men have next to no interest in the objective facts concerning the Society, not even in those supposed to be to its disadvantage. All attention is fixed to the Jesuit legend; encyclopedia articles and general histories hardly concern themselves with anything else. The legend, though it reached its present form in the middle of the nineteenth century, began at a much earlier period. The early persecutions of the Society (which counted some 100 martyrs in Europe during its first century) were backed up by fiery, loud, unscrupulous writers such as Hassenmueller and Hospinian, who diligently collected and defended all the charges against the Jesuits. The rude, criminous ideas which these writers set forth received subtler traits of deceitfulness and double-dealing through Zahorowski's "Monita Secreta Societatis Jesu" (Cracow, 1614), a satire misrepresenting the rule of the order, which is freely believed to be genuine by credulous adversaries (see Monita Secreta). The current version of the legend is late French, evolved during the long revolutionary ferment which preceded the Third Empire. It began with the denunciations of Montlosier (1824-27), and grew strong (1833-45) in the University of Paris, which affected to consider itself as the representative of the Gallican Sourbonne, of Port-Royal, and of the Encyclopédie. The occasion for literary hostilities was offered by attempts at University reform which, so Liberals affected to believe, were instigated by Jesuits. Hereupon the "Provinciales" were given a place in the University curriculum, and Villemain, Theirs, Cousin. Michelet, Quinlet, Libri, Mignet, and other respectable scholars succeeded by their writings and denunciations in giving to anti-Jesuitism a sort of literary vogue, not always with scrupulous observance of accuracy or fairness. More harmful still to the order were the plays, the songs, the popular novels against them. Of these the most celebrated was Eugène Sue's "Juif errant" (Wandering Jew) (1844), which soon became the most popular anti-Jesuit book ever printed, and has done more than anything else to give final form to the Jesuit legend.

The special character of this fable is that it has hardly anything to do with the order at all, its traits being simply copied from masonry. The previous Jesuit bogey was at least one which haunted churches and colleges, and worked through the confessional and the pulpit. But this creation of modern fiction has lost all connection with reality. He (or even she) is a person, not necessarily a priest, under the command of a black pope who lives in an imaginary world of back stairs, closets, and dark passages. He is busy with plotting and scheming, mesmerizing the weak and corrupting the honest, occupations diversified by secret crimes or melodramatic attempts at crimes of every sort. The ideal we see is taken over bodily from the real, or the supposed method of the life of the Continental mason. Yet this is the sort of nonsense about which special correspondents send telegrams to the papers, about which revolutionary agitators and crafty politicians make long inflammatory speeches, which standard works of reference discuss quite gravely, which none of our popular writers dares to expose as an imposture (see Brou, op cit. infra, II, 199-247).

Some modern objections

(1) Without having given up the old historical objections (for the study of which the historical sections of this article may be consulted), the anti-Jesuits of today arraign a Society as out of touch with the modern Zeitgeist, as hostile to liberty and culture, and as being a failure. Liberty, next to intelligence (and some people put it before), is the noblest of man's endowments. Its enemies are the enemies of the human race. Yet it is said that Ignatius' system, by aiming at "blind obedience", paralyzes the judgment and by consequence scoops out the will, inserting the will of the superior in its place, as a watchmaker might replace one mainspring with another (cf. Encyc. Brit., 1911, XV, 342); perinde ac cadaver, "like a corpse", again, "similar to an old man's staff" — therefore dead and listless, similar to mere machines, incapable of individual distinction (Bohmer-Monod, op. cit. infra, p. lxxvi).

The cleverness of this objection lies in its bold inversion of certain plain truths. In reality, no one loved liberty better or provided for it more carefully than Ignatius. But he upheld the deeper principle that true freedom lies in obeying reason, all other choice being license. Those who hold themselves free to disobey even the laws of God, who declare all rule in the Church a tyranny, and who aim at so-called free love, free divorce, and free thought — they, of course, reject his theory. In practice his custom was to train the will so thoroughly that his men might be able after a short time to "level up" others (a most difficult thing), even though they lived outside the cloisters, with no external support for their discipline. The wonderful achievements of staying and rolling back the tide of the Reformation, in so far as it was due to the Jesuits, was the result of increased will-power given to previously irresolute Catholics by the Ignatian methods.

As to "blind" obedience, we should note that all obedience must be blind to some extent — "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die." Ignatius borrowed from earlier ascetic writings the strong metaphors of "the blind man", "the corpse", "the old man's staff", to illustrate the nature of obedience in a vivid way; but he does not want those metaphors to be run to death. Not only does he want the subject to bring both head and heart to the execution of the command, but knowing human nature and its foibles, he recognizes that causes will arise when the superior's order may appear impracticable, unreasonable, or unrighteous to a free subject and may possibly really be so. In such cases it is the acknowledged duty of the subject to appeal, and his judgment as well as his conscience, even when it may happen to be ill-formed is to be respected; provision is made in the Constitutions for the clearing up of such troubles by discussion and arbitration, a provision which would be inconceivable, unless a mind and a free will, independent of and possibly opposed to that of the superior, were recognized and respected. Ignatius expects his subjects to be "dead" or "blind" only in respect of sloth, of passion, of self-interest and self-indulgence, which would impede the ready execution of orders. So far is he from desiring a mechanical performance that he explicit disparages "obedience, which executes in work only". as "Unworthy of the name of virtue" and warmly urges that "bending to, with all forces of head and heart, we should carry out the commands quickly and completely" (Letter on Obedience, sect. 5, 14).

Further illustration of the Ignatian love of liberty may be found in the Spiritual, and in the character of certain theological doctrines, as Probabilism and Molinism (with its subsequent modifications) which are commonly taught in the Society's schools. Thus, Molinism "is above all determined to throw a wall of security around free will" (see Grace, Controversies on) and Probabilism teaches that liberty may not be restrained unless the restraining force rests on a basis of certainty.The characteristics of both theories is to emphasize the sacredness of free will somewhat more than is done in other systems. The Spiritual, the secret of Ignatius's success, are a series of considerations arranged, as he tells the exercitant from the first, to enable him to make a choice or election on the highest principals and without fear of consequences. Again the priest, who explains the meditations, is warned to be most careful not to incline the exercitant more to one object of choice than to another (Annot. 15).

It is notoriously impossible to expect that anti-Jesuit writers of our day should face their subject in a common-sense or scientific manner. If they did, one would point out that the only rational manner of inquiring into the subject would be to approach the persons under discussion (who are after all very approachable), and to see if they are characterless, as they are reported to be. Another easy test would be to turn to the lives of their great missionaries, Brebeuf, Marquette, Silveira, etc. Any men more unlike "mere machines" it would be impossible to conceive. The Society's successes in education confirm the same conclusion. It is true that lately, as a preparatory measure to closing its schools by violence, the French anti-Jesuits asserted both in print and in the Chamber that Jesuit education produces mere pawns, spiritless, unenterprising nonentities. But the real reason was notoriously that the students of the Jesuit schools were exceptionally successful at the examinations for entrance as officers into the army, and proved themselves the bravest and most vigorous men of the nation. In a controverted matter like this, the most obvious proof that the Society's education fits its pupils for the battle of life in found in the constant readiness of parents to entrust their children to the Jesuits even when, from a merely worldly point of view, there seems to be many reasons for holding back. (A discussion of this matter, from a French standpoint, will be found in Brou, op cit infra, II, 409; Tampe in "Etudes", Paris, 1900, pp. 77, 749.) It is hardly necessary to add that methods of school discipline will naturally differ greatly in different countries. The Society would certainly prefer to observe, mutatis mutandis, its well-tried Ratio Studiorum. but it is far from thinking that local customs (as for instance those with regard to surveillance) and external discipline should everywhere be uniform.

(2) Another objection akin to the supposed hostility to freedom is the supposed Kulturfeindlichkeit, hostility to what is cultured and intellectual. This cry has been chiefly raised by those who reject Catholic theology as dogmatism, who scoff at Catholic philosophy as Scholastic, and at the Church's insistence on Biblical inspiration as retrograde and unscholarly. Such men make little account of work for the ignorant and the poor, whether at home or on the missions, they speak of evangelical poverty, of practices of penance and of mortification, as if they were debasing and retrograde. They compare their numerous and richly endowed universities with the few and relatively poor seminaries of the Catholic and the Jesuit, and their advances in a multitude of sciences with the intellectual timidity (as they think it) of those whose highest ambition it is not to go beyond the limits of theological orthodoxy. The Jesuits, they say, are the leaders of the Kulturfeindliche; their great object is to bolster up antiquated traditions. They have produce no geniuses, while men whom they have trained, and who broke loose from their teaching, Pascal, Descartes, Voltaire, have powerfully affected the philosophical and religious beliefs of large masses of mankind; but respectable mediocrity is the brand on the long list of the Jesuit names in the catalogs of Alegambe and de Backer. Under Bismarck and M. Waldeck-Rousseau arguments of this sort were accompanied by decrees of banishment and confiscation of goods.

This objection springs chiefly from prejudice — religious, worldly, or national. The Catholic will think rather better than worse of men who are decried and persecuted on the grounds which apply to the whole Church. It is true that the modern Jesuit's school is often smaller and poorer than the establishment of his rival, who at times is ensconced in the academy which the Jesuits of previous times succeeded in founding and endowing. It is not to be questioned that the sum total of learned institutions in the hands of non-Catholics is greater than that in the hands of our co-religionists, but the love of culture surely is not extinguished in the exiled French, German, or Portuguese Jesuit. robbed perhaps of all he possesses, at once settles down to his task of study, of writing, or of education. Very rare are the cases where Jesuits, living among enterprising people, have acquiesced in educational inferiority. For superiority to others, even in sacred learning, the Society does not and should not contend. In their own line, that is in Catholic theology, philosophy, and exegesis, they would hope that they are not inferior to the level of their generation, and that, far from acquiescing in intellectual inferiority, they aim at making their schools as good as circumstances allow them. They may also claim to have trained many good scholars in almost every science.

The objection that Jesuit teachers do not influence masses of mankind, while men like Descartes and Voltaire, after breaking with Jesuit education, have done so, derives its force from passing over the main work of the Jesuits, which is the salvation of souls, and any lawful means that helps to this end, as, for instance, the maintenance of orthodoxy. It is easy to overlook this, and those who object will probably despise it, even if they recognize it. The work is not showy, whereas that of the satirist, the iconoclast, and free-lance compels attention. Avoiding comparisons, it is safe to say that the Jesuits have done much to maintain the teaching of orthodoxy, and that the orthodox far outnumber the followers of men like Voltaire and Descartes.

It would be impossible, from the nature of the case, to devise any satisfactory test to show what love of culture, especially intellectual culture, there was in a body so diverse and scattered as the Society. Many might be applied, and one of the most telling is the regularity with which every test reveals refinement and studiousness somewhere in its ranks, even in poor and distant foreign missions. To some it will seem significant that the pope, while searching for theologians and consultors for various Roman colleges and congregations, should so frequently select Jesuits, a relatively small body, some thirty or forty percent of whose members are employed in foreign missions or among the poor of our great towns. The periodicals edited by the Jesuits, of which a list is given below, afford another indication of culture, and a favorable one, those it is to be remembered that these publications are written chiefly with a view of popularizing knowledge. The more serious and learned books must be studied separately. The most striking test of all is that offered by the great Jesuit bibliography of Father Sommervogel, showing over 120,000 writers, and an almost endless list of books, pamphlets, and editions. There is no other body in the world which can point to such a monument. Cavillers may say that the brand-mark is "respectable mediocrity"; even so, the value of the whole will be very remarkable, and we may be sure that less prejudiced and therefore better judges will form a higher appreciation. Masterpieces, too, in every field of ecclesiastical learning and in several secular branches are not rare.

The statement that the Society has produced few geniuses is not impressive in the mouths of those who have not studied, or unable to study or to judge, the writers under discussion. Again the objection, whatever its worth, confuses two ideals. Educational bodies must necessarily train by classes and schools and produce men formed on definite lines. Genius on the other hand is independent of training and does not conform to type. It is unreasonable to reproach a missionary for educational system for not possessing advantages which no system can offer. Then it is well to bear in mind that genius is not restricted to writers or scholars alone. There is a genius of organization, exploration, enterprise, diplomacy, evangelization, and instances of it, in one or other of these directions, are common enough in the Society.

Men will vary of course in their estimates as to whether the amount of Jesuit genius is great or not according to the esteem they make of these studies in which the Society is strongest. But whether the amount is great or little, it is not stunted by Ignatius's strivings for uniformity. The objection taken to the words of the rule, "Let all say the same thing as much as possible" is not convincing. This is a clipped quotation, for Ignatius goes on to add, "juxta Apostolum", an evidence reference to St. Paul to the Philippians 3:15-16, beyond whom he does not go. In truth, Ignatius's object is the practical one of preventing zealous professors from wasting their lecture time disputing small points on which they may differ from their colleagues. The Society's writers and teachers are never compelled to the same rigid acceptance of the views of another as is often the case elsewhere, e.g., in politics, diplomacy, or journalism. Members of a staff of leader-writers have constantly to personate convictions, not really their own at the bidding of the editor; whereas as Jesuit writers and teachers write and speak almost invariably in their own names, and with a variety of treatment and a freedom of mind which compare not unfavorably with other exponents of the same subjects.

(3) Failure.-- The Society never became "relaxed" or needed a "reform" in the technical sense in which these terms are applied to religious orders. The constant intercourse which is maintained between all parts enables the general to find out very soon when anything goes wrong, and his large powers of appointing new officials has always sufficed to maintain a high standard of both disciple and of religious virtue. Of course, there have arisen critics, who have reversed this generally acknowledged fact. It has been said that

(a) The word "failure" here is taken in two different ways — failure from internal decay and failure from external violence. The former is discreditable, the later may be glorious, if the cause is good. Whether the failures of the Society, at its Suppression, and in the violent ejection from various lands even in our own time were discreditable failures is a historical question treated elsewhere. If they were, then we must say that such failures tend to the credit of the order, that they are apparent rather than real, and that God's Providence will, in His own way, make good the loss. In effect we see the Society frequently suffering, but as frequently recovering and renewing her youth. It would be inexact to say that the persecutions which the Society has suffered have been so great and continuous as to be irreconcilable with the usual course of Providence, which is wont to temper trial with relief, to make endurance possible (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thus, while it may be truly said that many Jesuit communities have been forced to break up within the last thirty years, others have had a corporate existence of two or three years. Stonyhurst College, for instance, has only been 116 years at its present site, but its corporate life in 202 years older still; yet the most glorious pages of its history are those of its persecutions, when it lost, three tomes over, everything it possessed, and, barely escaping by flight, renewed a life even more honorable and distinguished than that which preceded, a fortune probably without its equal in the history of pedagogy. Again the Bollandists and the Collegio Romano may be cited as well-known examples of institutions which, though once smitten to the ground, have afterwards revived and flourished as much as before, if not more. One might instance, too, the German province which, though driven into exile by Bismark, has there more than doubled its previous numbers. The Christianity which the Jesuits planted in Paraguay survived in a wonderful way, after they were gone, and the rediscovery of the Church in Japan affords a glorious testimony to the thoroughness of the old missionary methods.

(b) Turning to the point of decadence after Acquaviva's time, we may freely concede that no subsequent generation contained so many great personalities as the first. The first fifty years say nearly all the Society's saints and a large proportion of its great writers and missionaries. But the same phenomenon is to be observed in almost all orders, indeed in most other human institutions either sacred or profane. As for internal dissensions after Acquaviva's death, truth is that the severe troubles occurred before, not after it. The reason for this is easily understood. Internal troubles came chiefly with the conflict of views which was inevitable while the Constitutions, the rules, and general traditions of the body were being moulded. This took till near the end of Acquaviva's generalate. The worst trouble came first, under Ignatius himself in regards to Portugal, as has been explained elsewhere (see IGNATIUS LOYOLA). The trouble of Acquaviva with Spain come next in seriousness.

(c) After Acquaviva's time indeed we find some warm theological disputations on Probabilism and other points; but in truth this trouble and the debates on tyrannicide and equivocation had much more to do with outside controversies than with internal division. After they had been fully argued and resolved by papal authority, the settlement was accepted throughout the Society without any trouble.

(d) The allegation that the Jesuits were ever immensely rich is demonstrably a fable. It would seem to have arisen from the vulgar prepossession that all those who live in great houses or churches must be very rich. The allegation was exploited as early as 1594 by Antoine* Arnauld, who declared that the French Jesuits had a revenue of 200,000 livres (50,000 pounds, which might be multiplied by six to get the relative buying power of that day). The Jesuits answered that their twenty-five colleges and churches have a staff of 500 to 600 persons, had in all only 60,000 livres (15,000 pounds). The exact annual revenues of the English province for some 120 years are published by Foley (Records S.J., VII, Introd., 139). Duhr (Jesuitenfabeln, 1904, 606, etc.) gives many figures of the same kind. We can therefore, tell now that the college revenues were, for their purposes, very moderate. The rumors of immense wealth acquired still further vogue through two occurrences, the Restitutionsedikt of 1629, and the license, sometimes given by papal authority, for the procurators of the foreign missions to include in the sale of the produce of their own mission farms the produce of their native converts, who were generally too rude and childish to make bargains for themselves. The Restitutionsedikt, as has been already explained (see above, Germany), led to no permanent results, but the sale of the mission produce came conspicuously before the notice of the public at the time of the Suppression, by the failure of Father La Valette (see, in article above, Suppression, France). In neither case did the money transactions, such as they were, affect the standard of living in the Society itself, which always remained that of the honesti sacerdotes of their time (see Duhr, op. cit. infra, pp. 582-652).

During the closing months of 1751 many other prelates wrote to the king, to the chancellor, M. de Lamoignon, protesting against the arrêt of the Parlement, 6 August, 1761, and testifying to their sense of the injustice of the accusations made against the Jesuits, and of the loss which their diocese would sustain by their suppression. De Ravignan gives the name of twenty-seven such bishops. Of the minority, five out of the six rendered a collective answer, approving of the conduct and the teaching of the Jesuits. These five bishops, the Cardinal de Choiseul, brother of the statesman, Mgr de La Rochefoucald, the Archbishop of Rouen, and Mgrs Quiseau of Nevers, Choiseul-Beaupré of Châlons, and Champion de Cice of Auxerre, declared that "the confidence reposed in the Jesuits by the bishops of the kingdom, all of whom approve them in their diocese, is evidence that they are all found useful in France", and that in consequence, they, the writers, "supplicate the king to grant his royal protection and keep for the Church of France a Society commendable for the service it renders to the Church and state and which the vigilance of the bishops may be trusted to preserve free from the evils which it is feared might come to affect it". To the second and third of the king's questions they answer that occasionally individual Jesuits have taught blameworthy doctrines or invaded the jurisdiction of the bishops, but that neither fault has been general enough to affect the body as a whole. To the fourth question they answer that "the authority of the general, as is wont to be and should be exercised in France appears to need no modification; nor do they see anything objectionable in the Jesuit vows". In fact, the only point on which they differ from the majority is on the suggestion that "to take away all difficulties for the future it would be well to solicit the Holy See to issue a Brief fixing precisely those limits to the exercise of the general's authority in France which the maxims of the kingdom require".

Testimonies like these might be multiplied indefinitely. Among them, one of the most significant is that of Clement XIII, dated 7 January, 1765, which specially mentions the cordial relations of the Society with bishops throughout the world, precisely when enemies were plotting for the suppression of the order. In his books on Clement XIII and Clement XIV, de Ravignan records the acts and letters of many bishops in favor of the Jesuits, enumerating the names of nearly 200 bishops in every part of the world. From a secular source the most noteworthy testimony is that of the French bishops when hostility to the Society is rampant in high places. On 15 November, 1761, the Comte de Florentin, the minister of the royal household, bade Cardinal de Luynes, the Archbishop of Sens, to convoke the bishops then at Paris to investigate the following points:

For eliciting the judgment of the ecclesiastics of the kingdom on the action of the Parlement, no questions could be more suitable, and the bishops convoked (three cardinals, nine archbishops, and thirty-nine bishops, that is, fifty-one in all) met together to consider them on 30 November. They appointed a commission consisting of twelve of their number, who were given a month for their task, and reported duly on 30 December, 1761. Of these fifty-one bishops, forty-four addressed a letter to the king, dated 30 December, 1761, answering all the four questions in a sense favorable to the Society, and giving under each head a clear statement of their reasons.

To the first question the bishops reply that the "Institute of the Jesuits . . . is conspicuously consecrated to the good of religion and the profit of the State". They began by noting how a succession of popes, St. Charles Borromeo, and the ambassadors of princes, who with him were present at the Council of Trent, together with the Fathers of that Council in their collective capacity, had pronounced in favor of the Society, after an experience of the services it could render; how, though, in the first instance, there was a prejudice against it in France, on account of certain novelties in its constitutions, the sovereign, bishops, clergy, and people had, on coming to know, became firmly attached to it, as was witnessed by the demand of the States-General in 1614 and 1615, and of the Assembly of the Clergy in 1617, both of which bodies wished for Jesuit colleges in Paris and the provinces as "the best means adapted to plant religion and faith in the hearts of the people". They referred also to the language of many letters-patent by which the kings of France had authorized various Jesuit colleges, particularly that of Claremont, at Paris, which Louis XIV had wished should bear his own name, and which had come to be known as the College of Louis-le-Grand. Then, coming to their own personal; experience, they bear witness that "the Jesuits are very useful for our diocese, for preaching, for the guidance of souls, for implanting, preserving, and renewing faith and piety, by their missions, congregations, retreats which they carry on with our approbation and under our authority". Whence they conclude that "it would be difficult to replace them without a loss, especially in the provincial towns, where there is no university".

To the second question the bishops reply that, if there were any reality in the accusation that the Jesuit teaching was a menace to the lives of sovereigns, the bishops would have long since taken measures to restrain it, instead of trusting the Society with the most important functions of sacred ministry. they also indicate the source from which this and similar accusations against the Society had their origin. "The Calvinists", they say. "tried in their utmost to destroy in its cradle, a Society whose principal object was to combat their errors . . . and disseminated many publications in which they singled out the Jesuits as professing a doctrine which menaced the lives of sovereigns, because to accuse them of a crime so capital was the surest means to destroy them; and the prejudices against them thus aroused had ever since been seized upon greedily by all who had any interested motives for objecting to the Society's existence (in the country)." The bishops add that the charges against the Jesuits which were being made at that time in so many writings in which the country was flooded were but rehashes of what had been spoken and written against them throughout the preceding century and a half.

To the third question they reply that the Jesuits have no doubt received numerous privileges from the Holy See. most of which, however, and those the most extensive, have accrued to them by communication with the other orders to which they had been primarily granted; but that the Society had been accustomed to use its privileges with moderation and prudence.

The fourth and last of the questions is not pertinent here, and we omit the answer. The Archbishop of Paris, who was one of the assembled bishops, but on some ground of precedent preferred not to sign the majority statement, endorsed it in a separate letter which he addressed to the king.

(e) It is not to be denied that, as the Society acquired reputation and influence even in the Courts of powerful kings, certain domestic troubles arose, which had not been heard of before. Some jealousies were inevitable, and some losses of friendship; there was danger too of the faults of the court communicating themselves to those who frequented it. But it is equally clear that the Society was keenly on its guard in this matter, and it would seem that its precautions were successful. Religious observance did not suffer to any appreciable extent. But few people of the seventeenth century, if any, noticed the grave dangers that were coming from absolute government, the decay of energy, the diminished desire for progress. The Society like the rest of Europe suffered under these influences, but they were plainly external, not internal. In France, the injurious influence of Gallicanism must also be admitted (see above, France). But even in this dull period we find the French Jesuits in the new mission-field of Canada showing a fervor worthy of the highest traditions of the order. The final and most convincing proof that there was nothing seriously wrong in the poverty or in the discipline of the Society up to the time of its Suppression is offered by the inability of its enemies to substantiate their charges when, after the Suppression, all the accounts and the papers of the Society passed bodily into the adversaries' possession. What an unrivaled opportunity for proving to the world those allegations which with hitherto unsupported! Yet, after a careful scrutiny of the papers, no such attempt was made. No serious faults could be proved.

Neither at the middle of the eighteenth century nor at any previous time was there any internal decline of the Society; there was no loss of numbers, but on the contrary a steady growth; there was no falling off of learning, morality, zeal. From 1000 members in 12 provinces in 1656, it had grown to 13,112 in 27 provinces in 1615; to 17,665 in 1680, 7890 of whom were priests, in 35 provinces with 48 novitiates, 28 professed houses, 88 seminaries, 578 colleges, 160 residences and 106 foreign missions; and in spite of every obstacle, persecution, expulsion, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in 1749 it numbered 22,589 members, of whom 11,293 were priests, in 41 provinces, with 61 novitiates, 24 professed houses, 176 seminaries, 669 colleges, 335 residences, 1542 churches, and 273 foreign missions, That there was no falling off in learning, morality, or zeal historians generally, whether hostile or friendly to the Society, attest (see Maynard, "The Jesuits, their Studies and their Teaching").

On this point the testimony of Benedict XIV will surely be accepted as incontrovertible. In a letter dated 24 April, 1748, he says that the Society is one "whose religious are everywhere reputed to be in the good odour of Christ, chiefly because, in order to advance the young men who frequent their churches and schools in pursuit of liberal knowledge, leaning, and culture, as well as in deeds and habits of the Christian religion and piety, they zealously exert every effort greatly to the advantage of the young".

In another bearing the same date he says:

It is a universal conviction confirmed by pontifical declaration [Urban VIII, 6 August, 1623] that as the Almighty God raised up other holy men at other times, so he has raised up St. Ignatius and the Society established by him to oppose Luther and the heretics of his day; and the religious sons of this Society, following the luminous way of so great a parent, continue to give an unfailing example of the religious virtues and a distinguished proficiency in every kind of learning, more especially in sacred, so that, as their cooperation is a great service in the successful conduct of the most important affairs of the Catholic Church, in the restoration of morality, and in the liberal culture of young men, they merit new proofs of Apostolic favour.

In the paragraph following he speaks of the Society as "most deserving of the orthodox religion". and further on he says: "It abounds in men skilled in every branch of learning." On 27 September, 1748, he commended the General of the Society and its members for their strenuous and faithful labours in sowing and propagating throughout the whole world Catholic faith and unity, as well as Catholic doctrine and piety, in all their integrity and sanctity". On 15 July, 1749, he speaks of the members of the Society as "men who by their assiduous labour strive to instruct and form all the faithful of both sexes in every virtue, and in zeal for Christian piety and doctrine". "The Society of Jesus", he wrote on 29 March, 1753, "adhering closely to the splendid lessons and examples set them by their founder, St. Ignatius, devote themselves top this pious work [spiritual exercises] with so much ardor, zeal, charity, attention, vigilance, labour . . .", etc.


For the early controversies see the articles Annat, Cerrutti, Forer, Gretzer. Grou, and Reiffenberg in Sommervogel, and the full list of Jesuit apologies, ibid., X, 1501. Bohmer-Monod, Les jesuites (Paris, 1910); Gioberti, Il Gesuita moderno (Lausanne, 1840); Griesinger, Hist. of the Jesuits (London, 1872); Hoenbroech, Vierzehn Jahre Jesuit (Leipzig, 1910); Huber, Der Jesuiten-Orden (Berlin, 1873); Michelet-Quintet, des jesuites (Paris, 1843); Muller, Les origines de la comp. de Jesus (Paris, 1898); Reusch, Beitrage fur Gesch. der jesuiten (Munich, 1894); taunton, Hist. of the Jesuits in England (London, 1901); Theiner, Hist. des institutions chret d'education eccles. (Fr. tr., Cohan, Paris, 1840). Discussions of the above and other hostile writers will be found in the Jesuit periodicals cited above; see also Pilatus (Viktor Naumann), Der Jesuitismus (Ratisbon, 1905), 352-569, a fine criticism, by a Protestant writer, of anti-Jesuitical literature; Briere, L'apologitique de Pascal et la mort de Pascal (Paris, 1911), Brou, Les jesuites de la legende (Paris, 1906); Concerning Jesuits (London, 1902); Duhr, Jesuiten-Fabeln (Freiburg, 1904); Du Lac, Jesuites (Paris, 1901); Maynard, The Studies and Teachings of the Society of Jesus (London, 1855); Les Provinciales et leur refutation (Paris, 1851-2); De Ravignan, De l'existence et de l'institut des jesuites (Paris, 1844), tr. Seager (London 1844); Weiss, Antonio de Escobar y Mendoza (Freiburg, 1911); Reusch, Der Index der verboten Bucher; Dolinger and Reusch, Gesch, des Moralstreitigkeiten; Darrel, A Vindication of St. Ignatius from Phanaticism, and of the Jesuites from the Calumnies laid at their charge (London, 1688); Hughes, Loyola and the Educat. System of the Jesuits (New York, 1892); Pachtler-Duhr, Ratio Studiorum in Mon. Germ. paedagogica (Berline, 1887); Swickerath, Jesuit Education, Its History and Principles in the Light of Modern Educational Problems (St. Louis, 1905).

About this page

APA citation. Pollen, J.H. (1912). Jesuit Apologetic. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Pollen, John Hungerford. "Jesuit Apologetic." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael Donahue. In gratitude for four years of Jesuit education at Loyola University of Chicago. AMDG.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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