Read The Remnant at your own risk…

Resisting the Pope?
The Remnant and the Suppression of the Jesuits

 

In their desperate quest to find some historical precedent for acknowledging a blaspheming public apostate (“Pope” Francis) as the Vicar of Christ while at the same time resisting and contradicting the man’s every utterance, the semi-traditionalists at The Remnant have published a superficially-researched and sloppily-written blog post that turns out to be nothing more than yet another propaganda piece for their recognize-and-resist position.

We are talking about the blog post “Resisting Papal Errors: Another Historical Precedent for Cardinal Burke” by Chris Jackson (Jan. 12, 2017). The author cites the case of Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris from 1746-1781, who refused to suppress the Jesuits in his diocese after Pope Clement XIV (r. 1769-1774) officially declared them suppressed and ordered them to disband. Beaumont, so Jackson argues, is a heroic model of resistance against a Pope who leads the Church into ruin, and sets a clear precedent that legitimizes the conduct of people like “Cardinal” Raymond Burke with respect to “Pope” Francis.

For the purposes of this post we will leave aside the disgraceful audacity that tries to draw a parallel between a hapless disciplinary decision by a clearly Catholic Pope and the abominable heresies and blasphemies being spewed on a daily basis by Jorge Bergoglio. Our main focus will simply be on evaluating whether The Remnant is right in citing the case of Abp. Beaumont’s resistance of the suppression of the Jesuit order in his diocese as an example of licit opposition to a validly-reigning Roman Pontiff.

Pope Clement XIV suppresses the Society of Jesus

On July 21, 1773, Pope Clement XIV abolished the Society of Jesus (also known as the Jesuits) in his brief Dominus ac Redemptor Noster. As is clear from the language used, the suppression of the Society was universal and definitive and effected by nothing less than the Holy Father’s apostolic authority:

…after a mature deliberation, we do, out of our certain knowledge, and the fulness of our apostolical power, SUPPRESS AND ABOLISH THE SAID COMPANY [OF JESUS]: we deprive it of all activity whatever, of its houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, lands, and, in short, every other place whatsoever, in whatever kingdom or province they may be situated; we abrogate and annul its statutes, rules, customs, decrees, and constitutions, even though confirmed by oath, and approved by the Holy See or otherwise; in like manner we annul all and every its privileges, indults, general or particular, the tenor whereof is, and is taken to be, as fully and as amply expressed in the present Brief as if the same were inserted word for word, in whatever clauses, form, or decree, or under whatever sanction their privileges may have been conceived. We declare all, and all kind of authority, the General, the provincials, the visitors, and other superiors of the said Society to be FOR EVER ANNULLED AND EXTINGUISHED, of what nature soever the said authority may be, as well in things spiritual as temporal….

(Pope Clement XIV, Decree Dominus ac Redemptor Noster, July 21, 1773; English here; underlining added.)

What occasioned the Pope to take such drastic measures against the Society of Jesus, once founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola to combat the Protestant heresy, and opposed only by the enemies of the Church and the holy Catholic Faith?

For Chris Jackson, the answer is clear-cut: “Pope Clement XIV cravenly caved in to pressures from the Church’s enemies and secular kings and ended up doing their bidding by eliminating their greatest foe and the Church’s greatest ally.” Sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it? The Pope was simply a weakling who couldn’t stand up to the Church’s enemies! Time for all real Catholics to resist! Right? Well, not so fast. The historical developments that led to the suppression of the Jesuits were a bit more complex than Jackson would have us believe.

But first, let’s look at the source on which the Remnant blogger bases his evaluation of Pope Clement’s decision to abolish the Jesuits. He uses a single authority, the Novus Ordo Church historian Warren H. Carroll (1932-2011), who expresses his horror at the suppression of the Jesuits and speaks positively about Abp. Beaumont’s resistance. Although Jackson does not tell us exactly what text he is quoting, it is presumably vol. 5 of Carroll’s History of Christendom series: The Revolution Against Christendom.

While we have no reason to dispute the historical scholarship of Dr. Carroll, we certainly are suspicious of his theological evaluation of the historical record, for the simple reason that he was not a traditional Roman Catholic but a “conservative” Novus Ordo who submitted to Vatican II — precisely the kind of person The Remnant likes to refer to as a “Neo-Catholic”.

Ironically, Jackson endorses Carroll as a “[f]amed Catholic historian” only one paragraph after blasting “neo-Catholics”. This endorsement was clearly not vetted by veteran Remnant columnist Christopher Ferrara, who has a less glowing opinion of the scholar: In his recognize-and-resist manifesto The Great Facade (2nd ed., 2015), Ferrara identifies Carroll as a “neo-Catholic historian” (pp. 75, 223) and criticizes him for making “baseless remarks” in “typical neo-Catholic fashion” against Alice von Hildebrand “on the EWTN web site” (p. 93, fn. 10).

As Jackson himself mentions, Carroll was the founder of Virginia-based Christendom College — among whose founding faculty was none other than Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, another favorite Neo-Catholic target of Mr. Ferrara’s. The fact that the “famed Catholic historian” Warren Carroll once defended “Pope” John Paul II’s kissing of the Koran on the EWTN web site (see here), as lamented by Ferrara in The Great Facade (p. 223, fn. 57), doesn’t increase one’s confidence in Carroll’s theological assessment of (anti-)papal acts, either.

Instead of relying on a single Novus Ordo author other writers at The Remnant decry as a “neo-Catholic”, we suggest that genuine traditional Catholics instead to turn to — drumroll, please! — traditional Catholic sources on Church history.

One such work is Fr. Reuben Parsons’ Studies in Church History, which enjoys the approbation of Pope Leo XIII. There we read the following regarding what motivated Pope Clement XIV to suppress the Jesuit order:

Very few historians contend that Clement XIV. was actuated by other motives than a desire for peace, when he signed the Brief Domimus ac Redemptor. Picot, than whom no more judicial or veracious publicist has descanted on the events of the eighteenth century, may be regarded as representing the best thought of our day when he says: “Only after four years of pontificate, and because of the reiterated pressure of the ministers of several great powers, did Clement XIV. decree the so intensely desired abolution. . . . He insisted principally on the benefit of peace, which he believed to be involved in the destruction of those religious. Undoubtedly he thought that since several sovereigns were leagued against the Society, the Holy See would strive in vain to uphold it, or that it could no longer be of much use to the Church; and this consideration overbalanced, in his mind, the other reasons which militated in favor of so precious an organization. … It would seem that Clement XIV. was not hostile to the Jesuits; but he saw the Catholic courts conspiring against them, and he thought that he could fight no longer in their behalf”.

It is not necessary for us to dilate on this point; but the reader may reflect with profit on the considerations emitted by the ex-Jesuit, Cordara, in his correspondence with his brother, the Count of Calamandrana. In his seventh letter, he shows how the Pontiff could, without injustice, suppress the Society, even though he knew it to be innocent of ill-doing. A sovereign, he says, can certainly disband a faithful and valorous regiment, if reasons of state, such as public order, etc., seem to demand the sacrifice. The Holy Father was threatened not only with temporal losses, but with direful schisms; “therefore he deemed it wise to avoid greater evils by sacrificing the Society.” Clement XIV. did not abolish the Jesuits because of immoralities, or even because of any relaxation of discipline; he did not touch the question of the Society’s guilt of the charges brought against it; indeed, the moderation of the Brief caused Tanucci to prohibit its circulation in the kingdom of Naples. “Clement XIV.,” adds Cordara, “perceiving that the sovereigns were imbued with the opinions of Febronius, and filled with prejudices against the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, thought to impede their designs by inflicting two wounds on himself, as well as on the Church. The first wound was the suppression of our Society; the second, more difficult to heal, was the quasi-suppression of that ancient and venerable Constitution, the Bull In Coena Domini, which formed, by itself, the strength of the Holy See, supporting it in face of the Catholic universe.

These two measures will perpetuate the memory of the pontificate of Ganganelli [Clement XIV]; but this souvenir will always be accompanied by tears and moans. Would any other Pope, living, like Ganganelli, in those evil days, have acted differently? Who knows? Without doubt the Pope, as supreme pastor, possesses sovereign and legitimate power over the entire flock, even over monarchs, who are sons of the Church; but can he exercise that power, when kings declare war against him? At that unfortunate period, the power of kings greatly surpassed that of the Pope.”

Another Jesuit author, Cahour, who, we may remark en passant, does not imitate Cordara by styling Pope Clement XIV. “Ganganelli,” as Cretineau-Joly and certain other Jesuit apologists are wont to do (they never speak of “Pope Rezzonico” or of “Pope Chiaramonti”), asks, concerning the Brief of suppression: Was it legitimate? Yes; because the Holy See had a right to suppress what it itself had established. Was it prudent and opportune? Many say that it was not. As for me, I respect the strange situation in which the vicar of Jesus Christ found himself; and I regret that on this occasion the sacrifice of Jonah, made to the fury of the waves, served only to augment the tempest”. The Jesuit Boero contends that “the true and legitimate defense of Clement XIV. is furnished by himself in his words, ‘I was forced to it — compulsus feci: and he enters into a labyrinth who abandons this line.”

(Rev. Reuben Parsons, Studies in Church History, vol. 4 [New York, NY: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1897], pp. 489-491; italics given; paragraph breaks and underlining added.)

In volume 2 of his History of the Catholic Church (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1935), Fr. Charles Poulet also concludes that the Pope’s hand was forced in the suppression of the Jesuits (p. 307), and he notes that it was for this reason that Clement XIV did not call his document a motu proprio, the label given to papal documents containing decisions made by the Pope of his own accord (see Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Motu Proprio”).

Historian Fr. Fernand Mourret mentions some further motives that may have led Pope Clement to suppress the Jesuit order, but note that he too makes clear that we are not simply dealing with papal weakness or diplomacy here:

All was certainly not weakness and mere diplomacy in Clement’s attitude. The Pope seems to have been convinced, as Benedict XIV had been, of the existence of certain abuses in the famous Society [of Jesus] and of the need of providing some remedy for them. To induce patience in the courts and to wait for a more favorable moment for his moderating action, he was eager to give the crowns some pledge of his intentions. He took away from the Jesuits the Frascati seminary and the Greek college; with extreme rigor he ordered an inspection of the Roman College. But he failed to count on the obstinate fierceness of the powers. On July 4, 1772, the Spanish court plainly threatened the Pope with a schism. In return for his condescension, he was given to expect the restitution of Avignon and of Benevento, detained by France and Spain. At this attempt at bargaining, the Pope’s pride revolted. He replied that he did not traffic in these matters.

(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, vol. 6 [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1947], pp. 466-467; underlining added.)

A lengthy article that appeared in the October 1888 edition of the American Catholic Quarterly Review gives additional background on the abolition of the Society of Jesus:

What, then, was the real reason for the suppression of the Jesuits? In one word, it was the choice between two evils, which had been forced upon Clement by a powerful and unscrupulous political combination, the least of which evils seemed to him to be the suppression of the Society [of Jesus]. In other words, it was a measure extorted from an unwilling Pope, who was friendly to the Jesuits and had no confidence in their traducers, to save France, Spain, and Portugal from following the example of England by throwing off their allegiance to the head of the Church, thereby apostatizing from the faith and driving the whole Church in those kingdoms into all the untold evils of schism.

Threats were made that kingdoms would throw off their allegiance to the Church unless the prayer [=request for the supression] were granted, and these threats certainly had some significance when we call to mind the political system of Europe, which allowed the masses of the people to be ruled and kept down by a corrupt and tyrannical oligarchy. The example of England, forced into schism by the reckless tyrant Henry VIII., stood out as a warning of what might occur again if some concession were not made to the combination of tyrants who were now really laboring for the same end, and who were determined on the suppression of the Jesuits — the Pope’s body guard, as they were called — as the most effective mode of storming the castle itself and carrying the citadel of the Church by assault.

But the agents of Satan seemed to be inspired with diabolical hatred and with an invincible determination to succeed, and they pressed their suit with such insolence and brutal disregard of the feelings of the Holy Father that he at length felt compelled to yield, not because he thought it was right in itself, not that he had lost confidence in the Jesuits, not because he approved of his own action, but simply to avoid what he was made to believe would be a greater evil. Not only were threats used that kingdoms would throw off their allegiance to the Church, but in 1772 the Spanish Ambassador determined to terrify the Pope into submission, and with extraordinary pertinacity bullied the Holy See by this solemn warning on a certain occasion in public audience: “Beware, lest my master, the king, approve the project which has been entertained by more than one court, the suppression of all the religious orders! If you would save them, do not confound their cause with that of the Jesuits.” “Ah,” replied the Pontiff, “I have for a long time thought that this was what they were aiming at. They seek even more— the entire destruction of the Catholic religion — schism, perhaps heresy, such are their secret designs.” “This conversation,” remarks the historian, “raises the veil and shows that the abolition of the Jesuits was merely considered expedient for fear of greater evils. The Vicar of Christ was placed in a dilemma of the most grave and difficult character. He neither censured the Society, nor believed in the absurd calumnies launched against it, but, administering the affairs of the Church, considered it advisable to bow temporarily to the storm for fear of that greater injury to faith and morals which might be the sequence of another line of conduct.”

(H. L. R., “The Suppression of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV”, American Catholic Quarterly Review XIII, no. 52 [October, 1888], pp. 696-706; underlining added.)

Here we see that the reality behind the suppression of the Jesuits is a lot more complex and difficult than The Remnant‘s Chris Jackson has made it seem. What he smugly trashes as the cowardly capitulation of a weak Pope, was in reality a most difficult papal decision made in the greatest anguish. Clement XIV judged the suppression of the Jesuit order to be the lesser of two horrendous evils, one of which he was condemned to choose. Had he acted differently, we can only imagine how many neo-traditionalist armchair theologians would today be blasting him for allowing half of Europe to fall into schism and perhaps heresy simply for refusing to suppress a religious order!

The Archbishop of Paris resists the Suppression

Having now examined the motives that led to the universal disbanding of the Jesuits in 1773, we must now turn to the question of resistance to the decree of Pope Clement XIV. Although there was not much resistance to it, there was some, and Jackson brings up what is probably the most vivid example of a Catholic bishop refusing the Pope’s order, the case of Abp. Beaumont of Paris. Jackson quotes Beaumont’s letter of rebuke to the Pope at length, and there is no need for us to repeat it here, especially since the point is conceded: Abp. Beaumont did indeed refuse the Pope’s command.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is not whether there was a disobedient bishop somewhere — the issue is, was it morally permissible to disobey the suppression of the Jesuits? After all, just because a Catholic bishop did something, doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.

This is where Jackson’s entire post fails spectacularly: The conclusion which the author means for everyone to accept — namely, that it was lawful for Abp. Beaumont to resist the papal abolition of the Jesuits — is not proved in the article at all; it is, rather, assumed. Jackson does not provide any evidence that this refusal was morally or theologically permissible, much less necessary — he simply hopes you will assume this or infer it from the fact that the suppression of the Jesuits resulted in a great weakening of the Church. But the mere fact that a papal decision leads to undesirable consequences does not mean that the Pope’s subjects have the right to refuse or resist it. As shown above, it was clear that both the suppression of the Jesuits and the refusal to suppress the order would result in horrendous evils. The question was, which of the two evils was more tolerable than the other?

Since Jackson does not in any way prove that Abp. Beaumont’s disobedience to the Pope was justified or laudable, we could simply say the author failed to prove his case and leave it at that. However, we will go above and beyond strict duty here and prove that not only was Abp. Beaumont’s refusal to implement the Pope’s order not permissible, it actually resulted in his automatic excommunication!

We can demonstrate this fairly easily by reading very closely what the Pope, in the same decree in which he suppresses the Society of Jesus, prescribes for anyone who fails to implement his sovereign judgment:

Further, we do ordain, that after the publication of this our letter, no person do presume to suspend the execution thereof, under colour, title, or pretence of any action, appeal, relief, explanation of doubts which may arise, or any other pretext whatever, foreseen or not foreseen. Our will and meaning is, that the suppression and destruction of the said Society, and of all its parts, shall have an immediate and instantaneous effect in the manner here above set forth; and that under pain of the greater excommunication, to be immediately incurred by whosoever shall presume to create the least impediment or obstacle, or delay in the execution of this our will: the said excommunication not to be taken off but by ourselves, or our successors, the Roman Pontiffs.

Further, we ordain and command, by virtue of the holy obedience to all and every ecclesiastical person, regular and secular, of whatever rank, dignity, and condition, and especially those who have been heretofore of the said Company, that no one of them do carry their audacity so far as to impugn, combat, or even write or speak about the said suppression, or the reasons and motives of it, or about the institute of the Company, its form of government, or other circumstance thereto relating, without an express permission from the Roman Pontiff, and that under the same pain of excommunication….

(Pope Clement XIV, Decree Dominus ac Redemptor Noster, July 21, 1773; English here; underlining added.)

So, there we have it: If words have any meaning, then the Archbishop of Paris incurred automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) reserved to the Holy See by refusing to suppress the Jesuits in his diocese and audaciously resisting the Pope. That a blogger at The Remnant can so nonchalantly side with an excommunicated archbishop and single-handedly presume to exonerate him based on his reading of a Novus Ordo historian, is a frightening thought. This is serious business.

Of course, the semi-traditionalists have a history of not worrying much about (putative) papal excommunications if they have personally judged them to be unfair or simply “disagree” with them — and by doing so, they have imbibed two dangerous errors of Pascal Quesnel, condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1713:

[ERROR n.] 91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, aslong as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.

[ERROR n.] 92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.

Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.

(Pope Clement XI, Bull Unigenitus; Denz. 1441-42)

Here we see once again that the semi-trads have simply created their own little “reality”, one in which they decide whether what comes from the Pope is to bind their consciences or not. The Pope, in their view, has no authority of himself — the authority ultimately comes from the consent of the faithful, after each individual has judged for himself whether a particular papal judgment is prudent, “traditional”, or otherwise meets their approval. This is a form of Gallicanism.

Those who accept the Suppression

The resistance of Abp. Beaumont is perhaps also seen in a clearer light when we examine how other clerics, especially the Jesuits themselves, reacted to the suppression.

Jackson himself quotes Fr. Lorenzo Ricci, then the Superior General of the Jesuits. Although Fr. Ricci believed the suppression of his order to be unjust and declared that his order was innocent of any wrongdoing, he did not presume to question or second-guess the Pope’s decision. Rather, he accepted it with humble obedience.

In Russia, while the Eastern Orthodox Empress Catherine the Great refused to obey Pope Clement’s order to suppress the Society of Jesus, the Russian Jesuits themselves knew they were bound by the papal order and begged the empress to obey the Pope. We read about this in the very same book from which Jackson quotes in his post, albeit at a different location:

The [Jesuit] fathers, however, declined to accept existence at the cost of obedience, and, in the name of his brethren, the Rector of the College of Polotsk wrote to the empress, and, while expressing deep gratitude for her good intentions, begged permission to obey the [papal] Brief of suppression. To this strange letter, in which the Jesuits earnestly petitioned for their own destruction, the empress replied that they were bound to obey her in all things not relating to matters of faith; but in order to dispel their scruples, she wrote to Rome, and obtained from Clement XIV. a decree, dated June 7th, 1774, authorizing the Jesuits of White Russia [=Belarus] to remain in statu quo till further orders.

(B[arbara] N[eave], The Jesuits: Their Foundation and History, vol. 2 [London: Burns & Oates, 1879], p. 278)

Perhaps the Jesuits themselves didn’t understand submission to the Pope quite as well as The Remnant does today.

One person we can hopefully all agree on did understand how to act in the face of the suppression of the Jesuit order, is the Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787). In a 19th-century book about the saint’s life that carries numerous approbations from various bishops of the United States, we read the following:

During the stormy pontificate of Clement XIV [St. Alphonsus’] heart was torn by the troubles that disquieted the Church, and he continually offered up prayers to God for the hapless pontiff and his persecuted flock. What particularly distressed him was, that most of the crowned heads of Europe, to their eternal shame be it recorded, incited by Jansenist or infidel influence, insisted on the suppression of the world-renowned Society of Jesus. “No one,” says his friend and biographer Tannoia, “can imagine how he sorrowed over the storm that raged against the Jesuits; he never spoke of it without feelings of the deepest distress.”

“It is nothing but intrigue on the part of the Jansenists and the unbelieving,” said the saint; ” if they succeed in overthrowing the company [of the Jesuits], their wishes will be accomplished, but if this bulwark falls, what convulsions will there not be in Church and State! The loss of the Jesuits will place the Pope and the Church in a most disastrous situation; the Jansenists aim at them, because through them they will be the more certain of striking at Church and State.”

Such were the fears and sentiments of St. Alphonsus, but the judgments of God are impenetrable! Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus, by a brief dated July 22, 1773. When the aged bishop heard this, he felt as though a thunderbolt had been hurled against him. It may well be believed that of the thousands of Jesuits which this brief disbanded, not one felt the blow more keenly than Alphonsus. Respect for the pontifical judgment closed his mouth, but the unspeakable anguish of his heart was plainly depicted on his venerable countenance. When he received the brief, he adored in silence the judgments of God, and then said: “The will of the Pope is the will of God.” One day the grand vicar and other persons of distinction appeared to cast blame on the dispositions of the Pope: “Poor Pope,” he exclaimed, “what could he have done in such delicate circumstances, when so many monarchs demanded their suppression. As for us, we have only to adore the secret judgment of God, and remain in peace.” Yet he seems to have regarded the suppression as merely temporary: “I assert,” said he with unusual energy,” that if but a single Jesuit be left in the world, he alone will be sufficient to re-establish the Society [of Jesus].”

(Austin Carroll, The Life of St. Alphonsus Liguori [New York, NY: P. O’Shea, 1886], pp. 414-415; underlining added.)

It does not look like St. Alphonsus would have made the list of Jackson’s “courageous men of the Church who carried the cross of the Faith even in the face of persecution from Christ’s own vicar” — bummer! As the Church’s “prince of moral theologians” (Catholic Encyclopedia), however, we may surmise that St. Alphonsus took the right course of action even in this case.

“The will of the Pope is the will of God!” — Thank heavens that these words were spoken by St. Alphonsus Liguori and not by a sedevacantist on the internet! Can you imagine what a Chris Ferrara, a Michael Matt, a Steve Skojec, or a Hilary White would have said to that? Can you imagine? Cries of “Papolatry!”, “Papal Positivism!”, and “Ultramontanism!” would incessantly reverberate throughout the cyber-globe. We would never hear the end of it.

Concluding Thoughts

As we come to the end of Jackson’s post, we see that he did not provide any evidence — only his own opinion, really, supported by one Neo-Catholic historian at best — that Abp. Beaumont’s resistance against Pope Clement’s suppression of the Jesuits was morally permissible. In what seems like a final effort to persuade his readers that the recalcitrant Archbishop of Paris acted rightly, the Remnant contributor quotes the following anecdote, presumably from Warren Carroll’s work again (Jackson does not cite the source), regarding the death of Clement XIV in 1774:

In his final hours he knew what he had done, crying in despair “I have cut off my right hand.” Ghosts pursued him in his sleep; in the silence of the night he would kneel before a miniature of the Virgin detached from his prayer book, perhaps remembering that she is ever the refuge of those who have no other hope.

(Chris Jackson, “Resisting Papal Errors: Another Historical Precedent for Cardinal Burke”, The Remnant, Jan. 12, 2017)

Perhaps Jackson hopes that the reader will accept this depressing episode as substitute “proof” that resisting the Pope’s abolition of the Society of Jesus was the right thing to do, when, of course, all it could possibly establish, at best, is that the Pope regretted his own decision, not that submitting to the papal judgment was optional.

However, not all historians are as bleak in their description of the death of Clement XIV as Jackson’s unidentified source is. Fr. Mourret, for example, notes that the Pope “died piously, assisted by St. Alphonsus Liguori, on September 22, 1774” (History of the Catholic Church, vol. 6, p. 470). Yes, the very St. Alphonsus who, despite his personal anguish over the suppression of the Jesuits, kept silent and venerated the papal judgment as the judgment of God, bilocated to console and assist the dying Pontiff. How is that for heroic!

By the way, the Jesuits were universally reconstituted by order of Pope Pius VII in 1814. In his bull Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum of August 7, Pope Pius abrogated the brief Dominus ac Redemptor Noster of Clement XIV: “This letter and its intended effects we wish now to abrogate expressly and in particular, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.” Let us not gloss over the fact that abrogating a prior papal document is only possible because formerly that document was actually in force. It takes another papal act to repeal it, not brazen “resistance” by inferiors who consider themselves above the judgments of the Pope.

It is a real pity that The Remnant has given its readers such a distorted view of the facts concerning the abolition of the Jesuit order. That is what happens when you publish propaganda instead of historical analysis, when the position you take is not determined by Catholic teaching applied to empirical facts but by a blind and dogmatic ideology that you simply refuse to give up, come hell or high water.

Once again it appears that, contrary to what they proclaim and what they continually tell themselves, the semi-traditionalists simply do not believe in the Papacy. That is the horrible damage the recognize-and-resist position causes in souls. Yet it is not difficult to see that papal authority would be chimerical and no legislation or judgment of the Pope could ever really be effective if each subject were first entitled to evaluate the directive and personally decide whether it is prudent or not and then make a decision as to whether to carry it out. The idea is preposterous theoretically and unworkable in practice.

Note that we are not talking about commands that are in themselves sinful — those must obviously be refused. An example would be if the Pope directed a bishop to go around his diocese stealing money from people in order to raise funds for a renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica. That would be sinful and would have to be refused. But for the Pope to order that the Society of Jesus will be abolished, is not in and of itself sinful. The decision might be prudent or imprudent and lead to good or bad consequences, but it is certainly not wrong per se (unlike stealing, fornication, or blasphemy, for instance). The Pope has to answer for his own judgments and decisions in the end; his inferiors do not have to answer for them. And the Pope answers only to God, not to a group of cardinals or to individual bishops, and certainly not to bloggers on the internet, be they at The Remnant or at Novus Ordo Watch.

The same Papacy that has the authority to approve the Jesuits also has the authority to revoke that approval; and if the Pope one day decrees that they are suppressed, then they are suppressed. If the Pope permits, one may voice one’s opinion that the decision does not seem prudent, or one may lament that it will inflict great harm on the Church — but one cannot simply resist it. And there are probably not a few who are thinking that it would be a real blessing if in our day the Jesuits were once again suppressed!