Parting Shots The Storm Over The Jesuits

Parting Shots: The Storm Over The Jesuits

While the inspiration for creative and outstanding scholastics was played out, the seventeenth century saw the influence of scholasticism continue in Spain and spread to other countries. The great champion and disseminator of the Salamanca School was of course the Jesuit Order. In Spain and elsewhere the Jesuits produced a huge number of manuals on moral theology for the use of confessors, in which they discussed, among other matters, the application of theological and moral principles to the ethics of business. The most important instance was the pious Father Antonio de Escobar y Mendoza's (1589-1669) Theologiae Moralis (1652). This extremely popular work was reprinted in 37 editions in a brief period of time, and was also translated and published in France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Escobar's work was basically a restate­ment of two dozen previous books on moral theology, mainly by such Span­ish writers as Molina, Suarez and de Lugo. He repeated the Salamancan emphasis on common estimation, scarcity, and the supply of money as deter­minants of market price.

The Salamanca School was particularly influential in Italy. There the Genoese philosopher and jurist, Sigismundo Scaccia (c.1568-1618), pub­lished a Tractatus de Commerciis et Cambiis in 1618, which was reprinted often in Italy, France, and Germany down to the middle of the eighteenth century. Scaccia's Tractatus repeated the price and foreign exchange theories of the Salamancans, including Covarrubias, Azpilcueta and Lessius.

Other prominent neo-Salamancans in Italy were the Jesuit Cardinal Giambattista de Luca (1613-83), who published his multi-volume Theatrum Veritatis et Justitiae in Rome in the 1670s; Martino Bonacina (c.1585-1631); and Antonino Diana (1585-1663).

In France, however, the influential Escobar manual ran into a storm of abuse for its sophisticated permissive attitude towards usury. The abuse was led by an influential crypto-Calvinist group within the French Catholic Church that raised a furious row about the alleged moral laxity of the Jesuit Order.

The assault on the Jesuits and on their devotion to reason and the freedom of the will had begun in Belgium, and was accelerated towards the end of the sixteenth century by Dr Michael de Bay, chancellor of the great University of Louvain. Bay, and Baianism, launched a furious intramural warfare within Louvain against Leonard Lessius and the Jesuits on the faculty. Chancellor de Bay managed to convert most of the Louvain faculty to his creed, which adopted the Calvinist creed of predestination of an elect. In France, the absolutist pro-royalists began a bitter campaign against the Jesuit Order, which they linked with the Catholic Leaguers and the assassination of the centrist and pro-Calvinist Henrys. In particular, the attorney Antoine Arnauld, defending royal absolutism to the hilt, petitioned for the expulsion of the Jesuits from France, angrily declaiming that they were the worst enemies of 'the sacred doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings'. Arnauld was originally employed to press the case against the Jesuits by the University of Paris, and its theological faculty of the Sorbonne, which had also been swept by the crypto-Calvinist tide.

In the early seventeenth century, two disciples of Michael de Bay, both former students of the Jesuits, took up the cudgels for his cause. Most important was Cornelius Jansen, founder of the neo-Calvinist Jansenist move­ment, which became extremely powerful in France. Jansen, like many openly Protestant theologians, demanded to go back to the moral purity of St Augus­tine and of the Christian doctrines of the fourth and fifth centuries. If Jansen was the theoretician of the movement, his friend the Abbe Saint-Cyran was the brilliant tactician and organizer. With the help of Mere Angelique, supe­rior of the nuns of Port-Royal, Saint-Cyran gained control of these influential nuns. Mere Angelique was the daughter of Antoine Arnauld, and indeed a dozen of the Port-Royal nuns were members of the powerful Arnauld family. One of the Port-Royal nuns was the sister of the brilliant young philoso­pher, mathematician, and French stylist Blaise Pascal, and young Pascal took up the Jansenist cause with a witty and blistering attack on the Jesuits, particularly Escobar, for his alleged moral failure in being soft on usury. Pascal even coined a popular new term, escobarderie, with which he denounced the important discipline of casuistry as being evasive quibbling. Another victim of Pascal's poison pen was the austere French Jesuit Etienne Bauny. In his Somme des Pechez (1639), Bauny extended the weakening of the usury ban by going so far as to justify interest charges higher than the maximum rate permitted by royal decree for, after all 'the debtors entered into them willingly'. Moreover, Bauny's trenchant voluntaryism defended the usury contract on another incisive ground: since it is licit for a lender to hope for a borrower to give him a free gift, it should also be licit for the lender and the borrower to make such a definite pact beforehand. How can making a contract for something be evil if hoping for the result is permissi­ble? Once permit such justifications by voluntary choice, and then of course all assaults on usury and other free market activities must go by the board.

Although the Jansenists were eventually condemned by the pope, Pascal's scurrilous rampage against the Jesuits had considerable effect in helping to end the reign of scholastic thought, at least in France.