On the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. A Contemporary Account

By Dooley, Brendan | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview

On the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. A Contemporary Account


Dooley, Brendan, The Catholic Historical Review


On the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. A Contemporary Account By Giulio Cesare Cordara, S.J. (1704-1785). Translation and notes by John P. Murphy, S.J. (Chicago: Loyola Press. 1999. Pp. xix, 212. $21.95.)

The suppression of the Jesuit order by Pope Clement XIV in the year 1773 is a key episode in the complex drama that subordinated religious authority to political authority at the origins of the modern secular state. This and other episodes in the drama, from the abolition of mortmain to the confiscation of church lands to the reform of the Holy Office, are now known to us through a vast recent historiography in part inspired by the work of Franco Venturi. John P. Murphy, in the introduction to his translation of Giulio Cesare Cordara's classic contemporary account of the suppression, focuses instead on the main features of eighteenth-century absolutism and the personal hatreds stirred up against the order because of its this-worldly commitments. His analysis thus hews quite closely to the one presented by Cordara himself. This is not to infer that Cordara's work is unproblematical; indeed, a considerable portion of it consists of a rhetorical set-piece devoted to Jesuit apologetics. In accounting for events that were going on around him, Cordara attributes particular importance to inter-order rivalry between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. He pays due attention to the personalities involved in the suppression-the scheming Marquis de Pombal, who made the most of the Paraguay revolt and the Tavora assassination plot in order to inculpate the Jesuits (so Cordara insists) because of a private grudge, the weak-willed King Joseph I of Portugal, the self-serving ministers Bernardo Tanucci in Naples and Guglielmo du Tillot in Parma. …

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