Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The expulsion of the Jesuits from Russia, Naples, and Spain in 1820 contributed to increased secularism, to a century of European revolution, and ultimately to the emergence of socialism and communism.

Summary of Event

The members of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, were expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain—all in the year 1820. Their expulsion from these and many other European countries and the laws passed against the Jesuits greatly reduced their power, led to the loss of their wealth, and drastically lowered their numbers. In turn, this lessening of Jesuitical influence within the courts of Europe increased the shift in world power from religious to secular and contributed to a century of revolution that ultimately led to the emergence of socialism and communism in the early twentieth century. Jesuits;in Russia[Russia] Jesuits;in Spain[Spain] Jesuits;in Italy[Italy] Russia;expulsion of Jesuits Spain;expulsion of Jesuits Italy;expulsion of Jesuits Naples;Jesuit expulsion Christianity;Jesuits Missionaries;Jesuit Roman Catholic Church;Jesuits [kw]Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain (1820) [kw]Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain, Jesuits Are (1820) [kw]Russia, Naples, and Spain, Jesuits Are Expelled from (1820) [kw]Naples, and Spain, Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, (1820) [kw]Spain, Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and (1820) Jesuits;in Russia[Russia] Jesuits;in Spain[Spain] Jesuits;in Italy[Italy] Russia;expulsion of Jesuits Spain;expulsion of Jesuits Italy;expulsion of Jesuits Naples;Jesuit expulsion Christianity;Jesuits Missionaries;Jesuit Roman Catholic Church;Jesuits [g]Europe;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] [g]Russia;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] [g]Italy;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] [g]Spain;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] [c]Religion and theology;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] [c]Government and politics;1820: Jesuits Are Expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain[1070] Clement XIV Pius VII

Although it was originally founder Saint Ignatius Loyola’s plan that Jesuits would act as missionaries, from the sixteenth century on the members of the religious order came deeply to influence the world’s politics and to gain recognition as the world’s premier educators. Known for high intellectualism, rigorous loyalty to the pope, and absolute defense of Catholic dogma, for centuries the Jesuits were a great aid to the Roman Catholic Church, and their missions, colleges, and seminaries gained worldwide recognition. Indeed, the Jesuits were referred to as the “schoolmasters of Europe.” However, in time the zeal and enormous effectiveness of the Jesuit Order provoked fear, jealousy, and hostility among other religious orders, and their increasing wealth, political power, and incredible ability to command the loyalty of Catholics throughout the world caused increasing concern among European rulers.

The rise of secularism, which had contributed to the 1773 suppression of the Jesuits, was greatly influenced by the highly secular Philosophes Philosophy;French philosophes, or philosophers, of the eighteenth century French Enlightenment. In particular, Voltaire and the encyclopedists attracted strong ruling-class support. In their move to rid the world of religious education, these liberal literati, who indeed were radically opposed to Christianity itself and sought to replace God with philosophy and reason, agreed that the first step toward their secular aims must be the destruction of the Jesuits. Many European Catholic sovereigns were also opposed to the Jesuits. On August 16, 1773, the Franciscan pope Clement XIV Clement XIV , dreading the loss of the Papal States, yielded to the demands of the Bourbon court and issued his brief Dominus ac Redemptor, which suppressed and disbanded the Society of Jesus throughout Europe.

In 1814, Pius VII Pius VII lifted the order of suppression by the bull Solicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, in which he reinstated the Jesuits. However, the nineteenth century postrevolutionary heirs to the Enlightenment lived in a different world than the one in which the Society of Jesus had last existed, more than forty years earlier. Many among the French aristocracy, which had supported the Jesuits’ initial suppression, had lost their heads to the guillotine, and despite their formal reinstatement, the Jesuits could never hope to regain anywhere near their earlier power.

The anticlericism fostered during the 1789 French Revolution French Revolution (1789);and anticlericalism[Anticlericalism] created a backlash, as the Reign of Terror under Robespierre, the subsequent rise of Napoleon, and the Napoleonic Wars engendered a heightened sense of conservatism throughout Europe . By 1820, though, all of Europe found itself in the turbulent throes of revolution, and anticlericism gained even greater force. In the few short years since their reinstatement, the Jesuits had come to be viewed by many as evil incarnate, and they were often made scapegoats for events beyond their control. They were finally expelled from Russia, Naples, and Spain in 1820.

Although Empress Catherine the Great Catherine the Great of Russia had ignored the 1773 suppression order—and indeed had provided Russian refuge for the homeless priests—her successor, Czar Alexander I Alexander I [p]Alexander I[Alexander 01];and Jesuits[Jesuits] , refused to allow their presence. In 1820, he ousted more than two hundred Jesuits. Scholars have since maintained that this action contributed to the ensuing century of revolution and the ultimate dominance of communism in twentieth century Russia.

Pope Pius VII.

(Library of Congress)

In Spain, Spain;cholera epidemic Cholera;pandemics the Jesuits were expelled in the insurrection of Major Rafael del Riego, who forced King Ferdinand VII to swear to a modern constitution. Allowed to return in 1823, the Jesuits were blamed for a cholera epidemic in 1843; they were removed by a mob chanting “Death to Jesuits.” Fourteen Jesuits and dozens of other priests were killed. This event forced the remaining Jesuits to flee to South America, where they became successful missionaries and educators.

In Italy, the Jesuits alternately suffered rejection and acceptance throughout much of the nineteenth century. While they were expelled from Naples in 1820, they were allowed back in 1836, only to be driven out again by the revolution of 1848. They were able to return when peace was restored, but they were once again suppressed throughout Italy, even in Rome, as late as 1871. Problems in Italy arose partly over papal conflict with the Jesuits, which had begun in 1769 after a conclave, heavily influenced by European Catholic sovereigns, elected Clement XIV Clement XIV to the papacy. Clement was elected partly on the strength of his promise to expel the Jesuits.

Pius VI Pius VI had succeded Clement XIV in 1775 and instigated further reforms designed to make the state and not the church supreme. He had supported the reform plans of the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire Holy Roman Empire , Joseph II, that had included the closure of monasteries and government appointments of clergy. However, when Pius rejected reforms in 1791, the French annexed the papal property at Avignon and Venaissin. When Pius then spoke out against Louis XVI’s execution by the revolutionary government, Napoleon Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];and Roman Catholic Church[Roman Catholic church] attacked the Papal States in 1802 and removed the pope from Rome. Napoleon forced the next pope, Pius VII Pius VII , to crown him emperor in Paris in 1804—only to take the crown from the pope’s hands at the last minute and crown himself. Napoleon took the Papal States in 1809 and Rome in 1814. After Napoleon’s downfall in 1814, Pius returned to Rome and restored the Jesuits. However, he found the anti-Jesuitical sentiment of Europe so extreme that the pope himself oversaw their 1820 expulsions.

Significance

The suppression of the Jesuits corresponded with the decline of the temporal power of the Roman Catholic Church and of the pope in particular—one of the turning points in the history of Christianity. Today, scholars maintain that the Jesuits’ suppression and exclusion originated in misinformation developed during the secularizing efforts of the French and disseminated in the lands in which the revolution took root. The Jesuits had always been seen as the pope’s independent and sometimes military support. However, after their suppression, for all intents and purposes the Church came to be in the hands of Europe’s secular rulers. The balance of power between religious and secular institutions, which had for centuries been fairly stable in Europe, was now turned topsy-turvy. The consequences were a century of revolution and conflict and the ultimate rise of socialism and communism in the early twentieth century.

The nineteenth century suppression of the Jesuits also contributed to changes in European philosophy. Without the Jesuits to help keep tabs on teachings that could be construed as heretical, philosophies Philosophy;Immanuel Kant[Kant] such as that of Immanuel Kant Kant, Immanuel —who had instituted the “Copernican turn inward,” centering philosophy on the mind rather than on God—were able to gain traction. Opposing Kant’s idealist view was the materialism of Philosophy;Karl Marx[Marx] Karl Marx Marx, Karl [p]Marx, Karl;on religion[Religion] , who was highly influential in the development of communism and who denounced religion as evil and promoted a world without God. Subsequently, in opposition to Marx, a radical form of individualism that saw the mind, and not God, as creator, spread across the West. Thus, both of the major poles of nineteenth century intellectual debate treated religion as somewhat irrelevant, as their arguments instead focused on idealism versus materialism and individualism versus collectivism.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barthel, Manfred. Jesuits: History and Legends of the Society of Jesus. New York: Quill, 1987. Overview of five hundred years of Jesuit history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Martin, Malachi. Jesuits. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. Reveals the behind-the-scenes story of the “new” worldwide Society of Jesus and the historical alliances and compromises that emerged during the nineteenth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Paris, Edmond. The Secret History of the Jesuits. New York: Chick, 1983. Scholarly work that provides a comprehensive overview of Jesuit history, highlighting the order’s role as the political arm of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wright, Jonathan. God’s Soldiers—Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power: A History of the Jesuits. New York: Doubleday, 2004. British historian Wright writes a succinct, highly balanced historical account of the intrigue and controversy surrounding the Jesuit Order in the Roman Catholic Church.

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