Act I: the Suppression of the Jesuits in Portugal

December 3, 2015                                                                                                                               The Feast of Saint Francis Xavier

The central figure of the opening scene of this nightmare, a nightmare that we are still living through, went by the name of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo during his time on earth.  During the time that he was first minister to King Joseph I of Portugal and was doing the deeds that bring him to our attention he had the title of Marquis de Pombal so we will follow the usual practice and call him Pombal for short.

Pombal served as the Portuguese ambassador in London during the 1740s, which is likely the place, buzzing with the ideas of John Locke and and still brimming over with the hatred for the Church of Rome leftover from the reign of Elizabeth I and her immediate successors, where he learned and made his own the ideas that would bring him into conflict with the Catholic Church and with the Society of Jesus in particular.  He there acquired his taste for the absurd atheistic philosophies that were then in nascent form but now dominate the world.  When the time came, almost a decade later, for him to rise to the position of Prime Minister to King Joseph I of Portugal in 1755 he drove hard to force this idiocy on Portugal.

Joseph I was a weak king and doesn’t really figure much into this story save for when the Marquis de Pombal gave him a pen and told him to sign a decree.  It is important to understand that Pombal’s real hatred was for the Church of Rome.  He was a professed admirer of Voltaire and Rousseau and wanted their works translated into Portuguese and taught in Portuguese schools.  The Society of Jesus, with its stronghold in education, stood in the way of this.  He also saw during his time in England the way that the Anglican Church functioned, retaining much of its Catholic looking exterior practices but entirely separated itself from Rome and became entirely a tool of the British government.  This is what happens O Bishops when you seek to increase your own authority within the Church at the expense of the Roman Pontiff: you lose your authority, you lose your independence, and you become mere tools of the secular state.  Think of that before you fall prey to all of the ‘decentralizers’ who in our own day lay like wolves in the dark corners of the Church hierarchy.

In any case the Marquis de Pombal had this idea in mind for Portugal, this most Catholic of countries.  Cut off the Church in Portugal from Rome, make it subservient to the Portuguese state under his control.  Once this was achieved then the firm, natural, and implacable opposition of the Catholic Church to his forcing of the absurd and atheistic ideas of the 18th century down the throat of Portuguese society would disappear.

How do I know this?  Because this is exactly what Pombal did.  But we will get to that in a moment.  First the Jesuits.  Pombal had to start with the Jesuits because the Society of Jesus was the firm link of the Church in Portugal and Portuguese society to the Roman Pontiff.  So how did he do it?

Lies and propaganda.  It all started in Paraguay.  Paraguay was a Spanish territory in the middle of the 18th century but the Portuguese believed that certain of its territories where extensive Jesuit missions were present contained large deposits of gold.  The Portuguese colonial authorities in Brazil, no doubt egged on by Pombal, convinced themselves that the Jesuits were using native labor to mine this imaginary gold to build up a nice treasury for themselves.  And they coveted these territories and this gold.

The Portuguese then acquired these territories and forced the natives out.  The Jesuits attempted to lead the natives, whose spiritual and bodily welfare they had great concern for, out of Portuguese territory to the land allotted to them but they, the natives I mean, were understandably upset about being forced out of their ancestral homeland and attacked their Portuguese overlords.  A minor war ensued in which the Paraguayan natives were easily defeated but Pombal now had a propaganda dagger to aim at the heart of the Society of Jesus, first in Portugal then throughout Europe.

His charge was that the Jesuits had been mining gold to build up their wealth and using it to foment revolution and overthrow governments as was obvious from the Indian revolt in Paraguay.  An absurd charge for which there was little evidence, but in the Europe of 1758 it was given a hearing.  The stage had been set for suspicion to be generated against this venerable transnational religious order and against the Catholic Church by the rising nationalism generated by the Protestant revolution 250 years earlier, by the live and let live policies adopted toward those heretical and destructive Protestant states by the Catholic world in general during the century since the Thirty Years War, and by the whispers emanating from the Masonic Lodges.

So the dried kindling was laid out and Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquis de Pombal, lit the match.  Propaganda pamphlets were printed and spread throughout Portugal and Europe with the aid of Voltaire and his ‘philosophers’ that the Jesuits were amassing gigantic secret hordes of wealth and plotting revolutions and the overthrow of governments and kingdoms.  The charge stuck.  In fact it has had a long life and lives on even to this day.  In some dark corners of the conspiracy theory universe and on various internet chat rooms and comment boards you will still see supposed conspirators branded with the accusation of being a ‘Jesuit.’

There is a curious and instructive aspect to this charge against the Society of Jesus though.  That they were accused of amassing resources to be employed in the overthrow of kings and of governments is rather interesting.  Because while the Jesuits certainly weren’t plotting this, somebody definitely was.  And it was in fact the people  who were making the charge against the Society of Jesus who were the ones plotting revolution.  The conspiracy to destroy the teaching of Jesus Christ and to destroy civilization along with it often employs this tactic.  They accuse their enemies of doing exactly what they plan to do, except what they plan to do is usually 10,000 times worse.  The French kings were accused of being oppressive and the Bastille was used as a spark for the uprising.  But when the revolutionaries gained power they set up the guillotine and the streets of Paris ran with blood; something unknown under the French monarchy even going back to the Merovingians . The Bolsheviks accused the Czars of being oppressive because those criminals were put in prison or exiled, but when they took power those revolutionaries filled Russia with an ocean of blood killing something like, I don’t know, sixty million Russians.  Yet we are still told today that the French Republic and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were signs of ‘progress.’  And I won’t even start with abortion.

In any case Joseph I signed a letter written by Pombal to the dying Pope Benedict XIV denouncing the Jesuits.  The Pope appointed a Cardinal Saldhana to investigate the charges against the Society of Jesus on April 1, 1758 and died five weeks later.  Meanwhile Pombal’s propaganda war ensued against the Jesuits.  And Cardinal Saldhana was no friend to the Jesuit order.  He did not do a proper investigation and used the occasion of the Sede Vacante following Benedict XIV’s death to usurp papal authority in the matter.  He pronounced against the Jesuits and declared that they were guilty of having exercised illicit, public, and scandalous commerce both in Portugal and in its colonies.  Pombal used this declaration to effectively remove the Society of Jesus from public life in Portugal before the new Pope, Clement XIII, was elected in July, 1758.  The following year the order was entirely suppressed in Portugal and their goods confiscated by the Portuguese state following an unsubstantiated accusation that they were involved in a plot against the Portuguese king.  All Jesuits in Portugal and the vast global Portuguese empire were promptly placed on ships and unceremoniously dumped on the shores of the Papal States in central Italy.

Pombal’s final stroke was to effect a complete separation between the Portuguese Church and the Church of Rome.  His government used the suppression of the Jesuits to stoke suspicion against all Catholic institutions in Portugal.  He then contrived a situation whereby the Papal Nuncio in Lisbon did not attend a royal wedding.  Pombal then ruthlessly exploited this situation and forced the Papal Nuncio to flee the country and the Portuguese Church to cut itself off from Rome.  On July 7, 1760 the Portuguese ambassador quit Rome and King Joseph I of Portugal formally prohibited all communication with the Pope, a situation that lasted until 1770 when a new Pontiff was on the throne of Saint Peter and Pombal wanted to join in on the effort to crush the Jesuit order as a whole.

So this then is the beginning of the disaster.  It is instructive because it shows the means, goals, and tactics of this enterprise when it was at its beginning and still as yet unsure of itself.  Next is France.

Go to Confession and please pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  And maybe have a Mass said for old Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo.



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1 Response to Act I: the Suppression of the Jesuits in Portugal

  1. Pingback: The Suppression of the Jesuits in France | Vexillum Immaculatae

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