The Jesuit Order: How Catholicism Took Over The World

Monochrome version of the IHS emblem of the Jesuits. (Moranski/Wikimedia Commons)

Formed in 1540, the Jesuit Order began as a sect of militaristic monks ordained by the Catholic Church to travel the world, spreading the word of Christ. Their job wasn't a simple one: They were expected to convert literally everyone they met, which made them pariahs to much of the world, even as they brought millions to their flock. In the hundreds of years that the Jesuit Order has been kicking around, they've inspired conspiracy theories and debate over their practices, but they've also done quite a bit of good. As with any secret society, there's much to parse about the Jesuit Order.

Establishing The Jesuit Order

Six years before the Jesuit Order was officially established, Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish soldier who'd experienced a religious awakening, set down his arms and inspired six of his students to take vows of poverty and chastity in the service of converting as many Muslims to Catholicism as possible. There was just one problem: Loyola and his followers couldn't travel to the Middle East, thanks to the Turkish Wars. They went to Rome instead to meet with the pope, figuring he might have some ideas and maybe even officialize them. In 1540, Pope Paul III finally approved Loyola's request to form a new religious society, and the Jesuit Order, A.K.A. the Society of Jesus, was officially sanctioned.