of the society entailed in turn the end of the Jesuits everywhere, including the Catholic German states and ecclesiastical principalities, the scattered possessions of the Austrian Habsburgs, and all that remained of their missions around the world.
By the time the expulsions and dissolutions were over, the Italian Father Gabriel Malagrida had suffered trial and execution, others like the general Lorenzo Ricci had spent years in prison, while hundreds had died during the long voyages from the colonial missions back to Europe. Scores of elite colleges had also to find entirely new professorial staffs, the vast Catholic mission fields around the world lay long untended, and thousands of Jesuits faced displacement from their homelands or colonial countries of adoption to Corsica or the Papal States. And all of the Jesuits - more than 22,000 in sum -sustained 'secularization' to one degree or another, sometimes voluntarily so but in most cases not. The plight of so many displaced Jesuits even elicited sympathy from rival Christian confessions and non-Catholic states such as in Protestant Prussia, where Frederick the Great employed them in conquered Catholic Silesia, and in Orthodox Russia, where Catherine the Great used them in parts of former Poland.
Since the event so closely preceded a revolution that gave rise to an explicitly anti-Catholic nationalism, it was hard for generations that lived through both events not to view the suppression of the Jesuits in the light of the French Revolution and, reasoning post hoc ergo propter hoc, to draw causal connections in accord with the chronological ones. Were not the staunchest foes of the Revolution the same protagonists who, as erstwhile Jesuits - Augustin Barruel and Francois-Xavier de Feller, for example - had been the greatest obstacles to the spread of an anti-religious Enlightenment? By nationalizing church property and dissolving the Gallican church as an order, had not the revolutionary National Assembly done to the whole French clergy exactly what the enemies of the Jesuits had earlier done to the Society of Jesus? Were not the pre-Revolutionary enemies of the Jesuits the very same as those who later plotted and perpetrated the Revolution, encyclopédistes and philosophes all?
This case was easiest to make in France where, on the very morrow of the end of the Jesuits, philosophes themselves claimed credit for the victory. It was Enlightened 'philosophy', proclaimed Voltaire's friend Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, which had really judged the Jesuits, apart from the role of 'solicitor' in the trial.2 Elsewhere in Catholic Europe this causal line was harder to draw, since it had been the Catholic crowned heads and their councillors who acted as both judges and solicitors in the affair. Yet the connection
Was this article helpful?