Posts Tagged ‘Jesuits’

Happy Anniversary to All Our Jesuit Readers

Posted in General, On This Day on September 26th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

Doctrine No DR NO marqueeSeptember 27, 1540:  The Church’s Secret Weapon

What if James Bond had a MBA as well as a license to kill?  The very idea may be too horrifying for you, but it wasn’t for Pope Paul  III.  On this day in 1540, the Pontiff gave his authorization-and evidently his blessing-to the Society of Jesus. As we now know, the founding of the Jesuits was a major event in the history of exorcism. Finally, there were priests as literate as the Devil. At the time, however, the Pope was interested in only one exorcism: a certain Professor Luther.

Upon becoming Pope, Paul III had attempted reconciliation with the Protestants. His approach was reassuring, saying in effect, “You now are dealing with an adult. At least, I am not a de Medici.” His holier-than-them attitude was in the highest standards of hypocrisy. Born Alessandro Farnese, he had become a Cardinal at the age of 25 because his sister was the mistress of Pope Julius II. And the young Cardinal never lacked a social life, either. As Pope, he appointed two of his grandsons as Cardinals. Nevertheless, he was an improvement over his predecessors. Paul III viewed the Church in a global role. The de Medici Popes had shown the political perspective of Florentine aldermen.

To his disappointment, however, Paul III was not the answer to the Protestants’ prayers. The Princes of Northern Europe-and that extrovert in England-had discovered a profound spirituality in confiscating the Church’s wealth and they were not ready to repent a penny. (One family of minor princes in Brandenburg, Germany had subsisted on the salaries and graft of Church offices: a bishopric here, a priory there, a Grand Master of this and that. Then the Reformation inspired them: why settle for a tithe of a tithe when you can wring the entire archdiocese. After that, the Hohenzollerns would not be so minor.)

Since Paul III could not coax the Protestants into reconciliation, he would scheme them into oblivion. The Pope proved a dynamo of plans and plots. He cured France’s Francis I of his Protestant leanings by a form of faith-healing called bribes; the Church lost income but kept France. The Pope also negotiated a peace between the usually warring France and the Holy Roman Empire; Catholic nations should not slaughter each other when there were Protestants to kill. Acknowledging that the Church’s miserable reputation had incited the Protestants, the Pope summoned the Council of Trent to undertake desperately overdue reforms. (The Farnese would condemn nepotism by other families.)

And the Jesuits certainly fit into the Pope’s scheme of things. Here was a religious order that reflected the best of the Renaissance’s virtues and vices. The brilliant and highly trained Jesuits could convert, subvert, charm and kill with equal aplomb. Yes, they were fanatics-what else could you expect from an organization founded by Spaniards-but they were fanatics with taste. They dismissed the Inquisition’s wholesale persecutions as just a vulgar waste of kindling. The Jesuits preferred knowing the right people, whether to cultivate or eradicate them.

Their sinister charm proved successful in preventing further defections to Protestantism. Confiscating the Church’s wealth had an obvious appeal to the aristocracy of Poland and Hungary, but the Jesuits made themselves irresistible and indispensable to the ruling classes. And if the nobles remained Catholic, so did their peasants.

Of course, the Jesuits also had their failures but they were always spectacular. They never did manage to assassinate Elizabeth I or foist Mary Stuart on to the throne of England. The Jesuits did succeed in overthrowing Tsar Fedor II in 1605, but one coup was insufficient to convert Russia. They also backed the wrong side in a Japanese civil war in 1600. The winning warlord, taking over the Shogunate and rule of the country, proved very vindictive. Of course, the Jesuits were expelled from Japan but so were all Europeans. The Jesuits’ interference would result in two centuries of Japanese isolation.

Today, the Jesuits are generally regarded as benevolent activists. Given their erudite reputation, they are often considered liberals. Yet, there remain traces of their notoriety and you can find them in high school literature. Would “The Three Musketeers” have faced such perils if Cardinal Richelieu had been a Franciscan?

My Kind of Town

Posted in General, On This Day on August 12th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

On this day in 1833,  200 zany optimists started a settlement on land mocked by the Indians,  shunned by the French and jinxed by the U.S. government.  If you looked on the map, you’d see the geographic hub of the Midwest, where the Great Lakes and the great rivers converge.  But if you had actually looked at the land, you would have seen a swamp.   The  Potawatomi tribe certainly did not entice realtors by naming the miasma “Wild Onions”: Checagou. 

Even if the Indians were too fastidious for Checagou, you wouldn’t think that the French would be.  New Orleans was built on a sandbar.   Vicennes, Indiana was founded for its strategic control of the Wabash River.  But a Fleur-de-Lys where the Rive Des Plaines meets Lac de Michigan?  The French had their chance. In 1673, their explorers landed on those shores, and ignored them. 

Between us, I blame Pere Jacques Marquette.  The man was Jesuit, and the local Indians probably just did not meet his standards.  A Franciscan would have been eager for converts:  “Jesus and I love you, but the armed contingent with me probably doesn’t.  So a little baptism might be prudent.”  And a Dominican would have insisted on a settlement, if only for the fun of using the Indians as slave labor.  But a Jesuit would have presented the Potawatomi a 15-page questionnaire, with the essays to be answered in Latin, and concluding  “I’ll let you know if we are interested.”  (Of course, most tribes could not pass; but if the Priest infected them with small pox, they received a complimentary conversion.) 

So someplace else was named for St. Louis.  As of 1763, the Potawatomi swamp became part of the British Empire, and it remained just as desolate.   The British could not colonize Illinois when they were preoccupied trying to civilize Massachusetts.  So the strategic miasma would not be named for a British cabinet member or one of his racehorses.  Finally in 1803, someone finally realized the value of this real estate. So, on behalf of Thomas Jefferson, let me introduce you to Fort Dearborn, Illinois.  The renown of Henry Dearborn, the Secretary of War, has not lasted; neither did the fort.   The Potawatomi did not appreciate it, and the result is known as the Fort Dearborn massacre.  In the War of 1812, it was one of the few battles that actually occurred that year.

Yet, the settlers kept coming, undeterred by the swamp but with a healthy superstition about the name Dearborn. Having taken the land from the Potawatomi, they took the local name, too.  Within four years of the town’s founding, the community had grown to 4,000.  Checagou now qualified as a city, however tenuously built over a swamp.  In its corporate charter, the city assumed a more dignified spelling:  Chicago.  

How many major cities are named for a vegetable?