12. Christendom

12.7 The Counter Reform

12.7.1 Silence, theologians!

In 1562, Breughel painted “Mad Meg” (Dolle Griet), now exposed in Antwerp. The painting (fig. 12.32) depicts the ravages of war as vividly as Picasso did in later times with “Guernica”.

Afbeelding 662

Figure 12.32. Dulle Griet, Mad Meg, was painted by Brueghel the elder around 1562. Fragment. Mayer van den Berg Museum, Antwerp, Belgium.

The Reform was bitterly opposed by the Holy See, the Universities and the theologians, who engaged in a repression that soon became unacceptable. The revolt against religious wars was clearly formulated by Alberto Gentili in 1588, who thought that the reciprocal massacre of Christians by Christians had lasted long enough. He said “Silete theologii, in munere alieno” (Shut up, theologians, on matters alien to you).

Normally, as with former heresies, the Protestants should have been eradicated either by successful negotiation of their return or by successful ordeal of massacre. Yet, they survived. The success of the Reform demonstrated to the believers in the True Faith that God had abandoned his flock. Obviously, with thousands of people leaving the Church, the vast majority of the believers deemed the Renaissance unacceptable. The aspiration was for a simpler life.

The counter reform was ambivalent. It had to fight not only the apostates but also Renaissance and Progress, which was a common combat because the heresiarchs opposed the Libertines as much as the Hierarchy did. Latin as a universal language was reinforced. The infallibility of the pope was asserted. The celibacy of the priests was restated but pictures of the greatest sensuality were emphasized in the Baroque and Rococo styles (see fig. 11.3 and 15.6). Fairy tales, miracles and relics were banned but the word of the Bible was taken literally. Despite a millenary quest for reason and a tradition of support of research and experimentation, the Church entered into a tetanic refusal to adapt to the reality of newly discovered facts. The reverse could also happen: the Belgian priest Lemaître advanced the theory of the primordial Big Bang. Fred Hoyle, in the 1950’s, held that the Universe had no history and always was. He labeled the theory of the Big Bang (as he coined the theory himself in derision) as unscientific. He did so because the theory could be taken as a proof of the existence of God, a step that pope Pius XII did not hesitate to take, to the greatest dismay of Lemaître.

12.7.2 The New Militants

In the years 1450, the most dreadful enemy of the Believer was Lucrecius, a Roman philosopher of the first century BC. Discussing the plurality of worlds and the likelihood of extraterrestrial life, he wrote “You are bound to acknowledge that in other regions there are other earths and various tribes of men and breeds of beasts“. In addition, Lucrecius asserted that matter is constituted of undividable atoms. This Lucrecian doctrine denies that Man alone is created at the image of God and further denies creation itself and, hence, God. Yet, good sense teaches that this libertine view is false. Everyone may verify that water evaporates into nothingness and is recovered as sources, springs and rain; wood and trees burn into nothingness but trees grow again from nothing, etc. Matter is created ex nihilo all the time and this proves the Creation. This elementary defense staged by conventional theologians lacked force of persuasion against new facts. Conventional theologians proved impotent in the defense of the Creed against the attacks of the Libertines.

Two monastic orders were created to combat agnosticism. The Jesuits and Oratorians, far more structured, dedicated, intelligent, generous and efficacious than the orders created by the Protestants 29, were most effective in the common combat against heresy. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Company of Jesus, the Jesuits, in 1540. Ignatius was a military man and he structured the new order as a military corps. This Company of Jesus negated the precepts of love and tolerance preached by Christ and was as fanatical as the Cistercians and Dominicans in the eradication of heresy and the defense of the Roman Catholic Church, but its members, carefully selected and susceptible to demotion or even ejection, were formidably well trained to achieve the goal. Ignatius wrote the “Spiritual exercises” in 1548, which are a machine to build personalities. It consists in a systematic and reasoned method, resting on a lucid anthropology, to form a new Christian militant.

In 1599, the Jesuitical “Ratio studiorum” (rationalization of studies) was written in its final edition. Aristotle had already observed the analogy between the psychology of children and that of animals and this analogy was logically exploited. The “Ratio” is the first organized and conscious pedagogy that proposes a formalization of studies regulated in a systematic way in the smallest details. With the “Ratio”, teaching became an institutional machine. This rationalization of culture is of paramount importance and has been largely exploited in modern times to enhance control over the mind of citizens.

The reconquest of the Libertines was staged on two fronts. The first was to forbid the study of those scientific matters that led to uncertainty and doubt. The second was to confront the enemy on his ground and use science to confound him. The proof of the conservation of matter in chemical reactions such as combustion denies creation ex nihilo. The refutation of this proof of perennial matter existing under the form of atoms was the most pressing duty. It was combated with mathematics. Pythagoras and Aristotle had mathematically proven that matter might be divided ad infinitum. And Infinite means God.

With the astronomical discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, the problem was the inverse. Proof had to be given that the macrocosm is finite. Again, mathematics were abundantly used to ruin the materialistic contention that other worlds than the earth might exist.

The Life Sciences were most heavily subject to revisionist scrutiny and the ravages of the integrist creeds worked deep in the 19th century and are still active today. Most primitive cultures advocate a cosmic continuum of Life. Integrist Christians negate this transformist view advocated by Aristotle because it clashes with the belief in the Creation of Man at the image of God on the 6th day, described in the Genesis. The creation was estimated to have occurred in 4004 BC. Newly accumulated biological and paleontological evidences casted doubt on the creation. The modest French catholic scholar Lamarck had analyzed and meaningfully classified living and fossil forms of snails. On the basis of these studies, he published (1809) “La Philosophie Zoologique” wherein he stated the continuity of Life and the heredity of acquired characters. He did not come to a satisfactory explanation of the filiation of species, i.e. evolution through natural selection as proposed by Darwin in 1859. Lamarck was an early champion of the idea that natural causes rather than divine intervention were responsible for changes in living beings, over time. This Lamarckian theory ran counter to the beliefs prevailing in those days. “Theologically correct” reformed and counter­reformed scientists comforted, with titillating explanations, the profound attachment to the Word of the Bible expressed by an extremely large segment of the Christian population. Cuvier, born German and Protestant 30 but making his career in Paris, was a master in comparative anatomy and paleontology of the vertebrates. He possessed a brilliant intelligence, as Newton, and, as Newton, had a heart much smaller than his brains.

Following only those parameters that sustained his preconceived views, he used his discoveries to explain the sudden disappearance of some species through Universal Cataclysms, as he observed them in geological strata. Each destruction was followed by a re-creation of fully developed new species. Twenty-seven universal catastrophes were recorded (see fig. 12.33). Man was created on the 6th day of the last creation. This scientific proof of universal destructions due to cataclysms erased the miraculous aspect of the biblical deluge and forced the admission of creation, and also of the Last Judgment.

Afbeelding 669

Figure 12.33. “General slice of the diverse earths that compose the soil of the surroundings of Paris”. Cuvier recognized 27 different strata, whose occurrence was attributed to as many cataclysms.

The catastrophist and creationist theories of the brilliant Cuvier, revolutionary ideas in his time because he stated therewith the disappearance of species by non-human causes, were eagerly accepted by integrist believers in the Word of God, while the Romantics shivered with delight on the cataclysms that had preceded and also those that will soon follow the coming of man on this earth. Darwin delivered a frontal attack on these ideas in 1859, with the publication of “The Origin of Species”. However, the new militants remained undaunted. The excellent Jesuit scientist Moigno published in 1863 the “Mathematical Demonstration of the Dogma of the Creation and of the recent Apparition of the Worlds”. Father Moigno mathematically proved the creation by considering the yearly increment of population (1/200) and the total population number, which was set in 1860 at 1.3 x 109. With these numbers, it follows that the number of years (x) needed to pass from 2 (Adam and Eve) to 1.3 x 109 people is 2 (1+ 1/200)x = 1.3 x 109. When this equation is solved, “x” is found to fit with the teaching of the Bible, provided of course one takes the deluge into account. If one starts from the deluge itself, it is easy to calculate that Noah and his three sons and their wives, i.e. four couples, populated the earth by up to 1.3 x 109 people in 4,100 years. From wherever we start our calculations, we arrive at numbers that concur with the word of the bible and the libertine reader will feel compelled to convert.

The dogma of the reality of the presence of Christ into the consecrated host, the simultaneous physical presence of Christ in far away places was explained by infinitesimal calculus: mathematics made everything possible, despite the Council of Trento (1545), when the Church resolved to admit that this dogma is an impenetrable mystery.

Rather than to engage into mathematical belly dancing to explain the unexplainable, the believers were strongly advised by their leaders to abandon mathematics and sciences. Refuge was taken in poetry, Latin, Greek, art, literature, law and other “Humanist” Studies, which allowed assertive creeds to last. The Catholic counter-reform was much more efficacious in the achievement of this goal than were the protestant militants.

12.7.3 The Reconquest

The first priority of the Jesuits and the Oratorians was to save the Church.

The Edict of Nantes, proclaimed by Henry IV in 1598, admitted the exercise of the protestant faith in the French kingdom. In allowing this, the king abandoned the pretence to rule by divine right. At the instigation of the Jesuits, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1684. Arson, rape, torture, harvest burnings and other means of terror were applied to eradicate the Protestants from the kingdom. Louis thereby decapitated the national intelligentsia and denied a country to about 10 % of his subjects. Many of them settled in Berlin, where they helped in the development of the Prussian state. Louis also meanly persecuted the best of Catholics, the Jansenists, among whom Pascal, who hated the Jesuits. Louis’ motto was “Un roi, une loi, une foi” (One king, one law, one faith).

The Jesuits reclaimed France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the meridional part of the Low Countries, Poland, and colonized South America. They favored the teaching of Latin as a universal language and disregarded the pursuit of scientific truths. Science, the heritage of Christendom, was forsaken for the immediate benefit of creating an artificial renewed Christian Unity based on humanist studies and on the assertion of the infallibility of the Pope ex cathedra. In these countries, the spirit of orthodoxy killed the spirit. The integrist and conservative move sterilized individual thought, fossilized the social fabric, annihilated creativity and suppressed evolution. Nothing could progress in an orderly fashion, everything happened through revolutions. The sterilization of inventiveness due to the Counter Reform was not universal as shown by the Augustinian monastery of Brno, in Slovakia, where the monk Mendel made his scientific research on genetics. The integrist move also prevented the lucid Jesuits to adapt the Christian creed to Asiatic and African philosophies. The Church held to the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. As a result, countries that might now have been fully Christian such as India, Indochina, China, Japan and large parts of Africa, with all the consequences this would have had on the evolution of the world, were or are in the process of being lost. Lost? This word may appear inappropriate or even offensive to libertines, anti-clericals and free masons. This essay precisely tends to demonstrate that it is not.

The faithfulness of the Jesuits to the papacy was resented by Nation-States, and the Order paid it dearly. In 1759, the Jesuits were banished from Portugal and all its colonies. France followed in 1764, as did Spain and Naples-Sicily in 1767, and Parma in 1768. Threatening an invasion of pontifical lands, France and Naples forced pope Clemens XIV to issue in 1773 the bull forbidding the Order throughout Christian lands. The pontifical bull was ignored by Prussia and Russia, where the Order could stay. Following Napoleon’s abdication, pope Pius returned to Rome and reinstated the order in 1813. The order was reestablished in Portugal in 1834. The order was dissolved in Austria in 1856. The Jesuits were banished from Germany in 1872.

In the beginning of the 16th century, the Jesuit missionaries in Peking had recorded in detail the Chinese civilization they had undertaken to convert to the Christian faith. In order to convert the emperor and his entourage, they magnified the humanness and benevolent character of these corrupt and despotic rulers. These “letters”, sent to the Vatican, were published between 1702-1776. Voltaire and Diderot took the “curious letters written by the missions in foreign lands” as a proof that an ethical civilization could exist without God and Church.

The free-masons venerated progress, which they thought would bring happiness to the new world they created in France. The Church has been excluded, and excluded itself, from the technical progress that has blossomed during the last three centuries. On the footsteps of our contemporary epoch, the new man sincerely believed that this progress would be accompanied by progress in the governing of one-self and of the city, yet he assisted to an immediate concomitant infantilism in the sphere of the common good. Technical progress and regression of social and political health are the most striking characteristic of the contemporary epoch, which I will analyze in the remaining chapters.


29. John Wesley (1703-1791) was an English theologian who had been seduced by the method of Loyola. He founded a Methodist society that took formidable amplitude after Wesley’s conversion to the Reform.

30. Cuvier was born on the 23rd of August 1769 in Monbéliard, which was a French-speaking possession of the duke of Wurtemberg, situated in the East of France. The land of Monbeliard was annexed by France in 1793.

This entry was posted in 12. Christendom. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.