Any group that rises quickly in power and influence, becomes close to the ones in power, becomes powerful in their own right, amass large amounts of money, and becomes quite popular will be an object of suspicion and rumors. It makes sense. Others watch and wonder how they could be so lucky. Obviously it had to be something unscrupulous, right? People whisper. They create truths that aren’t there. Then truth and fiction become inseparable.
The Jesuits were founded in the early period of the Renaissance and quickly rose in number and power. It did not take long before they became the object of wrath and rumors. The Jesuits became one of the earliest rumored secret societies in history.
The Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus was founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola in 1540. It was originally called “The Company of Jesus” with the intention to educate and send out missionaries throughout the known world. The order grew quickly and spread throughout Europe.
As the order grew, so did their popularity with the papacy. It did not take long before jealousy raised its ugly green head. Many vied for the ear of the papacy and the approval of the reigning Pope. As the Jesuits were in that position, they became the object of hate and persecution.
Suppression of the Order
Enough pressure from royal courts forced Pope Clement XIV in 1773 suppressed the order. The fear had grown to large degrees to where the pope could not ignore it any longer. It came down to supporting the order or losing the following of too many powerful people. It just wasn’t worth it.
This suppression led to assumed approval to persecute the Jesuits. Their property was illegally confiscated across Europe and they were driven underground. It wouldn’t be until 1814 that the order was reinstated by Pope Pius VII as the need for education was seen and the Jesuits were renown for their educational system.
Growth of the Order
Their numbers increased again quickly. It was not long before their numbers were higher than when they were suppressed. Instead of ruining the order or keeping them small from fear, the persecution brought more life to the order than ever before.