Plzeňské sympozia

Ivana Čornejová

Who Were the Obscurantists in the 19th Century?

pp. 34–44 (Czech), Summary pp. 44-45 (English)

The Jesuits were regarded as the most enterprising and the most dangerous offshoot of the Catholic church in the Czech lands, as they were in other countries where they were active. ?is negative stereotype view of them came into being in the 18th century, persisted throughout the 19th century, and in fact was adopted in a more or less unchanged form by public opinion in the 20th century as well. Condemnation of the Jesuits appeared in both specialist literature and in works of fiction. Well-known ardent anti-Jesuits included Karel Havlíček Borovský, and also Jan Neruda and Svatopluk Čech. Among historians, Tomáš V. Bílek, whose specialist work was devoted to the history of the Jesuits, did not exactly overflow with fondness for the order, either. Most of the Jesuit “crimes” that were passed down were derived from the pamphlet Monita privata Societatis iesu, which was written in 1614. A positive evaluation of the Jesuits in the 19th century was only to be found in Catholic literature, which, however, did not achieve mass distribution. The greatest pariah among the Jesuits was traditionally Father Antonín Koniáš, known as the “eradicator of Czech books”, and the only member of the order to be spared was the patriot Bohuslav Balbín. The greatest resistance to the Jesuits arose in the 1860s, when the order returned to the Czech lands once again. Anti-Jesuit sentiment is one of the most enduring stereotypes of historical thought, and by no means only in the Czech lands. It is a classic example of how Walter Lippmann defined the phenomenon of stereotypes in general. In his view, stereotypes are the generalisation of specific phenomena. Human thought uses stereotypes to make the classification of the world around us quicker and easier and de facto to create a kind of “pseudo-world”, which is then easier to recognise.

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