Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Some of you readers may be wondering what the suppression of the Society of Jesus was, an event that occurred in 1773 and then was reversed on August 7, 1814. This week in Rome, the Pope and the Jesuits gathered to commemorate the Restoration of the Society, 200 years ago. Well the reasons for the Suppression are complex and myriad but are really rather simple. An organization comes to an end basically for two reasons. The first is that it simply is no longer effective in advancing its original goals or the goals really are no longer effective. In this case the enemies of such an organization don’t cause its death, it simply dies on its own and its enemies are there to write the obituary. The second reason an organization ceases to exist is that its efforts are so diametrically opposed to the current power structure that the very existence of such an organization causes a threat. An example of the latter would be democracy in Poland after WW II.
So why was the Society of Jesus suppressed in 1774? Simply, the Jesuits were suppressed for the same reason that they were founded. The order was founded to “strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.” That striving for Christian doctrine in union with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church managed to aggravate a lot of important and influential people who saw the Church and its defenders, the Jesuits, as a road block in their path to economic and political gain. The Jesuits, like so many other members of religious orders and parish priests, were martyred, evicted, or reduced to poverty because they stood against system of beliefs that denied their basic rights and the rights of others.
This anniversary helps us recall that our faith comes at a cost, and at times we need to stand firm by means of the ways God gives us against those who attack human dignity and the freedom of religious expression that dignity allows.