Friday, January 18, 2013
Papal Profile: Pope Clement XIII
In reaction to the outrage over this, pamphlets were printed up and spread around accusing the Jesuits of all sorts of misdeeds, particularly of being cruel to the natives of South America where they were accused of trying to set up their own little fiefdom on the backs of the natives. All of this was, needless to say, totally false as it was the liberal officials of the so-called “Enlightenment” who were actually the ones enslaving the South American natives whereas the Jesuits had educated them, taught them valuable skills and had mostly made their lives a great deal better. Unfortunately, it was the “Enlightened” class which had the money and the motivation to spread their version of events and so it was the story that came to be the most widely believed. This increasing anti-Jesuit hysteria was then seized upon in the Kingdom of France and the order was banished from that country as well later in 1764. Again, however, it was not really because of anything the Jesuits had done but was more due to the spread of Jansenism in France which Pope Clement XIII (and others on the Throne of St Peter) had been trying to combat. The Pope vociferously defended the Society of Jesus from these increasing attacks but few seemed to be listening.
This led to a breach between Parma and the Papal States which the “Enlightened” class in France was quick to take advantage of by grabbing such papal territories as Avignon, Benevento and Pontecorvo. Pope Clement XIII was in an impossible position with almost all of the major Catholic powers aligned against him over his defense of the Society of Jesus. The Kingdoms of Portugal, Spain and France all wanted the order dissolved and when the Austrian Empire (nominally the Holy Roman Empire of Germany still) agreed to go along with the push there was very little the Pope could do but agree to at least discuss the matter. In both word and letter he had spent most of his reign arguing the case for the Society of Jesus, defending them from attack and protesting their treatment. However, given the state of Europe at the time, if Portugal, Spain, France, Austria and their Italian satellites united in their opposition to the Jesuits, he could hardly afford to defy them all. So, in 1769 Pope Clement XIII very reluctantly agreed to call a consistory to address the matter, however, he did not live to see it happen as he died not long after on February 2 of that year. It is hardly surprising that the anti-Jesuit faction immediately declared that he had been poisoned by the order for moving against them. Not surprising, but no less silly. It would be impossible to believe that after ten years of defending the order Clement XIII would have just given in and thrown them to the wolves and no evidence of any wrongdoing was ever found. The Pope was 75 years old which was, at that time, a ripe old age. His death was due to nothing more sinister than a heart attack.