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Chapter 27

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 Catholicism.

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 opponents.

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.

  Preterist Historicist Futurist
Lion: Babylon Babylon Babylon
Bear: Media Medo-Persia Medo-Persia
Leopard: Persia Greece Greece
Terrible Beast: Greece Rome Rome
Little Horn: Antiochus IV Epiphanes Papacy 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. (Matthew 24:15)

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 fruit.

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 Jesuits.

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, pp. 25—27)

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.

 

 

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