Kainulainen, Jaska: JESUIT SELF-EXCLUSION FROM POLITICS.

In this paper I explore the early-modern Jesuits’ self-imposed exclusion from political participation. Divided in two parts, the paper inquires into the normative and pragmatic aspects of such exclusion. In the first part I discuss the ban on political engagement expressed in the Jesuit constitutions and other relevant normative documents of the order. I also elucidate some of the reasons that were given to the Jesuit self-exclusion from politics. In the second part of the paper, however, I discuss a number of cases which show that notwithstanding the normative ban the Jesuits in fact often participated in civic life. I discuss the civic implications of Jesuit education and pinpoint a few cases in which individual Jesuits held positions of significant political impact. Furthermore, I suggest that the pragmatic outlook of the Jesuit order was accompanied by a conscious appreciation of classical rhetoric and prudence, both of which were key aspects of Renaissance and early-modern scientia civilis. In conclusion, I propose that the exclusion from the political sphere that Ignatius Loyola and other leading Jesuits imposed on themselves reflected a general attitude towards religious orders, an attitude according to which members of such orders were expected to restrain themselves from civic engagement. Furthermore, by underlining the civic characteristics of the Jesuit order I conclude that Jesuit self-exclusion from political affairs was little more than a pre-emptive means to circumvent future criticism of the Jesuits’ active participation in civic life.