The birth of the Revolutionary Age

April 27, 2016

From 1768 until 1773 the great Catholic monarchs of Europe were goaded and seduced into making war against the Holy See to force Popes Clement XIII and Clement XIV to bend to their will in a solely Ecclesiastical matter: the suppression of the Society of Jesus.  The children made war against their father, and the era of Christian civilization effectively ended.  The age of Revolution was born with the Suppression of the Jesuits though it would not be manifest for a few years yet.

After the death of Clement XIV Cardinal Giovanni Angelico Braschi was elected pope on February 15, 1775 taking the name Pius VI.  He was to endure through one of the greatest and most tumultuous papacies in the whole history of the Church, though this has sadly been almost entirely forgotten now in our amnesiac age.  He was the first pope of the revolutionary era and felt its onslaught perhaps greater than any of his successors down to the present day.  Pius VI began his reign dealing with rebellious kings and ended it almost a quarter of a century later a prisoner in the fortress of Valence, cast in irons and exiled from his kingdom by the revolutionary army that came out of France.

The age that created his sorrows was one riven with error.  Voltaire’s philosophes had triumphed with the suppression of the Jesuits.  Immoral and anti-Christian literature, penned by anonymous authors and printed in hidden presses, was inundating France and the whole of Europe weakening wills and softening minds.  The Pope no longer had any effective means to combat these plagues.  His right arm, the Jesuits, had been taken away; the Catholic kings no longer had any concern for his welfare; his own power and the prestige of his office had been fatally weakened by the war waged against him by the Catholic kings and the relentless satire and mocking of Voltaire and his so called ‘Philosophers.’

The first revolt struck in 1781.  Joseph II of Austria was the son of Maria-Theresa and from the onset of his reign sought to demolish the Catholic Church in his country.  This monarch had drunk fully from the toxic cauldron of the errors of his age.  His mother had brought in two medical professors from Holland during the 1750s, a Girard van Swieten and Anton de Haen, who were both closet Jansenists and helped to organize Jansenist elements secretly at the court of Vienna.  These elements helped slowly, little by little, to influence the young Joseph with a spirit of rebellion against Rome.  In addition the man had been heavily influenced by the works of the Philosophers.

He began to shut monasteries and confiscate Church property to the point where Pius VI in early 1782 became the first pope in three centuries to leave Rome and journeyed to Austria to meet with the rebellious monarch.  He stayed in Vienna a month and but was unable to change his course.  After the visit the Austrian emperor, in a foreshadowing of later events, appointed a bishop on his own to the See of Saint Ambrose in Milan (then a part of Austria).  He made known his plan for completing the work of Luther and separating the Church in Germany entirely from Rome but was dissuaded from this act before his death.  This further and greater monarchical rebellion was noted well throughout the Church and the Catholic world.

This revolt in Austria dominated the Church’s attention during the 1780s and distracted her attention from the steadily worsening situation in France that was to culminate at the end of the decade in the events that gave form to the nightmare world that we have been living through ever since.  The popes continually inveighed against the principles that became dominant in these years during the long series of disasters that would follow one after another between 1789 and 1945 when the catastrophe of the Second World War permanently shifted global power and influence away from these nations who had rejected the Gospel to other parts of the world.  Even as late as 1937, in the days of Stalin and Hitler, Pope Pius XI would cry out in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris:

There would be today neither Socialism nor Communism if the rulers of the nations had not scorned the teachings and maternal warnings of the Church.

Next that we have examined the prelude in some depth it is time to take a closer look at what really happened in 1789 or at least as good a look as we can get from a distance of 227 years.

Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


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Part 2: Voltaire

April 20, 2016

The name Voltaire loomed large over the gathering darkness of the middle to late 18th century.  His importance has largely been forgotten in our own day, an era that is as amnesiac as it is short sighted, and if he is remembered at all it is largely as some whig wearing ‘free thinker’ of an earlier time who wrote plays and preached ‘tolerance,’ but he was much more than that.

François-Marie Arouet was born into the lowest rung of the French nobility and baptized into the Catholic Church on November 22, 1694.  He was educated, ironically enough, by Jesuits but his early life was characterized by disobedience to his father, a series of scandalous romantic liaisons, and a growing impatience with the demands made on one by the practice of religion.  He was imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months in 1717 because in a line of satirical verse he accused the French Regent Phillip II of an incestuous affair.  This experience chastened the young François-Marie Arouet and he made a determined effort the rest of his life to avoid going back to prison, even accepting exile on multiple occasions.

After leaving the Bastille the young man adopted the pen name Voltaire.  During a later exile in England during the 1720s we are told that he was impressed by English commercial freedoms, ‘tolerance,’ and ‘freedom of religion.’  I place the terms ‘tolerance’ and ‘freedom of religion’ in scare quotes because in 1720s England it was still very much illegal to be a Roman Catholic.  If I had to make a guess I would argue that it was this latter fact that impressed him.

Claims of ‘tolerance’ and ‘freedom’ would often be used  in later times, even to our own day, by the conspiracy to destroy the teaching of Jesus Christ in order to deceptively implement tyrannies of despotism and anarchy as part of their attempt both inside and outside the Church to erase the Gospel from the memory of the human race.

Fearful of more exile, imprisonment, and suffering Voltaire after he returned to France made his attacks on the Church and on authority in general more subtle and more clever.  The man was gifted with an astute cleverness and a talent for satire.  This combined with his incredible personal charm gained him admittance into and prestige in certain aristocratic circles and in centers of power throughout Europe as the century wore on.  He began to gather to himself like minded intellects by the 1750s who determined themselves to upset the order of the world.  They referred to themselves as les Philosophes, “The Philosophers.”

It was not an apt title.  Philosophy implies a love of wisdom, whereas these ones seemed only to love indulgence and craved desperately to unleash disorder, anarchy, and misery on the world.  And they did so.  Voltaire described the tactics of his ‘philosophers’ in a letter written at the end of 1768 to the Marquis de Villevielle (translation mine):

Our philosophers, today, are more skillful; they do not have the silly and dangerous vanity to put their names on their works; these are the invisible hands who pierce the fanaticism (i.e. the Catholic Church-mine) from one end of Europe to the other, with the arrows of the truth (i.e the arrows of lies-mine).  Damilaville just died; he was the author of Christianity Unveiled and of many other writings.  No one ever knew; his friends kept the secret as long as he lived with a fidelity worthy of philosophy.  No one yet knows who is the author of the book given under the name Fréret.  Someone has printed in Holland, for two years, more than sixty volumes against superstition (i.e. the Catholic Church-mine).  Their authors are absolutely unknown, although they try daringly to expose them…

A thousand pens write, and a hundred thousand voices are raised against abuse (i.e against the moral and religious practices that sustained Europe for a millennium after the catastrophic collapse of the Roman Empire-mine) and in favor of tolerance (i.e. the murderous despotism and atheistic tyranny that has reigned in large parts of the Catholic world since 1789-mine).  Be very sure that the revolution that has been made, in around twelve years (1754-1768), in the spirits of the people, has in no small way served to chase the Jesuits from so many states and has encouraged the princes to strike the idol of Rome which made them tremble in other times.

It is claimed by some today that the Baron d’Holboch was the author of Christianity Unveiled, but, since he and Damilaville were collaborators in Voltaire’s network of philosophes, this is not relevant.  Of equally little concern is that Voltaire would publicly attack Christianity Unveiled for its overt atheism since the man was a self admitted liar, and it served his purposes equally well to attack the work in public while he was secretly backing its publication.

But from this little snippet of Voltaire’s thinking and his description of the activities of his ‘philosophers’ we can get an idea of the problems that were besetting the Church during the reigns of both Pope Clement XIII and Clement XIV.  This storm of anonymous works emerged from one end of Europe to the other attacking religion and authority while all the time those members of of the Church best equipped to deal with this crisis i.e. the Jesuits were being driven from the most important Catholic kingdoms.  Keep also in mind that Voltaire is writing here of princes striking “the idol of Rome” at the end of 1768 at the precise moment when the Catholic kings had all gone to war against the Holy See in the most traitorous act in the history of the Catholic world, and were occupying parts of the Papal States in an attempt to get the Holy Father to bend to their will and suppress the Society of Jesus.

We also have a better idea of what made Clement XIII write this in his encyclical Christianae Reipublicae two years before:

The well being of the Christian community which has been entrusted to Us by the Prince of shepherds and the Guardian of souls requires Us to see to it that the unaccustomed and offensive licentiousness of books which has emerged from hiding to cause ruin and desolation does not become more destructive as it triumphantly spreads abroad.  The distortion of this hateful error and the boldness of the enemy has so increased, especially at this time, in sowing weeds among the wheat either in word or in writing that unless We lay scythe to the root and bind up the bad plants in bundles to burn, it will not be long before the growing thorns of evil attempt to choke the seedlings of the Lord Sabaoth.  For accursed men who have given themselves over to myths and who do not uphold the stronghold of Sion from all sides vomit the poison of of serpents from their hearts for the ruin of the Christian people by the contagious plague of books which almost overwhelms us.

But the Jesuits, the Holy Father’s best means of laying the scythe to the root of this evil, had been taken away from in coordination with those publishing these books.  He was naked and alone in the world with princes and clever men aiming arrows at his heart.

Voltaire, however, was not alone; he had friends who were powerful in the world.  Among these was Frederick II of Prussia, afterwards called the ‘great’, who was in a later time to be very much admired by Adolf Hitler.  Frederick II was a Protestant by birth but had ambitions to be a philosopher king of mythological fantasy.  He despised religion and collaborated with Voltaire in finding the best way to rid the world of its restraints.  The Prussian king was also intimately aware of the affairs of the various Catholic monarchs and sought to use this knowledge to destroy religious houses throughout Europe.

His plan was not new.  It had been pioneered by his ancestors during the Protestant revolt a quarter of a millennium earlier.  In order to increase their wealth many German princes became Protestants for the sole reason that this enabled them to confiscate Church property for themselves.  Fredrick II knew how in debt particularly France was by the 1770s and sought to use this to provoke the French monarchy to destroy religious orders in order to confiscate their property.  He explains his motivation in some sadly prophetic words in an August 13, 1775 letter to Voltaire (translation mine):

If one wishes to diminish fanaticism, one must absolutely not touch the bishops; but if one succeeds in reducing the monks, above all the mendicant orders, the people will become cold, and less superstitious, it will permit the powers to dispose of the bishops in a way that suits the good of the States.  This is the only way to follow.  To sap silently and without any noise the edifice of unreason, that is to force it to collapse on its own.  The Pope, seeing the situation he is in, is obliged to give briefs and bulls as his dear sons require of him but this power, justified by the great reputation of the Faith is lost to the extent that this diminishes.  If he then finds at the head of nations some ministers beyond vulgar prejudices, the Holy Father will go bankrupt.  No doubt posterity will rejoice at the advantage of being able to think freely.

Are you rejoicing?  Am I?  Men marrying men and women marrying women?  Hundreds of millions of people murdered over the last century.  Tens of millions of broken families and destroyed lives.  Fifty-five million abortions in the Untied States alone, and now a major push (that will almost certainly succeed) is on for adult men to be allowed into the same public restrooms as young girls?  These are the rewards of  so called “free thought.”  Or am I just a superstitious fanatic?

In any case I think we have established here some evidence.  There was something going on in the 18th century.  This was no spontaneous intellectual movement going on here.  This was an organized effort that purposefully operated from the shadows, concealing not only their intentions but even their identity.  These people were plotting the overthrow of the Christian order, and their only goal was this: to destroy the Gospel and to erase it from the memory of man.  But the Truth cannot be destroyed.  Next we must begin to examine the revolutionary age itself that resulted from all of these shenanigans.

Please go to Confession and say three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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While the Jesuits were being suppressed… Part 1: Jansenism

April 5, 2016                                                                                                                                                The Memorial of Saint Vincent Ferrer “Angel of the Apocalypse”

All through the long death agony of the Society of Jesus, during the late middle part of the 18th century, there were other currents of troubled water flowing through the Catholic world. Two of them, Voltairianism and Jansensim, contributed directly though in different ways to the disasters that have afflicted the Church and the world since 1789.  In this post I will try to describe Jansensim which has been almost forgotten in our day but is crucial to understand if one wishes to get a stronger handle on the disasters of the late 18th century.

The ideas that gave birth to the Jansenist movement arose from the writings of a Dutch theologian, at the end of his life Bishop of Ypres, named Cornelius Jansen that were published after his death in 1638.  I do not wish to get too involved in the complicated theology that gave birth to this movement but it consisted mainly of an exaggerated view of the depravity of fallen man that originated with Jansenius’ seeming misinterpretation of the views of Saint Augustine on the subject.  These views would lead among some of its adherents to almost Calvinistic views of predestination and the nature of the elect.

Five specific Jansenistic propositions were condemned by Pope Innocent X in the Bull Cum Occasione on May 31, 1653.  So the subscribers to these propositions were left with a choice: either submit to the authority of the Holy See, or leave the Church as Calvin himself had done a century before.  But instead they pioneered a third option.  Over the next century, between the publishing of Cum Occasione and the era of of which we have been writing the Jansenists for the most part attempted to remain in the fold of Rome on the superficial sense always issuing craftily worded acceptances of the papal condemnation whilst still retaining their errors in their hearts.  They would say things like  “We accept the Holy Father’s condemnation of such and such a proposition,” and then would launch into a craftily worded argument of how the sense in which the the Pope had condemned said proposition was not actually the sense in which it had originally been proposed.  That was all for public consumption.  They wished only to appear to be loyal to the Holy Father so as to further the effectiveness of their goal of encouraging disobedience to Papal authority.  This is the sense in which Jansenism was truly revolutionary.  Its doctrines were mainly recycled poppycock from heresies that had died out more than a millennium before, but it was this tactic of retaining a just thin enough veil of public orthodoxy to remain within the fold of Church institutions while all the time seeking to degrade those institutions from within that was truly earth shattering.

The second feature of Jansenism’s public face that aided and abetted the crisis of the 18th century was the fact that its Calvinistic views of predestination led to an excessive moral rigorism.  Keep in mind that an 18th century Catholic priest who was a member of the Jansenist sect was viewed by his parishioners as speaking with the authority of Rome as long as he could express his opinions subtly enough to keep from drifting into open heresy.  When a person hears a priest preach an excessive moral rigorism that lacks any emphasis on the grace and Divine Mercy which keep us going through our exile in this world toward the goal of life eternal, despite our many falls, chiefly through the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist then he begins to lose his fervor.  He begins to think that it is not possible to live a good life and that God is an angry Judge rather than a merciful Savior, and that he just doesn’t have a chance.  And then he starts to feel distant from God and distrust toward his Church.  And he begins to be pulled by a stronger temptation to pleasure seeking since “if I am incapable of Heaven and destined for Hell anyways then I might as well get what I can get while I can get it.”  And all this makes a person, or a group of people, or a city, or a nation easy prey for the likes of Voltaire and Rousseau.

Moral rigorism aside the fire of its original doctrines had largely subsided by the middle of the 18th century and its principal animating feature at that time was hatred for legitimate Church authority, especially for Pontifical authority emanating from the Church of Rome.  That, plus its secretive and crafty method of maintaining a public facade of orthodoxy whilst in its heart remaining firmly heretical made it a ready made instrument at the birth of the Revolutionary Age to attack the Church from the inside.  It is also useful to note that there was within the Jansenist movement an abiding hatred for the Society of Jesus.  The Jesuits had been in the forefront of attacking the five condemned propositions in the middle of the seventeenth centuries and in the decades that followed they were always the most effective in detecting the subtle craft and piercing the mask of orthodoxy that the Jansenists liked to employ.   And as such by the middle part of the 18th century the Jansenists were ready, despite their public moral rigorism, to concoct a strange alliance with the Voltarian types were seeking to annihilate the Society of Jesus and therefore to degrade the prestige of the Pope.

Jansenism as an ideology began to fade during the French Revolution.  Their were Jansenist prelates and clergy who felt the time was right to make their hostility to Rome public during the 1790s.  They allied themselves to the Revolutionary government and became ‘constitutional’ bishops and priests.  But the movement’s ideological principles were largely abandoned by the time of Napoleon, and the last officially Jansenist convents came back into communion with Rome during the middle part of the 19th century.

But certain other of its aspects have lingered.  The excessive public moral rigorism would infect individual members and whole communities of generations of clergy, partly out of reaction to the massive public immorality of the late 18th and the 19th and 20th centuries; in fact it survived to a time within living memory, before the rug was pulled out from under it by the disastrous sexual revolution of the 1960s that this insane rigorism probably did a lot to lay the ground work for.

The tactic of appearing in public to remain faithful to the Catholic Church while launching a murderous assault against her from the inside that the Jansenists pioneered would seem to have been used with great gusto by the conspiracy to destroy the teaching of Jesus Christ.  This was the prime means of infiltrating the highly destructive heresy of Modernism, condemned by Pope Saint Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, into the clergy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that cancer has remained with us until this very moment.

Then there is the destructive hatred of pontifical authority by members of the so called ‘right’ in the Church that has resurfaced in our own day.  I use that term advisedly since there was really no such thing as a political ‘right’ or ‘left’ during much of the life of Jansenism.  What I mean are the movements who appear to be so traditional and rock solidly founded in essential Catholic teaching but then destroy all of that and enter into a de facto alliance with those who one would think would be their most implacable adversaries by a seemingly inexorable devotion to practicing disobedience to the Roman Pontiff.  One thinks in this regard of the schismatic priests of the Society of Saint Pius X or any of its numerous spin offs including the myriad sedevacantist groups that one encounters on the internet.

This then is a rough sketch of the legacy of Jansenism.  In the next post we will do an examination of Voltaire and his minions.

Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


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A belated thank you to Pere de Ravignan

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.

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The legacy of the Suppression

March 10, 2016

The Suppression of the Jesuits was the first act of a revolution.  This revolution unleashed an age of immense barbarism unprecedented in human history that we are still living through.  The revolution’s purpose at this point was to begin to dismantle the authority of the Catholic Church in its heartland, within the nations it had given life to so long ago.

This done the revolution could then replace the Gospel in the minds and hearts of those who had once believed, or their children, with its own contrivances.  This fraudulent view of the world had already been conjured up in dark dens and had also been partially revealed by the pen of its chief minister: François Marie Arouet, who went by the nom de guerre Voltaire.

The Jesuits were broken in the 1760s.  The Catholic kings were seduced into being accomplices in this stupid act.  Voltaire and his ‘philosophers’ lauded their efforts in public while plotting their demise in private.  Such is the fate of those who seek after the praise of men.  Empty flattery followed some time after by a blade on your neck.

I had thought that Europe began to throw off the Catholic faith with the French Revolution in 1789, but I was mistaken.  De Ravingan’s work Clement XIII et Clement XIV revealed a whole new view of the world for me.  I had never heard of the war that the Catholic kings had waged against the Holy See.  In military terms the war was small, almost insignificant, but in moral, religious, and sociopolitical terms it was a catastrophe.

When all of the major Catholic powers save Austria (and Austria eventually consented to this plot) conspired to force their will upon Popes Clement XIII and Clement XIV in the matter of suppressing a religious order, which is the exclusive purview of the Church, and when they didn’t get their way resorted to force of arms against the Successor of Saint Peter something ended.

These nations who had been formed out of nothing by the Catholic Church once upon a time.  They were the refuse of the earth when the Popes first encountered these barbarians who had wandered off the plains of Asia into the ruins of Imperial Rome worshiping trees and fleeing the relentless advance of the Huns.  During the centuries to come the Gospel preached to them by the Successors of Saint Peter shaped these vagabond tribes into great, stable, and long lived civilized nations that had by the 18th century come to dominate the earth.

And the rulers of these nations rejected the Successor of Saint Peter and sought to subjugate him to their own authority, and in doing so they rejected Him who sent him.  They allowed themselves to be seduced by the ravings of impious flatterers, and  in their pride they thought that they had accomplished all of this themselves.  They must have.  Or else why would they have made war against their own life giver?  But alas they did.  And when they did that the Almighty gave them over to their own desires.  The Jesuits were suppressed.  The power of the Pope diminished relative to the power of kings.  And their own authority among their own peoples went with it.  It wasn’t twenty years after the Suppression of the Jesuits that a French king was led to the scaffold through the streets of Paris amidst the howls of his subjects to meet his end.  They sowed and they reaped.  Let that be a lesson to us all.

We must never forget this warning written so long ago, at the height of the power of pagan Rome, when the conversion of Caesar and the millennium long Age of Faith which followed with its great Gothic cathedrals could not yet even be conjured in the human mind, when Holy Mass was being offered in private homes and the Sacred Host was held in the rough hands of fishermen who had once eaten and drunk with the Eternal Word when He took on flesh and dwelt among men:

See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off (Rom. 11: 22).

This warning is contained in a letter addressed specifically to the Church of Rome and it goes for all of us who are in communion with her.  And it is for all time.  So let us abide in goodness.  Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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The implementation of Dominus ac Redemptor and the death of Clement XIV

March 9, 2016                                                                                                                                        The Memorial of Saint Frances of Rome

So now the Society of Jesus was suppressed, by the order of Pope Clement XIV in the brief Dominus ac Redemptor.  The Holy Father was forced into making this decision.  He did not wish it, but he had to do it.  How do we know this?  Here are some words taken from the English translation of the brief by John Murphy S.J.:

In cultivating God’s vineyard and in preserving the house of the Christian religion whose cornerstone is Christ, we root up and we destroy and we dispose and we scatter and we build and we plant. This has always been our mind and firm intention that we ought not leave anything undone for the peace and quiet of the Christian republic. We ought to act by planting, by building, by doing whatever is suitable. Similarly, when the same bond of charity requires it, we should be prompt and ready to uproot and to destroy anything even if it be most pleasant and gratifying to us and even if doing without it would cause the greatest distress and mental anguish.
Clement XIV’s motive was simply to preserve the peace and unity of the Catholic world as it stood in 1773.  He was menaced by threats of schism by France, Spain, Naples i.e. all of the great Catholic powers, the only great Catholic powers along with their at the time worldwide empires that remained after the disaster of Martin Luther’s revolt two and half centuries before.  And he had seen, after what the Marquis de Pombal had pulled off in Portugal, that this was no idle threat.
An evil seed had been sown in the courts of Catholic Europe, a seed that would shortly lead to their annihilation, but for now the target of this nascent conspiracy was the Society of Jesus.  This Society had been instrumental in stopping the Protestant revolt in its tracks a few centuries before and it was in the 18th century the Church and the Holy Father’s best tool for keeping the Catholic nations aligned with the Church of Rome that had after all given them life in the first place.  It had to be dismantled.  And it was.  The Bourbon courts were seduced by a motley crew of ne’er do well ministers into demanding the destruction of the only thing that was keeping them in power.  And they did it.  Clement XIV tried to placate them and to appease them and to play for time but it was not to be.  The Society of Jesus was extinguished on August 16, 1773.
But Clement XIV did manage to include a provision in the brief that ended up doing a lot of good for the Church and the Jesuits but cost him a lot of frustration during the last year of his life.  The brief was not binding on the members of the Society of Jesus in a particular diocese until they were informed of it by the local Ordinary i.e the bishop of that diocese.  The pope did that in order arrange the distribution of the Jesuits’ property and that it remained within the Church rather than just being sold off to the highest bidder after an abrupt eviction.
Strangely enough this allowed the Society of Jesus to survive in of all places Russia.  Poland had only been partitioned the year before (1772) by Russia, Prussia, and Austria.  The empress Catherine the Great had therefore acquired a large number of Catholic subjects in this arrangement.  The Jesuits had been in Poland for more than two centuries at that point and the empress, who was Russian Orthodox and therefore not in communion with the Roman Pontiff, did not wish to threaten the peace of her newly acquired territories by subjecting them to another major shake up coming so quickly after the partition.  She therefore ordered the Bishop of Vilnius on pain of banishment not to communicate in any way the brief Dominus ac Redemptor to the local Jesuits.  Things were to remain as before.  This resulted in an almost comical situation where the local Jesuits, who were well aware of the Holy Father’s desires and wished to be obedient to them, pleaded with their sovereign to allow them to be suppressed and the schismatic Empress flatly refusing their pleas and thus managing to preserve one of the great orders of the Western Church.  It is really strange the way Divine Providence works sometimes.  Here are a bunch of Catholic kings trying to destroy one of the Roman Church’s great assets, and it ends up being a schismatic Orthodox empress who allows it to survive.  More proof, if any were needed, that the Almighty truly does have a fine sense of humor.
But Clement XIV was not in a laughing mood.  He was continually subjected to demands that the state should be able to get hold of the Jesuits property.  His mental and physical health deteriorated over the next year.  He was continually assailed by the mental torment of all that had transpired during his pontificate and he was tired.  One of his successors, Pius VII, when he was imprisoned by Napoleon at Fontainbleu three decades later is reported to have quipped that he feared that he “would die mad, like Clement XIV.”  Saint Alphonsus Liguori is reported, and this is documented in several of his personal letters, to have been extremely concerned over the Holy Father’s health and the burden that he was carrying.  He prayed for him constantly and there is a very credible report of the Saint bilocating i.e. he rested immobile in his armchair for two days but later stated that he was not asleep but at the bedside of Clement XIV in his death agony.  That end came on September 22, 1774.
He had been Pope for five tumultuous years and in all truth things did not look good for the Church at his death.  His actions were ironically praised by the Voltaires of the world, but many Catholics thought he was weak and had left the Church disarmed.  In truth what could he have done?  The real damage was done under the reign of Clement XIII when the Jesuits were suppressed in the great Catholic kingdoms of France, Spain, and Portugal along with their world wide empires.  If Clement XIV had defended the Society of Jesus to the last drop of blood and provoked a great schism then the Church, weak though she appeared at the end of his pontificate, would have been in a far worse position to meet the onslaught which was to be unleashed on her in a few short years.  Whether the Society of Jesus had been suppressed by the pope or not that onslaught was still coming, and the Jesuits who had by that point been so greatly weakened by their suppression in the Bourbon monarchies were not then in a position to be any great help to the Church.
I don’t know if Clement XIV made all of the right choices but I do know that I would not have wanted his job.  My own opinion is that he made the right choice with regard to the Jesuits.  The conspiracy never did manage to provoke open schism.  It has always been the goal of the Church’s enemies to separate the faithful from the Roman Pontiff.  And while the last few centuries have been tragic in the life of the Church that union with Rome, however tenuous in some cases, yet remains.
Please go to Confession and say three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
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The extinction of the Society of Jesus

March 3, 2016                                                                                                                                      The Memorial of Saint Katharine Drexel

The conclusion of the sad opening chapter of this horror show that we are still living through must now be recounted.  Pope Clement XIV had been harried and harassed throughout the summer of 1769 and sought to play for time.  He knew the king of Spain, Charles III, was the most fanatical opponent of the Society of Jesus.  In a letter penned to the Catholic king on November 30, 1769 the Holy Father assured Charles III in writing (translation mine) that he would “submit to the lights and wisdom of Your Majesty a plan for the absolute extinction of this society and Your Majesty will receive it before long.”

De Ravignan reports that, based on the evidence that he had discovered by the middle part of the nineteenth century, Clement XIV’s motive was simply to play for time.  He had no desire to suppress the Society of Jesus and he thought that if he could keep putting it off into the future then some other event or series of events would take place that would drive this issue out of everyone’s mind.  But it was not to be.

Clement XIV’s strategy seemed to work for a while.  1770 and 1771 passed with regular protestations by the Bourbon courts that the Holy Father wasn’t acting quickly enough on his word and the Pontiff responding essentially that these things take time.  The Bourbon courts had put the whole matter in the hands of a Cardinal Bernis, the French minister to the Holy See.  He was in favor of giving the Pope time, but Charles III did not wish to wait.

The Spanish minister in Rome was appointed Archbishop of Valencia and left the position vacant.  Charles III filled it with a man who would do his bidding to the letter: Don José Moñino the Count of Florida Blanca.  When apprised of this appointment an official with the papal nunciature stationed in Madrid, who de Ravignan refers to by the French diplomatic title l’auditeur, gives this impression of the man in a March 24, 1772 dispatch to Clement XIV’s Secretary of State (translation mine):

I know what the man is, what thoughts burn in his spirit, and how much with his soft, easy, moderate, and I will even say religious exterior he is hostile to Rome, to pontifical authority, and to ecclesiastical jurisdiction…

To sum up, he is intensely artificial, shrewd, concealed, and zealous above anyone else for the extinction of the Jesuits.

Moñino arrived in Rome on July 4, 1772, four years to the day before that other July 4 that was to become so famous in song and story.  Pope Clement XIV seemed to know what he was in for and delayed his first audience with the man as long as possible, but the Spanish ambassador was not to be put off.  He got to work immediately and met with the other ministers of the Bourbon courts in order to get them all in line behind him.

The Cardinal Bernis recounts a meeting that he had had with Moñino in an August 5, 1772 dispatch to the Duc d’Aiguillon, King Louis XV’s new first minister in Paris.  The Spanish ambassador baldly states that if Charles III’s demand for the total suppression of the Jesuits is not met then Spain, with its massive overseas empire that spanned the globe, would follow the path that Portugal had pioneered more than a decade earlier: de facto schism.  He then let slip a bit of commentary of his own that contains some quite revealing vocabulary (translation mine):”Spain and other countries that one might call countries of obedience, would become countries of liberty!”

Countries of liberty eh?  Let’s just say that in 1772 this was not yet a common expression, but it would be.  Yes it would be, to the ruin of much that was good in the world.  One wonders where the Spanish count picked up this phrase that was to do so much harm to the world?  Doubtless it was not from his boss the King of Spain.

In any case as regards the Jesuits the minister and his sovereign were completely in accord.  Moñino assaulted the Holy Father with threats to expose the letter that he had written to Charles III three years earlier promising the total dissolution of the society.  Clement XIV countered that in order to effect such a thing that he would require the cooperation of all of the Catholic monarchs, not just the Bourbons.  He was banking on the Hapsburg ruler of Austria Maria Theresa who had always been staunchly pro-Jesuit.  But it was not to be.  Maria Theresa changed her position for reasons that have not come down to us and the Jesuits’ fate was sealed.

Clement XIV still tried to delay, but it was fruitless.  He sent missions in the spring of 1773 to close down the Jesuit novitiate, reasoning with the Spanish ambassador that if the novitiate was closed and the novices expelled then the society would wither on the vine.  But he would no longer tolerate the Holy Father’s delaying tactics and demanded a resolution.  The jig was up so to speak.

On July 21, 1773 the beaten down Pope Clement XIV finally relented and signed the brief Dominus ac Redemptor abolishing the Society of Jesus.  The Holy Father kept it secret for more than three weeks until the method of its implementation and the management of the now defunct order’s property could be arranged.

On August 16, 1773 at nine o’clock in the evening the prelate Macedonio visited the Gesu church in Rome accompanied by an armed escort of police and soldiers.  He officially informed the general of the Jesuit order, Father Lorenzo Ricci S.J., of its abolition and took possession of the church and of all of the property and sealed all of the records therein.  A similar scene played out throughout the city at the same hour at all its Jesuit institutes.

It should be noted that Clement XIV’s brief Dominus ac Redemptor in no way condemned the Society of Jesus with regard to its morals or its doctrines.  It merely stated that the Society had to be suppressed because of the demand of the courts and to preserve peace in the Christian world.  Father Ricci was imprisoned in the Castel Sant’Angelo where he died two years later and was interrogated as to the Jesuits supposed ‘hidden treasures’ and about all of the alleged plots to overthrow princes; all of which of course came to nothing.  After all of the financial records were gone through it was revealed that the Society was fairly strapped for cash and having a difficult time making ends meet.


The Castel Sant’Angelo April, 2013

So the conspiracy to destroy the teaching of Jesus Christ had now claimed its first head.  Please go to Confession and say three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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