There is a lingering suspicion in Lutheran Scandinavia concerning the Jesuits, so it was with some hesitation I opened the new book by John W. O’Malley, SJ, on this most influential of Catholic orders. The Jesuits – A History from Ignatius to the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, 137 pages) is the work of a Washington DC Roman Catholic priest and professor in the department of theology at Georgetown University. He has a central position as a Jesuit historian being among other things president of the American Catholic Historical Association and the Renaissance Society of America.

His book is the story of great achievement of the order. They have been missionaries, educators, scientists, cartographers, theologians, poets, patrons of the art, and confessors to kings. Professor O’Malley must be lauded for writing such a compelling, comprehensive book. It deserves a place in public and university libraries also in Lutheran countries.

As the interest of this reviewer is geopolitics it deserves to be mentioned that Matteo Ricci, the great Jesuit discoverer and cartographer in China, is presented in the book but could have been given a more prominent place.

Leading European nations were historically interested in probing the military capabilities of China. Matteo Ricci’s observations in that field were of great importance. Among other things he reported that Chinese men were not very goods soldiers:

Rarely do they wound or kill each other…not only are there few soldiers, but most of them don’t even have a knife in the house. In short one has no more to fear from them than one would have from any large crowd of people;

Thus Ricci contributed to the European belief that Chinese culture was one of peace not bent on conquest. The Communist regime on Beijing has certainly changed Chinese foreign and military policy since 1949. The aggressive behaviour of the Chinese in the South China Sea is evidence to that.

When Ricci arrived in Ming China in the late sixteenth century he could claim expertise in global mapping. His mappa mundi created an uproar in China because the Chinese imperial view was that China was central in the world. Ricci’s map, “Complete Map of the Earth’s Mountain and Seas” was published in 1584. It had a flattened sphere projection with parallel latitudes and curving longitudes. It made the Chinese aware of the locations of Europe, America and Africa and Ricci even invented the Chinese terms for these continents. Chinese Cartographers, however, continued to depict their country as the “Central Kingdom”. The New World was shown as a series of small islands. The traditional China grid system in cartography was continued to be used during the late Ming and Qing periods.

One of world history’s most important and influential Jesuits is not mentioned in this otherwise excellent book: Edmund A. Walsh, SJ.

Founder of The School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University he was in 1922-24 head of the Papal Relief Mission in Russia and Papal Negotiator with the Mexican Government. For his work in Russia he should be gratefully remembered by the Kremlin, but probably isn’t. Furthermore Father Walsh played an important role in the founding of the Jesuit College in Baghdad, consulted at the Nuremberg Trials.

Most important, though, is the fact that Walsh was one of America’s most important geopoliticians and anticommunists. One of the most impressive feats concerning the influence and power was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Walsh wrote:

Thomas Jefferson’s acquisition of Louisiana in 1803 was geopolitics in its very definition. To secure one key city and an open port for the exports of the Mississippi Valley, he purchased an empire and suggested to Congress that it overlook ‘metaphysical subtleties’. Seward’s purchase of Alaska in 1867 and his subsequent interest in Greenland gave far more evidence of politico-geographic acumen than is commonly attributed to that tempestuous member of Lincoln’s cabinet. Theodore Roosevelt had a very practical understanding of geopolitics as applied to the Isthmus of Panama.”

Most important was, however, Professor Walsh’ book Total Empire (1951). It was a central study of geopolitics of the Cold War exemplified in the Communist political policy of universal conquest. It was a grand forecast and Father Walsh had it right. The Soviet Union collapsed in

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Jesuits had a great influence on the foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War.

Here also the views of Walsh on the Monroe Doctrine is of interest. In the Senate during a hearing he had a tilt with several of the Senators on the finer points of the Monroe Doctrine. It not only excluded more than the acquisition of territory in the New World:

These are Monroe’s words, “The prohibition effects not only territory, it effects the extension of a system”.

This reviewer take it that Monroe meant the extension of a system of liberty and the prevention of the introduction of totalitarian system in the Western Hemisphere.

Edmund Walsh should be mentioned along with Professor Nicholas Spykman of Yale University and Dr. Isaiah Bowman of The John Hopkins University as well as Alfred Thayer Mahan.

The central role of the Jesuit father at Georgetown University in the field of understanding Communist philosophy and tactics cannot be underestimated. Speaking in 1937 he mentioned education in Communist ideology in the United States as important:

For fifteen years, at home and abroad, in classroom, in lecture hall, in group conferences and by written word, I have sought to make Communism better understood, by laying bare its origin, its principles, its claim to universal domination and the importance of its challenge to Christianity and to democracy. In my opinion it is one of the inescapable and major problems of modern civilization.


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