Jesuit Civil Wars: Theology, Politics and Government under Tirso González (1687-1705), 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Jesuit Civil Wars

Theology, Politics and Government under Tirso González (1687-1705), 1st Edition

By Jean-Pascal Gay


336 pages

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Founded in 1540, the Society of Jesus quickly established itself as one of the most dynamic, influential but divisive orders within early-modern Catholicism. Yet whilst the order's role in combating Protestantism, reforming the Catholic Church and advising rulers during its first century has been well documented, much less is understood about its later years. Covering the generalate of Tirso González (1687-1705), this book offers a window onto Jesuit politics and theology during the late seventeenth century. González's generalate was dominated by two crises - one political, the other theological - both of which were to have important ramifications for the Jesuits and the wider Catholic world. The first of these was the confrontation between Louis XIV and the Papacy over the question of control of the church in France. González strongly and publicly supported Pope Innocent XI's primacy over the French clergy, despite widespread opposition from many French Jesuits who took a more 'Gallican' position. The second crisis revolved around González's opposition to the theory of 'Probabilism', to which the bulk of Jesuits subscribed. His publication of a book opposing a theological position that was deeply ingrained within the order, provided another fracture line that was to generate much heat. Whilst both crises were essentially matters for the Jesuits, this study demonstrates how they developed and played themselves out on a wide, international and increasingly public stage, showing how contending identities were forged from apparently narrow but intense and durable conflicts. As such, the book not only illuminates the role and theology of González, but also the tensions within late seventeenth-century Catholicism. It contends that, by the end of the century, Catholic confessional culture appears unable to resolve its contradictory relationship to the individual, which it empowers and dismisses at the same time.


'Jesuit history has, in recent decades, become a very lively topic among a wide range of historians, especially the period from 1540 to 1773, that is, from the foundation of the Jesuits to their (temporary) suppression in 1773. Gay makes a very important contribution to our understanding of this complex history, in particular to how what may seem an obscure controversy touched a number of visceral and enduring issues, issues pertinent far beyond the Jesuit context.' H-France '… dies ist ein wichtiges Buch: es geht weit über die Ordensgeschichte oder die Moraltheologie hinaus - es ist ein Beitrag zur Archäologie und Dialektik der Moderne. [… this is an important book: it goes well beyond the history of the [Jesuit] Order or of Moral Theology - it is an essay in the archeology and dialectics of modernity.]' Francia-Recensio 'This study helps to fill out the neglected century in Jesuit history between 1640 and 1740. At the same time it contributes to scholarship on the Society’s first century by examining how the geopolitical realities that the Jesuits attempted to negotiate in this earlier period persisted and even intensified as states grew more powerful in the later seventeenth century.' Renaissance Quarterly 'The narration based on documents shows a deep knowledge of Jesuit sources as well as an interesting subtlety of interpretation… the book is now an unavoidable reference…' Theological Studies 'The aptly names Jesuit Civil Wars is a solid study of the practical crisis� concerning Jesuit moral teachings as well as the divergent views within the society about its governance and the extent - and limits - of the authority of the father general.' Sixteenth Century Journal ’Jean-Pascal Gay's Jesuit Civil Wars is not only a fascinating analysis of contemporary confessional politicisation and the various tensions which arose in the Society of Jesus, but it is a model of research, learned, well-documented and admirably thorough. Tirso Gonzál

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Towards a state of perpetual crisis? González, the Jesuits and the demands of French absolutism; Jesuit probabilism and González's probabilism; 'For my honour and that of the Society': the crisis over the publication of the de Recto usu opinionum probabilium; 'Great troubles and discords, and more than intellectual': government, theology and partisanship in the Society of Jesus under González; Epilogue: a not-so-conflictual memory; Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Jean-Pascal Gay is maître de conférences in Early-Modern History in the Faculty of History of the University of Strasbourg, France, and former fellow (membre) of the École française de Rome.

About the Series

Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700

Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700
Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700 addresses all varieties of religious behaviour extending beyond traditional institutional and doctrinal church history. It is interdisciplinary, comparative and global, as well as non-confessional. It understands religion, primarily of the 'Catholic' variety, as a broadly human phenomenon, rather than as a privileged mode of access to superhuman realms. Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700 will appeal to academics and students interested in the history of late medieval and early modern western Christianity in global context. The series embraces any and all expressions of traditional religion, books in it will take many approaches, among them literary history, art history, and the history of science, and above all, interdisciplinary combinations of them.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century