March 21, 2016 Monday of Holy Week
My primary source for this entire discussion of the Suppression of the Jesuits has been the book Clement XIII et Clement XIV published in 1854 by the priest of the restored Society of Jesus Père Gustave François Xavier de Lacroix de Ravignan. This book was written in French during the reign of Napoleon III and to my knowledge has never been translated into English and I would dare say was largely forgotten in the Catholic world after the First World War.
It is however a wealth of information. I have tried to translate and distill the enormous range of facts that de Ravignan presented to the best of my ability but it is really something. The documents that were at his disposal in the 1840s and 1850s and that he presents to us are really incredible. I don’t know if they could be assembled again due to all of the carnage that happened in Europe during the twentieth century but this Jesuit priest, zealous for the reputation of his order, has given us a wonderful testimony of these events and how they occurred during the mid to late 18th century. We can see that the suppression was no accident. That the game was rigged so to speak. That there was at the time a transnational group of conspirators determined to destroy the Society of Jesus. Some were just useful idiots, but others were hardened conspirators who were taking the first big step to breaking the hold that the Church of Rome had over the nations whom she had midwifed into existence. And furthermore he gives us evidence that the Popes of the day, Clement XIII and Clement XIV, among others knew exactly what was going on. And sadly history has borne out their fears.
If you read French I would suggest taking a look at this work Clement XIII et Clement XIV: it is available on Google books here. He lays out the facts, just the facts incredibly well and his research is culled from primary sources, many of which are not likely to exist anymore. His biography is available on the Catholic encyclopedia. The review of his work in this now century old Catholic encyclopedia article states of Clement XIII et Clement XIV that “the literary merit of the work is not the highest,” but I would disagree. De Ravignan was aiming not at poetry but at a recitation of facts; facts that gave birth to a historical earthquake that we are still living through more than a century and a half after his work was published. And the facts speak for themselves.
De Ravignan ends his work with a stirring conclusion that runs on to the restoration of the Society of Jesus by Pope Pius VII in 1814 with the solemn and correct declaration that the Church founded by Jesus Christ will conquer all enemies, but here we will end our time with him and move on to another work. I thank him for he opened up a whole new world and a whole new view of history for me. He gave me to know with certainty that the French Revolution and all of the disasters which followed were not just the natural result of history, of bad kings, and a corrupt nobility. However much truth there is in those charges we also know that there were people working to destroy the Church and the power of kings and that their motives had precious little to do with the welfare of the man in the street so to speak.
Next we will move on to another work available only in French: L’Église Romaine en Face de la Révolution published by Jacques Crétineau-Joly in Paris in 1859. In terms of timeline this work takes up where de Ravignan left off, with the election of Pope Pius VI in 1775 and brings the tale up to Crétineau-Joly’s own day in the 1850s.
Please go to Confession and say three Hail Marys for the repose of the soul of Père de Ravignan.