- Reform Catholicism and the International Suppression of the Jesuits in Enlightenment Europe by Dale K. Van Kley
The suppression of the Society of Jesus is a well-researched historical topic; “reform Catholicism,” however, is an original concept. As Van Kley frames it, “[T]he adjective ‘Gallican’ best describes Reform Catholicism’s call for the loosening of the Catholic Church’s hierarchical structure and the subordination of its temporal aspects to the authority of the state; and ‘Augustinian’ is the best candidate for designating its theological, moral, and spiritual orientation” (16). Intending this concept as a replacement for the idea of “Catholic Enlightenment,” Van Kley advances both an original and a familiar thesis: The critique against the Jesuits based on the theology of St. Augustine, the drive to enhance the national churches and the episcopacy, the safeguarding of national rulers against papal authority, and the struggle between Jansenists and Jesuits all originated in France but came to characterize developments in Spain, [End Page 269] Portugal, and Italy, ultimately leading to the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. This long sequence of historical developments resulted in the emergence of a reform Catholicism in France that endowed first the parlements and later the General Estates with an increased opposition to monarchy, aristocracy, and reactionary episcopal hierarchy in the opening phase of the French Revolution. What begins with the story of the Jesuits and the rise of anti-Jesuitism ends with an argument about the French Revolution and the Restoration that Van Kley first proposed in The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution, 1560–1791 (New Haven, 1999).
This detailed, well-researched, and densely written work is divided into three parts and six chapters. In Part I, which relies on a large body of scholarship as well as original research, Van Kley argues that the concept of reform Catholicism is preferable to that of Catholic Enlightenment because it can cover a longer time span (sixteenth to eighteenth century) and has theological coherence. France is much the center of his detailed account of the genesis and trajectory of anti-Jesuitism, but he also draws examples from Spain, Mexico, and the Jesuit Missions in South America, India, and China.
Part II comprises the bulk of the book and most of the original research. Van Kley provides an exhaustive account of the polemical, political, diplomatic, and theological developments that led to the expulsion of Jesuits from Portugal and from the Bourbon lands of France, Spain, and Naples. The story does not end with the dissolution of the Society in 1773 but continues with the unfolding of reform Catholicism in the Habsburg lands. Van Kley also describes the reforms of Emperor Joseph II in Austrian territory and the popular uprising in the Austrian Netherlands against these measures of centralization and religious reform.
In Part III, Van Kley makes the case that the suppression of the Jesuits polarized Catholic Europe, when some erstwhile critics of the Society recoiled at the anti-papal, statist, and quasi-Protestant forces that the anti-Jesuit campaign had unleashed. In this regard, France represented both the norm and the exception, paving the way for Van Kley to reprise his argument about the religious origins of the French Revolution in this impressive work of scholarship.