Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jesuits vs. Dominicans

Lawrence Lew, OP, one of my fellow nominees in the Best Blog by a Seminarian category notes:

"It really is an honour to have received a Nomination for "Best Blog by a Seminarian"... There are many blogs I enjoy that to my surprise did not receive any nomination in the 21 categories.

It's a close race in the category I've been nominated for, and as God would have it, there's a time-honoured and traditional rivalry between the SJ and the OP in progress! Oh, He does have a great sense of humour and I love it! :)"

You might not know the story behind this rivalry between the Jesuits & Dominicans. But, since it's one of the great stories in Church history, I thought I'd give a brief summary.

In the sixteenth century, when the teachings of Calvin and Luther came to be more widely disseminated, it brought up some questions among Catholic theologians about the relationship between grace and free will. A particularly bitter battle in this vein broke out between the Dominicans and the Jesuits, the Dominicans holding the to what had been the more widely held Thomistic opinion, and the Jesuits proposing a somewhat altered view in hope of better answering the challenges of the Protestant reformers. The first phase of this argument, which began in Belgium, lasted from 1584-1588. In 1588, the matter was referred to Rome and Pope Sixtus V told them to stop arguing about it.

Evidently, the silence didn't last too long and the controversy broke out anew in Spain, also in 1588. The Jesuit view was condemned by the Dominicans as being Semi-Pelagian. The Dominican view was condemned by the Jesuits as being too Calvinist. In 1594, the new Pope Clement VIII ordered the argument stopped again and began to investigate the matter, seeking opinions from several of the major universities. He even established a commission in 1598 to look into the matter. The superior generals of both orders were commanded to appear with their theologians before the commission the next year. A year or so of such sessions were held, with no resolution. Another series of debates began in the presence of the Pope from 1602-1605, sixty-eight of them in all. Clement died in 1605, followed by the brief papacy of Leo IX, and then Paul V became Pope. Paul V presided over seventeen debates.

Finally, in 1607, the Pope issued a decree which allowed each order to defend its own doctrine, demanded that they not condemn each other, and asked them to await a decision from the Holy See. The decision never came.

(I'm not a historian so the facts may not be exact--my sources might not be right--but I think you get the picture!)

My understanding is that this also ended in an agreement that upon the death of the general superior of either order, the living general of the other order would preside at the funeral mass. I think this may still be the custom today (but I couldn't find an authoritative source on that).

So, when people talk about rivalry between Dominicans and Jesuits, it's rooted in this little argument about grace which lasted 23 years and was never resolved!!


Anonymous Estefanía Salazar said...

I´ve had the opportunity to work with (seminarian) Jesuits and some Dominican sisters at the same time. They often play jokes off at each other, at the expense of this historical "rivalry". At the beginning, it suprised me, but after explanations were given, I understood that is nowadays a funny way for each group to relate to each other. I wonder if this happens between other orders of the Church.

But there seems it has a more serious outcome, like the funeral mass custom. If you can confirm that fact in the future, please tell us.

Thanks :)


5:33 PM  
Blogger Maureen Martin said...

Um, since the Calvinist doctrine of predestination literally turns my stomach in knots...I think I will go with the Jesuits on this one..

BTW, I think St. Francis de Sales, who was not a Jesuit, found the Jesuit teaching on free will very comforting. In fact, it sort of saved him from almost having a breakdown of sorts in seminary.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Maureen Martin said...


Now you guys are taking on Opus Dei! Ha!

9:09 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I am reminded of the following Jesuit vs. Dominican joke:

What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?
Well, they were both founded by Spaniards, St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits.
They were also both founded to combat heresy: the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants.

What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?
Well, have you met any Albigensians lately?

[Note: This joke is obviously told from a Dominican perspective. The Jesuit response would be: "That's because we didn't use swords!"]




9:16 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

That puts a whole new spin on Aquinas Theological being on the Campus of St. Louis University! (Congratulations on your well-deserved nomination!)

9:55 PM  
Blogger Danny Garland Jr. said...

Thanks for the history! Great stuff!

12:42 AM  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Thanks for this. I'm often struck by the similarities in the origins of the Orders though, which some have attributed to a Spanish temperament!

A Dominican friar I know - who shall remain nameless - was asked recently why there is such a 'rivalry' between the Orders.

Having admitted that our more traditional rivalry was with our fellow friars in St Francis, he said with unexpected candour that the OP grouse with the SJs was probably because "they replaced us as the premier Order in the Church".


11:30 AM  
Blogger Ecclesiastes said...

Some years ago, the Jesuits and the Dominicans together wrote a letter to God himself to ask him which of their Orders was the greater. A letter promptly arrived back from the Almighty: "All religious Orders are equal in my sight.
Yours sincerely,
God, SJ."

4:04 AM  
Blogger Toklat said...

The story about the generals of the two orders celebrating the funeral of the other is true. In fact, Pedro Arupe, SJ, requested that the custom be followed at his death even though he was no longer general and there was a Jesuit general in place. To the best of my knowledge that is what happened.

The part of the story that is often missed is that the Pope assigned the funeral switching to each of the orders for their infernal and interminable arguing with one another.

Steven, PCDP

PS: I don't know that this means, but the letters that you need to type in to post your account just came up for me AngrOp. Not making that up.

10:23 PM  

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