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Society of Jesus: Suppression and Restoration

Following the period of expansion that the Society of Jesus experienced during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Jesuits experienced a period of suppression and restoration that occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During this period of the history of the Jesuits, the Christian missionary order experienced both great success as well as great decline.

The History of the Jesuits: The Period of Suppression and Restoration

Centuries after the formation of the Jesuits, secular pressure led to the suppression of the Christian missionary group. Because of this pressure, in 1773, Pope Clement XIII, who had been a supporter of the Society of Jesus, promulgated a Papal decree that suppressed the Society of Jesus.

This promulgation came into effect in all nations, excluding Russia and Prussia, where Catherine the Great refused to institute the Papal decree; the queen’s actions enabled the Society to continue its religious ministry in the Polish areas of the Western Russian Empire, which continued throughout the period of suppression.

In 1814, the Jesuits were restored, leading to a new period of growth and expansion. Following their restoration, the Jesuits established several universities and colleges. In the United States alone, the Society of Jesus founded or took control of over 22 of 28 universities.

The Society’s continued support of the Pop meant that some Jesuits were also involved in the Ultramontanist movement of the nineteenth century; this religious philosophy existed with the Roman Catholic community and placed ultimate authority with the Pope. The term Ultramontanist literally referred to the place “beyond the mountains” (ultra montes, beyond the Alps, that is to the Pope, who resided in Rome. Furthermore, the Jesuits also supported the declaration of Papal Infallibility in 1870, which reinforced the Pope’s authority as well as righteousness.

However, in 1848, the Calvinist defeat of the Ultramontanists in Switzerland resulted in modifications to the Constitution, which led to the banishment of the Society of Jesus. This banishment was not revoked until the twentieth century.

The twentieth century was both a period of growth and decline for the Jesuit order. Jesuit numbers, which peaked in the 1950s, have since been in steady decline. However, the Society of Jesus also experienced important achievements during this time, including the establishment of several secondary schools and has also encouraged increased lay involvement within the order.

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