The Suppression of the Society of Jesus

The suppression of the religious order called the Society of Jesus, which was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, was officially pronounced by Pope clement XIV in 1773. The most striking feature of the Suppression is the long list of allegations against the Society of Jesus with no mention of what is favorable on one hand and on the other hand, the charges are recited categorically; they are not definitely stated to have been proved in any way. The Society was suppressed to appease the kings and others. The Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and its colonial in 1759, from France in 1763, and Spain and its colonial in 1767. The universal suppression of the Society of Jesus came into effect in July 1773 as Pope Clement XIV read the apostolic brief called Dominus ac Redemptor. It’s a note worthy to mention that the non catholic territory, where the authority was non catholic, banned the publication of the brief sent by the Pope and the Jesuits were asked to remain. 

Historical reason for the suppression in general
Until the first half of the XVIIth century, the Society of Jesus was flourishing in terms of numbers and their missions had wide spread all over the world. They had enjoyed until then a great regard from the Catholics around the world, the kings, Popes, etc. but no sooner in the second half of the XVII century, the cloud of problems arose to haunt the Society of Jesus. The same people those who had had a high regard for the Jesuits became the most hostile to them like Jesus and the Jewish. Every work of the Jesuits, their wide spread mission, their educational institutions, their residences, etc. everything belonged to them was either taken away from them or destroyed. Many of the Jesuits were expelled from their resident territory.

The causes of the suppression of the Society of Jesus include the controversy regarding the Jansenism. The violent critics raised on the obedience of Jesuits. The people who wanted to promote the rationalization of the religion considered the Church as an obstacle in their way and they attacked the Society of Jesus, which they perceived as the principle pillar of this Catholic Institution, which defends the Church.

At the same time within the Roman Catholic Church, there were hostile situations. For instance, the controversy with the Dominicans on the issue of grace and will found the interference of the Pope to silence both the parties. Some clergymen went to the extent of posing a question whether the Society of Jesus was living true to the expectations of its founder or not. S

Some other felt that the suppression of the Society of Jesus was due to the same causes which in further development brought about the famous French Revolution. The same causes, having varied in different countries were responsible for the universal suppression.

The Expulsion of Jesuit from Portugal and its colonies
The king of Portugal, Joseph I had appointed Sebastian Joseph Carvalho as his first chief minister. It is the issue on the territory that made him as enemy of Jesuits. He was the main causes for the suppression of Society of Jesus in Portugal and in its colonies. Society’s flourishing missions in Paraguay were coveted by the Portuguese. They accused the Jesuits for mining gold in those regions. These mission regions, where the Jesuits were working the region, were inhabited by the indigenous people, who were native of that land.

The indigenous people of were ordered to quit their land. Jesuits helped the indigenous people for their transfer to the allotted places. They conditions being harsh, the indigenous people revolted against the Portuguese. This was called the war of Paraguay ensued which was not doubt disastrous for the indigenous people. The quarrel between the Portuguese and the Jesuits who helped the natives further deteriorated and the weak King had to remove the Jesuits from his Court. The Jesuit fathers had to shed of their temporal administration of the missions and then they were deported out of the territory.

 Then the aged Pope Benedict XIV appointed cardinal Saldanha on 1st April 1758 to investigate the allegations against the Jesuits, which were raised by the Kings of Portugal and its colonies. The Pope, in fact, wanted to safeguard the reputed Society. This was evident through the study of his letters by the historians. His unfortunate death on May 3rd gave a complete freedom to the appointed cardinal who without proper investigation declared that the Jesuits were guilty of having exercised illicit business both in Portugal and its colonies. The work of the Jesuits was destroyed and suppressed by the king before the election of the new Pope clement XIII.

Jesuits were accused also of helping the opponents of the king of exterminate him. But the ground of suspicion were neither clearly stated nor properly proved. A saintly priest by name Fr. Malagrida was allegedly accused of heresy and was executed and burnt in a public place at Lisbon. Many of the Jesuit fathers were exiled and remaining Jesuits were thrown into prisons. In 1759, 133 Jesus priests were placed in a ship and were sent to exile for surprise of carvalho, many Jesuit brothers and young scholastics chose to accompany the priests. The Jesuits were termed as rebels and traitors immediately. Portugal was the first country which welcomed the Jesuit missionaries but the same country became hostile to the Jesuits.

Expansion of Jesuit from France
The suppression of Jesuits in France was due to the attack by the English navy on French commerce in 1755. The Jesuit missionaries in Martinique used to sell the products of their great mission farms, in which many natives were employed, and this was allowed, partly to provide for the current expenses of the mission, partly in order to protect the simple, childlike natives from the dishonest intermediaries. Fr. Antoine La Vallete, superior of the Martinique missions managed these transactions successfully and encouraged him to go far. His ships were captured in the mid sea by the English and he suddenly became a bankrupt, for very large sum. His creditors when asked for the payment he would not bulge and the creditors went to the courts and an order was made in 1760 obliging the Society of Jesus in France to pay the creditors.

The fathers, on the advice of their lawyers, appealed to the Grand chamber of the Parliament of Paris. The Society’s enemies in that assembly determined to strike a great blow at the order. Enemies of every sot combined. The Jansenists were numerous and at that moment were especially keen to take revenge on the Jesuits. The Sorrbonnists too, the university rivals of the great teaching order, joined in the attack.

The then king Louis XV was weak and the influence of his court divided. His able first minister, the Duke of Choiseul played into the hands of the parliament and the royal mistress, Madam of Pomador, to whom the Jesuits had refused absolution, was a bitter opponent. The attack against Jesuits, as such, was opened by the Janseistic Abbot Chauvelin, on 17 April, 1762, who denounced the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus itself as the cause of the alleged acts of the order.

In the parliament of Paris the case against Jesuits was desperate. They were alleged to teach every sort of immortality and errors. On 6th August, 1762, the final stay order issued condemning the Society to extinction, but the king’s intervention brought eight months delay. In favour of the Jesuits there had been some striking testimonies, especially from the French clergy in the two conventions summoned on 30 November, 1761 and 1st May, 1762. At the end of member, 1764, they unwillingly signed and edict dissolving the Society throughout his dominions, for they were still protected by some regional parliaments. But in the draft of the edict, he cancelled numerous clauses, which implied to stay in France were asked to live as good citizens of France under the Bishops. The educational institutions of Jesuits were disorganized and the MEP fathers took control of the missions, earlier owned by the Jesuits.

The suppression of the Society on Spain, Naples and Parma
The Suppression in Spain, Naples and Parma and in the Spanish colonies was carried through by autocratic kings and ministers. Charles III, a man of good moral character, had brought from Italy a finance minister, whose nationality made the government unpopular. There was a revolt against him. An extraordinary council was appointed to investigate the matter; it declared that simple people could not be behind the riots. The Jesuits were accused to be at the back of this revolt. The council had resolved to banish the Society of Jesus and that by 29th January 1767, its expulsion was settled. Secret orders, which were to be opened at midnight between the first and second of April, 1767, were sent to the magistrates of every town wherever the Jesuits resided. The plan worked smoothly. That morning around 6000 Jesuits were marching like convicts to the coast, where they deported to be exiled.

Politics in papal election
After the death of the Pope clement XIII in 1769, the conclave which followed lasted from 15th Feb to May 1769. The Bourbon courts, through the so-called “crown cardinals”, succeeded in excluding any of the party, nicknamed Zelanti, who would have taken a firm position in defense of the order, and finally elected Lorenzo Ganganelli, who took the name Clement the XIV. It has been stated that Ganganelli, before his election, engage himself to the crown of Cardinal by some sort of stipulation that he would suppress the Society by the statement of the Spanish agent Azpuru, who was specially deputed to act the crown of cardinals. He wrote on 18 May, just before the election, “None of the cardinals has gone so far to propose to anyone that the Suppression be assured by a written or spoken promise,” and just after 25th May he wrote, “Ganganelli neither made a promise nor refused it”. On the other hand it seems he did write words, which were taken by the crown of cardinals an indication that the Bourbons would get their way with him (de Bernis’ letters of 28 July and 20 November, 1769).

No sooner was Clement on the throne than the Spanish court, backed by the other members of the “family Compact”, renewed their overpowering pressure. In the middle of 1772 Charles sent a new ambassador to Rome Don Joseph Monino, afterwards Count Florida Blanca, a strong and hard man, full of artifice, sagacity and dissimulation, and so no one more set on the suppression of the Jesuits. The negotiation had been in the hands of clever, diplomatic Cardinal de Bernis, French Ambassador to the Pope. Monino then took the lead, de Berisnow coming in afterwards as a friend to urge the acceptance of his advice. At last, on 6 September, Monino gave in a paper suggesting a line for the Pope to follow, which he did in part adopt, in drawing up the brief of suppression. By November the end was coming in sight, and in December Clement put Monino into communication with a secretary; and they drafted the instrument together, the minute being ready by 14 January,, 1773, by 6 February, Monino had got it back from the Pope in a form to be conveyed to the Bourbon courts, and as these were dated, no delayed was possible beyond that date, which was 16 August, 1773. A second brief was issued which determined the manner in which the Suppression was to be carried out. To secure secrecy, on regulation was introduced which led, I friend countries, to some unexpected result.


It is evident from the above mentioned caused was mainly due to the political reasons. The Jesuits became victims of the autocratic authorities. Even the Pope could not do much to prevent the Society from its suppression as he was pressurized from the autocrats. Though the Society was suppressed universally and its members were imprisoned and ill treated, the Society of Jesus was not destined to its complete extinction. In Russian, under the order of Queen Catherin II, the brief consisting of suppression of the society was forbidden to be read and she even entrusted the Jesuits the responsibility to take care of the spiritual needs of the Catholic minority in her region. Even though for a brief moment in a history the light of the Society of Jesus faded yet the candle of Hope for its restoration was still burning.