Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Jesuits & the Popes: A Historical Sketch of Their Relationship

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Jesuits & the Popes: A Historical Sketch of Their Relationship

Article excerpt

The Jesuits & the Popes: A Historical Sketch of their Relationship. By John W. O'Malley, S.J. (Philadelphia: St. Joseph's University Press. 2016. Pp. vi, 149, 19 images. $40.00. ISBN 978-0-91610-191-6.)

Anyone who enjoys flying a small airplane appreciates its unique perspective at an altitude of 5,000 feet. John O'Malley in his historical sketch The Jesuits & the Popes takes us to that level on a journey of almost 500 years. The view obviously sacrifices details one might see from a closer perspective, but its advantages are found in the trends and movements emerging within the gentle contours that develop over decades.

Following custom, O'Malley sets the context in the first chapter with an overview of the relationships between the papacy and other religious orders from the sixth to sixteenth centuries. This impressive tour in eleven pages indicates the key developments in religious life and the growing support received from the Holy See. It sets the stage for the arrival of the Jesuits among the clerks regular, a new form of religious. The second chapter identifies the central element of the Jesuit relationship to the papacy, the fourth vow, which enables a Jesuit to receive missions directly from the pope. Though rarely used, this vow recognizes "that the pope, as the universal bishop, ha[s] the breadth of vision best to deploy them" (p. 20). Almost from the beginning, however, the Superior General, with the vast intelligence coming from reports of Jesuits around the world, became a better source of information needed for their assignment.

As with all surveys, some points seek further development. O'Malley states that "the early Jesuits were influenced by [conciliarist tradition]" (p. 22), citing an opinion given by the general's secretary and admonitor, Juan Polanco, "that a Pope such as Pius IV might be deposed for serious scandal" (p. …

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