German Version

July 21st 1773 - Abolition of the Society of Jesus

During the Trent Council the Society of Jesus had attained high esteem. In the following period it came in most European countries to drastic measures against the Jesuits. One cannot ascribe all faults to the Bourbonian courts. The Society of Jesus too was to blame of many mistakes. There were exciting facts, which were often spread one-sided. Mentioned be the trade in Paraguay, the bankruptcy of Father Lavalette Martinique, the Chinese rite controversy, the fight with the Jansenists and the easy moral of some court confessors.

But theological questions were rather unimportant for the European rulers. They were exclusively interested in politics, and there the Jesuits' adventure in Paraguay was judged as dangerous problem. Hence Portugal was at the head of the opponents. Portugal expelled the Jesuits already in 1759, France followed in 1764, Spain in 1767 and Naples-Parma in 1768.

But it must also be said that not any order of the church publicly accused the Society of Jesus and demanded its abolition. And after the abolition there were never and nowhere any genuine national legal proceedings. There does exist not any court decision. Also the Institute of the Order was never submitted to any criticism.

In 1769 the Bourbonian courts required of Pope Clement XIII the abolition of the Order. But in the following month, on February 2nd 1769, the pope died of a stroke.

Only a few months later, on May 19th Ganganelli was selected pope. He came from Rimini and joined at an age of eighteen the Franciscan Order. The sixty four years old pope called himself Clement XIV.

At first he was kindly disposed towards the Jesuit Order, and tried to solve the problem by delaying tactics: by prohibition to admit novices, or by removal of the General without appointing a successor. But he could not resist the watchful pressure of the Bourbons. By their order the French Ambassador José Monino again demanded the abolition of the Jesuit Order, and threatened with severing the diplomatic relations; in 1772 the new Spanish envoy in Rome acted similarly. When in spring 1773 the Austrian empress Mary Therese declared that no veto was to be expected against the abolition, there were no longer any obstacles.

José Monino had extraordinary diplomatic abilities. With cunning and energy he managed that the pope executed the abolition breve 'Dominus ac Redemptor'. José himself took part in drafting the document. It was not as usually printed in the printing shop of the Vatican, but in a secret printing office of the Spanish embassy, because the pope feared a premature publication.

The breve was read out first in the Professed House of the Order in Rome on August 16th 1773 by Macedonio, a nephew of the pope, and the Prelate Alfani, who were accompanied by a unit of the papal police. In the same evening other prelates carried out the report in other houses of the Order in Rome. The Jesuits were not allowed to leave their dwellings for the present.

The breve was executed hardest in the Vatican State. The General and his Assistants were imprisoned in the Angel Castle. France and Naples returned the areas of the Church State occupied by them. Madrid celebrated for three days a public festival. In Germany and Austria one proceeded with indulgence and mildness. The Jesuits could often resume their work as secular priests. An exception made the Prince of Mainz, who let the Fathers and Brothers at some night take away from the colleges and lock up in various monasteries.

Two states opposed. They were Rome's opponents and did not publish the papal breve: Frederic II in Prussia and Katharine II in Russia. They opposed because they did not want to endanger the beneficial school activities of the Jesuits.

Shortly before the abolition (1750) the Order numbered 22.589 members in 39 provinces, among them 11.293 priests. It possessed 84 Professed Houses in the capitals of the world, 679 colleges, 61 noviciates, 176 seminaries, 315 residences and 273 mission stations.


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