Saturday, May 3, 2014

April 1 1758 Cardinal Saldhana appointed to visit Portugese Jesuits


Pope Benedict XIV was a dying man when Pombal (Carvahlo) expelled the Jesuit confessor from the Palace and ordered an investigation into the Jesuits. Pombal claimed that there was an alleged Jesuit lust for power and greed for gold and land, citing their Paraguyan adventures as evidence.  The Pope, under pressure to acquiesce, ordered a canonical investigation and appointed Cardinal Francisco Saldhana to visit.  Saldhana had only entered the College of Cardinals due to the patronage of Pombal and so , even though good natured he was considered indebted to Pombal.  He began his visitation on May 2 in the professed house of Sao Roch in Lisbon, met the community and immediately left. The next day, back in Rome, the Pope was to die.

Pombal and Saldhana made good use of the power vacuum created by the ‘Sede Vacante.  It was a considerable vacuum as the next Pope would be elected two months later.   The Pope had given Saldhana power to correct any small evils immediately and on the ground, but if anything significant was uncovered it was to be kept secret and only reported to the Pope, with all information, so that Pope may consider it at his leisure.  Ignoring these restrictions,  a fortnight later Saldhana issued an edict accusing all Jesuit communities of being centres of scandalous commercial transactions.  Pombal used this to put pressure on the Patriach of Lisbon to remove faculties of preaching and confessions from all the Jesuits working under his jurisdiction.

The papal Nuncio – Fillipo Acciaioli – was on the ground and witnessed this travesty and the lack of any serious attempt at an investigation.  In a moment of delicious satire he congratulated Saldhana on an edict that was an excellent document,  “ save for one slight omission”…….. the evidence.  Without evidence, according to Acciaioli,  the document could only be classified as a calumny.  His satirical comments couldn't protect the Jesuits .  The King felt free to declare them rebels and traitors, and Saldhana released a pastoral letter warning the faithful to have nothing to do with the Jesuits.   
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