The Papacy and the Jesuits
The War of the
Austrian Succession (1740—1748) was brought about by Emperor Charles VI
of the Holy Roman Empire having no male heir. He had obtained from his
subservient states—Austria, of which he was king, Hungary, Bohemia,
Southern Netherlands, Lombardy and the Duchies of Tuscany and
Milan—assurances that his daughter, Maria Theresa, would succeed him as
the Austrian monarch, but extracted no similar promises in respect of
the Imperial Throne, the second of his regal titles.
Frederick the Great of Prussia took the opportunity
to wrest Silesia from the Empire. This war eventually further weakened
the Papacy in the middle of the eighteenth century just as the War of
the Spanish Succession had done at its beginning. Benedict XIV,
remaining neutral, saw the Papal States become arenas for battle between
the contending sides in the conflict. Rather flatteringly he described
himself as a "martyr of neutrality."
The Habsburgs had held the Imperial Crown of the Holy
Roman Empire since the fifteenth century. In general they had served
Rome well and the Habsburgs had been staunch supporters of Roman
At the conclusion of the War of the Austrian
Succession the Habsburgs were still in a strong, though weakened
position. Maria Theresa was retained as monarch of Austria and her
husband was placed on the Imperial Throne as Francis I. But,
significantly, Prussia was awarded permanent sovereignty over Silesia in
the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Hitherto Prussia had been a small
player in continental conflicts, with a small population, indefensible
borders and a poor economy. From 1748 she was to grow in stature as a
mighty Protestant counter-balance to the Papacy in Europe.
Papal prestige was not improved in Spain by Clement
XII elevating the Bishop of Málaga to the college of Cardinals, full
well aware of his affront to Papal authority. If Clement had meant to
use this flattery as a lever to soften the Bishop’s stand, he was to be
disappointed. King Philip V of Spain had appointed a Jesuit confessor
who, believing Benedict was about to crush the Jesuit Order, embraced
the Bishop of Málaga’s views.
Upon Benedict’s death only two Clements stood in
history between him and the Pope of the deadly wound, Pius VI.
Clement XIII (1758—1769) had the vain task of seeking
to protect the Jesuits from an escalating number of enemies. All his
efforts proved futile as the Jesuits were expelled successively from
Portugal (1759), France and its colonies (1764), Spain and its dominions
(1767), Naples (1767) and Parma (1768). The Society of Jesus had its
properties confiscated and they were decimated in the Americas and Asia.
Clement died of a stroke as successively the ambassadors of Spain,
Naples and France demanded the disbandment of the order.
The Bourbon dynasty was emphatic about its demands.
Once again we cite the Papal apologist, Joseph Brusher S.J., who, being
a Jesuit priest himself, had no little interest in this matter. His
comments indicate the growing Papal impotence.
The spirit of the age which frowned on religious
orders and papal control had entered the courts of the Catholic kings.
. . . Clement XIII had to face the terrible onslaught of the Catholic
powers on the Jesuits. This order with its fourth vow of special
obedience to the Pope and its insistence on solid Christian education,
was a cinder in the eye of "enlightened" despots and their ministers.
As followers of a false "enlightenment" they were offended by the
Jesuits’ staunch Christianity; as believers in the all-powerful state,
they objected to an order so devoted to the Pope. Regalists,
Jansenists, Gallicans and infidels found one common hate—the Jesuits.
(Brusher, op.cit, p. 496)
It took Clement XIV to fulfill the wishes of all
In the meantime France overran the Papal territory of
Avignon and Naples grabbed Benevento from the Papacy. Upon Clement
XIII’s death the deadly wound was still twenty-nine years in the future
but many non-lethal though debilitating wounds were sapping the life of
the Papacy. Even the Concordat which Clement XIII made with Spain was
heavily weighted on the Spanish side with the pope conceding much.
Clement XIV’s acquiescence to the Bourbon demand for
the dissolution of the Society of Jesus was a massive blow to the
Papacy. The Jesuits from their inception in the sixteenth century had
been loyal supporters of the Pope. In 1562 they had provided the telling
arguments for the retention of tradition as a source of faith by the
Council of Trent.
A few years later two Jesuit priests proposed
separate lines of theological reasoning in order to protect the Papacy
from the Protestant identification of it as the Antichrist. In 1604 de
Alcazar set forth the preterist view that the antichrist appeared in the
person of a minor Greek Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who
desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century b.c. Thus de
Alcazar asserted that the Prophecy was fulfilled before the Papacy was
established; indeed, before the prophecy itself was given! In 1585
Francisco Ribera, on the other hand, had proposed the futurist view,
incredibly now accepted by most evangelical Protestants, that the
antichrist is an evil being yet to appear on earth.
The three different interpretations of Daniel 7 may
be clarified by the following table. The Protestant Reformers correctly
followed the Historicist view.
||Future Evil Man
just prior to Christ’s return
Neither the preterist nor the futurist position stand
up to scrutiny. The preterist point of view fails on three scores. The
separation of Media and Persia may be a convenient ploy to achieve de
Alcazar’s aim to deflect implication of the Papacy, but it destroys the
prophecy. Medo-Persia was a united kingdom when it conquered Babylon in
538 b.c. It was not the Medes alone who conquered. Second, here we see a
succession of empires of great might. The prophecy is not dealing with
bit-players, which Antiochus IV was. He was a minor king. In no way did
he even approach the stature of the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia and
Greece. Most damaging to de Alcazar’s thesis, which places the
abomination of desolation prophecy in the second century b.c., are the
prophetic words of Jesus:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of
desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place.
Thus Jesus saw the fulfilment of the abomination of
desolation fulfilled in the future, not two centuries before
He came to earth.
The futurist deflection of the identification of the
Papacy as the Antichrist is based on an entirely unwarranted
disjunction. In this prophecy each power arose as the other collapsed.
There was no period of time between the fall of one and the rise of the
following kingdom. Yet Ribera would have us believe that more than a
millennium separated the fall of Western Imperial Rome and the rise of
the little horn, which at least Ribera correctly identified as the
antichrist. How Evangelical Protestants rejected the Biblically
consistent view of the founders of their faiths—the historicist view—is
set forth in our book, Antichrist is Here, Hartland Publications,
Rapidan, Virginia, second edition, 1998.
The futurist interpretation is inconsistent, for such
a view demands an unwarranted disjunction in the history of the
opposition to pure truth which commenced with ancient Babylon and will
continue until the destruction of modern Babylon. Satan has never ceased
his work. To suggest that there was a lull in that opposition for more
than 1500 years, speaks nothing of Satan’s fierce and continuous
opposition to God and His flock.
Such Protestants have even proposed another
disjunction in time in the seventy week prophecy of Daniel 9, severing
the last week of that continuous period and placing it at the period
just prior to the Second Coming. Evangelical Protestants would do well
to return to the carefully studied position of their spiritual
forefathers in this matter, for the acceptance of the Jesuit fabrication
has blinded them to the aims of the Papacy in the twenty-first century.
The success of the Jesuits in convincing Protestants
of their implausible interpretation of the antichrist is bearing dire
Further, the Jesuits established a network of
educational activities which undermined the Protestant faith in the
European universities, colleges and schools. They were also diligent
overseas missionaries. The dissolution of this order under pressure of
the Bourbon kings was a fearful setback for the Papacy. Clement XIV,
significantly the last pope to select that name, had committed a form of
Papal suicide. When the Habsburg Queen, Maria Theresa, married her
daughters to Bourbon princes, Clement’s resistance crumbled. On August
16, 1773 Dominus ac Redemptor ordered the suppression of the
Historian Hales set forth the pitiful state of the
Papacy as it rode the trail to its demise in the eighteenth century.
We should not seek to minimise the importance of
the decline of the great Catholic empires: but we should recognise
that something subtler and deeper than any shift in world political
power was operating against the Church in the eighteenth century. This
was the growth of Erastianism (named from the Swiss theologian,
Erastus), or, as the French thinkers called it, Etatism, the
enlarged sense of the omnicompetence of the State to control all
aspects of a country’s life, including its religion. The Church called
this Gallicanism. . . .
The exalted and new notion which the eighteenth
century entertained of the functions of the State was bound to lead it
into conflict with the claims of the Church. If the prince was now to
be the "father of his people," if, with Louis XIV, he was to cry
l’Etat c’est moi! [I am the State!] then it followed that he would
resent much more keenly any interference from Rome (for instance in
the appointment of bishops) and that many aspects of life which had
hitherto belonged to the spiritual sphere (such as marriage,
education, or charity) would come increasingly under state control. .
But, although that great Pope Innocent XI (1676—89)
had withstood Louis XIV at the height of his power on the matter of
episcopal appointments in France, no eighteenth-century Pope measured
up to Innocent’s stature, and the position of the papacy, and with it
the vitality and influence of the spiritual power, declined ominously.
Two events, both belonging to the second half of
the eighteenth century, illustrate all too clearly the new weakness
that had overtaken the papacy. In 1782 Pope Pius VI made the journey
to Vienna to try to persuade the Emperor Joseph II to desist from his
ecclesiastical policies. . . . That Pius made the journey, and that he
failed in his mission, were perhaps equally significant; the papacy
was now very near its nadir.
But the other event had the more lasting
consequences: this was the suppression of the Jesuits throughout the
world, by Pope Clement XIV in the year 1773 . . . "for the sake of
peace, . . . and because the Society can no longer attain the aims for
which it was founded, and on secret grounds which we enclose in our
heart." (E. E. Y. Hales, The Catholic Church in the Modern World,
With remarkable accuracy that which the apostle John
received in vision as a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos was about to
unfold. God’s timing was inerrant. No pope, no prelate, no priest, no
potentate, no prince, no president, no prime minister—no person could
alter that time. God’s will brooks no haste, it permits no delay.