Society of Jesus

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Society of Jesus
Society of Jesus.png
Abbreviation SJ, Jesuits
Motto Ad maiorem Dei gloriam
Existence 1534—present
Type Catholic religious order
Headquarters Church of the Gesu, Rome, Italy
  Superior General   Adolfo Nicolás
Founder Ignatius of Loyola

The Society of Jesus (Latin Societas Iesu, S.J. and S.I. or SJ, SI) is the largest male Catholic religious order whose members are called Jesuits. Jesuit priests and brothers—known colloquially as “God’s marines”[1]—are engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 states on six continents reflecting the Formula of the Institute (principle) of the Society. They are known in the fields of theology work (in schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties) and obtrusive missionary work, giving retreats, hospital and parish ministry.

The Society was founded by Ignatius of Loyola, who after being wounded in a battle, experienced a religious conversion and composed the Spiritual Exercises to make his fellows “corpes devoted to Christ”, as he says it. In 1534, Ignatius gathered six young men to vow poverty, chastity, and then obedience to the pope. Rule 13 of Ignatius' Rules for Thinking with the Church said: “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it”[2]. Ignatius' plan of the order's organization of 1539 was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 by the bull containing the Formula. The Society participated in the Counter-Reformation and later in modernizing the church.

The Society of Jesus is consecrated under the patronage of Madonna Della Strada, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is led by a Superior General, currently Adolfo Nicolás.[3][4] The headquarters of the Society, its General Curia, is in Rome. The historic curia of St Ignatius is now part of the Collegio del Gesù attached to the Church of the Gesù, the Jesuit Mother Church.


Origins in Spain

The three most important men in the foundation of the Society of Jesus were: Ignatius of Loyola, Jerónimo Nadal and Juan de Polanco. Igantius was the main figure involved and was from a Basque-Spanish noble family known as the de Lazcanos who had become Lords of Loyola in the 14th century. There is no evidence that he had Jewish ancestry, however, he did allow "New Christians" of Jewish descent into his organisation (when the Church in Spain had a strongly anti-converso attitude) and early on they had a prominent role until Jesuits becoming anti-converso in the time of Everard Mercurian; fourth Superior General, 1573–1580. A feudal knight, Igantius was injured during the War of the League of Cambrai and while in recovery, was inspired by the spiritual work De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony to devote his life to Christ. At first he hoped to recapture the Holy Land for Christianity, but with the rise of Protestantism, the Jesuits would instead become a vanguard of the Counter-Reformation, while still promoting a culture of Renaissance-derived humanism.


The Jesuits have attracted a significant amount of controversy during their history, from different groups of people, at different times for different reasons. Jesuits were strongly reviled by Protestants because they were the most competant opponents of their movement, playing a leading role in the Counter-Reformation. A significant body of anti-Jesuit literature, especially in the Anglosphere built up in relation to this; modern examples such as the Evangelical Zionist, Eric Jon Phelps and his Vatican Assassins or the works of Jack Chick are examples of this genre. For similar competative reasons, they are disliked by the Orthodox in Eastern Europe, because they played a prominent role in the Uniate movement where Orthodox Christians were brought into unity with Rome (particularly in areas such as the Ukraine).

The Jesuits developed a militant conception of forwarding the interests of the Catholic Church, coupled with a high level of systematic education (their schools taught the trivium) envoking the ire of rival groups inside and outside the Church (the Dominicans were particularly critical of them, inside the Church).

Some Jesuits were anti-Jewish, for example Fr. Leonard Feeney.

The Jesuits have become controversial within traditional Catholic circles for several differents reasons in recent history. Earlier the Jesuits had been seen as opponents of the French Revolution, with the Jesuit priest Augustin Barruel authoring books such as Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism. However, figures such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner had a leading role in liberal movements and the creation of the Vatican II Church. Under Pedro Arrupe (Secretary General, 1965–1983) some tried to merge Christianity with Marxism as "liberation theology", especially prominent in South America.

The Jesuits, through organisations such as the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe are actively involved in the mass immigration to Europe of groups such as Blacks.


  • Erich Ludendorff, Mathilde Ludendorff: Das Geheimnis der Jesuitenmacht und ihr Ende. Ludendorffs Volkswarte Verlag, München 1929

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