Chapter 4. Moral Code of the Jesuits — Probabilism, Etc.
The Jesuit cut off from Country — from Family — from Property — from the Pope even — The End Sanctifies the Means — The First Great Commandment and Jesuit Morality — When may a Man Love God? — Second Great Commandment — Doctrine of Probabilism — The Jesuit Casuists — Pascal — The Direction of the Intention — Illustrative Cases furnished by Jesuit Doctors — marvelous Virtue of the Doctrine — A Pious Assassination!
We have not yet surveyed the full and perfect equipping of those troops which Loyola sent forth to prosecute the war against Protestantism. Nothing was left unthought-of and unprovided-for which might assist them in covering their opponents with defeat, and crowning themselves with victory. They were set free from every obligation, whether imposed by the natural or the Divine law. Every stratagem, artifice, and disguise was lawful to men in whose favor all distinction concerning right and wrong had been abolished. They might assume as many shapes as Proteus, and exhibit as many colors as the chameleon. They stood apart and alone amongst the human race. First of all, they were cut off from country. Their vow bound them to go to whatever land their General might send them, and to remain there as long as he might appoint. Their country was the society. They were cut off from family and friends. Their vow taught them to forget their father’s house, and to esteem themselves holy only when every affection and desire which nature had planted in their breasts had been plucked up by the roots. They were cut off from property and wealth: For although the society was immensely rich, its individual members possessed nothing. Nor could they cherish the hope of ever becoming personally wealthy, seeing they had taken a vow of perpetual poverty. If it chanced that a rich relative died, and left them his heirs, the General relieved them of their vow, and sent them back into the world, for so long a time as might enable them to take possession of the wealth of which they had been named the heirs; but this done, they returned laden with their booty, and, resuming their vow as Jesuits, laid every penny of their newly-acquired riches at the feet of the General.
They were cut off, moreover, from the State. They were discharged from all civil and national relationships and duties. They were under a higher code than any national one — the Institutions namely, which Loyola had edited, and the Spirit of God had inspired; and they were the subjects of a higher monarch than the sovereign of the nation — their own General. Nay, more, the Jesuits were cut off even from the Pope. For if their General “held the place of the Omnipotent God,” much more did he hold the place of “his Vicar.” And so was it in fact; for soon the members of the Society of Jesus came to recognize no laws but their own, and though at their first formation they professed to have no end but the defense and glory of the Papal See, it came to pass when they grew to be strong that, instead of serving the tiara, they compelled the tiara to serve the society, and made their own wealth, power, and dominion the one grand object of their existence. They were a Papacy within the Papacy — a Papacy whose organization was more perfect, whose instincts were more cruel, whose workings were more mysterious, and whose dominion was more destructive than that of the old Papacy.
So stood the Society of Jesus. A deep and wide gulf separated it from all other communities and interests. Set free from the love of family, from the ties of kindred, from the claims of country, and from the rule of law, careless of the happiness they might destroy, and the misery and pain and woe they might inflict, the members were at liberty, without control or challenge, to pursue their terrible end, which was the dethronement of every other power, the extinction of every other interest but their own, and the reduction of mankind into abject slavery, that on the ruins of the liberty, the virtue, and the happiness of the world they might raise themselves to a supreme, unlimited dominion. But we have not yet detailed all the device with which the Jesuits were careful to furnish themselves for the execution of their unspeakably audacious and diabolical design. In the midst of these abysses there opens to our eye a yet more profound abyss. To enjoy exemption from all human authority and from every earthly law was to them a small matter; nothing would satisfy their lust for license save the entire abrogation of the moral law, and nothing would appease their pride save to trample under-foot the majesty of heaven. We now come to speak of the moral code of the Jesuits.
The key-note of their ethical code is the famous maxim that the end sanctifies the means. Before that maxim the eternal distinction of right and wrong vanishes. Not only do the stringency and sanctions of human law dissolve and disappear, but the authority and majesty of The Decalogue are overthrown. There is no conceivable crime, villainy, and atrocity which this maxim will not justify. Nay, such become dutiful and holy, provided they be done for “the greater glory of God,” by which the Jesuit means the honor, interest, and advancement of his society. In short, the Jesuit may do whatever he has a mind to do, all human and divine laws notwithstanding. This is a very grave charge, but the evidence of its truth is, unhappily, too abundant, and the difficulty lies in making a selection.
What the Popes have attempted to do by the plenitude of their power, namely, to make sin to be no sin, the Jesuit doctors have done by their casuistry. “The first and great commandment in the law,” said the same Divine Person who proclaimed it from Sinai, “is to love the Lord thy God.” The Jesuit casuists have set men free from the obligation to love God. Escobar collects the different sentiments of the famous divines of the Society of Jesus upon the question. When is a man obliged to have actually an affection for God? The following are some of these: Suarez says, “It is sufficient a man love him before he dies, not assigning any particular time. Vasquez, that it is sufficient even at the point of death. Others, when a man receives his baptism: others, when he is obliged to be contrite: others, upon holidays. But our Father Castro Palao disputes all these opinions, and that justly. Hurtado de Mendoza pretends that a man is obliged to do it once every year. Our Father Coninck believes a man to be obliged once in three or four years. Henriquez, once in five years. But Filiutius affirms it to be probable that in rigor a man is not obliged every five years. When then? He leaves the point to the wise.” “We are not,” says Father Sirmond, “so much commanded to love him as not to hate him.” Thus do the Jesuit theologians make void “the first and great commandment in the law.”
The second commandment in the law is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” This second great commandment meets with no more respect at the hands of the Jesuits than the first. Their morality dashes both tables of the law in pieces; charity to man it makes void equally with the love of God. The methods by which this may be done are innumerable.
The first of these is termed probabilism. This is a device which enables a man to commit any act, be it ever so manifest a breach of the moral and divine law, without the least restraint of conscience, remorse of mind, or guilt before God. What is probabilism? By way of answer we shall suppose that a man has a great mind to do a certain act, of the lawfulness of which he is in doubt. He finds that there are two opinions upon the point: the one provably true, to the effect that the act is lawful; the other more probably true, to the effect that the act is sinful. Under the Jesuit regimen the man is at liberty to act upon the probable opinion. The act is probably right, but more probably wrong, nevertheless he is safe in doing it, in virtue of the doctrine of probabilism. It is important to ask, what makes an opinion probable? To make an opinion probable a Jesuit finds easy indeed. If a single doctor has pronounced in its favor, though a core of doctors may have condemned it, or if the man can imagine in his own mind something like a tolerable reason for doing the act, the opinion that it is lawful becomes probable. It will be hard to name an act for which a Jesuit authority may not be produced, and harder still to find a man whose invention is so poor as not to furnish him with what he deems a good reason for doing what he is inclined to, and therefore it may be pronounced impossible to instance a deed, however manifestly opposed to the light of nature and the law of God, which may not be committed under the shield of the monstrous dogma of probabilism.
We are neither indulging in satire nor incurring the charge of false-witness-bearing in this picture of Jesuit theology. “A person may do what he considers allowable,” says Emmanuel Sa, of the Society of Jesus, “according to a probable opinion, although the contrary may be the more probable one. The opinion of a single grave doctor is all that is requisite.” A yet greater doctor, Filiutius, of Rome, confirms him in this. It is allowable,” says he, “to follow the less probable opinion, even though it be the less safe one. That is the common judgment of modern authors.” “Of two contrary opinions,” says Paul Laymann, “touching the legality or illegality of any human action, everyone may follow in practice or in action that which he should prefer, although it may appear to the agent himself less probable in theory.” He adds: “A learned person may give contrary advice to different persons according to contrary probable opinions, whilst he still preserves discretion and prudence.” We may say with Pascal, “These Jesuit casuists give us elbow-room at all events!”
It is and it is not is the motto of this theology. It is the true Lesbian rule which shapes itself according to that which we wish to measure by it. Would we have any action to be sinful, the Jesuit moralist turns this side of the code to us; would we have it to be lawful, he turns the other side. Right and wrong are put thus in our own power; we can make the same action a sin or a duty as we please, or as we deem it expedient. To steal the property, slander the character, violate the chastity, or spill the blood of a fellow-creature, is most probably wrong, but let us imagine some good to be got by it, and it is probably right. The Jesuit writers, for the sake of those who are dull of understanding and slow to apprehend the freedom they bring them, have gone into particulars and compiled lists of actions, esteemed sinful, unnatural, and abominable by the moral sense of all nations hitherto, but which, in virtue of this new morality, are no longer so, and they have explained how these actions may be safely done, with a minuteness of detail and a luxuriance of illustration, in which it were tedious in some cases, immodest in others, to follow them.
One would think that this was license enough. What more can the Jesuit need, or what more can he possibly have, seeing by a little effort of invention he can over leap every human and Divine barrier, and commit the most horrible crimes, on the mightiest possible scale, and neither feel remorse of conscience nor fear of punishment? But this unbounded liberty of wickedness did not content the sons of Loyola. They panted for a liberty, if possible, yet more boundless; they wished to be released from the easy condition of imagining some good end for the wickedness they wished to perpetrate, and to be free to sin without the trouble of assigning even to themselves any end at all. This they have accomplished by the method of directing the intention.
This is a new ethical science, unknown to those ages which were not privileged to bask in the illuminating rays of the Society of Jesus, and it is as simple as convenient. It is the soul, they argue, that does the act, so far as it is moral or immoral. As regards the body’s share in it, neither virtue nor vice can be predicated of it. If, therefore, while the hand is shedding blood, or the tongue is calumniating character, or uttering a falsehood, the soul can so abstract itself from what the body is doing as to occupy itself the while with some holy theme, or fix its meditation upon some benefit or advantage likely to arise from the deed, which it knows, or at least suspects, the body is at that moment engaged in doing, the soul contracts neither guilt nor stain, and the man runs no risk of ever being called to account for the murder, or theft, or calumny, by God, or of incurring his displeasure on that ground. We are not satirizing; we are simply stating the morality of the Jesuits. “We never,” says the Father Jesuit in Pascal’s Letters, “suffer such a thing as the formal intention to sin with the sole design of sinning; and if any person whatever should persist in having no other end but evil in the evil that he does, we break with him at once — such conduct is diabolical. This holds true, without exception, of age, sex, or rank. But when the person is not of such a wretched disposition as this, we try to put in practice our method of directing the intention, which simply consists in his proposing to himself, as the end of his actions, some allowable object. Not that we do not endeavor, as far as we can, to dissuade men from doing things forbidden; but when we cannot prevent the action, we at least purify the motive, and thus correct the viciousness of the means by the goodness of the end. Such is the way in which our Fathers [of the society] have contrived to permit those acts of violence to which men usually resort in vindication of their honor. They have no more to do than to turn off the intention from the desire of vengeance, which is criminal, and to direct it to a desire to defend their honor, which, according to us, is quite warrantable. And in this way our doctors discharge all their duty towards God and towards man. By permitting the action they gratify the world; and by purifying the intention they give satisfaction to the Gospel. This is a secret, sir, which was entirely unknown to the ancients; the world is indebted for the discovery entirely to our doctors. You understand it now, I hope.”
Let us take a few illustrative cases, but only such as Jesuit casuists themselves have furnished. “A military man,” says Reginald, “may demand satisfaction on the spot from the person who has injured him, not indeed with the intention of rendering evil for evil, but with that of preserving his honor.” Lessius observes that if a man has received a blow on the face, he must on no account have an intention to avenge himself; but he may lawfully have an intention to avert infamy, and may, with that view, repel the insult immediately, even at the point of the sword. “If your enemy is disposed to injure you,” says Escobar, “you have no right to wish his death by a movement of hatred, though you may to save yourself from harm.” And says Hurtado de Mendoza, “We may pray God to visit with speedy death those who are bent on persecuting us, if there is no other way of escaping from it.” “An incumbent,” says Gaspar de Hurtado, “may without any mortal sin desire the decease of a life-renter on his benefice, and a son that of a father, and rejoice when it happens, provided always it is for the sake of the profit that is to accrue from the event, and not from personal aversion.” Sanchez teaches that it is lawful to kill our adversary in a duel, or even privately, when he intends to deprive us of our honor or property unjustly in a law-suit, or by chicanery, and when there is no other way of preserving them. “It is equally right to kill in a private way a false accuser, and his witness, and even the judge who has been bribed to favor them. A most pious assassination?” exclaims Pascal.