An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French history indicates that the relationship between the Jesuits and Quietism was shaped by politics as well as by concerns of theological orthodoxy. During the late 1690s, the Jesuits championed François Fénelon accused of Quietism at the same time as they spearheaded an attack against Quietism in Burgundy, emphasizing crimes of spiritual incest or the abuse of clerical authority. Such ambiguity indicates that the Jesuits were motivated by a desire to consolidate political power in Louis XIV... trades court. However, the fusion of Quietist heresy, charges of spiritual incest, and political gamesmanship would ultimately make the Jesuits themselves vulnerable to claims of heresy and abuse when the Girard/Cadière affair became a national scandal in 1731. This essay argues that this disquiet over clerical behavior and power was articulated in a changing political culture between the late seventeenth century and the 1730s. Growing dissatisfaction against the crown established a new political consciousness, one that regarded the politics of secrecy as problematic if not outright illegitimate. The secrecy of the confession, the emphasis on interiority seemingly at the expense of morality, and the enigmatic language of mysticism, all associated with Quietism played into fears of clerical (or “Jesuit”) cabal and conspiracy. When Jesuit opponents linked the order to Quietism, they presented the Jesuits as threats to an emerging set of political values in which legitimate authority was transparent and open while illegitimate power operated in the shadows.

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