Death and Resurrection
How could it happen that a powerful international religious society of almost 20,000 men, faithful to the pope, confessors to kings, with colleges and mission outposts all over the world, ceased to exist in a fourstage process over 14 years?
Historians suggest three reasons that are intellectual, political, and personal: the rise of the Enlightenment—the Age of Reason—an intellectual force contrary to the Jesuit mindset which took its basic inspiration from the classical tradition and the Middle Ages; the emergence of the nation-state and the resurgence of the conflict between the Gallicans, who were loyal above all to the monarch, and the Ultramontanes, faithful to the Roman pontiff; and the weaknesses within the Society itself in terms of vocations, training, imagination, and leadership.
There were other factors as well. Jansenism, a rigoristic spiritual doctrine which argued, contrary to a more optimistic Jesuit theology, that very few souls were destined to be saved, was still influential in the Low Countries, in France, and in Italy. Jesuits, on the other hand, held a moral system called probabilism, which allowed a person the freedom of conscience to form a moral opinion and act on it if the opinion was probably true, even if a contrary moral opinion seemed more true. The opinion was considered probable if either the reasons were cogent or several reputable authors, though not the majority, held the same opinion. Thus the enemies of the Jesuits charged them with moral laxity. Furthermore, the Spanish Jesuit theologian Francisco Suarez's rejection of the divine right of kings and his theory that civil authority emerges from the people won the Jesuits no friends at court. But, as William Bangert says, the crushing blow was the Enlightenment, personified in Locke, Diderot, Hume, and Voltaire— Voltaire and Diderot were Jesuit educated—and identified by Peter