The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius Loyola on a principal of strict obedience to papal and superiors’ authorities, yet the nature of the Jesuits's work and the turbulent political circumstances in which they operated, inevitably brought them into conflict with the Catholic hierarchy. In order to better understand and contextualise the debates concerning obedience, this book examines the Jesuits of south-western Europe during the generalate of Claudio Acquaviva. Acquaviva’s thirty year generalate (1581-1615) marked a challenging time for the Jesuits, during which their very system of government was called into doubt. The need for obedience and the limits of that obedience posed a question of fundamental importance both to debates taking place within the Society, and to the definition of a collective Jesuit identity. At the same time, struggles for jurisdiction between political states and the papacy, as well as the difficulties raised by the Protestant Reformation, all called for matters to be rethought. Divided into four chapters, the book begins with an analysis of the texts and contexts in which Jesuits reflected on obedience at the turn of the seventeenth century. The three following chapters then explore the various Ignatian sources that discussed obedience, placing them within their specific contexts. In so doing the book provides fascinating insights into how the Jesuits under Acquaviva approached the concept of obedience from theological and practical standpoints.
'the book will ... prove immensely useful in making the English-speaking academic public more familiar with Silvia Mostaccio's take on Jesuit and, more generally, early modern cultures of obedience.' Journal of Jesuit Studies '... provokes further thought and research. ... This book’s rich footnotes and bibliography reveal the amount of recent innovative scholarship on the history of the Jesuits, especially in Italy.' Renaissance Quarterly ’...reads as a kind of theoretical handbook to complement the current flourishing state of Jesuit studies, helping fellow-scholars to locate some of the less visible, but essential, features of the Society in the early modern period. ... Another benefit of the book is that it prompts us to reflect that the irreconcilable tensions between conscience and obedience played out so vividly - even painfully - within the Society, might actually be the cause of crediting the Jesuits with having accommodated one of the most difficult tensions of the age.’ European History Quarterly