Yogi Berra used to talk about “déjà vu all over again,” and for those of us with any sense of history, we’re seeing it big time with the current Jesuit Pontiff Francis and his henchman, James Martin SJ. That led me to tweet the “reverend père Jesuite” in this way:
I have no doubt that Fr. Martin got the message. But why a “rondeau” in French? The answer to that concerns his order (the Jesuits) and the goal of many prominent in that order, which hasn’t changed in four centuries (and who learned nothing from their own suppression in the interim.)
Without a doubt one of the masterpieces of French literature is Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters. Written after his dramatic conversion experience, the now-Jansenist Pascal went to the mat against the Jesuits, who were for the most part advocating a moral system called casuistry. The Jesuits’ idea was to “bend the rules” to make Catholic morality more palatable to a Catholic public that was drifting away from the Church. He did this (in the first half) by having a Jesuit explain to Pascal (and the reader) all the innovations members of his order made to the practical implementation of the teaching of the church, such as that it was okay to kill your opponent in a duel to defend your honor, to simply fear God and not to love him, etc. For anyone who is familiar with Catholic teaching, listening to the Jesuit is ROFL.
Many editions include the little “rondeau” shown above; it’s translation (I’d love to see better) goes something like this:
RONDEAU TO THE REVEREND JESUIT FATHERS ON THEIR EASY-GOING MORALITY
Go away, sins; the speech without equal
Of the famous troupe rich in Escobar’s evil,
Lets us have your pleasures without their deadly venom:
We taste them without crime; and this new release
Leads without effort to heaven in a profound peace.
Hell loses its rights; and if the devil may complain,
One only needs to say: Come, spirit unclean,
By Bauny, Sánchez, Castro, Gans, Tambourin,
But oh, flattering Fathers, foolish on which you stand,
As the unknown Author who by letters remand,
Your politics have found the end,
Your probabilities are close to their end,
One comes back; look for a New World,
That pretty much sums the Jesuits’ idea up: if we whittle down the demands of the Gospel by searching our “authorities” and finding the most “probable” opinion, we can get rid of these pesky sins and make it easy.
The French Revolution, in the following century, has been characterized as a “bourgeois” revolution. But at the time of the Letters and this rondeau, the bourgeois had other preoccupations. As Pierre Goubert points out in Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen: A New Approach, Exploring the Interrelationship Between the People of a Country and the Power of Its King:
When historians discover and examine the catalogues belonging to libraries of the period they are continually surprised at the amount of space allotted to the devotional and doctrinal works of the Jansenists. Even Saint-Cyran and the Bible de Port-Royal might be found among a merchant’s books, alongside the Ordonnance du Commerce, and this not only in Paris and Rouen but everywhere from Orleans to Nantes, in Languedoc, Grenoble and all over the north of the realm…Jansenism, from a scholastic argument, had become one of the greatest currents of French thought.
The bad part of the rondeau is that the Jesuits did indeed seek a New World, which explains much of the quality of Latin American Catholicism. Now we have a product of both region and religious order as Pope, and the consequences aren’t pretty. He and others been so inculcated with the Marxist idea that the top of society sets the rules to oppress those below that they are ready to move towards a more “liberal” idea not only for “social justice” purposes but also to keep their system full of people. They do not understand that the austerity of Jansenism and like systems, with emphasis on clear rules and discipline, is in fact the real “way up” for the bourgeois in a Christian context, and that entangling morality in Jesuitical complexity only benefits those who pull the strings from the upper reaches of society.
As we all know, the triumph of the Jesuits (the Jansenists made something of a comeback, but it wasn’t enough) didn’t stop the advent of the Enlightenment, even with their “concessions” to the world around them. The bourgeois turned elsewhere for inspiration and ultimately toppled the monarchy which had supposedly backed what was “best” for them, wrecking the Church in France in the process.
I said a long time ago that the Roman Catholic Church is only one bull away from disaster. We now have the possibility that this bull may be in the wings (some people think it’s already been issued.) Or perhaps we’re looking at a series of them. But Francis and his ilk need to wake up to the fact that playing to the crowd–or to the powers that be–won’t save the Church but destroy it, just as it has its liberal Protestant counterparts.
No matter what you think of Roman Catholicism, this would be a catastrophe. The only good thing is that other churches are more than happy to pick up the pieces.