Chapter 9. Commercial Enterprises and Banishment’s.
England — Poland — Cardinal Hosius — Sigismund III — Ruin of Poland — Jesuit Missions in the East Indies — Numbers of their Converts — Their Missions in Abyssinia — Their Kingdom of Paraguay — Their Trading Establishments in the West Indies — Episode of Father la Valette — Bankruptcy — Trial — Their Constitutions brought to Light — Banished from all Popish Kingdoms — Suppressed by Clement XIV — The Pope Dies Suddenly — The Order Restored by Pius VII — The Jesuits the Masters of the Pope.
Of the entrance of the Jesuits into England, the arts they employed, the disguises they wore, the seditions they sowed, the snares they laid for the life of the sovereign, and the plots they concocted for the overthrow of the Protestant Church, we shall have an opportunity of speaking when we come to narrate the history of Protestantism in Great Britain. Meanwhile, we consider their career in Poland.
Cardinal Hosius opened the gates of this country to the Jesuits. Till then Poland was a flourishing country, united at home and powerful abroad. Its literature and science during the half-century preceding had risen to an eminence that placed Poland on a par with the most enlightened countries of Christendom. It enjoyed a measure of toleration which was then unknown to most of the nations of Europe. Foreign Protestants fled to it as a refuge from the persecution to which they were exposed in their native land, bringing to their adopted country their skill, their wealth, and their energy. Its trade increased, and its towns grew in population and riches. Italian, German, French, and Scottish Protestant congregations existed at Cracow, Vilna, and Posnania. Such was Poland before the Jesuit foot touched its soil.
But from the hour that the disciples of Loyola entered the country Poland began to decline. The Jesuits became supreme at court, the monarch, Sigismund III, gave himself entirely up to their guidance; no one could hope to rise in the State who did not pay court to them; the education of youth was wholly in their hands, and the effects became speedily visible in the decay of literature and the growing decline of the national mind. At home the popular liberties were attacked in the persons of the Protestants, and abroad the nation was humiliated by a foreign policy inspired by the Jesuits, which drew the contempt and hostility of neighboring powers upon the country. These evil courses of intrigue and faction within the country, and impotent and arrogant policy outside of it, were continued until the partition of Poland resulted. It is at the door of the Jesuits that the fall of that once-enlightened, prosperous, and powerful nation is to be laid.
It concerns us less to follow the Jesuits into those countries which lie beyond the boundaries of Christendom, unless in so far as their doings in these regions may help to throw light on their principles and tactics. In following their steps among heathen nations and savage races, it is alike impossible to withhold our admiration of their burning zeal and intrepid courage, or our wonder at their prodigiously rapid success. No sooner had the Jesuit missionary set foot on a new shore, or preached, by an interpreter it might be, his first sermon in a heathen city, than his converts were to be counted in tens of thousands. Speaking of their missions in India, Sacchinus, their historian, says that “ten thousand men were baptized in the space of one year.” When the Jesuit mission to the East Indies was set on foot in 1559, Torrez procured royal letters to the Portuguese viceroys and governors, empowering them to lend their assistance to the missionaries for the conversion of the Indians. This shortened the process wonderfully. All that had to be done was to ascertain the place where the natives were assembled for some religious festival, and surround them with a troop of soldiers, who, with leveled muskets, offered them the alternative of baptism. The rite followed immediately upon the acceptance of the alternative; and next day the baptized were taught the sign of the cross. In this excellent and summary way was the evangelization of the island of Goa effected!”
By similar methods did they attempt to plant the Popish faith and establish their own dominion in Abyssinia, and also at Mozambique (1560) on the opposite coast of Africa. One of the pioneers, Oviedo, who had entered Ethiopia, wrote thus the Pope: He must be permitted to inform his Holiness that, with the assistance of 500 or 600 Portuguese soldiers, he could at any time reduce the Empire of Abyssinia to the obedience of the Pontificate; and when he considered that it was a country surrounded with territories abounding with the finest gold, and promising a rich harvest of souls to the Church, he trusted his Holiness would give the matter further consideration.” The Emperor of Ethiopia was gained by flatteries and miracles; a terrible persecution was raised against the native Christians; thousands were massacred; but at last, the king having detected the authors of these barbarities plotting against his own life and throne, they were infamously expelled from the country.
Having secured the territory of Paraguay, a Portuguese possession in South America, the Jesuits founded a kingdom there, and became its sovereigns. They treated the natives at first with kindness, and taught them several useful arts, but by-and-by they changed their policy, and, reducing them to slavery, compelled them to labor for their benefit. Dealing out to the Paraguayan peasant from the produce of his own toil as much as would suffice to feed and clothe him, the Fathers laid up the rest in large storehouses, which they had erected for the purpose. They kept carefully concealed from the knowledge of Europe this seemingly exhaustless source of wealth, that no one else might share its sweets. They continued all the while to draw from it those vast sums wherewith they carried on their machinations in the Old World. With the gold wrung from the Paraguayan peasants’ toil they hired spies, bribed courtiers, opened new missions, and maintained that pomp and splendor of their establishments by which the populace were dazzled.
Their establishments in Brazil formed the basis of a great and enriching trade, of which Santa Fe and Buenos Ayres were the chief depots. But the most noted episode of this kind in their history is that of Father Lavalette (1756). He was Visitor-General and Apostolic Prefect of their Missions in the West Indies. “He organized offices in St. Domingo, Granada, St. Lucia, St, Vincent, and other islands, and drew bills of exchange on Paris, London, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lyons, Cadiz, Leghorn, and Amsterdam.” His vessels, loaded with riches, comprising, besides colonial produce, and negro slaves, “crossed the sea continually.” Trading on credit, they professed to give the property of the society as security. Their method of business was abnormal. Treaties obeyed by other merchants they disregarded. Neutrality laws were nothing to them. They hired ships which were used as traders or privateers, as suited them, and sailed under whatever flag was convenient. At last, however, came trouble to these Fathers, who were making, as the phrase is, “the best of both worlds.” The Brothers Lioncy and Gouffre, of Marseilles, had accepted their bills for a million and a half of livres, to cover which two vessels had been dispatched for Martinique with merchandise to the value of two million. Unfortunately for the Fathers, the ships were captured at sea by the English.
The house of Lioncy and Gouffre asked the superior of the Jesuits in Marseilles for four thousand livres, as part payment of their debt, to save them from bankruptcy. The Father replied that the society was not answerable, but he offered the Brothers the aid of their prayers, fortified by the masses which they were about to say for them. The masses would not fill the coffers which the Jesuits had emptied, and accordingly the merchants appealed to Parliament craving a decree for payment of the debt. The appeal was allowed, and the Jesuits were condemned to honor the bills drawn by their agent. At this critical moment the General of the society died: delay was inevitable: the new General sent all the funds he could raise; but before these supplies could reach Marseilles, Lioncy and Gouffre had become bankrupt, involving in their misfortune their connections in all parts of France.
Now that the ruin had come and publicity was inevitable, the Jesuits refused to pay the debt? Pleading that they were protected from the claims of their creditors by their Constitutions. The cause now came to a public hearing. After several pleas had been advanced and abandoned, the Jesuits took their final stand on the argument which, in an evil hour for themselves, they had put forth at first in their defense. Their rules, they said, forbid them to trade; and the fault of individual members could not be punished upon the Order: They were shielded by their Constitutions. The Parliament ordered these documents to be produced. They had been kept secret till now. They were laid before Parliament on the 16th of April, 1761. The result was disastrous for the Jesuits. They lost their cause, and became much more odious than before. The disclosure revealed Jesuitism to men as an organization based on the most iniquitous maxims, and armed with the most terrible weapons for the accomplishment of their object, which was to plant their own supremacy on the ruin of society. The disclosure of their Constitutions were one of the principal grounds of the decree for the extinction of the order in France, in 1762.
Is not to be wondered that political kingdoms and civil communities should feel the Order a burden too heavy to be borne, when we reflect that even the Popes, of whose throne it was established, have repeatedly decreed its extinction. Strange as it may seem, the first bolt in later times that fell on the Jesuits was launched by the hand of Rome. Benedict IV, by a bull issued in 1741, prohibited them from engaging in trade and making slaves of the Indians. In 1759, Portugal, finding itself on the brink of ruin by their intrigues, shook them off. This example was soon followed in France, as we have already narrated. Even in Spain, with all its devotion to the Papal See, all the Jesuit establishments were surrounded, one night in 1767, with troops, and the whole fraternity, amounting to 7,000, were caught and shipped off to Italy. Immediately thereafter a similar expulsion befell them in South America. Naples, Malta, and Parma were the next to drive them from their soil. The severest blow was yet to come. Clement XIII, hitherto their firm friend, yielding at last to the unanimous demands of all the Roman Catholic courts, summoned a secret conclave for the suppression of the Order: “a step necessary,” said the brief of his successor, “in order to prevent Christians rising one against another, and massacring one another in the very bosom of our common mother the Holy Church.” Clement died suddenly the very evening before the day appointed for the conclave. Lorenzo Ganganelli was elevated to the vacant chair under the title of Clement XIV. Ganganelli was studious, learned, of pure morals, and of genuine piety. From the schoolmen he turned to the Fathers, forsaking the Fathers he gave himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures, where he learned on what Rock to fix the anchor of his faith. Clement XIV strove for several years, with honest but mistaken zeal, to reform the Order. His efforts were fruitless. On the 21st of July, 1773, he issued the famous bull, “Dominus ac Redemptor noster,” by which he “dissolved and forever annihilated the Order as a corporate body,” at which time it counted 22,000 members.
The bull justifies itself by a long and formidable list of charges against the Jesuits. Had this accusation proceeded from a Protestant pen it might have been regarded as not free from exaggeration, but coming from the Papal chair it must be accepted as the sober truth. The bull of Clement charged them with raising various insurrections and rebellions, with plotting against bishops, undermining the regular monastic orders, and invading pious foundations and corporations of every sort, not only in Europe, but in Asia and America, to the danger of souls and the astonishment of all nations. It charged them with engaging in trade, and that, instead of seeking to convert the heathen, they had shown themselves intent only on gathering gold and silver and precious jewels. They had interpolated pagan rites and manners with Christian beliefs and worship: they had set aside the ordinances of the Church, and substituted opinions which the apostolic chair had pronounced fundamentally erroneous and evidently subversive of good, morals.
Tumults, disturbances, violence, had followed them in all countries. In fine, they had broken the peace of the Church, and so incurably that the Pontificates of his predecessors, Urban VIII, Clements IX., X., XI, and XII., Alexanders VII and VIII, Innocents X., XI, XII, and XIII, and Benedict XIV., had been passed in abortive attempts to re-establish the harmony and concord which they had destroyed. It was now seen that the peace of the Church would never be restored while the Order existed, and hence the necessity of the bull which dispossessed the Jesuits of “every office, service, and administration;” took away from them “their houses, schools, hospitals, estates;” withdrew “all their statutes, usages, decrees, customs, and ordinances; ” and pronounced “all the power of the General, Provincial, Visitors, and every other head of the same Order, whether spiritual or secular, to be forever annulled and suppressed.” “The present ordinance,” said the bull, in conclusion, “shall remain in full force and operation from henceforth and forever.”
Nothing but the most tremendous necessity could have made Clement XIV issue this bull. He knew well how unforgiving was the pride and how deadly the vengeance of the Society, and he did not conceal from himself the penalty he should have to pay for decreeing its suppression. On laying down his pen, after having put his name to the bull, he said to those around him that he had subscribed his death warrant. The Pope was at that time in robust health, and his vigorous constitution and temperate habits promised a long life. But now dark rumors began to be whispered in Italy that the Pontiff would die soon. In April of the following year he began to decline without any apparent cause: his illness increased: no medicine was of any avail: and after lingering in torture for months, he died, September 22nd, 1774. “Several days before his death,” says Caraccioli, “his bones were exfoliated and withered like a tree which, attacked at its roots, withers away and throws off its bark. The scientific men who were called in to embalm his body found the features livid, the lips black, the abdomen inflated, the limbs emaciated, and covered with violet spots. The size of the heart was diminished, and all the muscles were shrunk up, and the spine was decomposed. They filled the body with perfumed and aromatic substances, but nothing could dispel the mephitic effluvia.”
The suppression with which Clement XIV smote the Society of Jesus was eternal; but the “forever” of the bull lasted only in actual deed during the brief interval that elapsed between 1773 and 1814. That short period was filled up with the awful tempest of the French Revolution — to the fallen thrones and desecrated altars of which the Jesuits pointed as the monuments of the Divine anger at the suppression of their Order. Despite the bull of Clement, the Jesuits had neither ceased to exist nor ceased to act. Amid the storms that shook the world they were energetically active. In revolutionary conventions and clubs, in war-councils and committees, on battle-fields they were present, guiding with unseen but powerful touch the course of affairs. Their maxim is, if despotisms will not serve them, to demoralize society and render government impossible, and from chaos to remodel the world anew. Thus the Society of Jesus, which had gone out of existence before the Revolution, as men believed, started up in full force the moment after, prepared to enter on the work of molding and ruling the nations which had been chastised but not enlightened. Scarcely had Pius VII returned to the Vatican, when, by a bull dated August 7th, 1814, he restored the Order of Jesus. Thaddeus Borzodzowsky was placed at their head. Once more the brotherhood stalked abroad in their black birettas. In little time their colleges, seminaries, and novitiates began to flourish in all the countries of Europe, Ireland and England not excepted. Their numbers, swelled by the sodality of “St. Vincent de Paul,” “Brothers of the Christian Doctrine,” and other societies affiliated with the order, became greater, perhaps, than they ever were at any former period. And their importance was vastly enhanced by the fact that the contest between the “Order” and the “Papal Chair” ended — temporarily, at any rate — in the enslavement of the Popedom, of which they inspired the policy, indicted the decrees, and wielded the Dower.