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The Suppression of the Society of Jesus because of its Resistance to Political Absolutism

The Suppression of the Society of Jesus because of its Resistance to Political Absolutism

The Society of Jesus had been founded during the Renaissance era, when social mores were in considerable disorder. The Jesuits wanted to raise the moral level of the ordinary people. This meant that the members of the ruling classes, namely, emperors, kings, regional rulers, and members of the noble families would all have to reform their lives and stop seeking for only their own benefits. To accomplish this goal, the Jesuits set up educational ideals that would not only provide the sons of the ruling-class families with intellectual training but also with a thorough moral education. First the kings and soon the members of the nobility raised objections against this educational policy.

Sixteenth-century Germany was also experiencing a period of political Absolutism. Some Jesuits preached in public about the moral responsibilities of the government leaders and wrote books and articles on the same themes. The king demanded that the Jesuit superior general put a stop to such sermons against the mores of the times. In the following century, the Jesuits were expelled from one country after another: Spain, Portugal, and France, because they were opposed to political absolutism and to the Enlightenment. Finally, the Bourbon rulers in France and the Hapsburg rulers in Austria and Spain pressured Pope Clement XIV to suppress the Society of Jesus. Pope Clement was too weak to resist these powerful demands, so he wrote the simple sentence: "For the sake of the peace of the Church, one must sacrifice even beloved persons" to the Society of Jesus, whose members had made a solemn promise of complete obedience to the Pope. Thus, the break-up of the Society of Jesus was ordered. The Jesuits in general obeyed this Papal command, but in the areas controlled by the Russian czars the Papal order was never officially promulgated, so about 150 Jesuits continued to function. Forty-one years after this command to disperse, The Society of Jesus received from Pope Pius VII on August 14th, 1814, the permission to start conducting their activities once again.

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