Madrid in 1750, as a challenge to the power of the state. He also gave a sinister interpretation to the control exercised by Jesuit confessors and preachers over the formation of the king's conscience, and considered as credible the rumours of vast Jesuit wealth in Brazil hidden from the crown.
For these reasons, he made it his goal to crush the Society. He succeeded during a two-year period between 1757 and early 1759. With the support of the Portuguese episcopacy and the tacit consent of the papacy, the Jesuits were charged with complicity in political movements against the crown. They were first exiled from the royal presence in 1757, then deprived of their licenses to preach and confess in Portugal in 1758, and finally, in January 1759, expelled from the Portuguese dominions.
The results for religious life in Brazil were devastating. The missionary efforts among the indigenous populations collapsed, and Jesuit educational facilities in the cities were closed. Later in the 1760s, the crown also effectively confiscated the economic assets of other religious orders such as the Dominicans, Benedictines, and Mercedarians, and the cultural influence ofthese orders was further eroded. Since the crown made no effort to strengthen diocesan structures, the net result was a substantial marginalization of the church. Thus, Pombal succeeded where the Bourbons had failed, with policies that helped produce a much more secular society.
One does not have to look very far into the reports of bishops and diocesan priests in the late colonial period to realize their generally low opinion for the religious beliefs and practices of their communicants. It was a rare official who commented favourably on the piety and orthodoxy of the ordinary faithful. 'Ignorant', 'superstitious', 'debased', were the more common descriptions. Yet the vast majority of observers did not use the term 'idolatry'. They considered their flocks to be Christians, albeit poor Christians.
The reports thus highlight one important element of popular religiosity. It did not conform to Enlightened perspectives on proper religious behaviour, but for the most part evangelization had been successful in introducing a Christian world-view. To be sure, a few isolated groups did reject Christianity entirely, and some cultures such as the Maya of Yucatan continued to use a Christian veneer to conceal the perpetuation of older traditions. But for most cultural groups the question was never as simple as acceptance or rejection. Rather, they pondered the new religious ideas and created an amalgam that combined the old and new cultural principles in a way that provided a satisfying
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