Formally called “The Society of Jesus,” the Jesuits (“JEZ-sue-its”) is a subdivision of the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1540 in Spain by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The Society of Jesus is only open to men. There is a formal membership process which can last for many years. Once accepted into the order, Jesuits serve in missionary or other service posts around the world. They are directed by the Superior General who reports to the Pope in Rome.
There are approximately 14,000 members around the world. Jesuits have their own classification of priest, which is different than a mainstream Catholic priest. Jesuits who are not priest are called “brothers,” and they are free to marry.
Some Catholics consider themselves “lay Jesuits,” without formal membership or application. Generally, they commit themselves to service and a simple lifestyle.
The Jesuits have a long history of education. There are 27 official Jesuit colleges in the United States (the nearest to me is Creighton, in Omaha), and 60+ high schools. This page at Xavier University explains a Jesuit education and how it differs from the norm, however, the differences are quite vague and subjective.
Why I Looked It Up
I had always wondered. In particular, I remember David Hyde Pierce’s character in The Good Wife explaining that he never remarried because he was a Jesuit.
Added on May 29, 2023
Conspiracies and Secret Societies says:
Since the time of the Counter-Reformation,…the Jesuits have been the villains in countless conspiracy theories.
Some notable (supposed) plots:
- They authored The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (see Zionism)
- They sank the Titanic to kill some wealthy Jews
- They worked with the Nazis to round up Jews during World War II, and even tutored Hitler on the writing of Mein Kampf
- They both engineered 9/11 and assassinated JFK
The book says a lot of this comes from St. Ignatius’s reverence for the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:10. Paul said:
Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
In a private letter, Ignatius wrote:
Listen to the bishop, if you want God to listen to you… let your baptism be your shield, your faith a helmet, your charity a spear, your patience, like full armor.
Some feel that this emboldened the Jesuits to view violence as a tool of their faith.