Sponsored by the Georgetown University Library Associates, the evening attracted nearly 100 guests. The Special Collections Research Center of the library displayed relevant artifacts from its collection at the event, including the 1773 papal brief ordering the suppression of the Jesuits and a letter from Jesuit Archbishop John Carroll, founder of the university, rejoicing in the Society’s restoration.
Fr. O’Malley’s lecture focused on the history of the Jesuits between 1773, when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the religious order, and 1814, when it was reinstated by Pope Pius VII.
According to Fr. O’Malley, the Jesuits’ ideology and lifestyle in the 18th century differed significantly from the rest of the church, particularly with regard to their autonomous authority, their request to fund a global network of schools and their optimistic view of human nature.
Fr. O’Malley noted the significance of three key historical events, which exacerbated growing tensions within the church and ultimately led to the order’s expulsion: a conflict regarding the allowance of particular rights to missionary subjects in China; a condemnation by a rival Catholic faction, the Jansenists; and a war in Spanish-controlled Latin America that pitted Jesuit missionaries against a Spanish-Portuguese military force.
Eventually, Pope Clement XIV formally expelled the Jesuits from the Catholic Church in 1773, but after years of political tumult, as well as several written appeals to different popes, Pope Pius VII acknowledged the order’s legitimacy again in 1814. While the Jesuits were suppressed for only 41 years, a fraction of the church’s long history, Fr. O’Malley noted the significant impact of this exile on the legacy of the religious institution.
“The Catholic cultural and ideological enterprise took a mortal blow with the suppression of the Jesuits,” Fr. O’Malley said. “It was a blow, I think you can argue, the Catholic Church has never quite recovered from.”
The Georgetown event is one of many planned in 2014 commemorating the restoration of the Jesuits. In addition, the Society of Jesus in the United States has assembled a speakers' bureau of Jesuit and lay historians who are available to discuss the details of this colorful chapter in Jesuit history. Speaking engagements with any of these experts may be arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Source: Georgetown University Hoya]