The Jesuit experience in France was shaped mainly by three incidents. The first of thesewas the controversy surrounding the Order’s condemnation by the Sorbonne in 1554-5.This incident saw the coalescing of all elements in France opposed to the Order, and sawcriticisms levelled at the Society that would remain valid for decades. The secondincident was the Colloquy of Poissy 1561 and its aftermath, both in France and at Trent.It was after Poissy that the Society gained acceptance in France, at least by someelements of the ecclesiastical community. The third of these incidents was the attemptedassassination of Henri IV by a former student of the Jesuits, Jean Chastel in December 1594. While an attempt on the Henri’s life was by no means a singular occurrence, therewas one attempt per year on his life throughout his reign,
the opponents of the Jesuits inFrance seized on the opportunity to have them expelled from the country. It is significantthat opposition to the Order came from the same quarters in the 1550s and 1590s, asindeed would again be the case in the 1640s.However, these incidents do not tell the story of the Order in this period entirely.The Jesuits were involved in the reform of Catholic practice, both popular and elite inFrance in this period and beyond. The role of the Jesuits as educators was also animportant factor in this. Along with the reforming bishops, of whom there were initiallyfew, the Society acted as the principal agents of the Counter-Reformation in France. Thisled to their growth in France, which, while relatively slow by their own standards setelsewhere, was nonetheless significant.
Reformation – Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700,