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The Question of the Jesuits Revisited: Defense of the Society of Jesus

Defensa de la compañía de Jesús . México: Impr. de Luís Abadiano y Valdés, 1841. (Pamphlet, 8 p., 22cm x 16cm)

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 the 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.

This pamphlet, probably written by the editors of Luis Abadiano y Valdes’ press, seeks to defend the Society of Jesus from its critics. The authors claim that the ill-will many harbor towards the Jesuits stems from heretics, first the Lutherans and the Calvinists who supposedly conspired “to kill them, or if that is found difficult, to expel them, or at least to oppress them with lies and calumnies.” Later, the authors claim that other heretical sects such as the Jansenists, the Molinists, and others continued in their mission “destroying the credit and the reputation of the Jesuits.” Finally, the philosophers and the pagans dealt the final blow by denying the Jesuits’ teachings. Intending to restore the honor of the organization, the authors promise to counter these and other contemporary attacks made against the Society of Jesus in future publications to which readers of this pamphlet are instructed to subscribe.