THE POLITICS OF THE JESUIT SOCIETY

Decreta Congregationum generalium Societatis Iesu (with) Canones Congregationum generalium Societatis Iesu (with) Formulae congregationum in quartâ generali congregatione confectae et approbatae in sextâ & septimâ recognitae et auctae.

Antwerp, Ioannem Meursium, 1635.

£1,950

8vo. pp. 474, (xxx): 80 (xvi): 136, (viii) three works in one. Roman letter, prefaces and indexes in Italic, woodcut initials, woodcut Jesuit device with motto “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” on all three titles, ‘Domus probationis Soctis Jesu Trevini’ in contemporary hand on title with ‘Societatis Jesu 1648’ beneath in another, light age yellowing. A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, lacking clasps, slightly soiled.

Second edition of the decrees of the seventh General Congregation of the Jesuits, bound with the canons of the Society including those added from the seventh congregation, and the ‘Formulae’, the rules, powers and procedures of the General congregation. Policy for the whole Society was set by General Congregations, the Jesuit equivalent of the General chapters of the Mendicant orders; they met rarely, either upon the death of the General, to elect his successor, or for especially serious matters. Muzio Vitelleschi, general from 1615 to 1645, was elected by and presided over this congregation.

The congregation again took note of the problem of the confessors of kings and of “political Jesuits” and sternly again forbade any involvement in politics. This was a vain hope when Jesuits were confessors at the major courts of Catholic Europe, with opposing personalities, viewpoints and loyalties, especially during the Thirty-Years War. Vitelleschi himself, as General, wrote more than one thousand letters to William Lamormaini, the confessor of the emperor in Vienna, on every facet of the war. The seventh congregation also had to deal with the problem of exiled English Jesuits driven out of England by persecution. They lived and studied in Jesuit provinces abroad, often in Spain. They and their Spanish Jesuit confreres faced the problem of trying to live in sometimes difficult-to-achieve harmony, especially when it was not clear who in the policy of the Society was in charge, the English mission superior or the Spanish provincials.

Aquaviva, Vitelleschi’s predecessor had sided with the English regularly. Vitelleschi had to deal with a postulatum successfully proposed by the province of Castile, accepted by the congregation, that effectively hobbled the English superior. If implemented it would have been a disaster for the English mission. The General effectively solved the problem by raising the English mission to the status of a vice province. The increasing international nature of the Jesuit movement, enhanced through its missions in Asia, Africa, and South America meant the congregation had to deal with such disparate and diverse subjects as the Jesuits’ role after the Council of Trent, the teaching of Philosophy in Jesuit Schools, and the apparel worn on Chinese missions. A fascinating insight into the Jesuit movement at a seminal moment in its history.

See De Backer-Som. V 95ff. Otherwise apparently unrecorded.

L910

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