« ZurückWeiter »
vice, they were totally exempted from those functions, the performance of which is the chief business of other monks. They appeared in no processions ; they practised no rigorous austerities; they did not consume one half of their time in the repetition of tedious offices; but they were required to attend to all the transactions of the world, on account of the influence which they might have upon religion, they were directed to study the dispositions of persons in high rank, and to cultivate their friendship; and by the very constitution, as well as genius of the order, a spirit of action and intrigue was infused into all its members.
Other orders are to be considered as voluntary associations, in which whatever affects the whole body is regulated by the common suffrage of all its members. In this, a general chosen for life by deputies from the several provinces, possessed power that was supreme and independent, extending to every person, and to every case. He, by his sole authority, nominated provincials, rectors, and every other officer employed in the government of the society, and could remove them at pleasure. In him was vested the sovereign administration of the revenues and funds of the Order. Every member belonging to it was at his disposal ; and by his uncontrollable mandate he could impose on them any task, or employ them in any service. To his commands they were required not only to yield outward obedience, but to resign to him the inclinations of their wills, and the sentiments of their minds. There is not in the annals of mankind any example of such absolute despotism, exercised not over monks confined in the cells of a convent, but over men dispersed among all the nations of the earth. As the constitutions of the Order vested in the general such absolute dominion over all its members, they carefully provided for his being perfectly informed with respect to the character and abilities of his subjects. Every novice, who offered himself as à candidate for entering into the Order, was obliged to lay open his conscience to the superior, or to a person appointed by him: and in doing this he was required to confess not only his sins and defects, but to discover the inclinations, the passions, and the bent of his soul. This manifestation was to be renewed every six months. The society, not satisfied with penetrating in this manner into the innermost recesses of the heart, directed each member to observe the words and actions of the novices ; and he was bound to disclose every thing of importance concerning them to the superior. In order that this Scrutiny into their character might be as complete as possible, a long noviciate was to be permitted, during which they passed through the several gradations of ranks in the society; and they must have attained the full age of thirty-three years, before they could be admitted to take the final vows, by which they became professed members. In order that the general, who was the soul that animated and moved the whole society, might have under his eye every thing necessary to inforın or direct him, the
provincials and heads of the several houses were obliged to transmit to him regular and frequent reports concerning the members under their inspection. In these they descended into minute details with respect to the character of each person, his abilities natural or acquired ; his temper, his experience in the affairs, and the particular department for which he was best fitted. These reports, when digested and arranged, were entered into registers kept on purpose ; that the general might, at one comprehensive view, survey the state of the society in every corner of the earth ; observe the qualifications and talents of its members ; and thus choose, with perfect information, the instruments, which his absolute power could employ in any service for which he thought proper to destine them.
Unhappily for mankind, the vast influence which the Order of Jesuits acquired, was often exerted with the most pernicious effect. Such was the tendency of that discipline observed by the society in forming its members, and such the fundamental maxims in its constitution, that every Jesuit was taught to regard the interest of the society as the capital object, to which every consideration was to be sacrificed. This spirit of attachmeni to their Order, the most ardent, perhaps, that ever influenced any body of men, is the characteristic principle of the Jesuits ; and serves as a key to the genius of their policy, as well as to the peculiarities in their sentiments and conduct. The active genius of this Order, which penetrated the remotest countries of Asia at a very early period of the seventeenth century, directed their attention to the extensive continent of America, as a proper object of their missions. Conducted by their leader, St. Francis Xavier, they formed a considerable settlement in the province of Paraguay; and made a rapid progress in instructing the Indians in arts, religion, and the more simple manufactures ; and accustoming them to the blessings of secu; rity and order. A few Jesuits presided over many a thousand Indians. They soon, however, altered their views, and directed them altogether to the increase of the opulence and power of their Order. Immense quantities of gold were annually transmitted to Europe ; and in the design of securing to themselves an independent empire in these regions, they industriously cut off all communication with both the Spaniards and Portuguese in the adjacent provinces, and inspired the Indians with the most determined detestation to those nations. Such was the state of affairs when, in the year 1750, a treaty was concluded between the courts of Lisbon and Madrid, which ascertained the limits of their respective dominions in South America. Such a treaty was death to the projects of the Jesuits : and the consequence was a violent contest between the united forces of the two European powers and the Indians of Paraguay, incited by the Jesuits. The crafty and vindictive marquis of Pombal, who had raised himself from performing the duties of a common soldier, in the character of a cadet, to be absolute minister of the kingdom of Portugal, could no easily forgive this refractory conduct; and, perhaps he might apprehend the downfal of his own authority, unless some decisive check were given to the growing influence of this dangerous society. In the beginning of the year 1759, therefore, the Jesuits of all descriptions were banished the kingdom of Portugal; on the plea that certain of their order were concerned in the attempt upon the life of the king in September 1758 ; and their effects were confiscated.
The disgrace of the Jesuits in France proceeded from different and more remote causes. By their influence the bull of Unigenitus, which condemned so strongly the principles of the Jansenists, was generally supposed to have been obtained. The Jesuits, who omitted no opportunity of enriching their treasury, engaged largely in trade, particularly with the island of Martinico : but certain losses falling heavily upon them, the Jesuit, who was the ostensible person in the transactions, affected to become a bankrupt, and to shift the payment of the debts he had incurred from the collective body. As a monk, it was evident he could possess no distinct property; and he had been always considered as an agent for the society. The affair was, therefore, litigated before the parliament at Paris, who were not too favourably disposed to the holy fathers. the course of the proceedings, it was necessary to produce the institute of rules of their Order, which were found to contain maxims subversive equally of morals and of government : other political motives concurring at the same time, the Order was abolished in France by a royal edict, in the year 1762,
and their colleges and possessions alienated and sold. Pope Gan. ganelli, on the 21st of July, 1773, signed a brief for the final suppression of the Jesuits.
This account is chiefly given on the authority of Dr. Gregory's History of the Church ; and considering that it comes from an avowed enemy of the Catholic religion, is, upon the whole, a faithful description of this famous Order.
When the present king of Spain, Ferdinand VII. was restored to his crown and kingdom, by the exertions of the English, under the Duke of Wellington, and those renowned patriots the Spanish Cortes, he attempted to restore the Inquisition and the Order of the Jesuits; but the Revolution which afterwards took place in that kingdom thwarted these tyrannical intentions—it is hoped forever. The present Emperor of Russia, Alexander, has recently forbidden the Jesuits from exercising their functions in his dominions.
It cannot be denied, that to this Order the world has been indebted for the encouragement they have given to arts, science, and literature ; and their various knowledge will long be esteemed, while their immoralities are detested.
In England there is a college or monastery of Jesuits, situate in the county of Lancaster : that establishment is conducted in a very respectable manner; and the members conduct them