- Reform Catholicism and the International Suppression of the Jesuits in Enlightenment Europe by Dale Van Kley
Introduction by Jeffrey Burson, Georgia Southern University
Professor Dale K. Van Kley’s book, Reform Catholicism and the International Suppression of the Jesuits in Enlightenment Europe is the most recent of four monographs scattered across a scholarly career spanning well over forty years. Although Van Kley modestly notes in his acknowledgments that this book is the accidental offshoot of a still ongoing and longer-term project on the trajectory of “Reform Catholicism” from circa 1750 to 1804, it remains, for all that, a considerable achievement. Throughout Van Kley’s expansive and detailed narrative, he argues, first, that Gallican- or Jansenist-derived anti-Jesuit discourses, mostly French in origin, were exported to the rest of Catholic Europe increasingly after 1750, providing thereby the ideological underpinning and justification of the suppression of the Jesuit Order throughout Catholic Europe and its imperial peripheries. Second, Van Kley’s work asserts that a surprisingly active, transnational, and coherent network of anti-Jesuit scholars, jurists, statesmen, and diplomats actually provided the impetus for a coordinated international campaign to demolish the Jesuits as prelude to a brief era of sweeping Catholic Reform cut short by the French Revolution (pp. 1–9). The various state-specific suppressions of the Jesuits, and that of the papacy in 1773, have long intrigued historians of the eighteenth century, but surprisingly few volumes have been devoted to these suppressions as a group. Of these works, none have uncovered the possible collaborative, conspiratorial, or transnational origins of the eighteenth-century suppressions. But, based in many years of research into sources in Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, and Portuguese—many of these sources, archival—Van Kley’s most recent book has uncovered, not only that these suppressions had common ideological and socio-cultural origins, but that [End Page 738] they might plausibly be considered a watershed moment in the history of the immediate pre-Revolutionary period of Euro-Atlantic history.
The book is divided into three parts, the first of which concerns itself with the sources, historical context, and rhetoric of anti-Jesuitism, and its vital part in the construction of what would ultimately become Reform Catholicism (pp. 113–50). Part II of the work dives deeply into the interconnections and contrasts among the various national suppressions and expulsions of the Jesuits in Portugal, France, Spain, Naples, and Parma, finally culminating in the first suppression of the order by Pope Clement XIV’s brief, Dominus ac Redemptor in 1773 (pp. 150–240). Part III considers developments in the nearly twenty years separating the papal suppression of the Society of Jesus from the French Revolution (pp. 240–93). In all, Reform Catholicism and the International Suppression of the Jesuits in Enlightenment Europe leaves us with five major historiographical interventions to which I will devote the remainder of this forum’s introduction.
First, Van Kley maintains that many styles of Catholic Reformism— from Febronianism to Josephism, to followers of Pereira—heretofore treated as largely separate species of Catholic Enlightenment or Catholic Reform, are in fact related through a common intellectual genealogy traceable to an international Gallican-inspired Reform Catholicism with roots largely in France. This argument is most stirringly articulated in Van Kley’s discussion of the Gallican roots of Hontheim/Febronius (pp. 24–30) and of Pereira de Figuereido (pp. 30–32). Van Kley does recognize that a sub-stratum comprising kindred roots of Reform Catholicism existed throughout Europe. Afterall, even French Gallicanism was derived from a fifteenth-century conciliarist jurisprudence that set down roots throughout much of late medieval and early modern Europe well before the advent of Jansenists and Jesuits, and in ways that proved vital to the inception of humanism, and to both Protestant and Catholic Reformations. Dale Van Kley’s extensively researched recent book, however, has...