Story of Liberty - Charles Coffin

The Men Who Obey Orders

On that day when the boy who sung for his breakfast was standing before Conrad Cotta's door, there was another boy in Spain who was waiting upon King Ferdinand. His father was a nobleman. The boy never knew what it was to be poor. We may think of him as running here and there carrying letters and despatches. He learns to obey—to do whatever he is commanded to do without asking any questions. It becomes the habit of his life. Obedience is a virtue, and he accomplishes his work with energy and despatch. He is faithful in all his trusts.

Years pass. Ferdinand is dead, and Charles V. is King of Spain. The page is a young man. He has suffered a great disappointment—a lady whom he loves has rejected his suit; and so when Francis I. of France, a few weeks after that meeting with Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, sends an army to drive Charles out of Navarre, and force him to give up the territory which Ferdinand wrested from Catherine de Foix, the cavalier Ignatius Loyola eagerly engages in the war, to forget, in the excitement of the camp, the fair lady who has rejected his suit. He is wounded and taken prisoner. Through the weary days he lies upon his cot. The time is long. His spirits chafe. He offers vows to the Virgin Mary that if she will cure him he will make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His wound heals, and he keeps his vow, for he has learned faithfulness in the court of Ferdinand. He has wonderful visions; the Virgin appears to him, surrounded with supernal glory, to reward him for his fidelity.

Loyola returns to Spain, and has so much to say about his vision that the men who ask questions thrust him into prison as a heretic; but he makes his escape, and flees to France. He is deeply religions, fasting and praying all night. He consecrates himself to the service of the Virgin—to go wherever she may send him, to do what he can in converting the world.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


In Paris he makes the acquaintance of Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, and four other young men, whom he fires with his own lofty enthusiasm for the conversion of the world. They fast and pray, and form themselves into a society, with Loyola as their general, who shall tell them what to do, and they will do it; where to go, and they will go, without asking any questions. They take four solemn oaths:

  1. To obey their general, no matter what he may command them to do.
  2. Never, as individuals, to own any property, but to obtain all they can for the Church.
  3. Never to marry.
  4. To do whatever the Pope commands.

They are animated by one lofty idea—to put forth all their energies to convert the world. For this they will suffer hardship, hunger, poverty privation, sickness, and death. Nothing shall deter them, no obstacle turn them back.

In April, 1538, these seven brethren kneel before Pope Alexander Farnese, in Rome, and ask him to accept their services. They will go o1 come, and will do all that he shall order. The Pope sees that he can use such men to good advantage. He accepts their services, and recognizes the Society of Jesus as an agency of the Church. He issues a bull exempting the brothers from all control except his own. They are not answerable to cardinals, archbishops, or anybody else—not even to kings or emperors, neither to any civil or ecclesiastical law. They never shall be called upon to pay any tithes or taxes.

Loyola draws up a set of actions for the society—not based on the Ten Commandments, nor on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, but on the idea that if an object to be attained is good, they may use any means to obtain it, even though the means may not be good.

"A good motive makes any action right."

That is what Loyola believes. It is right to tell a lie, to take a false oath, to defraud, and commit even murder, if the act is done for the good of the Church. So if the members of the society judge that the Church will be benefited by having a king or queen, or anybody else, put out of the way, it will be right for them to take any means to accomplish it.

"No action wicked in itself is really wicked unless the intention is evil.

"In taking oaths, the members of the society may make mental reservations to break them, if they can benefit the Church by so doing.

"If called upon to justify any of their actions, they may give a false motive instead of the real one. They may equivocate, may justify fraud and deceit, without any scruples of conscience."

The Pope promises to grant them absolution for whatever they may do that in itself would be wrong, but which he will make right, because it is for the good of the Church.

"No member of the society shall submit himself to be examined before any court of justice without the permission of his superior."

This makes the society superior to the State—to kings and emperors—superior to all law.

"If the members are cast into prison for refusing to testify, they are to account it all honor to suffer for the good of the Church."

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


With the Pope's blessing resting upon them, the members of the society go forth, in their enthusiasm, to establish the Church in every land—threading the jungles of India; traversing the deserts of Africa; sailing along the rivers of China; making their way amidst the mountains of Japan; crossing the Atlantic; penetrating the wilds of America; planting the cross on the plains of Brazil and the peaks of the Andes; establishing missions amidst the fertile vales of Mexico; making themselves at home in the wigwams of the Indians of the New World; sailing their canoes on the great lakes; threading the wilderness beyond the Mississippi; establishing missions everywhere; bringing myriads of the human race under the dominion of the Church; persuading men where persuasion will accomplish what they desire, and employing force where force is possible regardless of natural rights and liberties.

We shall see, by-and-by, what will come from such an organization, established on a code of morals which sets up vice for virtue, falsehood for truth, deceit for honesty; which claims to be superior to king, emperor, Parliament, or Congress; which makes itself a despotism over the hearts and consciences of men; which places its spies in every household, taking note of the actions and beliefs of every individual; trampling on all law; setting aside all authority; acknowledging only one whom they are bound to obey—the Pope of Rome!