Loyola’s Vast Schemes — A General for the Army-Loyola Elected — “Constitutions” Made Known to only a Select Few — Powers of the General — An Autocrat — He only can make Laws — Appoints all Officers, &c. — Organization- Six Grand Divisions-Thirty-seven Provinces — Houses, Colleges, Missions, &c. — Reports to the General — His Eye Surveys the World — Organization — Preparatory Ordeal — Four Classes-Novitiates — Second Novitiate — Its Rigorous Training — The Indifferents — The Scholars — The Coadjutors — The Professed — Their Oath — Their Obedience.
The long-delayed wishes of Loyola had been realized, and his efforts, abortive in the past, had now at length been crowned with success. The Papal bull had given formal existence to the order, what Christ had done in heaven his Vicar had ratified on the earth. But Loyola was too wise to think that all had been accomplished; he knew that he was only at the beginning of his labors. In the little band around him he saw but the nucleus of an army that would multiply and expand till one day it should be as the stars in multitude, and bear the standard of victory to every land on earth. The gates of the East were meanwhile closed against him; but the Western world would not always set limits to the triumphs of his spiritual arms. He would yet subjugate both hemispheres, and extend the dominion of Rome from the rising to the setting sun. Such were the schemes that Loyola, who hid under his mendicant’s cloak an ambition vast as Alexander’s, was at that moment revolving. Assembling his comrades one day about this time, he addressed them, his biographer Boubours tells us, in a long speech, saying, “Ought we not to conclude that we are called to win to God, not only a single nation, a single country, but all nations, all the kingdoms of the world?”
An army to conquer the world is what Loyola was forming. But he knew that nothing is stronger than its weakest part, and therefore the soundness of every link, the thorough discipline and tried fidelity of every soldier in this mighty host was to him an essential point, that could only be secured by making each individual, before enrolling himself, pass through an ordeal that should sift, and try, and harden him to the utmost.
But first the Company of Jesus had to elect a head. The dignity was offered to Loyola. He modestly declined the post, as Julius Cesar did the diadem. After four days spent in prayer and penance, his disciples returned and humbly supplicated him to be their chief. Ignatius, viewing this as an intimation of the will of God, consented. He was the first General of the order. Few royal scepters bring with them such an amount of real power as this election bestowed on Loyola. The day would come when the tiara itself would bow before that yet mightier authority which was represented by the cap of the General of the Jesuits.
The second step was to frame the “Constitutions” of the society. In this labor Loyola accepted the aid of Lainez, the ablest of his converts. Seeing it was at God’s command that Ignatius had planted the tree of Jesuitism in the spiritual vineyard, it was to be expected that the Constitutions of the Company would proceed from the same high source. The Constitutions were declared to be a revelation from God, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This gave them absolute authority over the members, and paved the way for the substitution of the Constitution and canons of the Society of Jesus in the room of Christianity itself These canons and Instructions were not published: they were not communicated to all of the members of the society; they were made known to a few only — in all their extent to a very few. They took care to print them in their own college at Rome, or in their college at Prague; and if it happened that they were printed elsewhere, they secured and destroyed the edition. “I cannot discover,” says M. de la Chalotais, “that the Constitutions of the Jesuits have ever been seen or examined by any tribunal whatsoever, secular or ecclesiastic; by any sovereign — not even by the Court of Chancery of Prague, when permission was asked to print them, they have taken all sorts of precautions to keep them a secret.” For a century they were concealed from the knowledge of the world; and it was an accident which at last dragged them into the light from the darkness in which they had so long been buried.
It is not easy, perhaps it is not possible, to say what number of volumes the Constitutions of the Jesuits form. M. Louis Rene de la Chalotais, Procurator-General of King Louis XV., in his Report on the Constitutions of the Jesuits, given in to the Parliament of Bretagne, speaks of a fifty volumes folio. That was in the year 1761, or 221 years after the founding of the order. This code, then enormous, must be greatly more so now, seeing every bull and brief of the Pope addressed to the society, every edict of its General, is so much more added to a legislation that is continually augmenting. We doubt whether any member of the order is found bold enough to undertake a complete study of them, or ingenious enough to reconcile, all their contradictions and inconsistencies. Prudently abstaining from venturing into a labyrinth from which he may never emerge, he simply asks, not what do the Constitutions say, but what does the General command? Practically the will of his chief is the code of the Jesuit.
We shall first consider the powers of the General. The original bull of Paul III constituting the Company gave to “Ignatius de Loyola, with nine priests, his companions,” the power to make Constitutions and particular rules, and also to alter them. The legislative power thus rested in the hands of the General and his company — that is, in a “Congregation” representing them. But when Loyola died, and Lainez succeeded him as General, one of his first acts was to assemble a Congregation, and cause it to be decided that only the General had the right to make rules. This crowned the autocracy of the General, for while he has the power of legislating for all others, no one may legislate for him. He acts without control, without responsibility, without law. It is true that in certain cases the society may depose the General. But it cannot exercise its powers unless it be assembled, and the General alone can assemble the Congregation. The whole order, with all its authority, is, in fact, comprised in him. In virtue of his prerogative the General can command and regulate everything in the society. He may make special Constitutions for the advantage of the society, and he may alter them, abrogate them, and make new ones, dating them at any time he pleases. These new rules must be regarded as confirmed by apostolic authority, not merely from the time they were made, but the time they are dated.
The General assigns to all provincials, superiors, and members of the society, of whatever grade, the powers they are to exercise, the places where they are to labor, the missions they are to discharge, and he may annul or confirm their acts at his pleasure. He has the right to nominate provincials and rectors, to admit or exclude members, to say what proffered dignity they are or are not to accept, to change the destination of legacies, and, though to give money to his relatives exposes him to deposition, “he may yet give alms to any amount that he may deem conducive to the glory of God.” He is invested moreover with the entire government and regulation of the colleges of the society. He may institute missions in all parts of the world. When commanding in the name of Jesus Christ, and in virtue of obedience, he commands under the penalty of mortal and venial sin. From his orders there is no appeal to the Pope. He can release from vows; he can examine into the consciences of the members; but it is useless to particularize — the General is the society.
The General alone, we have said, has power to make laws, ordinances, and declarations. This power is theoretically bounded, though practically absolute. It has been declared that everything essential (“Substantia Institutionis”) to the society is immutable, and therefore removed beyond the power of the General. But it has never yet been determined what things belong to the essence of the institute. Many attempts have been made to solve this question, but no solution that is comprehensible has ever been arrived at; and so long as this question remains without an answer, the powers of the General will remain without a limit.
Let us next attend to the organization of the society. The Jesuit monarchy covers the globe. At its head, as we have said, is a sovereign, who rules over all, but is himself ruled over by no one. First come six grand divisions termed Assistanzen, satrapies or princedoms. These comprehend the space stretching from the Indus to the Mediterranean; more particularly India, Spain and Portugal, Germany and France, Italy and Sicily, Poland and Lithuania. Outside this area the Jesuits have established missions. The heads of these six divisions act as coadjutors to their General; they are his staff or cabinet.
These six great divisions are subdivided into thirty-seven Provinces. Over each province is placed a chief, termed a Provincial. The provinces are again subdivided into a variety of houses or establishments. First come the houses of the Professed presided over by their Provost. Next come the colleges, or houses of the novices and scholars, presided over by their Rector or Superior. Where these cannot be established, “residences” are erected, for the accommodation of the priests who perambulate the district, preaching and hearing confessions. And lastly may be mentioned “mission- houses,” in which Jesuits live unnoticed as secular clergy, but seeking, by all possible means, to promote the interests of the society.
From his chamber in Rome the eye of the General surveys the world of Jesuitism to its farthest bounds; there is nothing done in it which he does not see; there is nothing spoken in it which he does not hear. It becomes us to note the means by which this almost superhuman intelligence is acquired. Every year a list of the houses and members of the society, with the name, talents, virtues, and failings of each, is laid before the General. In addition to the annual report, every one of the thirty-seven provincials must send him a report monthly of the state of his province. He must inform him minutely of its political and ecclesiastical condition. Every superior of a college must report once every three months. The heads of houses of residence, and houses of novitiates, must do the same. In short, from every quarter of his vast dominions come a monthly and a trimonthly report. If the matter reported on has reference to persons outside the society, the Constitutions direct that the provincials and superiors shall write to the General in cipher, “Such precautions are taken against enemies,” says M. de Chalotais. “Is the system of the Jesuits inimical to all governments?”
Thus to the General of the Jesuits the world lies “naked and open.” He sees by a thousand eyes, he hears by a thousand ears; and when he has a behest to execute, he can select the fittest agent from an innumerable host, all of whom are ready to do his bidding. The past history, the good and evil qualities of every member of the society, his talents, his dispositions, his inclinations, his tastes, his secret thoughts, have all been strictly examined, minutely chronicled, and laid before the eye of the General. It is the same as if he were present in person, and had seen and conversed with each.
All ranks, from the nobleman to the day laborer; all trades, from the opulent banker to the shoemaker and porter; all professions, from the stoled dignitary and the learned professor to the cowled mendicant; all grades of literary men, from the philosopher, the mathematician, and the historian, to the schoolmaster and the reporter on the provincial newspaper, are enrolled in the society. Marshalled, and in continual attendance, before their chief, stand this host, so large in numbers, and so various in gifts. At his word they go, and at his word they come, speeding over seas and mountains, across frozen steppes, or burning plains, on his errand. Pestilence, or battle, or death may lie on his path, the Jesuit’s obedience is not less prompt. Selecting one, the General sends him to the royal cabinet. Making choice of another, he opens to him the door of Parliament. A third he enrolls in a political club; a fourth he places in the pulpit of a church, whose creed he professes that he may betray it; a fifth he commands to mingle in the saloons of the literati; a sixth he sends to act his part in the Evangelical Conference; a seventh he seats beside the domestic hearth; and an eighth he sends afar off to barbarous tribes, where, speaking a strange tongue, and wearing a rough garment, he executes, amidst hardships and perils, the will of his superior. There is no disguise which the Jesuit will not wear, no art he will not employ, no motive he will not feign, no creed he will not profess, provided only he can acquit himself as a true soldier in the Jesuit army, and accomplish the work on which he has been sent forth. “We have men,” exclaimed a General exultingly, as he glanced over the long roll of philosophers, orators, statesmen, and scholars who stood before him, ready to serve him in the State or in the Church, in the camp or in the school, at home or abroad — “We have men for martyrdom if they be required.”
No one can be enrolled in the Society of Jesus till he has undergone a severe and long-continued course of training. Let us glance at the several grades of that great army, and the preparatory discipline in the case of each. There are four classes of Jesuits. We begin with the lowest. The Novitiates are the first in order of admission, the last in dignity. When one presents himself for admission into the order, a strict scrutiny takes place into his talents, his disposition, his family, his former life; and if it is seen that he is not likely to be of service to the society, he is at once dismissed. If his fitness appears probable, he is received into the House of Primary Probation. Here he is forbidden all intercourse with the servants within and his relations outside the house. A Compend of the Institutions is submitted for his consideration; the full body of laws and regulations being withheld from him as yet. If he possesses property he is told that he must give it to the poor — that is, to The Society. His tact and address, his sound judgment and business talent, his health and bodily vigor, are all closely watched and noted; above all, his obedience is subjected to severe experiment. If he acquits himself on the trial to the satisfaction of his examiners, he receives the Sacrament, and is advanced to the House of Second Probation.
Here the discipline is of a yet severer kind. The novitiate first devotes a certain period to confession of sins and meditation. He next fulfills a course of service in the hospitals, learning humility by helping the poor and ministering at the beds of the sick. To further his advance in this grace, he next spends a certain term in begging his bread from door to door. Thus he learns to live on the coarsest fare and to sleep on the hardest couch. To perfect himself in the virtue of self-abnegation, he next discharges for a while the most humiliating and repulsive offices in the house in which he lives. And now, this course of service ended, he is invited to show his powers of operating on others, by communicating instruction to boys in Christian doctrine, by hearing confessions, and by preaching in public. This course will last two years, unless the superior should see fit to shorten it on the ground of greater zeal, or superior talent.
The period of probation at an end, the candidate for admission into the Order of Jesus is to present himself before the superior, furnished with certificates from those under whose eye he has fulfilled his six experimenta or trials, as to the manner in which he has acquitted himself. If the testimonials should prove satisfactory to the superior, the novitiate is enrolled, not as yet in the Company of the Jesuits, but among the Indifferents. He is presumed to have no choice as regards the place he is to occupy in the august corps he aspires to enter; he leaves that entirely to the decision of the superior; he is equally ready to stand at the head or at the foot of the body; to discharge the most menial or the most dignified service; to play his part in the saloons of the great, encompassed by luxury and splendor, or to discharge his mission in the hovels of the poor, in the midst of misery and filth; to remain at home, or to go to the ends of the earth. To have a preference, though unexpressed, is to fall into deadly sin. Obedience is not only the letter of his vow, it is the lesson that his training has written on his heart.
This further trial gone through, the approved novitiate may now take the three simple vows — poverty, chastity, and obedience — which, with certain modifications, he must ever after renew twice every year. The novitiate is now admitted into the class of Scholars. The Jesuits have colleges of their own, amply endowed by wealthy devotees, and to one of these the novitiate is sent, to receive instruction in the higher mysteries of the society. His intellectual powers are here more severely tested and trained, and according to the genius and subtlety he may display, and his progress in his studies, so is the post assigned him in due time in the order. “The qualities to be desired and commended in the scholars,” say the Constitutions, “are acuteness of talent, brilliancy of example, and soundness of body” They are to be chosen men, picked from the flower of the troop, and the General has absolute power in admitting or dismissing them according to his expectations of their utility in promoting the designs of the institute. Having finished his course, first as a simple scholar, and secondly as an approved scholar, he renews his three vows, and passes into the third class, or Coadjutors.
The coadjutors are divided into temporal and spiritual. The temporal coadjutor is never admitted into holy orders. Such are retained to minister in the lowest offices. They become college cooks, porters, or purveyors. For these and similar purposes it is held expedient that they should be “lovers of virtue and perfection,” and “content to serve the society in the careful office of a Martha.” The spiritual coadjutor must be a priest of adequate learning, that he may assist the society in hearing confessions, and giving instructions in Christian doctrine. It is from among the spiritual coadjutors that the rectors of colleges are usually selected by the General. It is a further privilege of theirs that they may be assembled in congregation to deliberate with the Professed members in matters of importance, but no vote is granted them in the election of a General. Having passed with approbation the many stringent tests to which he is here subjected, in order to perfect his humility and obedience, and having duly deposited in the exchequer of the society whatever property he may happen to possess, the spiritual coadjutor, if a candidate for the highest grade, is admitted to the oblation of his vows, which are similar in form and substance to those he has already taken, with this exception, that they assign to the General the place of God. “I promise,” so runs the oath, “to the Omnipotent God, in presence of his virgin mother, and of all the heavenly hierarchy, and to thee, Father General of the Society of Jesus, holding the place of God” &c. With this oath sworn on its threshold, he enters the inner circle of the society, and is enrolled among the Professed.
The Professed Members constitute the society par excellence. They alone know its deepest secrets, and they alone wield its highest powers. But perfection in Jesuitism cannot be reached otherwise than by the loss of manhood. Will, judgment, conscience, liberty, all the Jesuit lays down at the feet of his General. It is a tremendous sacrifice, but to him the General is God. He now takes his fourth, or peculiar vow, in which he binds himself to go, without question, delay, or repugnance, to whatever region of the earth, and on whatever errand, the Pope may be pleased to send him. This he promises to the Omnipotent God, and to his General, holding the place of God. The wisdom, justice, righteousness of the command he is not to question; he is not even to permit his mind to dwell upon it for a moment; it is the command of his General, and the command of his General is the precept of the Almighty. His superiors are “over him in the place of the Divine Majesty.” “In not fewer than 500 places in the Constitutions,” says M. de la Chalotais, “are expressions used similar to the following: ‘We must always see Jesus Christ in the General; be obedient to him in all his behests, as if they came directly from God himself.” When the command of the superior goes forth, the person to whom it is directed is not to stay till he has finished the letter his pen is tracing,” say the Constitutions; “he must give instant compliance, so that holy obedience may be perfect in us in every point — in execution, in will, in intellect.” Obedience is styled “the tomb of the will,” “a blessed blindness, which causes the soul to see the road to salvation,” and the members of the society are taught to “immolate their will as a sheep is sacrificed.” The Jesuit is to be in the hands of his superior, “as the axe is in the hands of the wood-cutter,” or “as a staff is in the hands of an old man, which serves him wherever and in whatever thing he is pleased to use it.” In fine, the Constitutions enjoin that “they who live under obedience shall permit themselves to be moved and directed under Divine Providence by their superiors just as if they were a corpse, which allows itself to be moved and handled in any way.” The annals of mankind do not furnish another example of a despotism so finished. We know of no other instance in which the members of the body are so numerous, or the ramifications so wide, and yet the centralization and cohesion so perfect.
We have traced at some length the long and severe discipline which every member must undergo before being admitted into the select class that by way of eminence constitute the society. Before arriving on the threshold of the inner circle of Jesuitism, three times has the candidate passed through that terrible ordeal — first as a novice, secondly as a scholar, thirdly as a coadjutor. Is his training held to be complete when he is admitted among the Professed! No: a fourth time must he undergo the same dreadful process. He is thrown back again into the crucible, and kept amid its fires, till pride, and obstinacy, and self-will, and love of ease — till judgment, soul, and conscience have all been purged out of him, and then he comes forth, fully refined, completely tempered and hardened, “a vessel fully fitted” for the use of his General; prepared to execute with a conscience that never remonstrates his most terrible command, and to undertake with a will that never rebels the most difficult and dangerous enterprises he may assign him. In the words of an eloquent writer — “Talk of drilling and discipline! why, the drilling and the discipline which gave to Alexander the men that marched in triumph from Macedon to the Indus; to Caesar, the men that marched in triumph from Rome to the wilds of Caledonia; to Hannibal, the men that marched in triumph from Carthage to Rome; to Napoleon, the men whose achievements surpassed in brilliance the united glories of the soldiers of Macedon, of Carthage, and of Rome; and to Wellington, the men who smote into the dust the very flower of Napoleon’s chivalry — ,why, the drilling and the discipline of all these combined cannot, in point of stern, rigid, and protracted severity, for a moment be compared to the drilling and discipline which fitted and molded men for becoming full members of the militant institute of the Jesuits.”
Such Loyola saw was the corps that was needed to confront the armies of Protestantism and turn back the advancing tide of light and liberty. Touched with a Divine fire, the disciples of the Gospel attained at once to a complete renunciation of self, and a magnanimity of soul which enabled them to brave all dangers and endure all sufferings, and to bear the standard of a recovered Gospel over deserts and oceans, in the midst of hunger and pestilence, of dungeons and racks and fiery stakes. It was vain to think of overcoming warriors like these unless by combatants of an equal temper and spirit, and Loyola set himself to fashion such. He could not clothe them with the panoply of light, he could not inspire them with that holy and invincible courage which springs from faith, nor could he so enkindle their souls with the love of the Savior, and the joys of the life eternal, as that they should despise the sufferings of time; but he could give them their counterfeits: he could enkindle them with fanaticism, inspire them with a Luciferian ambition, and so pervert and indurate their souls by evil maxims, and long and rigorous training, that they should be insensible to shame and pain, and would welcome suffering and death. Such are the weapons of the men he sent forth to the battle.