Who are the Jesuits or Society of Jesus?

6 min

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás First Superior General current Superior General of the Society of Jesus making his profession of faith immediately after his election
Fr. Adolfo Nicolás First Superior General current Superior General of the Society of Jesus

THE “Society of Jesus,” commonly called “the Jesuits,” is a secret order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded August 15, 1534, by the Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, and sanctioned by Pope Paul III, September 27, 1540. Loyola had received a military training, and when he later became an extreme religious enthusiast, he conceived the idea of forming a spiritual militia, to be placed at the service of the pope. The Jesuit T. J. Campbell says:

“They are called the Society or Company of Jesus, the latter designation expressing more correctly the military idea of the founder, which was to establish, as it were, a new battalion in the spiritual army of the Catholic Church.”–The Encyclopedia Americana, art. “Jesuits.”

Organization And Rules Of The Society

Loyola organized his Company on the strictest military basis. Its General was always to reside at Rome, supervising from his headquarters every branch scattered over the world. Theodor Griesinger says:

“Its General ruled as absolute monarch in all parts of the world, and the different kingdoms of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America lay at his feet divided into provinces. Over each province was placed a provincial, as lieutenant of the general, and every month it was the duty of this provincial to send in his report to his General …. From these thousands of reports the General was in possession of the most accurate information regarding all that was going on in the world. Moreover, by means of the Father Confessors at the various Courts, he was initiated into all the secrets of these latter. [The officials] had to be careful to report nothing but the exact truth, [for] each one of them was provided with an assistant who was also in direct coramunication with the General, [who checked the reports of the one against the other.]”–”History of the Jesuits,” p. 280. London:1892.

The Abbate Leone, after personal investigation, writes:

Every day the general receives a number of reports which severally check each other. There are in the central house, at Rome, huge registers, wherein are inscribed the names of all the Jesuits and of all the important persons, friends, or enemies, with whom they have any connection. In those registers are recorded . . . facts relating to the lives of each individual. It is the most gigantic biographical collection that has ever been formed. The conduct of a light woman, the hidden failings of a statesman, are recounted in these books with cold impartiality. . . When it is required to act in any way upon an individual, they open the book and become immediately acquainted with his life, his character, his qualities, his defects, his projects, his family, his friends, his most secret acquaintances.”–”The Secret Plan of the Order,” with preface by M. Victor Considerant, p. 33. London:1848.

Similar registers are also found in the offices of the provincials, and in the “novitiate houses,” so that when one Jesuit follows another in office, he has at his finger tips the fullest knowledge of the most secret lives of those for whom he is to labor, whether they are friends or foes. The Abbate Leone says of his secret investigation of this fact:

“The first thing that struck me was some great books in the form of registers, with alphabeted edges.

“I found that they contained numerous observations relative to the character of distinguished individuals, arranged by towns or families. ‘Each page was evidently written by several different hands.”–Id., p. 31.

Those who enter the Jesuit society spend two years of “noviceship,” and then take the “simple vows.” After several more years of intensive training, they take the fourth vow, by which they pledge themselves under oath to look to their General and their Superiors as holding “the place of Christ our Lord,” and to obey them unconditionally without the least hesitation. The Jesuits being a secret order, they did not publish their rules. How then can we be absolutely sure about these regulations? Dr. William Robertson says:

“It was a fundamental maxim with the Jesuits, from their first institution, not to publish the rules of their order. *25 These they kept concealed as an impenetrable mystery. They never communicated them to strangers, nor even to the greater part of their own members. They refused to produce them when required by courts of justice.” But during a lawsuit at Paris, in 1760, Father Montigny committed the blunder of placing the two volumes of their “Constitutions” (the Prague edition of 1757) in the hands of the French court. “By the aid of these authentic records the principles of their government may be delineated”–”History of Charles the Fifth,” Vol. II, p. 332. (See also “History of the Jesuits,” Theodor Griesinger, pp. 435-439, 474-476.)The author was so fortunate as to have the privilege of carefully reading “The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.” He saw a Latin edition of 1558, and an English translation of it printed in 1838, together with the three Papal Bulls: 1. The Bull of Pope Paul III, given September 27, 1540, sanctioning “The Society of Jesus.” 2. The Bull of Clement XIV, abolishing the “Society,” July 21, 1773.3. The Bull of Pins VII, restoring it, August 7, 1814. We shall now quote from “The Constitutions,” thus presenting firsthand evidence of their Rules:

“It is to be observed that the intention of the Vow wherewith the Society has bound itself in obedience to the supreme Vicar of Christ without any excuse, is that we must go to whatever part of the world he shall determine to send us, among believers or unbelievers”–”Constitutions,” pp. 64, 65.

Displaying this virtue of obedience, first to the Pope, then to the Superiors of the Society . . . we . . . attend to his voice, just as if it proceeded from Christ Our Lord; . . . doing whatever is enjoined us with all celerity, with spiritual joy and perseverance; persuading ourselves that everything is just; suppressing every repugnant thought and judgment of our own in a certain obedience …. Every one.., should permit themselves to be moved and directed under divine Providence by their Superiors just as if they were a corpse, which allows itself to be moved and handled in any way …. Thus obedient he should execute anything on which the Superior chooses to employ him “–Id., pp. 55, 56.

It is this corpse-like obedience, required of all its members, that has made the Jesuits such a power in the world. Rene Fulop-Miller in his book: “The Power and Secret of the Jesuits,” commended by Father Friedrich Muckermann, leading Jesuit writer of Germany, and Father Alfonso Kleinser, S. J., and the Deutsche Zeitung, Berlin’s leading Catholic organ, says:

“The Society of Jesus represented a company of soldiers. Where ‘duty’ in the military sense is concerned, as it is in the Society of Jesus, obedience becomes the highest virtue, as it is in the army. The Jesuit renders his obedience primarily to his superior . . . and he submits to him as if he were Christ Himself”–”The Power and Secret of the Jesuits,” pp. 18, 19.

“So the Jesuits seek to attain to God through ‘blind obedience.’ “Ignatius requires nothing less than the complete sacrifice of the man’s own understanding, ‘unlimited obedience even to the very sacrifice of conviction.”–Id., pp. 19, 20.

He taught his Jesuit members by a complete “corpse-like obedience” to be governed by the following principle:

“‘I must let myself be led and moved as a lump of wax lets itself be kneaded, must order myself as a dead man without will or judgment.”–Id, p. 21.

“It was the obedience of the Jesuits that made it possible to oppose to the enemies of the Church a really trained and formidable army”–Id., p. 23.

“For, within a short time after the foundation of the order, the Jesuits were acting as spiritual directors at the courts of Europe, as preachers in the most remote primeval forests, as political conspirators, disguised and in constant danger of death; thus they had a thousand opportunities to employ their talents, their cleverness, their knowledge of the world, and even their cunning”–Id., p. 26.

Jesuits Decide On Their Mission

Loyola first planned to convert the Mohammedans of Palestine, but finding himself entirely unprepared for that work, and the road blocked by war, and finding, after his return to Paris, that the Protestant Reformation was turning the minds of men from the Roman church to the Bible, he resolved to undertake a propaganda of no less magnitude than the restoration of the Papacy to world dominion, and the destruction of all the enemies of the pope. The Jesuit T. J. Campbell says:

“As the establishment of the Society of Jesus coincided with the Protestant Reformation the efforts of the first Jesuits were naturally directed to combat that movement. Under the guidance of Canisius so much success attended their work in Germany and other northern nations, that, according to Macaulay, Protestantism was effectually checked. In England . . . the Jesuits stopped at no danger, . . . and what they did there was repeated in other parts of the world …. The Jesuits were to be found under every disguise, in every country.

“Their history is marked by ceaseless activity in launching new schemes for the spread of the Catholic faith.

“They have been expelled over and over again from almost every Catholic country in Europe, always, however, coming back again to renew their work when the storm had subsided; and this fact has been adduced as a proof that there is something iniquitous in the very nature of the organization”–The Encyclopedia Americana, sixteen-volume edition, Vol. IX, art. “Jesuits.” 1904.

Loyola’s plan of operation was to have his emissaries enter new fields in a humble way as workers of charity, and then begin to educate the children and youth. After gaining the good will of the higher classes of society, they would, through their influence, secure positions as confessors to the royal families, and advisers of civil rulers. These Jesuit Fathers had been skilfully trained to take every advantage of such positions to influence civil rulers and direct them in the interest of the Roman church, and to instill in them, that it was their sacred duty to act as worthy sons of the Church by purging their country from heresy. And when war against “heretics” commenced, the Jesuits would not consent to any truce till Protestantism was completely wiped out.

At the time Loyola and his “knights” took the field, the Protestant Reformation had swept over the greater part of Europe, and one country after another was lost to the Papacy. But in a short time the Jesuits had turned the tide. The Netherlands, France, and Germany were swept by fire and sword till the very strongholds of Protestantism were threatened. The Protestant countries were finally forced to combine in the Thirty Years’ War to save themselves from being brought back by force under the papal yoke. (See “History of the Jesuits,” T. Griesinger, Book II, chap. 2.)


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