Jesuit Political Thought: The Society of Jesus and the State, c.1540-1630 (Ideas in Context)

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The zeal of the Jesuits overcame the movement toward Protestantism in the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth and southern Germany. Ignatius wrote the Jesuit Constitutions , adopted in , which created a centralised organization and stressed acceptance of any mission to which the Pope might call them. This phrase is designed to reflect the idea that any work that is not evil can be meritorious for the spiritual life if it is performed with this intention, even things normally considered of little importance. The Society of Jesus is classified among institutes as a mendicant order of clerks regular , that is, a body of priests organized for apostolic work, following a religious rule , and relying on alms , or donations, for support.

The term Jesuit of 15th-century origin, meaning one who used too frequently or appropriated the name of Jesus was first applied to the society in reproach — The Jesuits were founded just before the Council of Trent — and ensuing Counter-Reformation that would introduce reforms within the Catholic Church, and so counter the Protestant Reformation throughout Catholic Europe. Ignatius and the early Jesuits did recognize, though, that the hierarchical church was in dire need of reform. Some of their greatest struggles were against corruption, venality , and spiritual lassitude within the Catholic Church.

Ignatius insisted on a high level of academic preparation for the clergy in contrast to the relatively poor education of much of the clergy of his time. And the Jesuit vow against "ambitioning prelacies" can be seen as an effort to counteract another problem evidenced in the preceding century.


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Ignatius and the Jesuits who followed him believed that the reform of the church had to begin with the conversion of an individual's heart. One of the main tools the Jesuits have used to bring about this conversion is the Ignatian retreat, called the Spiritual Exercises. During a four-week period of silence, individuals undergo a series of directed meditations on the purpose of life and contemplations on the life of Christ. They meet regularly with a spiritual director who guides their choice of exercises and helps them to develop a more discerning love for Christ.

The retreat follows a "Purgative-Illuminative-Unitive" pattern in the tradition of the spirituality of John Cassian and the Desert Fathers. Ignatius' innovation was to make this style of contemplative mysticism available to all people in active life. Further, he used it as a means of rebuilding the spiritual life of the church. The Exercises became both the basis for the training of Jesuits and one of the essential ministries of the order: giving the exercises to others in what became known as "retreats".

The Jesuits' contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry. By the time of Ignatius' death in , the Jesuits were already operating a network of 74 colleges on three continents. A precursor to liberal education , the Jesuit plan of studies incorporated the Classical teachings of Renaissance humanism into the Scholastic structure of Catholic thought.

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In addition to the teachings of faith , the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum would standardize the study of Latin , Greek , classical literature, poetry, and philosophy as well as non-European languages, sciences, and the arts. Furthermore, Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric , and thereby became important centres for the training of lawyers and public officials.

The Jesuit schools played an important part in winning back to Catholicism a number of European countries which had for a time been predominantly Protestant, notably Poland and Lithuania. Today, Jesuit colleges and universities are located in over one hundred nations around the world.

Under the notion that God can be encountered through created things and especially art, they encouraged the use of ceremony and decoration in Catholic ritual and devotion. Perhaps as a result of this appreciation for art, coupled with their spiritual practice of "finding God in all things", many early Jesuits distinguished themselves in the visual and performing arts as well as in music.

The theater was a form of expression especially prominent in Jesuit schools. Jesuit priests often acted as confessors to kings during the early modern period. They were an important force in the Counter-Reformation and in the Catholic missions, in part because their relatively loose structure without the requirements of living and celebration of the Liturgy of Hours in common allowed them to be flexible and meet diverse needs arising at the time.

After much training and experience in theology, Jesuits went across the globe in search of converts to Christianity. Despite their dedication, they had little success in Asia except for the Philippines. For instance, early missions in Japan resulted in the government granting the Jesuits the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in However, this was removed in due to fears over their growing influence.

Their ascendancy in societies in the Americas accelerated during the seventeenth century, wherein Jesuits created new missions in Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia; as early as , there were Jesuit priests in Mexico alone. Francis Xavier , one of the original companions of Loyola , arrived in Goa , in Portuguese India , in to consider evangelical service in the Indies. He died in China after a decade of evangelism in Southern India.

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The Italian Jesuit Ippolito Desideri established a new Jesuit mission in Lhasa and Central Tibet —21 and gained an exceptional mastery of Tibetan language and culture, writing a long and very detailed account of the country and its religion as well as treatises in Tibetan that attempted to refute key Buddhist ideas and establish the truth of Roman Catholic Christianity.

Jesuit missions in America became controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments.

The Jesuits were often the only force standing between the Native Americans and slavery. Together throughout South America but especially in present-day Brazil and Paraguay , they formed Christian Native American city-states, called " reductions ".


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These were societies set up according to an idealized theocratic model. The efforts of Jesuits like Antonio Ruiz de Montoya to protect the natives from enslavement by Spanish and Portuguese colonizers would contribute to the call for the society's suppression. They also built schools, organized people into villages, and created a writing system for the local languages of Brazil.

Jesuit scholars working in foreign missions were very important in studying their languages and strove to produce Latinized grammars and dictionaries. Under Portuguese royal patronage , Jesuits thrived in Goa and until successfully expanded their activities to education and healthcare. In they founded the first Roman-style academic institution in the East, St. Paul Jesuit College in Macau , China. Founded by Alessandro Valignano , it had a great influence on the learning of Eastern languages Chinese and Japanese and culture by missionary Jesuits, becoming home to the first western sinologists such as Matteo Ricci.

Jesuit efforts in Goa were interrupted by the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portuguese territories in by the powerful Marquis of Pombal , Secretary of State in Portugal. Jesuit missionaries were active among indigenous peoples in New France in North America, many of them compiling dictionaries or glossaries of the First Nations and Native American languages they had learned. For instance, before his death in , Jacques Gravier , vicar general of the Illinois Mission in the Mississippi River valley, compiled a Kaskaskia Illinois—French dictionary , considered the most extensive among works of the missionaries.

Paul's College. The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution , to China. The scientific revolution brought by the Jesuits coincided with a time when scientific innovation had declined in China:.

Jesuit Political Thought: The Society of Jesus and the State, c.1540-1630

They made very extensive astronomical observation and carried out the first modern cartographic work in China. They also learned to appreciate the scientific achievements of this ancient culture and made them known in Europe. Through their correspondence European scientists first learned about the Chinese science and culture. Their Latin works popularized the name " Confucius " and had considerable influence on the Deists and other Enlightenment thinkers, some of whom were intrigued by the Jesuits' attempts to reconcile Confucian morality with Catholicism.

Upon the arrival of the Franciscans and other monastic orders, Jesuit accommodation of Chinese culture and rituals led to the long-running Chinese Rites controversy. The Jesuits became involved in the Huron mission in and lived among the Huron peoples.

Outside conflict forced the Jesuits to leave New France in when Quebec was captured by the Kirke brothers under the English flag. In , Jesuit Jerome Lalemant decided that the missionaries among the Hurons needed a local residence and established Sainte-Marie , which expanded into a living replica of European society. Throughout most of the s the Jesuits had great success, establishing five chapels in Huronia and baptising over one thousand Huron natives.

The Iroquois grew jealous of the Hurons' wealth and fur trade system, began to attack Huron villages in They killed missionaries and burned villages, and the Hurons scattered. However, facing starvation, lack of supplies, and constant threats of Iroquois attack, the small Sainte-Marie II was abandoned in June ; the remaining Hurons and Jesuits departed for Quebec and Ottawa. After the collapse of the Huron nation, the Jesuits were to undertake the task of converting the Iroquois, something they had attempted in with little success.

In the Iroquois nation had a fallout with the Dutch. They then signed a peace treaty with the French and a mission was established. The Iroquois took the treaty lightly and soon turned on the French again. In , the Jesuits were having very little success and were under constant threat of being tortured or killed, [64] but continued their effort until when they abandoned their permanent posts in the Iroquois homeland. By , Jesuits turned to maintaining Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa without establishing new posts.

The English barred the immigration of more Jesuits to New France. By , there were only twenty-one Jesuits stationed in New France. By only eleven Jesuits remained. The Jesuit mission in Quebec was re-established in There were a number of Jesuit colleges founded in the decades following; one of these colleges evolved into present-day Laval University. The Jesuits in New Spain distinguished themselves in several ways. They had high standards for acceptance to the order and many years of training. They attracted the patronage of elite families whose sons they educated in rigorous newly founded Jesuit colegios "colleges" , including Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo , Colegio de San Ildefonso , and the Colegio de San Francisco Javier, Tepozotlan.

Those same elite families hoped that a son with a vocation to the priesthood would be accepted as a Jesuit. Jesuits were also zealous in evangelization of the indigenous, particularly on the northern frontiers. To support their colegios and members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits acquired landed estates that were run with the best-practices for generating income in that era. A number of these haciendas were donated by wealthy elites. The donation of a hacienda to the Jesuits was the spark igniting a conflict between seventeenth-century bishop of Puebla Don Juan de Palafox and the Jesuit colegio in that city.

Since the Jesuits resisted paying the tithe on their estates, this donation effectively took revenue out of the church hierarchy's pockets by removing it from the tithe rolls.

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Many of Jesuit haciendas were huge, with Palafox asserting that just two colleges owned , head of sheep, whose wool was transformed locally in Puebla to cloth; six sugar plantations worth a million pesos and generating an income of , pesos. Although most haciendas had a free work force of permanent or seasonal labourers, the Jesuit haciendas in Mexico had a significant number of black slaves.

The Jesuits operated their properties as an integrated unit with the larger Jesuit order; thus revenues from haciendas funded their colegios. Jesuits did significantly expand missions to the indigenous in the northern frontier area and a number were martyred, but the crown supported those missions. The Franciscans, who were founded as an order embracing poverty, did not accumulate real estate, unlike the Augustinians and Dominicans in Mexico. The Jesuits engaged in conflict with the episcopal hierarchy over the question of payment of tithes, the ten percent tax on agriculture levied on landed estates for support of the church hierarchy from bishops and cathedral chapters to parish priests.

Since the Jesuits were the largest religious order holding real estate, surpassing the Dominicans and Augustinians who had accumulated significant property, this was no small matter. As elsewhere in the Spanish empire, the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico in Their haciendas were sold off and their colegios and missions in Baja California were taken over by other orders. Motezuma's Corona mexicana, o Historia de los nueve Motezumas was completed in He "aimed to show that Mexican emperors were a legitimate dynasty in the 17th-century in the European sense.

Their re-introduction to Mexico was "to assist in the education of the poorer classes and much of their property was restored to them. Viceroy of Peru Don Francisco de Toledo urged the Jesuits to evangelize the indigenous peoples of Peru, wanting to put them in charge of parishes, but Acosta adhered to the Jesuit position that they were not subject to the jurisdiction of bishops and to catechize in Indian parishes would bring them into conflict with the bishops.

For that reason, the Jesuits in Peru focused on education of elite men rather than the indigenous populations. To minister to newly arrived African slaves, Alonso de Sandoval — worked at the port of Cartagena de Indias. Sandoval wrote about this ministry in De instauranda Aethiopum salute , [80] describing how he and his assistant Pedro Claver , later canonized, met slave transport ships in the harbour, went below decks where — slaves were chained, and gave physical aid with water, while introducing the Africans to Christianity.

In his treatise, he did not condemn slavery or the ill-treatment of slaves, but sought to instruct fellow Jesuits to this ministry and describe how he catechized the slaves. Rafael Ferrer was the first Jesuit of Quito to explore and found missions in the upper Amazon regions of South America from to , which belonged to the Audiencia high court of Quito that was a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until it was transferred to the newly created Viceroyalty of New Granada in He was martyred by an apostate native in Jesuit Lucas de la Cueva and Raimundo de Santacruz opened up two new routes of communication with Quito, through the Pastaza and Napo rivers.

Between and , Samuel Fritz founded 38 missions along the length of the Amazon river, between the Napo and Negro rivers, that were called the Omagua Missions.