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The Question of the Jesuits Revisited: Reestablishing Education

Suárez y Navarro, Juan. Juicio crítico sobre el restablecimiento de la compañía de Jesús, ó investigaciones filosófico-políticas, sobre si conviene en las presentes circunstancias reponerla en la República Mexicana. México: Impr. de Vicente García Torres, 1841. (Pamphlet [2], 20 p., [2], 23cm x 15cm)

The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, were well known in colonial Mexico for their missionary efforts, particularly in the harshest regions of Mexico’s northern frontier, as well as for their role as educators in both rural and urban settings. They established some of the premier universities and seminaries in the New World, including the prestigious Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo and seminary of San Ildefonso. Yet their influence often extended to secular matters as well, and by the reign of Spanish King Charles III, the crown considered the Jesuits to be too powerful for their own good. In 1767, Charles ordered the Jesuits expelled from New Spain, unleashing a torrent of criticism from many Spanish and creole elite who had been educated under the Jesuits. During the war for independence from Spain, a royal order in 1815 formally reestablished the Jesuits in Mexico, but this only lasted until 1820 when the king of Spain was forced to accept the Constitution of 1812. After Mexico officially won its independence, the debate continued throughout the nation as to whether the Jesuits should be allowed back in. By 1841, this debate had reached its height as arguments from both sides were printed everywhere. The following two publications from that year both support the Society of Jesus' reestablishment, but for two different reasons.

Whereas the previous pamphlet was primarily concerned with defending the reputation of the Jesuits as an honorable religious institution, Juan Suárez y Navarro chooses to concentrate his argument on the importance of the Jesuits with regard to the education of Mexico’s youth. He affirms the good works the Jesuits have done for the Catholic Church, as well as concedes to their detractors that the Society has sometimes been less than exemplary in the past. His strongest emphasis, however, is on the power of the Jesuits to “satisfy one of the most urgent national necessities” of reestablishing a solid educational system. He argues that the Jesuits are the most capable of this because of their worthy objectives and their experienced teachers.