54. THE OLD REGIME in EUROPE (1715-89)



 King and Court



A. The Weight of Tradition






An “Old Regime,” originally sprung from feudalism, and still clinging to many of its customs, was nearing its end during the eighteenth century. Its ideals were paternalistic, conservative, presupposing fixed social status. Democracy had scarcely any meaning for it, but in its ideals it by no means overlooked the common man. “The Old Regime did not believe in political or in social equality. It did not think in terms of individualism. The tie binding the individual to the community was not an impersonal citizenship in an impersonal state, but a status of a social hierarchy with innumerable gradations from the peasant or artisan at the bottom to the king at the top. . . . It is in the ‘numberless chartered freedoms’ that the ideals of the Old Regime centered. In theory everyone had a place in the commonwealth with a charter to some portion, however small, of indefeasible freedom. . . . Even in apparently despotic and authoritarian governments the Old Regime was characterized by a personal quasi-feudal leadership. ...” 1 But unfortunately for this regime, practice had never lived up to theory, and after centuries of passive acceptance, it would be challenged in all its traditions, good and bad.

1 Penfield Roberts, Quest for Security (New York: Harper and Bros., 1947), p. 127. 336


and had been the capital of the original feudal regime, and despite the rise of the city and its industry and commerce, it still furnished [p. 337] wealth and livelihood to lord and peasant who comprised the greater portion of the population. “The conservative cult of stability after 1715 had its roots in the unchanging European countryside. The major changes in Europe had been caused by the growth of towns and cities, by the extension of trade and commerce, and by the expansion of Europe overseas. . . . In 1715 and 1740 the countryside was still for the most part living and working in the established way, a way in some respects of immemorial antiquity, older than the Roman Empire.” 2 But, as will be noted later in this same topic, an agrarian revolution was commencing in England which, once extended to the Continent, would seriously disrupt the old ways. Europe was also on the eve of an industrial transformation which at long last would begin to shift the balance of numbers and influence from the rural to the urban areas, quite confusing the old social relationships. But the old order had to go for survival, since European population, relatively stable at fifty to sixty millions during the Middle Ages, had been increasing in “modern” times: according to one estimate, a population of some 73,000,000 in 1600 would increase to 187,000,000 by 1800.3 The old methods could never have supported such a growth; it was providential that new were found.

2.Ibid., p. 106.

3.A. M. Carr-Saunders, “Growth of Population in Europe,” Edward Eyre, editor, European Civilization (New York: Oxford University Press, 1937) , V.


The balance of power” continued its calculating gait until Bonaparte tipped it over—though not for long. Emeric de Vattel, Swiss jurist, would explain that “the balance of power” is an “arrangement of affairs so that no state shall be in a position to have absolute mastery and dominate over the others.” And the old scoffer, Frederick II of Prussia, remarked cynically that “politics is the science of acting always by convenient ways in conformity with one’s own interests.” 4 Fortunately total mobilization of manpower was not yet possible, and these wars continued to be waged for limited objectives by a relatively small portion of the population, hired or impressed into military service. It would be the French Revolution which would introduce “equality” in the miseries of war as well as in the “rights of man and the citizen.”

4.Leo Gershoy, From Despotism to Revolution (New York: Harper and Bros., 1944), p. 162.

Anglo-French duel for empire is the political constant in the otherwise somewhat erratic combinations of European powers during the eighteenth century. While the meteoric career of Charles XII of Sweden failed to raise his country permanently into the ranks of the Great [p. 338] Powers, Frederick the Great of Prussia definitely did make Prussia a military force to be respected. Bourbon France, apparently but not really still in the ascendant, pursued her old rivalry with the Habsburgs by allying with Prussia in the Wars of Polish Succession (1733-38) and Austrian Succession (1740-48) . Then by a sudden change of policy labeled the “Diplomatic Revolution,” she accepted Kaunitz’s bid for an alliance with Austria against Prussia in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63). These conflicts resulted in the permanent transfer of Silesia from Austria to Prussia and prepared the way for the latter’s headship of Germany a century later. But the overseas counterpart of the Seven Years’ War, known in America as the French and Indian War, proved to be Great Britain’s decisive victory over France in both America and India. France and Spain gained some revenge by joining the American rebels against Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1776-83) which, though it regained little land for France, helped deny Britain the fruits of her victory.

Anti-Revolutionary coalitions. The early stages of the French Revolution, so menacing to the Old Regime, were not sufficiently estimated by the other continental powers, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, then preoccupied in taking their second and third bites of Poland, whereby that land of Texan proportions was wiped off the political map of Europe. But presently these same powers were desperately trying to contain the dynamic force of the French Revolutionary élan, and the military genius of its heir and propagator, Napoleon Bonaparte. Great Britain was tireless in organizing combinations against France in a contest that went on with but brief interruptions from 1792 until 1815. The new French bid for European hegemony was at length defeated—but the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would yet see Prussia’s repeated grasps at the same will-o’-the-wisp.



A. The Weight of Tradition




B. Forces for Change


The fascinating idea was that of Nature—a fundamental naturalism which assumed now sentimental, now philosophical, now artistic aspects, which crept into all the recesses of the thought of the time, like the revelation of a happy world to which the contemporary system, based on dogmatic and authoritarian religion and on absolute government, was in contradiction. This conception of nature, of man in the abstract as naturally endowed with all good qualities, arose out of that of reason as the sure light of truth and that of the law of nature as the basis of human sociability.” 5 These words of Don Luigi Sturzo recall [p. 339] the basic ideas of the philosophers; here some of the by-products can be examined.

5.Don Luigi Sturzo, Church and State, trans. Barbara Carter (New York: Long-mans, Green and Co., 1939), p. 341.

 “Humanitarianism gradually pervaded life, even as it flooded literature and the arts, and lay reformers worked assiduously to realize their ideal of happiness on earth. But their efforts to attain secular salvation, to spread the greatest possible benefits among the greatest possible number, were held in check, they averred, by the institutionalized strength of the revealed religions and most of all by the prestige and the power of the ‘advanced sentinels of the court of Rome,’ as they called the Jesuits.” “ As much as they could without disturbing their peace of mind or dirtying their sleeves, liberal nobles and merchants strove to outdistance the Church by a secular welfare work. Nor did their challenging zeal fail in some instances to put to shame devoted, but routine religious servants of the underprivileged. Philosophers and sentimental novelists had the public ear, and their “sensibility” did call attention to some abuses. In England great advances were made in the care of newborn children. Public health programs made determined onslaught against urban dirt and disease. New legislation for the care of paupers and vagrants was enacted. But welcome as this advance was, it could not supply the place of supernatural charity as a motive for day to day care for the poor. “In Catholic countries on the Continent the Church still took care of the poor ... and the management, nursing, and other care was done by religious orders like the Sisters of Charity founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1633. The work of these orders, despite its faults, was certainly more successful in alleviating the sufferings of the poor than the English poor law of the eighteenth century....”6

6.Gershoy, op. cit., p. 264. ‘ Roberts, op. cit., p. 131.

 “Enlightenment” did not lose its charm during the new vogue of sentimentality. Ambitious plans for eradicating illiteracy were made on the assumption that reason, once stimulated, would save everyone. La Chalotais in 1763 presented his Essai d’Éducation Nationale which demanded: “I claim for the nation an education dependent upon the state alone, because education belongs essentially to the state.” The liberal revolutions would take up this program of secular education, and its advocates, if not immediately successful in the primary grades, would work pertinaciously for its realization. Finally, baroque and its later rococo modification now began to yield in the arts and crafts to neoclassicism harking back to Winckelmann’s ideal of “the noble simplicity and serene greatness of the ancients.” The Renaissance was still a word to conjure with. [p. 340]


English enclosure movement. A great change took place in the English countryside during the eighteenth century and reached its height during the reign of George III (1760-4820). This was the result of the enclosure movement. “Behind the enclosure movement lay a complex set of causes both economic and political. On the one hand, the agricultural disadvantages of the open-field system were obvious. The work in labor and cartage through individual cultivators occupying scattered strips of land widely separated from each other was very great, the existence of the scattered strips were the source of constant quarrels in regard to the exact position of the boundaries which could be easily shifted, the strips were too narrow to admit of cross ploughing or cross harrowing. Drainage was practically impossible because if one man drained his land another might block his outfalls. Moreover, all occupiers were bound by rigid customary rules, and no winter crops could be grown so long as the arable fields were subject to common rights of pasture from August to February. . . . The enclosure prepared the way —indeed to a large extent made possible—the great advances in agricultural technique which followed them. But the motives which brought enclosures about were not elevated ones.”‘

A squire might hire lawyers to draw up arguments for enclosing, i.e., fencing off, a certain portion of the common. A notice would then be put up announcing “a certain act of parliament” in this connection. The peasantry, even if they understood the notice, seldom had the experience nor the means to offer effective resistance. The act in question took its routine course through a parliament of nobles and squires. From about seventy such acts during Anne’s reign (1702-14), the number rose to over a thousand in that of George III: 3,883 acts were passed between 1761 and 1801. By the middle of the nineteenth century the process was practically complete. In its later stages the procedure had been facilitated by a general act of parliament authorizing any squire to put up a notice and to enclose provided no successful contradiction appeared. When the squire’s lawyers could unearth or manufacture documents, peasants usually lacked any written witness to their immemorial rights of tenantry. Hence the freeholder or yeomen nearly disappeared by 1800. Some became tenants, but more were reduced to pauperism by the combined effect of the agrarian and industrial revolutions. Many drifted to the cities where the prevalence of cheap female and child labor prevented them from entering industry. Often they were reduced to idleness, beggary, or vice. [p. 341]

8 R. R. Enfield, “European Agriculture Since 1750,” Edward Eyre, editor, European Civilization (New York: Oxford University Press, 1937), V, 191-93.

On the Continent, though the processes were not identical, similar transformations occurred in Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Poland, and the Balkans. France, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries alone preserved a substantial group of small landowners, and in the case of France, the Revolution of 1789 gave them a vested interest in their small holdings which was to be of enduring political consequence.

Stock breeding improvements. The squires had also long resented pasturing their own herds, the breed of which they were endeavoring to improve, with the scrawny animals of poorer farmers. Enclosure, therefore, was also represented as a necessity to ensure the improvement of the breed of cattle, and this in turn was declared to be imperative to provide for a population increase in England from some three millions in 1700 to seven millions in 1800. Profits, however, were not equally distributed, but went largely to the great owners, for scientific progress required capital. But between 1735 and 1780 the average weight of cattle was doubled.

Scientific farming. Deep plowing was introduced in the middle of the eighteenth century, thus utilizing land never before used. The harrow was brought into play to break up clods; and drilling replaced a broadcast method of seeding. Chemical fertilizers began to be employed, and the rotation of cereals and roots also contributed to improving the yield. New crops were developed to provide forage for animals, so that these need no longer be slaughtered wholesale for the winter—this medieval practice had removed the better animals each year and continually stunted the breed. Model farms were set up for study and experimentation, and country fairs began to offer prizes, not for freaks as previously, but for the largest and best animals. Arthur Young (17411820) collected agricultural lore and published it. The pioneer of eighteenth-century scientific farming, Jethro Tull (1674-1740), was sustained by Viscount “Turnip” Townshend (1674-1730) . Robert Bake-well (1725-95) specialized in scientific breeding, which was enthusiastically taken up and carried on by Coke of Holkham (1752-1842).

On the Continent, agricultural progress was generally slower than in England, though scientific rotation of crops seems to have originated in Holland, whence it was borrowed by the English and the Germans. Prussia was eager to adopt English methods, but comparatively little progress was made in France during the eighteenth century. Yet agriculture remained a major occupation in France, and during the nineteenth century great efforts were made to improve. [p. 342]









A. Deist Theologians







Deism had its doctrinal origin in the rationalist “Enlightenment.” This movement, beginning in a modest way with Descartes, tended increasingly to represent philosophy as hostile and superior to theology. Deism had its historic beginning during the Religious Wars wherein the champions of contradictory concepts of supernatural religion gave a bad example of Christian principles. It matured in the intellectual atmosphere of the disputes of Protestant doctors and the quibbling of Jansenist luminaries. Under these circumstances many of the intelligentsia felt it best to seek common ground by restricting themselves to an academic view of the Deity as known by reason alone, and by reducing divine influence upon human life to a minimum.

English Deism. It is not surprising that the new deistic Naturalism should first appear and flourish in England. There the Protestant Revolt had been intimately connected with economic causes, and had produced an unscrupulous aristocracy enriched by ecclesiastical confiscations. Their “reformation” seemed blessed by England’s unparalleled commercial and colonial prosperity during the period following her defection from Catholic unity. Though the Anglican Establishment sometimes weakly echoed the old Catholic moral restraints, it lacked effective sanctions. The plutocracy welcomed a religion that would remove God as far as possible from human everyday life. Now that the theocracy had been eliminated from influence on public affairs, classes attuned to economic progress allied themselves against its last vestiges in Anglican hierarchy and Stuart monarchy. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1689 had superseded these by a parliamentary oligarchy of squires and commercial barons, who accorded one another political and religious toleration.

Continental Deism. In France, Gallicanism aspired to make the French Church almost as independent of Rome as Anglicanism. Royal Absolutism, however, wished to manage, not destroy, the Church. Against this by no means desirable “union of throne and altar,” liberal nobles and bourgeois merchants intrigued, though their efforts did not wholly triumph until a century after the English revolt. But the free-thinking Regent Orléans (1715-23) allowed royal restraints to lapse for a short period, and the bars could never be securely fastened again. Elsewhere Deism made its way into the Prussia of the cynical Frederick the Great and the Austria of the muddled Joseph II, while lesser estates were affected in greater or less degree by the prevailing mode. [p. 343]




Edward Herbert, baron of Cherbury (1583-1648), in his treatise, De Veritate, introduced the deistic thesis of a universal natural religion in place of a dogmatic supernatural Revelation “invented by priests and rulers.” Acceptance of God and virtue, he argued, were independent of any definite religious code: “Believe in God and do your duty” was an adequate rule of life.

Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), grandson of the founder of the Whig party, belittled biblical miracles and prophecies, and confused with aesthetic harmony a virtuous happiness. Natural religion for him was an aid, while supernatural religion merely rendered men selfish by beckoning them to heavenly rewards.

John Toland (1670-1722) questioned the authenticity of Scripture and the historicity of miracles in his Christianity not Mysterious: A Treatise Showing that there is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason or above It.

Anthony Collins (1676-1729) deserves passing notice for coining the term “freethinker,” in his Discourse on Free Thinking.

Henry St. John, viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751) , British statesman, carried Shaftesbury’s Moral Estheticism into public life, and carried on the school, to be followed by Hutcheson, Butler, and Adam Smith.

David Hume (1711-76) with cold scepticism demolished the Idealism of the Anglican prelate,

George Berkeley (1685-1753) whose esse est percipi was particularly vulnerable in the cause of religion. Hume likewise dampened pietist ardor and suggested an agnostic attitude toward God. To Hume must be attributed much of the modern prejudged opposition to any discussion of the supernatural, for he posed the specious objection: “It is contrary to universal experience for miracles to be true, but it is not against experience for testimony to be false.”




Peter Bayle (1647-1706) , a Dutchman disgusted with supernatural religion after several changes of belief, compiled his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, which served the French Rationalists and Agnostics as an arsenal.

The “Regency Wits,” men like Vairesse, Tyssot de Patet, Fontenelle, and Boulainvilliers, used Fénelon’s device of observations on remote or fictitious lands to disguise attacks on the French Church and state.


Voltaire. François Arouet (1694-1778), known as Voltaire, was a brilliant but superficial critic who retailed Bayle’s strictures in caustic [p. 344] and witty sallies. During an English exile (1726-29) he had come upon Bayle’s work and his biographer Condorcet claimed that he had taken an oath to devote his whole life to destroying Christianity: ecrasez l’in f âme. After progressing through several changes of religion, he became an agnostic scoffer who was nonetheless the idol of French society for his pleasing style in plays, essays, and poems.


The Encyclopédie was planned by Voltaire’s disciples, Denis Diderot (1713-84) and Jean d’Alembert (1717-83) . It was published, with or without royal permission, between 1751 and 1765, and assiduously disseminated by lawyers, traveling actors, urban demagogues, masonic clubs, and even dissatisfied curés. As a contribution of culture and progress, the Encyclopédie won international renown and was imitated in other countries. Its articles, after an initial flair for objective fairness, usually left a naturalistic, agnostic, or even atheistic impression—the last was sometimes injected by Paul Holbach (1723-89), though it was not typical. In vain did the ecclesiastical authorities proscribe the Encyclopédie; it lured many Catholics into Indifference and anticlericalism.




B. Political Philosophers






Jean Bodin (1530-96) in Six Livres de la Republique, written in support of Henry of Navarre, contended that the state originally arose by forcible seizure of power by vigorous men. Progress in civilization has legitimated this rule and harmonized it with law. Now firmly constituted, the state possesses sovereignty: sole ultimate control over all persons within its territory. Papal theocracy and imperial suzerainty are repudiated as antiquated.

Richard Hooker (1553-1600) in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, defended the Anglican Establishment against the Puritans. To this end he adapted the Aristotelian-Thomistic theory of law as an ordination of reason. Hooker was highly prized by Locke and through the latter’s citations diluted Scholastic political teaching reached the American Founding Fathers.

William Barclay (1546-1608) was a Scottish Catholic who yet begrudged papal theocratic power over princes. In his defense of Stuart “divine right” monarchy, Barclay was refuted by St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) who defended indirect papal jurisdiction in temporalities and foreshadowed democratic theory in politics. Paradoxically, Barclay was exiled for refusing to abjure his Catholicity, and Bellarmine was long suspect in reactionary clerical circles.

Sir Robert Filmer (d. 1653) composed Patriarcha in the height of the English Civil War to rebut St. Robert’s arguments, although his work was not actually published until 1680. Filmer resorted to philosophic and [p. 345] pseudo-historical arguments to maintain that “divine right” monarchy was an organic development of a primitive paterfamilias down to His Britannic Majesty.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) set out in the Leviathan to refute Filmer’s basis for monarchy. But though Hobbes also intended to uphold Absolutism by different arguments, these in the hands of later politicians boomeranged into an indictment of it. Writing in 1651 with the horrors of the Civil War in mind, Hobbes conceived of humanity as a monster, a “Leviathan” of horrid little men rising up to sweep away monarchs and priests—not that Hobbes cared much about the latter. And so it had ever been, for in the “state of nature” man had been a brute with hand ever lifted against his fellows. To avert self-destruction mankind had been obliged to enter into a “social contract” between government and governed: to save themselves from themselves men had surrendered all rights to the state. Though this might be democratic, aristocratic or monarchical, Hobbes felt that for practical reasons it should best be embodied in an absolute monarch. But the oligarchs of the Glorious Revolution of 1689 had little difficulty in readapting his theory to fit themselves.

John Locke




John Locke (1632-1704) published Two Treatises of Government in 1690, the year after the [English] triumph of aristocracy over monarchy. The first of these treatises refuted Filmer’s thesis of the patriarchal origin of the state; the second presented his own views, drawn in part from Hooker and from Hobbes. Thus, though Locke accepted the Hobbesian “state of nature,” he defined it as a “state of peace, good-will, mutual assistance, and preservation.” He admitted with Hobbes natural rights, but followed Hooker in insisting that rights were correlative with duties imposed by the natural law, established by God, and known to men by reason.

Locke also implicitly agreed with Filmer’s opponent, St. Robert, that all civil authority is derived from God through the will of the people. Although this could serve as justification for a democracy, Locke himself professed contentment with the British limited monarchy. To act as a check on tyranny, Locke advocated distinction of judicial, executive, and legislative powers, but he also spoke of a “federative” power over foreign affairs. But he did not insist on a balance among these powers: it was sufficient that the king—later his ministers—have the executive and a veto, provided that the legislature was controlled by popular representatives. Opposing paternalism, Locke favored restriction of the state to negative duties of preserving order.

While the English accepted both Locke’s theory and his interpretation of it, the Americans drew from it their own conclusions, ultimately democratic. [p. 346]

Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) advocated introduction of Locke’s theories into France, but with differences. Montesquieu’s L’Esprit des Lois (1748) disregarded natural rights as so much academic theory; what he was interested in was the pragmatic and historical interpretation of law. He cared less for a moral basis for either individual or social rights than for concrete guarantees: “Constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it. . . . To prevent this it is necessary . . . that power should be a check to power.” Misinterpreting the practical working of the British Constitution, Montesquieu advocated not merely a distinction, but a separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, to provide the guarantee of liberty. The Americans tended to follow Montesquieu in this “check and balance” version of Locke. Montesquieu, though finding no fault with hereditary aristocracy, insisted that the popular branch of the legislature be elected by universal suffrage, and the latter idea was put into effect in America before England. Like Locke, however, Montesquieu distrusted direct democracy and insisted upon representative forms. He also advocated an absolute executive veto, fair taxation, complete religious liberty, without, however, separation of Church and state. Montesquieu’s abstract style gave him less influence over his countrymen who demanded prompt and drastic measures, but after the French Revolution, Benjamin Constant and others resorted to his theories.




Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) was a romantic, neurotic, immoral worshipper of nature. “What is peculiar to Jean Jacques, his special privilege, is his resignation to himself. . . . He acquiesces in being yes and no at the same time; and that he can do just as far as he acquiesces in falling from the state of reason and letting the disconnected pieces of his soul vegetate as they are. Such is the sincerity of Jean Jacques and his friends. It consists in never meddling with what you find in yourself at each moment of your life for fear of perverting your being. ... He delights at the same time in the good he loves but does not, and the evil he does and hates not.” 9

‘Jacques Maritain, Three Reformers (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942), p. 98.

Rousseau’s political maxims included: (1) Nature—an Eden without original sin; whence (2) absolute liberty, and (3) absolute equality are deduced. (4) This Utopia, once lost through oppressors, is to be regained by (5) the social contract, producing (6) the general will of the common self born of sacrifice of individual selves on the altar of the state. (7) Law is the expression of this general will, ascertained by (8) [p. 347] universal suffrage of the people, enlightened perhaps by (9) a philosophic legislative superman.

Rousseau’s “Contrat Social” (1762) closely influenced the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, and more than anyone else he is the author of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité—his Jacobin disciples would read his works in chorus. Rousseau retained Hobbes’s social contract, but to the latter’s pessimism opposed an optimistic deification of natural man. The contract in Hobbes was but a device of the powerful to enslave the poor; Rousseau reinterpreted it as an agreement made by men as individuals with themselves as a collective body: “Man was born free, but is now everywhere in chains.” In the new regime all will give up everything; therefore all will be equal and free; indeed, if need be, men must be forced to be free. Government will then be the expression of the “general will”: infallible, omnipotent, indivisible, and eternal. This is to be determined by direct suffrage of the sovereign people, for the common man, with universal behaviorist education, will be wise and just. Governors are merely the “depositaries of executive power: they are not masters of the people, but its officers.” It might happen, however, that the people might constitute some philosopher sole depositary to interpret the general will—a reminiscence of Platonism and a seed of Totalitarianism. Rousseau’s vague and inconsistent theories, taken in his primary and obvious sense, are the French Revolution in germ. Yet that Revolution would reveal that they could bear the interpretation of a dictatorship, either of Robespierre or of Bonaparte. Finally, if one attends to sly hints at the irresponsibility of all government, the need of perpetual revolution, the sharing of wives and property, Rousseau could be deemed a father of Anarchism or Socialism. In any event many a disturbing idea came out of his Pandora’s box.





Masonic Initiation Ritual



A. Origins of Freemasonry






Medieval masons, like other tradesmen, had their guilds which maintained certain secrets in order to preserve their monopoly of skill and business. The only externs permitted to share these secrets were the ecclesiastics who served as chaplains. Yet before the Protestant Revolt, there is no evidence that these “masonic secrets” contained anything derogatory to the Catholic faith. They were chiefly of an economic or rotarian nature, and the societies themselves enjoyed ecclesiastical approbation. It is possible, of course, that in later years such medieval institutions could serve as a cloak for subversive activities.

The Knights Templar, it will be remembered, were suppressed in 1314 by Pope Clement V and King Philip IV of France. Serious accusations, [p. 348] indeed, had been made against their faith and morals, but these have never been satisfactorily proven, nor were they admitted as reasons in the papal bull of suppression. Freemasonry, which has taken its name from the medieval guilds, also claimed the Knights Templars as ancestors. Jacques de Molay, the Knights’ grand master executed by the royal inquisition, is claimed as a martyr of Freemasonry, and neophytes of the Scottish rite were required to swear to avenge his death on the successors of pope and king: “War against throne and altar.” These claims, however, have no historical foundation, and although secret societies undoubtedly existed during the Middle Ages, any continuity between them and modern Freemasonry is quite gratuitously asserted.




During the Protestant Revolt, the first [disputed] indications of Masonry strictly so called appear. There is [dubious] evidence for the existence of some sort of masonic lodge at Amsterdam according to the so-called Charter of Cologne (1535) . This document bears the signatures of Philipp Melanchthon, Lutheran leader, Hermann von Wied, later apostate archbishop of Cologne, and Admiral de Coligny, French Huguenot chief. The charter states that “for the present” the association will be “Christian and nonsectarian,” devoted to the preservation of secret teachings and promotion of sectarian tolerance.

[N.B. This Charter of Cologne is alleged to have been discovered in 1637 in a sealed trunk, supposedly then passed into family papers, and was reputedly given to the  given to the Masonic Lodge of Amsterdam in 1790, only to reappear definitively in 1816 when it was allegedly given to the enthusiastic masonic leader and enthusiast, Frederick, Prince of the Netherlands.

The Rosicrucians appear about the same time in authentic history, as a pseudo-mystic cult combining deistic, gnostic, and rationalist features.

A political masonry undoubtedly existed among the Jacobite partisans of the Stuarts, and claims have been made that Oliver Cromwell, Francis Bacon, and even Lord Burleigh belonged to political coteries of this nature.




Accepted Freemasonry, or Masonry in its strict modern sense, is ordinarily considered to have originated in 1717. In that year Des Aguilliers, Anderson, and Payne left an existing masonic society and founded a new organization which abandoned all subterfuge of a medieval guild, and substituted for sectarian Christianity an unmistakable Deism. This association, devoted to the ideals of deist spiritual communion and humanist philanthropy, adopted its first constitution in England by 1723. The movement, or imitations, spread to France between 1725 and 1732; appeared in Germany by 1733, in Portugal and Holland in 1735, in Switzerland in 1740, in Denmark in 1745, in Italy in 1763, and in Sweden in 1773. Doubtless secret lodges existed elsewhere, including the English Colonies.

The rites. Though there are various rites [i.e. branches or congregations] of accepted Freemasonry, prior to 1877 all were joined in a federation. Of these “rites,” the chief [p. 349] ones are

the “Free and Accepted Masons of England,”

the familiar “York Rite” with branches in Anglo-Saxon countries;

the “Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite”;

the “Grand National Lodge” of Germany,

the “Grand Orient” of France with satellites in other Latin lands,

and for a time the “Carbonarii” of Italy. If not expressly masonic affiliates, the subsequent “Know Nothings” in the United States, and the “Orangemen” and “Fenians” in Ireland had some masonic elements.

The degrees. All masonic lodges have in common the three fundamental degrees of “apprentice,” “companion,” and “master”: this is “Blue Masonry.” All higher degrees of more recent addition vary in name and number with the rites, and propose a more intimate and profound knowledge of masonic secrets and greater participation in its activities: “Red Masonry.” These degrees and the various grades into which they are sometimes subdivided are supposedly stages through which the initiate passes in order to become more intelligently, solemnly, and irrevocably bound to the masonic organization. Yet often the real direction lies outside the formal degrees, and much symbolism has become a hollow routine.

The lodges. The basic local unit of Freemasonry is the lodge which is supposed to be a symbol of the natural universe. These lodges are organized under supreme central councils of the respective rites which are charged with the direction of common affairs and efforts. At the head of the grand councils is a grand master, or president. In the Grand Orient [French], the supreme council of thirty-three delegates was apportioned for specialized work into bureaus or parliamentary committees. Though all Freemasons are theoretically equal, they are bound to render blind obedience to their immediate superiors. While these superiors in their ascending degrees are often assured of having attained the “inner circle,” there is a constant tendency for groups to form “inner circles” within “inner circles.”



B. Doctrine of Freemasonry






The Supreme Self-Existent All-Wise . . . Creator was the same by whatever He was called to the intellectual and enlightened men of all nations. . . . Catholicity was a vital truth in its earliest ages, but it became obsolete, and Protestantism arose, flourished, and deteriorated. . . . Each was truth for the time. . . . The Mason does not war with his own instincts. . . . He does not put aside the nature which God has given him, to struggle after another which He has not bestowed. . . . Masonry does not exhort us to detach our hearts from this earthly life as empty, fleeting, and unworthy, and fix them upon heaven.... Man is sent into this world, not to be constantly hankering after, dreaming of,  [p. 350] preparing for another; but to do his duty and fulfill his destiny here on earth.... Our religion is the natural, primitive, unique, universal, and unchangeable religion—it is Freemasonry.” 10




Freemasonry denies the supernatural, the revealed word of God, the fall of the human race in Adam and Eve, and as a consequence, the whole mystery of Redemption, the Incarnation, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church. . . . All the masonic teachings are based on the natural order, and the supernatural is carefully excluded. Hence, the use of natural means to obtain the end of man. Naturalism is their teaching called, because nature is good, so they say, and whatever is natural is just and right, and there is no such thing as sin in the sense of the Church. Masonry, according to its votaries, is a universal system and teaches the relative and social duties of men on the broad and extensive basis of philanthropy.” 11




Blue Masonry.” A candidate for the degree of apprentice is conducted into a darkened “chamber of reflection” by his sponsor and is catechized. Then with chest, left arm, and right knee bared, he is led by a halter before the officials, is administered an oath of secrecy, and passes the proofs of earth, fire, and air. When blindfolds have been removed, he discovers his new confreres surrounding him with drawn swords. He is then given insignia:

a pelt representing a laborious life;

a trowel, to hide his brothers’ faults;

a stone representing himself as about to be shaped to virtue;

a compass to find his way;

a square representing the masonic spirit; a level denoting equality,

and a plumb-line meaning singleness of interest.

In this and succeeding degrees he is given a lot of pseudo-mystic lore supposedly revealing to him natural truths unknown to others, but much of this is ignored by the rotarian or gregarious Mason.

Red Masonry.” Although the foregoing is often regarded by some initiates themselves as outworn mummery, in some higher degrees anti-Christian sentiment has been incorporated.

Thus the “Elect” vows war on religion by all means;

the “Scot” is to be initiated in ceremonies ridiculing the Catholic priesthood;

the “Red Cross” begins with a parody of Calvary;

the “Chevalier of the East” mocks Catholic teachings.

Finally, the “Chevalier Kadosch” has been initiated before a three-headed serpent supposed to represent papacy, royalty, and army (the last is a shifting factor), is ordered to utter a cry of vengeance against the [p. 351] cross, and to break a crucifix.

If not typical, these rites indicate in the Grand Orient [France], where they were once practiced, a core of fanatical hatred for Christianity and the Catholic Church.

10 M. Bazot, Grand Orient secretary, and Albert Pike, Scottish Rite potentate. Peter Rosen, The Catholic Church and Secret Societies (Milwaukee: Houtkamp & Cannon, 1902), p. 24.



C. Evolution of Freemasonry






Papal condemnation. The Holy Office had the masonic lodge in Rome closed in 1737, and the following year, April 28, 1738, Pope Clement XII issued the first papal condemnation. His bull, In Eminenti, proscribed the various societies of “Freemasons” and ordered the ecclesiastical authorities to proceed against members as those suspect of heresy. Although the papal condemnation was upheld by the liberal Pope Benedict XIV in 1750, down to the French Revolution a considerable number of clerics took it so lightly that they continued as members of the lodges. They were, however, either hypocrites or dupes, and during the Revolution the former became apostates and the latter were enlightened. “Clerical Masonry,” therefore, was but a temporary phenomenon of the “Enlightenment,” reaching its height during the ministry of Choiseul in France (1758-70) and the Bourbon conspiracy against the Society of Jesus.

Deist-Rationalist phase. Masons of the eighteenth century were predominantly Deists and readily allied themselves with the Rationalists. Toward the end of the century, however, some atheistic and communist elements appeared, for example in Weishaupt’s “Illuminati.”

In Protestant countries, Masonry attracted “benevolent despots” such as Frederick the Great for a time, and members of the nobility, so that its influence was directed less against the government than against Catholicity and the residue of the supernatural in Protestantism.

In Catholic lands, Masons professed to war on “throne and altar,” duping several Catholic rulers, such as Joseph II of Austria.

In France, Masonry under its reputed grand master, the duke of Orléans—“Citoyen Égalité” of the French Revolution—worked for the overthrow of the monarchy during the first stages of the Revolution, or its transformation into constitutional presidency. But the Masons themselves were sharply divided on national, social, political, and economic questions, as was revealed during the course of the French Revolution.

Freemasonry was a product of its times rather than their cause. True, Masons claim to have been the chief agents in the suppression of the Jesuits, in the “Plan of Chalotais” for modern secular education, in the precipitation of the Revolution, in effecting the king’s condemnation, in winning the battle of Valmy, etc.—all supposedly by “fifth column” work. Bonaparte, whose antecedents were masonic, supposedly broke with the masonic international clique and was abandoned by them. While there is some truth to these claims, it [p. 352] seems more likely that Masons were but one of the champions of Rationalism, and owed their popularity less to creating the “Enlightenment” and the French Revolution, than to going along with contemporary ideas and projects of the middle classes. Certainly they were not the all-pervading and omnipotent conspiracy of sensational literature.




After the Restoration, the attack on “throne and altar” was resumed by Freemasonry in alliance with Liberalism; “A free Church in a free state” was its ostensible slogan.

The French Grand Orient apparently hoped to render parliamentary government pliable to its real objectives of destroying the Church’s hold on the family and education.

Anticlerical laws followed the establishment of most liberal regimes, and Masons had a share in the unification of Italy under Cavour and of Germany under Bismarck.

Certainly they participated in the defeat of French monarchy, and the overthrow of Carlists in Spain and Miguelists in Portugal.

In the latter country the Daughters of Charity arriving in 1857 were forced out in 1862 by an open display of masonic power in parliament.

In Latin America, especially Mexico, there were reflections of the contests in Latin Europe, and Brazil was unusually monopolized by masonic organization.

Pius IX accused King Victor Emmanuel of being a tool of the Masons, and Freemasons vented their rage against the Church in a fantastic “Anti-Council” at Naples in 1869. Dombrowski, director of the Polish revolt of 1829, and Kossuth, Hungarian rebel of 1848, were masonic leaders. In South America, the Mason Santander hampered Bolivar; while in Mexico, Masonry, though divided into factions, overthrew Iturbide and sustained anticlerical governments.

A masonic schism between Continental and Anglo-Saxon branches took place in 1877 when the Grand Orient [i.e. French] suppressed references to God’s existence and adopted vague references to “human solidarity.”

English and American lodges, which had to a degree affiliated themselves with a latitudinarian Protestantism and had adapted the Bible to their ritual, then severed their relations with the Latin groups.

While doubtless members of the “atheistic inner circle” are to be found in both camps, especially in the Scottish Rite, yet Anglo-Saxon Masons adopted less violent methods and professed degrees of toleration even for Catholic worship. The reason for their milder activity, however, lies largely in the fact that most of their objectives have already been achieved in non-Catholic countries. Everywhere, Masonry has remained naturalistic and secular; everywhere it has merited the condemnation of the Church on its principles, if not upon all its members. The advent of Communism tended to produce a new cleavage in masonic Liberalism: while radicals found in it the realization of all their objectives, especially in opposition [p. 353] to religion, some bourgeois Liberals were frightened by its economic features. These have sometimes been bewildered in finding themselves closer to Catholics than to Communists on political and social questions.




§1. T

 Pope Benedict IV




A. The Italian Environment (1720-1815)







Habsburg control. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) had made the power of the Austrian Habsburgs predominant in Italy. After the exchange of Sardinia for Sicily, Austria controlled both the southern and northern boundaries of the Papal States. In 1737, on the extinction of the Medici dynasty, Tuscany was given to ex-Duke Francis of Lorraine who, by marrying Maria Theresa, heiress of Austria, founded the modern House of Lorraine-Habsburg. Thereafter Tuscany was a Habsburg secundogeniture, reserved for the junior branch of the family. The approaching extinction of the male line of the Este in Modena also portended acquisition of its inheritance by a Habsburg son-in-law. The surviving independent states of Venice and Savoy were clearly effaced by Austrian might.

Bourbon infiltration, however, went on from 1735. The War of Polish Succession had the strange result of transferring the Two Sicilies from the Habsburgs to the Spanish Bourbons. Thereafter the south of Italy, though never personally united with the Spanish crown, was ruled by younger Spanish Bourbon princes. Marriage of Elizabeth Farnese to Philip V of Spain established another Bourbon cadet line at Parma. Genoa, although still independent, came increasingly under French Bourbon influence, and was forced to cede Corsica to France in 1768. Prior to the French Revolution, then, Italy remained under foreign domination.


Bonaparte’s Italian campaigns, which began in 1795, temporarily disturbed this situation. His dictated Peace of Leoben (1797), while permitting Austria to annex Venice, forced her to permit French organization of the former Austrian sphere of influence in northern Italy. Milan, Mantua, Modena, and papal Romagna became the Cisalpine Republic, and Genoa the Ligurian Republic. Soon all of Italy was apportioned into French satellites, for the Roman Republic was set up in the Papal States and the Parthenopean in Naples during 1798 and 1799. When Bonaparte declared himself emperor, these republics obligingly became vassal monarchies. Genoa, Tuscany, and Rome were annexed outright to France; the rest of northern Italy became the “Kingdom of Italy” (1805-14) with Bonaparte himself as king, and his stepson, [p. 354] Eugene Beauharnais, as viceroy. Naples was successively given to Napoleon’s brother Joseph, and to his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. Only Sicily, protected by British sea power, escaped. These arrangements did not outlast Bonaparte’s fall, but the formation of an Italian kingdom had stimulated national patriotism so that Italian unification remained an ardent hope long after the Congress of Vienna (1815) had restored the foreign Habsburg and Bourbon rulers.

B. A Conciliatory Papacy (1721-58)

(1) INNOCENT XIII (1721-24)

Michelangelo dei Conti (1655-1724) was elected after a stormy conclave of seven weeks. Of somewhat sickly constitution, the new pope was mild and tranquil, disposed to peaceful conciliation. His pastoral vigilance, however, prevented him from yielding to the Jansenist Appellants in France, and from overlooking disciplinary abuses in Spain.

Diplomatic conciliation was displayed in the pope’s investiture of Emperor Charles VI with the Two Sicilies, thus concluding the dispute about the Monarchica Sicula. When the emperor (1723) in his turn invested Don Carlos of Bourbon with Parma, the pope protested that this territory was also under papal feudal suzerainty, but did not press his claim to extremities. He resumed diplomatic relations with Philip V of Spain, and pleased the French regent by granting the red hat to his favorite Dubois.

(2) BENEDICT XIII (1724-30)

Pietro Francesco Orsini (1649-1730), a Dominican, was chosen after a conclave of two months, thereby receiving an unexpected answer to his novena to implore the end of the delay. He was one of the Zelanti, a group of cardinals who resented political pressure and mundane considerations in papal administration. Modest, holy, and energetic, he had the simplicity of a dove, if sometimes lacking in the prudence the serpent. For the pontificate suffered from the abuse of the pope’s confidence by Cardinal Coscia, later imprisoned for financial maladministration. The pope was severe in ecclesiastical discipline, diligent in the visitation of his diocese and the consecration of churches and altars.

Ecclesiastical diplomacy, however, found him aloof so that conciliation continued in the main. Though Benedict XIII did deny some importunate demands of the king of Portugal, he granted the emperor and the king of Sardinia broad concessions of patronage, and placed no obstacles in the way of reconciling the Appellants in France.

(3) CLEMENT XII of (1730-40)

Lorenzo Corsini (1652-1740) , a holy but aged cardinal, was selected as compromise candidate. During the second year of his pontificate he [p. 355] became blind and in his last years was confined to bed. Yet he displayed real diligence in temporal administration, sending up Coscia for a ten-year term. Departing from Benedict’s anti-bingoism, he revived the public lottery, and devoted its proceeds to extensive building and repairs.

Concessions to Portugal—granting of the red hat denied Bicchi by his predecessor—and renunciation of annexation of San Marino characterized his diplomacy.

(4) BENEDICT XIV (1740-58)

Prospero Lambertini (1675-1758), certainly one of the most brilliant men elected to the papacy, in a sense talked himself into it. Doctor utriusque juris at nineteen, he had had a meteoric curial career, especially distinguishing himself as “devil’s advocate” in beatification procedure. His universal interest embraced not only theology and canon law, but historical criticism, experimental physical science, and literature. No recluse, he was well known in all learned circles of the day. As Montfaucon said: “He has two souls: one for science, the other for society.” His personality was extrovert: he was vivacious and loquacious, irresistibly drawn to puns, witticisms, and jokes that sometimes shocked polite society, though they won the appreciation of the common people. It was perhaps in a jesting mood that he addressed the conclave on August 17 after six months of hot and futile ballots: “If you want a saint, elect Gotti; a statesman, Aldobrandini; a regular fellow, me.” He was promptly chosen and began a liberal pontificate as a politique.

Diplomatic accommodation. In Church-state relations, Benedict was disposed to let theocratic claims lapse. He arranged concordats with Portugal, Spain, Sardinia, and the Two Sicilies, in which he granted extensive rights of patronage and revenue to the monarchs, abridged clerical immunity, and promoted friendly relations. The Prussian royal title was recognized despite curial opposition. The pope evinced a policy of emphasizing the distinction between his spiritual and temporal prerogatives, and of sacrificing the latter whenever the former could be safeguarded or enhanced. He mediated between Naples and the Knights of Malta, though even he had to resist Venetian jurisdictionalism. He tried to attract deist and rationalist scholars, including Voltaire, though he gained no noteworthy success. European monarchs, not excluding the Sultan, praised his broad-mindedness. But he could be pushed too far: when a French ambassador made excessive importunities, the vigorous Pontiff pushed him on to the papal throne, saying: “You be pope.” That his conciliatory policy never sacrificed principle may be seen in his renewal of the condemnation of Freemasonry.

Ecclesiastical reform was effected by Benedict XIV, though he once complained: “The pope orders, the cardinals do not obey, and the people [p. 356] do as they choose.” In 1748 Magnae N obis Admirations clarified regulations for mixed marriages and the Catholic training of all children. In 1757 Ex Omnibus Christianae Orbis ended the Jansenist controversy by insisting on acceptance of papal definitions, while forbidding the exclusion from communion of any but public sinners. He revised the Roman Martyrology and the Episcopal Ceremonial, and codified canonization procedure. He was unable to complete a revision of the breviary designed to suppress unhistorical lessons, but did eliminate a number of feasts. Reunion of several Oriental churches was effected, though he felt obliged to repudiate the Malabar and Chinese “rites” thus far tolerated in the Far East. On May 3, 1758, he closed a scintillating reign.

C. The Papacy under Stress (1758-99)

(1) CLEMENT XIII (1758-69)

Carlo Rezzonico (1693-1769) was elected by the Zelanti in the hope that his Jesuit training would induce him to defend the threatened Society. The new pope was an exemplary cleric, regarded as a saint even by the Jansenist Clement. He displayed a resolute firmness which, however, won him nothing but the opprobrium of the absolute monarchs and their abettors, the Rationalists and Masons.

The Jesuit controversy disturbed his entire pontificate. But in spite of continual pressure from monarchs and scholars, Clement XIII proved adamant in opposing the chorus which demanded the suppression of the Society of Jesus. He could not silence the clamor, however, and it is believed that presentation on the same day of identical notes by French, Spanish, and Neapolitan envoys demanding suppression hastened the pope’s death.

Rationalism found the pope a vigilant opponent. Abandoning his predecessor’s attempt at rapprochement, Clement placed the Encyclopédie on the Index along with a great number of rationalist treatises. He tried to warm the jejune intellectualism of the age by promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But it only became clearer that Rationalism could neither be conciliated nor coerced, and that the absolute monarchs would learn no lesson other than the French Revolution.

(2) CLEMENT XIV (1769-74)

Lorenzo Ganganelli (1705-74) , a Franciscan, was elected pope after a three months’ conclave again protracted by the Jesuit issue. Unusual Bourbon pressure was brought to bear: all but five of nearly fifty cardinals were vetoed, and D’Aubeterre, the French ambassador, insisted that any possible candidate subscribe in advance to the suppression of the Jesuits. It seems likely that Cardinal Ganganelli signified his belief  [p. 357] in the right, if not the intention, of a pope to suppress a religious order, but there is scarcely proof of a pledge to suppress the Jesuits. The Zelanti, on the other hand, sought to elect a pope favorable to the Society. Their failure spelled its doom, for the new pope, if not personally opposed to the Jesuits, was not likely to regard their interests as linked with those of the Church.

The utmost in concession became Clement’s policy. He discontinued reading of the bull of St. Pius V, In Cena Domini, with its penalties for Catholic rulers who refused to prosecute heresy. He placated monarchs with personal favors, possibly in an effort to distract their attention from their demand for suppression of the Jesuits. As will be seen more at length in the following topic, Clement XIV failed; at least he became convinced that schism was threatened. In 1773 Dominus ac Redemptor suppressed the Society for the sake of peace. The Bourbons then restored papal territories that had been seized, but the pope’s jubilation over this event received little echo in the consistory. The harried pontiff died on September 22, 1774.

(3) PIUS VI (1775-99)

Gianangelo Braschi (1717-99) was chosen in another long conclave, again disturbed by Bourbon dread of a pro-Jesuit pope. Pro-Jesuit the new pope was, but he confined himself to befriending individuals, and officially ignored the Society’s continued corporate existence in certain regions, such as Poland. Pius was affable, magnanimous, cultured, handsome, but destined for a long and trying pontificate.

Regalism in all its varied forms of Gallicanism, Febronianism, and Josephenism gave the pope much to suffer. Joseph II of Austria enacted sweeping measures that threatened to disrupt the ecclesiastical discipline of the Habsburg dominions. Pius VI did his utmost to conciliate the emperor, well-meaning, but ill advised by Chancellor Kaunitz. In the spring of 1782 the pope even made a personal visit to Vienna. This produced few tangible results, but may have averted schism. For though Kaunitz interposed between pope and emperor at Vienna, a return visit of Joseph II to Rome in 1783 effected some slight improvement. Josephenism was seconded by the archiepiscopal electors of Germany and by the emperor’s brother, Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, who abetted the Synod of Pistoia (1786). In condemning this meeting, all of the regalist errors were censured in detail by Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei (1794) . Spain, Sardinia, Venice, and the Two Sicilies opposed Gallican theories, but only in the last named state did relations with the Holy See become critical. When King Ferdinand demanded the exequatur for all papal documents entering his dominions, Pius VI refused canonical confirmation to the ruler’s episcopal nominations. Over sixty sees were  [p. 358] canonically vacant before a modus vivendi was reached late in the pontificate. It may have given Pius VI some consolation, then, to erect the see of Baltimore (1789) in a new Republic free from such royal pests.

The French Revolution, treated in detail elsewhere, afforded the pope his last and greatest trial. Throughout he directed the interests of the Church with great patience, prudence, and firmness. Kept informed by his envoy, Monsignor Salamon, Pius VI planned an understanding with the new regime, but did not live to see it put into operation. Between 1796 and 1798 the Papal States were shorn of territory and independence by General Bonaparte, and on February 15, 1798, General Berthier proclaimed the “Roman Republic.” The now octogenarian pope was carried off to captivity at Siena, Florence, Parma, Piacenza, Turin, Besançon, Grenoble, and Valence. In the latter French town his “Stations of the Cross” ended with a holy death on August 29, 1799. Though some of the revolutionists believed that they had seen the last of the popes, a greater number of Europeans, by now shocked at the excesses of a decade of violent change, pondered the words of Pius VI: “The Catholic faith is eternal. This faith which existed before you will live after you, and its reign will last until the end of time.” Almost on the very day of the pope’s death in exile, Bonaparte was sailing back from Egypt to overthrow the French Republic.






Arrest of a Jesuit



A. Causes of Jesuit Suppression




The real worth of the Society of Jesus as a militant arm of the Catholic Church and of the papacy excited the animosity of anti-Catholic groups, especially the Rationalists and Freemasons. Many persons were prone to regard the Society as synonymous with the Catholic Church; its suppression, they felt, would be but the prelude to the destruction of Christianity. On the other hand, the close esprit de corps of some members of the Society induced other Catholics, both clerical and lay, to conceive prejudices against it.

Papal primacy, zealously upheld by the Jesuits and the object of the professed fourth vow, clashed with the prevailing royal Absolutism, state sovereignty, nationalism, regal “jurisdictionalism”: Gallicanism, Febronianism, Josephinism. On the other hand, some Jesuits clung so tenaciously to their exemption from the local ordinaries and pleaded so consistently privileges of special immediate subjection to the Holy See that they antagonized many bishops. This was especially true in missionary lands, where Jesuit “presbyterianism” provoked the hierarchy, bishops or vicars-apostolic.

Opposition to Jansenism earned the Society many influential enemies [p. 359] in aristocratic circles. Jansenists or rigoristic Catholics branded the Jesuits’ still unpopular Probabilism as Laxism.

Real or fancied political power made the Jesuits objects of dread to despotic governments, and the tyrannicide advocated by some malcontents, e.g., Mariana, was falsely ascribed to the whole Society, as in the case of the English Gunpowder Plot.

The Monita Secreta, supposed Machiavellian rules for Jesuit intrigue, were widely circulated and believed. This work was first published in 1612 at Notabirga (No-town) , Poland. It was subsequently learned from the author’s recantation, that it had been composed by the ex-Jesuit, Jerome Zahrowski, who had cleverly arranged false directives in the order and style of the authentic Monita Generalia of the Society. Chapter headings of the Monita Secreta reveal some of the nature of the calumny: “How the Society should act to get a new foundation. . . . How to win and keep the friendship of princes and important personages. . . . How to act with people who wield political influence, or those who, even if not rich, may be serviceable. . . . How to win over wealthy widows. .. . How to induce them to dispose of their property.... How to induce them to enter religious communities, etc.” Despite the recantation, the forgery succeeded in fixing the word “jesuitical” in opprobrium.

The “Lettres Provincialesof Blaise Pascal, already mentioned, repeated these accusations and made a greater impression by reason of the author’s fame and skill. Pascal, it seems, merely elaborated on information supplied him by Arnauld and Quinet. Pascal ceased his attacks in 1657 without retracting them; the preacher Bourdaloue undertook to refute the allegations.



B. Governmental Persecution






Pombal, omnipotent prime minister of Portugal from 1750 to 1777, was a Freemason who confiscated church property to enrich himself, and controlled the Inquisition through his brother, Paul Carvalho, the grand inquisitor. In 1751 some of Spanish Paraguay came under Portuguese sway by treaty. The transfer dispossessed thirty thousand Indians who objected forcibly. Their revolt, in reality provoked by the rapacity of gold seekers, was blamed on the Jesuits who had been the Christianizing and civilizing agents of these “reductions” or missionary communities. When one Pereira informed Pombal that the Jesuits had been aiming at erection of an independent commercial empire for themselves, the premier demanded their punishment from the Holy See.

Portuguese suppression. On Pombal’s denunciation, Benedict XIV directed the patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Saldanha, to investigate. Unknown [p. 360] to the pope, the latter was but another of Pombal’s tools. Within two weeks and without any apparent investigation, Saldanha confirmed the charges and suspended Jesuit faculties. In the same year (1758) suspects taken in after an assassination plot against the king were forced by torture to accuse the Jesuits. Though one of the accusers, the duke of Aveiro, later withdrew his testimony, Pombal had what he desired. He demanded of Clement XIII authority to punish clerics guilty of regicide. In conceding this petition, the pope yet warned that “the innocent ought not to be made to suffer.” But Pombal was easily convinced that every Jesuit without exception within the Portuguese dominions had been guilty of treason. All were either imprisoned or exiled. Some 1,100 Jesuits were landed in the Papal States without notification, while 221 Jesuits still survived in Portuguese prisons in 1777 when Queen Maria I dismissed Pombal and released them.




Choiseul, a creature of La Pompadour and influential minister of Louis XV from 1758 to 1770, opposed the Society in France. The Jesuits were delivered into his hands by a series of misfortunes. One of the Society, La Valette, superior of the Martinque mission, engaged in unauthorized commerce. When his ships were seized by the British during the unexpected outbreak of hostilities in the French and Indian War, funds advanced by French firms were lost. When the latter appealed to the Society for compensation, they were reminded that La Valette had acted without permission and therefore the Order was not liable. Imprudently the Jesuits appealed to parlement to free them from any obligations. But in 1762 this court, largely composed of Rationalists or Jansenist sympathizers, gleefully ordered the Society to make payment in full and sequestered Jesuit funds in France until it should be made.

French suppression. But the financial loss was minor compared to the damage done to Jesuit reputation, already wounded by calumnies. Choiseul and La Pompadour, whose conduct had been censured by the Jesuits, utilized these incidents to demand suppression of the Society from the king. Father de la Croix, Parisian provincial, sought to avert this by issuing an abject declaration of submission to all Gallican ideas, and endorsed the Four Articles of 1682. Although all French Jesuits by no means followed his lead, his action weakened the Society’s position among its friends. The king tried to avert suppression by proposing an autonomous French vicariate to the general, Ricci; to this the latter is said to have retorted: “Sint ut sunt, aut non sint.”[let them exist as they are – or not exist] Thereupon the well-meaning but morally craven monarch yielded to the lobby and suppressed [p. 361] the Society in France. Some six thousand French Jesuits were dispersed and their goods confiscated.




Aranda, rationalist premier of Charles III, planned suppression of the Society in Spain as early as 1759, but delayed until the death of the influential queen mother, Elizabeth Farnese, in 1766. Soon after a riot of Madrilenos at an edict of Don Squillace, a Genoese member of the ministry, afforded an opportunity. This foreigner incensed the citizens by forbidding them to wear their customary cloaks and sombreros. Jesuits were seen in the streets talking to the rioters—actually to calm the mob. But for this and “other reasons hidden in my royal heart,” the king expelled six thousand Jesuits from Spain on April 2, 1767. The unwanted exiles were deported to the Papal States and to Corsica with scant provision for their needs.




Tanucci, Neapolitan premier, held the broad-minded and detached view that Jesuits might be innocuous as individuals—he had one as his confessor—but were victims of corporate delusion and malice. He promptly followed Spain’s lead to arrest or deport the Jesuits from the Two Sicilies during 1767-68. He also induced the Knights of Malta to do the same.

The Bourbon courts, to which must be added Parma, thereafter bombarded the Holy See with demands for the suppression of the Society in the universal Church.




Maria Theresa of Austria restrained her son, Emperor Joseph II, from taking similar action. The empress did not particularly care for the Jesuits whose influence in education she had restricted, but she did not believe herself justified in taking any steps against them—or for them.

Frederick II of Prussia paradoxically defended the Jesuits, along with his accomplice in Polish partition, Catherine II of Russia. These rulers seem to have felt that the competent Jesuit school system in Poland was essential to the cultural well-being of their new provinces and that retention of the Jesuits would placate the Poles. The course of Jesuit fortunes enabled the Old Scoffer to say with telling irony: “While my brothers the Catholic kings, ‘very Christian,’ ‘very faithful,’ and ‘apostolic,’ have driven them out; I, very heretical, am picking up as many of them as I can.” [p. 362]



C. Papal Suppression



Pope Clement XIII (1758-69) , as already noted, firmly resisted all demands for the suppression of the Jesuits.

Pope Clement XIV (1769-74) tried to conciliate the Bourbons who persisted in their demands, holding Avignon and Benevento as hostages. At his first audience, the pope dismissed the Jesuit General Ricci without a word and he often ignored Jesuits on the streets—possibly to appease their foes. In 1769 he suggested that the clergy of the Bourbon lands should express their opinion, and intimated that his life was in danger from allies of the Jesuits. Under renewed royal pressure, he secretly assured Charles III of Spain on November 30, 1769, that he would “fulfill his obligations” to the king and soon dissolve the Society by a moto proprio.

Delay nonetheless ensued as Clement, a weak and devious character, sought one ruse after another. Anti-Jesuit cardinals were authorized to make a visitation of Jesuit houses in Rome in May, 1770, and their report was relied upon to remove the seminary from Jesuit direction. Faculties were withdrawn from the Jesuit exiles from Bourbon lands who had taken refuge in the Papal States. Through his envoy, the anti-papal layman Monino, Charles III demanded action. Clement then pleaded illness, but Monino was insistent. In December, 1772, the pope commissioned Zelada and Monino to prepare a draft of a bull of suppression. This sketch, substantially the same as the final version, was circulated among the Bourbon courts during 1773 for their approbation. Meanwhile the cardinal of Bologna was authorized to suppress Jesuit schools and dismiss their novices.

Dominus ac Redemptor was at length signed by Clement XIV on July 21, 1773, and published on the following August 16. After giving a history of papal suppression of orders, and reciting unfavorable reports about the Society, the pope asserted that “at the very birth of this Society there germinated manifold seeds of dissension and jealousy, and that not merely within itself but also against other orders and against the secular priesthood. . . .” Consequently, “since it can no longer bring forth the abundant fruits or be of the usefulness for which it was founded, we dissolve, suppress, extinguish, and abolish the said Society.”

Execution of this decree began with the arrest of General Ricci and the Jesuit Roman administration on August 17. Accused of hoarding vast sums of money, Ricci rejected the charge as absurd, and no evidence was ever found against him or his aides. Yet Bourbon pressure kept him in prison until his death in 1775. Avignon and Benevento were now [p. 363] restored to the pope, but when the latter jubilantly reported this to a consistory, the cardinals received it in “chilly silence.”

Restoration came when Pope Pius VII, advised by Cardinal Pacca, recognized that “the Catholic world unanimously demands the reestablishment of the Society of Jesus.” With the bull, Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, published August 7, 1814, Pius VII restored the Society.

D. New Religious Communities


St. John de La Salle (1651-1719) , a French priest and canon, had been impressed by the need for Christian education of the young. As early as 1679 he conducted a free school at Rheims, and later he resigned his benefice to devote his whole time to this work. At first he intended to form a community of priests to assist him in his labors, but gradually adapted the rules for lay brothers exclusively. Regulations formulated in 1695 and revised in 1717 attracted 274 zealous disciples by the time of his death. Pope Benedict XIII erected the society into a religious order in 1725. Though the community was dissolved during the French Revolution because of the Brothers’ loyalty to the Holy See, it was reorganized in 1803 and spread rapidly throughout the world. In modern times of stress on secular education, the Christian Brothers have become ever more useful to the Church.


St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), an Italian ex-soldier, proved that even the most rigorous asceticism could be combined with the active life in modern times. In 1737 he formed the first community of Passionists: the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Holy Cross and the Passion, which gave Father Paul Danei his title of Paul of the Cross. The rule was approved by Benedict XIV in 1741. The members take simple perpetual vows, but like the Carthusians are to spend five hours a day chanting the office and in meditation. They were to observe three days of abstinence each week and practice rigid austerity in dress and lodging. Yet they were to be active in preaching. St. Paul had England’s conversion as a special objective, and it cannot be without significance that John Henry Newman was received into the Church by a Passionist.


St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was advised during a retreat at a Vincentian house that his vocation lay elsewhere. The community which he eventually founded had their support and similar aims in working [p. 364] for the salvation of the poor country people. His Congregation of the Holy Redeemer took the usual religious vows, though it was for a time disrupted by regalist cross fire which saddened the last days of its aged founder. These shadows were dispelled not long afterwards, and the community was favored with the services of St. Clement Hofbauer (1751-1820), resolute opponent of Josephinism in Germany, under whom the congregation became truly international.


Other communities founded during this period aspired to the Christian ideals of perfection. St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), herald of the modern accent on Mariology, founded his Company of Mary. Father Batholomew Holzhauser (1613-58) organized an association of priests, known now by the name of Apostolic Union after its revival by Canon Le Beurier (1862) and its endorsement by Pope St. Pius X. During the same time the Basilians were united and reorganized among the Catholic Ruthenians.


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