Birthdays make you think of the past and one of the things I often think about is the militancy of our Patron Saint here at True Restoration. His order, even in its current apostatized form, still had a major influence in my life and I have had a particular devotion to him and his work for many years. Indeed, in 2000 I wrote a term paper on the Suppression of the Jesuits and the role that Freemasonry played in it. I think it's helpful, occasionally (or often) to read things you have written more than 10 years ago!
Should you have a great deal of time on your hands, a particular interest in history and in the Jesuits, and/or a desire to learn more about how man conspires against God, I promise it will be worth the read.
Perhaps it would be helpful to say what this paper is not. It is not an introduction to the history and life of the Jesuit order nor is it a discussion of the felicitous restoration of the Order. Neither is it a full treatment of the different Rites and Rubrics of Freemasonry.
My purpose here is firstly to briefly discuss the aims of Freemasonry and the Church’s teaching on it as well as give some background information on the Society of Jesus. Further, I wish to discuss the historical period in which the Jesuits were suppressed and to show how their unjust and iniquitous suppression was engineered by Masonic ministers of state in full control over their monarchs. Finally I would like to briefly speak about the Restoration of the Order and its aftereffects. Surely God’s Providence foresaw all and He allowed all to happen, as thus you will see unfolded below. In truth, I am deeply aware of and grateful to the Society of Jesus, without which I would not even be here, in St. Mary’s, Kansas, writing this paper.
In today’s society, Masonic ideas have spread so far and so deeply that most people are unaware that an organization which propagates Masonic principles even exists. Indeed, most people only have a passing knowledge of Freemasonry, perhaps best exemplified in the reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado. Thus at best, Freemasonry appears to be a fairy tale, or at least an element of a bygone age, as also knights, courtly love, or coronations of kings by Popes. The truth is that Masonry did not (in itself) start out as a society bent on the destruction of the Church. Indeed, it has its origins in the very Catholic guilds that Leo XIII exhorts to rise again in his encyclical Humanum Genus (against Freemasonry). In that encyclical, the Holy Father defines a guild as “an association for the protection (of men who labor with their hands), under guidance of religion, both of their temporal interests and of their morality” (Mioni 77). The Freemasons began as such a guild. In his book The Jesuits, Fr. Malachi Martin gives a good synopsis of the origins of Freemasonry:
The transformation of Freemasonry from being originally a Christian association of believers into a body of men resolutely opposed to the ancient faith of Europe was chiefly effected by the men who concluded that human intelligence was infallible, that revelation was no longer needed, that only uninhibited human inquiry and research were necessary for human happiness.
Anderson’s Constitutions, the main rules by which Scottish Rite Masonry developed, clearly state the purposes of Masonry: “We being only as Masons…we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and are resolved against All Politicks, as what never yet conduc’d to the welfare of the Lodge nor ever will” (Fahey 87). Fr. Edward Cahill adds:
Anderson’s constitutions retain a portion of the framework of the constitutions of the old operative Free-Mason guilds, such as the different grades of membership (viz. Apprentices, Associates, and Masters), while adapting them to the exigencies of the new society. But the soul and spirit of the old Catholic constitutions were so fundamentally altered that in their new form they ceased to be Christian or even Theistic. God and Christ, to whom the old Catholic Masons promised service and loyalty, were replaced by the vague and intangible being who is called “The Grand Architect of the Universe.” For the old Catholic charge made to the working-mason, “Be true to God and Holy Church and use no error or heresy,” Anderson substituted a rule which implies naturalism and religious indifference. According to this rule the Freemasons were obliged only to follow the religion in which all men agree, leaving the particular opinion to themselves, that is to be good men and true, or men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished…”
When the power of the House of Hanover was finally established in England, the political opposition between the lodges of the different sides gradually ceased; and early in the 18th Century, the Freemason organization dropped completely the professional character, and formally assumed the role of a philosophical and religious (or anti-religious) association, with a definitely propagandist purpose.
Thus we see two main characteristics of Masonry that continue to this day, namely, indifference in matters of religion, and a tendency towards internationalism. The latter is a countermeasure to true Christian patriotism and the main driving force behind the idea of a “one world brotherhood.”
It should be said that Masonry has always hid itself well, despite the Church’s best attempts to “tear the mask off” of its doings. The Church, up to the Second Vatican Council, ceaselessly condemned Freemasonry and other secret societies associated with it, like the Illuminati. Leo XIII commented in his apostolic letter A Review of His Pontificate:
Freemasonry pretends that its object is humanitarian, yet it sacrifices everything to its sectarian designs. It proclaims that it has no political aims, yet in reality it exercises an enormous influence in the legislative and administrative life of states. Loudly professing respect for authority and even for religion itself, its ultimate object, as its own statutes bear witness, is the extermination of sovereigns and priests, in whom it sees the enemies of liberty.
In other words the religion of Masonry is naturalism, the very antithesis of Christianity. Again, not only is it untrue that Freemasonry requires or imposes a belief in Christianity, but the very contrary is the case…For the one and only thing in which Freemasonry is everywhere and always consistent with itself is antagonism to Catholicism, which it recognizes as the only form of Christianity that matters.
In accord with Fr. Cahill’s comment above, in Against the Heresies Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre makes the point that the inexplicable hatred and constancy with which Masonry pursues the Faith must have at its head an eternal principle, namely, the devil. Further on the Archbishop comments, “The Church is necessarily, fundamentally opposed to Freemasonry. They affirm that truth is relative…that there are no dogmas…Accord (with the Church) is therefore impossible” (83). Leo XIII also leaves us with a final admonition in Humanum Genus: “Let no one be deceived by a pretense of honesty. It may seem…that Freemasons demand nothing that is openly contrary to religion and morality, but…the whole principle and object of the sect lies in what is vicious and criminal, to join with these men…cannot be lawful (Mioni 76).
Thus the stage is set. By the time of the suppression of the Jesuits, the Freemasons were in their “first fervor” and they had deeply penetrated into the administration of nations. These people had no vague notions of what they wanted. They would do whatever was necessary to attain their goal of “universal brotherhood” amongst other things. All else must fall by the wayside, namely, religion, nationality, patriotism, forms of government and economics, etc. As the Church during this time in history was the only international establishment that stood for the proper and good propagation of all these things, the Masonic attack was irresistibly brought against her.
To give one an idea of the strength and magnitude of the Jesuit order, Fr. Campbell provides some statistics in his book on the Order: “Just before its suppression, the Society had about 23,000 members. It was divided into 42 provinces in which there were 24 houses of professed fathers, 669 colleges, 61 novitiates, 335 residences, and 273 mission stations” (424).
It is truly Providence that the Society ever came to exist. At the time that Ignatius was in Rome petitioning for the establishment of the order a certain Cardinal Giuidiccioni was in charge of the Curial office which oversaw religious orders. In truth, the Cardinal wanted to reduce all existing religious orders to the number of 4, so when Ignatius’s petition crossed his desk, he did not even read it for a year. Then, he took it up again – he scarcely knew why – and on reading it attentively he was completely converted and hastened to report it as follows: “Although as before, I still hold to the opinion that no new religious order should be instituted, I cannot refrain from approving this one. Indeed, I regard it as something that is now needed to help Christendom in its troubles, and especially to destroy the heresies which are at present devastating Europe.
The classic argument is that the Society was expressly organized by Rome for the purpose of combating the Protestant Revolt. We can see from above that the Order did not have its origins from the hierarchy of the Church, but rather from God through Ignatius. Father Campbell continues:
Such is not the case. On the contrary, St. Ignatius does not seem to have been aware of the extent of the religious movement going on at that time. His sole purpose was to convert the Turks, and only the failure to get a ship at Venice prevented him from carrying out that plan. Indeed it is quite likely that when he first thought of consecrating himself to God, not even the name of Luther had as yet, reached Montserrat or Manresa…in 1521 when Loyola was leading a forlorn hope at Pampeluna to save the citadel for Charles V, Luther was in the castle of Wartburg, plotting to dethrone that potentate. In 1522 (he)…was writing his “Exercises”…Luther was posing as the Ecclesiast of Wittenburg and proclaiming the uselessness of the 10 Commandments. When Loyola was in London begging alms to continue his studies, Luther was coquetting with Henry VIII to induce that riotous king to accept the new Evangel.
It would seem that Loyola (born in 1491) and Luther (1483) were contemporaries whose work brought them frequently geographically together and always in direct opposition. Yet, neither of them was ever aware of such a thing.
It seems also that the very organization of the Society guarded against the ills of the abuses that they were trying to combat. Strict discipline was enforced, with a long and rigorous education and a special vow of obedience to the Pope, along with a promise to accept no ecclesiastical office. This guarded against the laxity and bad formation of previous ages. It also ensured that the old excuse of entering the clerical state for a “carefree life” would no longer hold water. Without a guarantee of money, a rigorous and difficult education, stringent physical demands (those with bad health and sight were not accepted) and a statute in the Order that prevented promotion in the Church, the Jesuits ensured that they only attracted and trained the very best men to combat the errors of the age.
Further, the Jesuits were not limited in the missions. They preached retreats (most notably the Exercises of Ignatius, the only form of retreat ever officially approved by Rome), looked after parishes, studied and wrote books and tracts, went deep into the mission fields, taught at the universities and seminaries, encouraged and fostered guilds and Catholic Action, worked as military chaplains and as chaplains to orders of women, and lest we forget, advised monarchs.
By the time of the troubles, there was at least one Jesuit in every court of Europe, even in those of the heretic monarchs, most prominently Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick II of Prussia. The Jesuits were a symbol of the very best education and most sound advice, both spiritual and temporal. The whole of the Church and Christendom had come to rely upon them heavily. The Masons had to bide their time until such a deadly canker in their plan of a godless society could be extirpated. In due time, the chances came. “The assault on the Jesuits…has been, and is, but part of the wider warfare of irreligion against the Papacy, of unbelief against revealed and authoritative religion” (Harney 366).
One of the first ways the Freemasons tried to discredit the Society was by attributing to it the very foundations which they (Masons) were trying to lay. Fr. Kelly, in Conspiracy against God and Man, comments:
Since the Jesuits were the greatest enemies of the forces of subversion both in France and Germany – (Adam) Weishaupt (a famous atheist) had acknowledged in secret correspondence that ‘our worst enemies are the Jesuits’ – their destruction was imperative. So the Jesuits were accused of being behind the subversive secret societies.
This Weishaupt wanted to incorporate the strong military character of the Jesuits into an organization against them. He “admired above all those laws, that regime of the Jesuits, which, under one head, made men dispersed over the universe tend towards the same goal; he felt that one could imitate their methods whilst holding views diametrically opposed” (Webster 197). Indeed, this was the first of many machinations intended at the downfall of the Jesuits.
Clement XII condemned Freemasonry as incompatible with Catholicism and penalized with excommunication all Catholics who joined the Lodges… It would be ridiculous for anyone to deny that the Masonic zeal of those in close contact with the Bourbon princes as advisers did not aim at crippling the papacy by removing the Papacy’s strongest weapon, the Society of Jesus. The ideological reason, therefore, for getting rid of the Jesuits was present. There is no need to suppose that a formal plot was hatched and conspirators vowed secretly to undo the Society of Jesus. All those leaders of the Enlightenment were members of the Lodge, as well as prominent members of the Establishment in its political, financial, literary, and social circles.
Fr. Campbell documents the reaction of prelates to the persecution:
The hierarchy throughout the Church was devoted to the Society, but it could only protest. And hence as soon as the first signs appeared of the determination to destroy the Order, letters and appeals, full of tender affliction and unstinted praise for the victims, poured into Rome from Bishops all over the world. There were at least 200 sent to Clement XIII, but many of them were either lost or purposely destroyed…The Bishop of Malaga recalls how Clement VIII described them (the Jesuits) as the “right arm of the Holy See”…The Bishop of Narbonne declares: “It is well known and admitted through all the world that the Society of Jesus, which is worthy of all respect, has never ceased to render services to the Church in every part of the world. There never was an order whose sons have fulfilled the duties of sacred ministry with more burning, pure, and intelligent zeal. Nothing could check their zeal; and the most furious storm only displayed the constancy and solidity of their virtue.
The important thing to note here is the utter incomprehensibility in considering that the Jesuits had formed a conspiracy directed against thrones and altars! But thus it was. Nesta Webster complains:
Was it not through princes and the Church that the Jesuits had been able to bring their influence to bear on the affairs of state?…The truth is then, that far from abetting the Illuminati, the Jesuits were their most formidable opponents, the only body of men sufficiently learned, astute, and well organized to outwit the schemes of Weishaupt.
This storm found its head and center in Portugal. It is a great shame that this Catholic Nation, which, but a few centuries before had begun the Age of Exploration for the glory of Christ and His Church, should so quickly have devolved into a puppet state run by a Mason.
“The devilish calumny and unbelievable cruelty of the suppression in Portugal, begun in 1759 under Pombal, is a cultural disgrace” (Lortz 451). The Marquis was in strict control over the monarch, who at that time was Joseph I, an older man interested in walks by the river and romantic amours, and rather bored with the affairs of state. Joseph was content to let Pombal manage the (to him) humdrum affairs of the nation. Pombal wasted no time in rallying together his fellow Masons in a conspiracy against the Church through forcing the suppression of the Order. Indeed, towards the end of his life, he admitted that he had personally spent over 800,000 ducats in this regard.
In those days, the most powerful statesmen necessarily belonged to the Lodge. It is certain that the chief advisers to the Bourbon princes were ardent members of the Lodge. The Marquis de Pombal, royal adviser in Portugal; the Count de Aranda, occupying the same position in Spain; Minister de Tillot and the Duc de Choiseul in France; Prince von Kaunitz and Gerard von Swieten at the Hapsburg court of Maria Theresa of Austria. These are names that no longer mean anything to us moderns, but they were and still are held in honor on Masonic membership lists. Each one of those men held a position of trust and confidentiality in government, and each one avowedly desired the death of the Society. They saw in the Jesuits “the sworn enemies of Freemasonry,” “the most cunning enemies of tolerance, “and “the worst corrupters of freedom.” Hatred of the Jesuits was intense and, as far as words go, noble: “I know the pains they (the Jesuits) have taken,” Choiseul wrote to Joseph of Austria, “to spread darkness over the surface of the earth, and to dominate and confuse Europe from Cape Finisteire to the North Sea.”…There is no doubt that the Papacy in European Freemasonry was a mortal enemy…by 1735…the main European lodges were avowedly enemies of papal centralized jurisdiction and Roman Catholic dogmatic teaching (championed by the Jesuits)…What ruined human culture and perverted civilization was the claimed authority of the Roman Church.
While Portugal was thus in the hands of such a snake, France too was undergoing her own problems. Daurignac comments:
All the Catholic bishops implored the Pope to express himself boldly and publicly in favor of the Order, which the enemies of the Church sought to exclude from all the Catholic states…Clement XIII…issued the Bull Apostolicum, by which he condemned the motives which had led to the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Portugal and France – an expulsion which His Holiness termed a “serious injury inflicted on the Church and the Holy See.”
Daurignac goes on to paint a picture of the climate of the time, which was grossly polluted with rationalism and hatred against the Church. In a letter to Helvetius Voltaire wrote, “The Jesuits once destroyed, we shall have easy work with the beast (l’infame)” (161). Daurignac continues, “Louis XV was King only in name; Choiseul, the friend of the philosophers, controlled the King, directed the Parliament, governed the state, and laughed at the Church, pretending to respect it, while he refused to obey it” (143). This is very true. Masons were not able to “come out in the daylight” as they do today in the light of an ever-secularized world and a devastated vineyard that is the Church after Vatican II. The Freemasons had to give every semblance of respect externally to show a “devotion” and “respect” for the Church. Up until recent times this was even so, as seen in the behavior of the leader of the Sillon movement after its condemnation. He externally complied with the condemnation, but internally continued the work. Thus here as well. These ministers of state trumped up every excuse possible to suppress the Order, which they claimed, was causing much trouble in the State. We will even see in the sad case of Spain that this crime was perpetrated by outright fraud, revealed only after the Restoration.
In a letter to the Marquis d’Aubeterre, Choiseul writes, “We shall gain nothing from Rome under this Pontificate. The minister is too obstinate, and the Pope too imbecile. It is necessary that we should rule in these times with a rod of iron, so as to oppose a head of the same metal, which governs the Holy See. After this Pope, we must see to having one who will suit the emergency” (Daurignac 168). Of course this “emergency” was the urgent need to suppress the Jesuits. Always seeking to infiltrate and control bastions of power, this desire was no less mitigated in the pursuit of God’s Holy Church. In truth, the Masons sought to influence the next conclave and elect a pope favorable to their designs.
As this was going on Choiseul impatiently carried out his own “reforms” in the French Church. The Parliament of Brittany, on receiving a false report of Jesuit wrongdoings peremptorily passed judgement:
…It declared disqualified from holding any public office all those parents who should send their children abroad to colleges of the Jesuits. But the courts of Flanders, Artois, Alsace, and Besançon refused to admit that the Jesuits were the enemies of religion and of the state, and the magistracy of Lorraine declared that it considered the Jesuits “the most faithful subjects of the King of France, and his best guarantees of the morals of the people.”
Around this time an extraordinary session of the clergy in France was held on 1 May 1762. The following was declared:
Religion commends to your guard its defenders; the Church, its ministers; Christian souls, their spiritual directors; a vast portion of your subjects, the revered masters who have imparted to them their education; the youth of your empire, those who are to model their minds and direct their hearts. Do not, Sire (King Louis XV), we implore you, refuse to accede to the expressed wishes of so many. Do not allow that, in your kingdom, contrary to the dictates of justice, against the rules of the Church, and in opposition to the civil law, an entire society should be destroyed without cause. The interest of your authority itself demands this at your hands, and we profess to be as jealous of your Majesty’s rights as we are of our own.
Daurignac himself replied indignantly to the declaration of 3 months later by the Parliament of Paris, on 6 August 1762, which:
…deprived the Jesuits of their property … furniture … libraries …and of all their possessions…they should disperse, no longer to live in community, and lay aside their holy habit. It forbade them to correspond with each other, or to exercise any function… without having subscribed to an oath… Thus did a court of justice arrogate to itself the right of depriving these men…of dispensing them from their vows…of annulling the decisions of the Sovereign Pontiffs, of designating as corruption and abuse all that they had done for the Institute during two centuries!…the Church had been deceived, because she did not possess a Pombal and a Choiseul to enlighten and direct her! The spirit of evil triumphed; but at the same time it mocked those whom it used as instruments to accomplish its fiendish work of destruction. It well knew the day would come when they would be buried beneath the ruins of the edifice which they were laboring to overthrow.
Watching France and Portugal thus defrauded, the question might be, what of the Catholic nation of Spain? When asked why the programme of expulsion of the Jesuits had not yet begun, the minister of state, the Count d’Aranda replied, “the old lady has not died yet.”
This old lady, whose death was to give a new impetus to impiety, was the queen, Elizabeth Farnese…firm and zealous…among…members of her family, Pope Paul III, who first approved and sanctioned the Society of Jesus. She would not suffer that society to fall beneath the attacks of the enemies of the Church…died in 1763.
“Such was the programme of the Count d’Aranda, upon whom philosophers expended the incense of their praise. They wished to engrave upon the front of their temples, and emblazon on the same escutcheon, the names of Luther and of Calvin, of Mohammed, of William Penn, and of Jesus Christ” (Daurignac 151).
It is important here to note an important incident on which the suppression in Spain turned, and what led ultimately to the humiliating delivery of 1500 exiled Jesuits to Civita Vecchia. A letter was brought to the King, Charles III, in which the Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Ricci, ordered the Spanish head of the Jesuits to stir up controversy against the current monarch and spoke in favor of a legitimate challenger to Charles’s throne, the Infanta Don Louis. Now, this letter was false, through and through. However when Charles was presented with it, he confronted neither Fr. Ricci nor the Spanish superior. The letter was thoughtfully and carefully contrived after a disturbing incident which happened around the King’s person. A certain delegation of “hats,” people wearing black long-brimmed hats, had stormed the palace courtyard and had made such a disturbance that the king fled to his upper rooms. From this view he saw his Jesuits run down to the crowd, speak gently to them, and he, in amazement, watched the crowd disperse in peace. To this the Masons cunningly whispered in his ear that the Jesuits had arranged the whole thing in order to scare Charles and to show their power over him. This incident and interpretation combined with the forged letter wounded Charles in his most sensitive point, namely, the accession of his brother to the throne. Indeed, “He was uneasy, and hesitated for some time. He held private consultations, for the purpose of ascertaining if a sovereign, for certain reasons, which he could not reveal, and which he carefully guarded in his royal heart, could, in conscience, banish a religious order from his states” (Daurignac 159). After this decision, which Charles would never renounce, even to his deathbed, despite being shown the evidence, Charles expelled the Jesuits. He wrote to the Pope without disclosing the cause of the expulsion, which he kept “secreted in his royal heart.” The Pope (Clement XIII) replied immediately and said:
Of all the calamities which have befallen us, during the nine unhappy years of our Pontificate, the most afflicting to our paternal heart is that which your Majesty has just announced. That you, also, my son, tu quoque, fili mi, you, the Catholic King, Charles III, so dear to our heart, fill up the cup of our bitterness, plunge our old age into the deepest sorrow, and hurry us to the grave.
What of the remaining Catholic princes of the empire?
They supported the suppression of the Order on every possible ground; the Electors of Mainz and Bavaria were particularly indignant because the Jesuits had republished Bellarmine’s work on the power of the Papacy, a book in which, as the Elector of Mainz declared in an ordinance, the power of temporal princes was completely undermined, the authority of the bishops limited, the general peace disturbed and sedition spread everywhere.
It goes without saying that if Maria Theresa, with her strong Catholic instincts, was so easy to control, it was not difficult for the statesmen who governed France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy to carry out their nefarious schemes against the Church. The Freemasons were hard at work, and immoral and atheistic literature was spread broadcast.
Indeed, Maria Theresa, a member of the Bourbon family through the Hapsburg lineage, complied with her relatives when this all-important question of the Order was proposed. Despite having been completely educated by Jesuits and though mindful of the tremendous good they did in her provinces, she too fell weakly into the snare. Thus after a time, and some shuffling, the three “Catholic” courts of Paris, Madrid, and Naples presented a categorical request to the Pope that he suppress the Jesuit Order throughout the world. Before this time, Clement had quite clearly expressed himself, most notably on the occasion of the renewal of a brief that renewed indulgences granted to the Order.
I am quite resolved not to outrage my conscience…the threat to enter the states of the Church with armed forces is useless. Even though we had a sufficiency of troops to oppose them, we would not employ them. The common Father of the faithful, I would never go to war with Christian princes, much less with Catholics…I will choose exile rather than betray the cause of religion and the Church.
After receiving the note from the Catholic courts requesting the suppression, Clement XIII immediately died of grief “and so was spared the difficult decision of suppressing an order which had been regarded by most of his predecessors as the strongest support of the Catholic Church” (Fulöp -Miller 382).
The crowning insult to all of this was the current treatment of the Jesuits by Frederick II of Prussia, who was not even a Catholic. Documentation of Frederick’s correspondence clearly shows his position. In a letter to Frederick II, d’Alembert said:
It is said that the Jesuits have but little to hope for from the Franciscan, Ganganelli (the newly elected Clement XIV), and that St. Ignatius is likely to be sacrificed by St. Francis…it appears to me that the holy Father, Franciscan though he be, would be acting very foolishly thus to disband his regiment of guards, simply out of complaisance to Catholic princes. To me it appears this treaty resembles that of the wolves with the sheep, of which the first condition was that the sheep should give up her dogs; it is well known in what position they afterward found themselves. Be that as it may, it would be strange, Sire, that while their most Christian, most Catholic, most apostolical, and very faithful Majesties destroyed the body-guard of the Holy See, your most heretical Majesty should be the only one to retain them…it is asserted that the Franciscan Pope requires to be much importuned regarding the suppression of the Jesuits. I am not at all surprised at it. Proposing to a Pope to abolish that brave militia is like suggesting to your Majesty the disbanding of your favorite guards.
The philosophy which is encouraged in our day is more loudly proclaimed than ever. What progress has it made? You will reply, we have expelled the Jesuits. I admit it; but I can prove to you, if you so desire it, that it was pride, private revenge, cabals, and, in fact self-interest that accomplished the work.
Thus this monarch, devoid of the Faith, saw completely and entirely what was at work in this situation, that is, a coalition with one end in view: the subversion of all constituted authority.
There is much speculation regarding the election of Pope Clement XIV Ganganelli. The Pope was nominated for his Cardinalate by the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Ricci. It seemed that the Masons would not allow a Pope to be elected who would not be favorable to their designs. It is quite difficult to imagine that they (the Masons) had already penetrated deeply enough to substantially affect the elections. There is no documentation to support the charge that Clement was only allowed to be elected on a tacit agreement with the princes (who had vetoes in the conclave at this time) that he would speedily enact the suppression.
It is unfair to say that the Pope rose to his office planning joyfully to suppress the Order. It would be better to say that he knew he would have to deal with the problem, but he hoped to forestall and do what he could to avoid the worst case. In an early letter to King Louis XV of France, he said, “I can neither censure nor abolish an Institute which has been commended by 19 of my predecessors.” Campbell, quoting Fr. Weld, “At the time of his election, Clement was convinced, and very rightly, that the extinction of a religious order was warranted if thereby the necessary peace for the Church might be obtained, since religious orders are in no way essential” (431). Thus lay the problem for the Pope. Everything spiritual seemed to cry out on behalf of the Jesuits, and everything temporal screamed loudly for their destruction. The Pope saw in the suppression what he thought was the best way to preserve the Church’s interest. It is easy to sit back many centuries later and condemn. Indeed, Daurignac says, “to sacrifice the very existence of over 22,000 religious for the sole object of gratifying four princes, who permitted themselves to be ruled by impious ministers, is a matter of history which future generations will find difficulty in believing” (180). Yet this same criticism arises regarding the Concordat with Mussolini that Pope Pius XI signed. The Church is in the world, and she has to work to protect her interests. As Pope Pius IX said, it is iniquitous to attribute bad will to an individual, as only God can see the soul. So here too, we refrain from unconditionally condemning Pope Clement XIV for his action. Indeed, the suppression took his health and sanity. He was seen to visibly shake in the presence of the ambassadors who constantly pressured the Pope with their evil design. In his memoirs, Cardinal Pacca recalls the signing of the order of suppression.
On…the 21st of July, 1773, Cardinal Marefoschi laid before Clement the Brief Dominus ac Redemptor, by which the Society of Jesus was suppressed throughout the entire world. The pope affixed his signature, and after signing it, he dashed the document to one side, cast the pen to another, and, from that moment, was demented. This signature had cost the unhappy Pontiff his reason! From that day, he possessed it only at intervals, and then only to deplore his misfortunes.
It is important to note a few things about the Brief. “With its long list of allegations against the Society, there is no denying that the tone of the Brief is very adverse to the Jesuits. Yet the document does not condemn the Constitutions and Rules of the order; neither does it lay any blame on the personal conduct of the members; nor does it impugn the orthodoxy of their doctrines” (Harney 335-336).
In view of the future, he would not suppress the society by a Bull which would be binding upon his successors. He had suppressed it by a brief, which could be revoked without difficulty, whenever public feeling might allow it. Moreover, such precautions were taken that the usual formalities for its publication and canonical execution were not observed. Thus, instead of being published on the same day, as is usual, three weeks were allowed to elapse. Instead of being placarded in all the public places required, to give it the full force and value of a voluntary act emanating from the Sovereign Pontiff, it was neither posted in the Campo di Fiori, nor upon the doors of the Basilica of St. Peter. The letter sent to the bishops, in forwarding the brief, did not command them to notify the same to the religious interested; it merely recommended them to do so…All these informal ties must have been foreseen and contemplated by the Pope, in order that the act, thus forced by threats and intimidation, might be the more easily revoked.
With all of that being said, the text of the Brief cannot be said to reflect an attitude inimical to the Jesuits and to the Church which it desired so to defend.
…We have recognized that the Society of Jesus was no longer in the position to produce those rich fruits and remarkable advantages for the sake of which it was instituted, approved by so many popes, and accorded so many splendid privileges; it appears, moreover, quite impossible to maintain a true and lasting peace within the Church as long as this order exists. Guided by these weighty considerations, and impelled on other grounds which the wisdom and wise administration of the whole Church have laid before Us and which We preserve in the depths of Our heart…after mature consideration with Our unerring judgement and from the fullness of Our apostolic power, We hereby suppress the Society of Jesus. We declare void all its offices, functions, and administrations, houses, schools, colleges, hospices, and all other places in its possession, in whatsoever province, kingdom or state they may be…
Further events occurred that further humiliated Pope and Church. Voltaire offered Father Adam (a Jesuit superior) a home in his own house, at least implying that he did not agree with the justice of the action. Further, Dutch Calvinists and Jansenists had a medal struck in honor of the “great Pope Ganganelli” with their approbation (“opprobrium” to all Catholics).
Through all this it must be maintained that no one should attempt to relieve the Holy Father of the burden of responsibility. He did indeed sign the Brief. However it can, and must be observed, that his judgement must be mitigated in the light of such terrible pressure and circumstances. The enemies of the Church did have their triumph, at least for a little over 30 years until the glorious Restoration of the Order.
Through all this calumny and injustice, the Jesuits remained loyal to the Spirit of Him from whom they derived their name, Jesus Our Lord. For He, too was led to death, like a sheep to slaughter, and he “opened not his mouth.” Many Jesuits were sent home to their dioceses, some were appointed by the Pope to offices of episcopacy, and a great number fled into the territories of Frederick and Catherine. Everywhere the Jesuits showed the spirit of their founder, continuing to live a religious life though deprived of their holy habit. Webster notes, “The Jesuits, unlike the Templars and the Illuminati, were simply suppressed in 1773 without the formality of a trial, and were therefore never given the opportunity to answer the charges brought against them, nor, as in the case of these other orders, were their secret statutes – if any such existed – brought to light” (199). Indeed, Fr. Ricci and the other superiors in Rome were arrested and questioned. The archives and treasury of the Society’s church in Rome, the Gesu, were carefully searched not only for evidence that would incriminate the Society and validate the suppression, but also for the legendary Jesuit treasure of gold, which proved to be a fairy tale. Nothing was found and yet nothing was retracted.
In a letter to Voltaire, Frederick wrote, “That good Franciscan of the Vatican leaves me my dear Jesuits, who are persecuted everywhere else. I will preserve the precious seed, so as to be able, one day, to supply it to such as may desire again to cultivate this rare plant” (Daurignac 174). He could not refrain from further thrusting an insult to the Catholic world. In a communication to his agent in Rome he said:
Abbe Columbini, you will inform all who desire to know the fact, but without ostentation or affectation, and you will, moreover, seek an opportunity of signifying the same to the Pope and the Chief Minister, that, with regard to the Jesuits, I am resolved to retain them in my states. In the treaty of Breslau, I guaranteed the status quo of the Catholic religion, and I have never found better priests in every respect. You will further add, that, as I belong to the class of heretics, the Pope cannot relieve me from the obligations of keeping my word, nor from the duty of a king and an honest man.
Once again the Providence of Our Lord is seen as acting in the person of this heretic monarch. Abandoned by the Jews, Our Lord turned to the Gentiles. Abandoned by His Catholic monarchs, Our Lord used the heretics. Indeed, the irregularity of a growing Jesuit order in Russia was solved by a brief of Pius VI which allowed for the seemingly absurd establishment of a Jesuit novitiate, notwithstanding Dominus ac Redemptor which was still in force. The Catholic monarchs clamored, but it was too late. Clement had died, the former ministers of state had fallen into disfavor and out of power, and Pius VI bided his time to restore the Order correctly and fruitfully. Msgr. Jouin tells us that in Pius’s first encyclical Nostrarum Vim Pacrymarum Exquirit the Holy Father condemned the “so-called philosophers, fanatical enemies of the Church, professors of lies who with their erroneous beliefs, penetrate into the seats of the Academies, in the houses of the notables, in the Courts of Kings, and even in the Lord’s Sanctuary” (10). However, it was not he, but Pius VII who would restore the order nearly 30 years later, on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1801, and shortly before the 261st anniversary of the erection of the order, by the bull Regimini militantis Ecclesiae of Pope Paul III Farnese.
This glorious restoration came too late, though. The damage had been done. The French Revolution had occurred. Webster argues that in suppressing the Jesuits the Old Regime removed the only barrier capable of resisting the tide of revolution. “The spread of the anti-Christian movement in France,” as Fr. Kelly calls it, was deeply rooted by the time of the Restoration. The absence of the Jesuits had provided the Freemasons ability to meet without impediment, in the lodges which provided “the meeting-places for which every type of impiety, immorality, and revolt found a safe refuge, and where all the anti-religious and anti-social elements of French society met on common ground” (Cahill 11).
The Society of Jesus had been restored. It remained (and remains today) to be seen whether Jesus would be restored to society.
Barruel, Abbe. Memoires sur le Jacobinisme. 1819 ed. Vol III, p. 9
Cahill, S.J., E. Freemasonry and the Anti-Christian Movement. Dublin: M.H. Gill and Son, Ltd., 1952.
Campbell, S.J., Thomas J. The Jesuits 1534-1521. New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1921.
Daurignac, J.M.S. History of the Society of Jesus from its Foundation to the Present Time. Trans. James Clements. Cincinnati: John P. Walsh, 1865.
Fahey, Denis. The Kingship of Christ and Organized Naturalism. Palmdale, California: Christian Book Club of America, 1993.
Fulöp-Miller, Rene. The Power and Secret of the Jesuits. Trans. F.S. Flint and D.F. Tait. New York: George Braziller Inc., 1956.
Harney, S.J., Martin P. The Jesuits in History: The Society of Jesus through Four Centuries. New York: The America Press, 1941.
Jouin, Msgr. Papacy and Freemasonry. 1910. Palmdale, California: Christian Book Club of America, 1994.
Lefebvre, Marcel. Against the Heresies. Trans. Angelus Press, Kansas City: Angelus Press, 1997.
Lortz, Joseph. History of the Church. Adapted by Edwin G. Kaiser. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1939.
Martin, S.J., Malachi. The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987.
Mioni, Anthony J., ed. The Popes against Modern Errors, 16 Papal Documents. Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1999.
Webster, Nesta H. Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. Hawthorne, California: Christian Book Club of America, 1964.