STRENGTHENED BY Trent’s unqualified endorsement, the Jesuits quickly became the Church’s most popular confessors. Ignatius directed that “a Jesuit should not allow anyone to leave the confessional entirely without comfort.” If a confessant’s opinion on any matter could be found in the least bit defensible, Ignatius said, “he should be permitted to adhere to it, even whenthe contrary opinion can be said to be more correct.” People relished confessing to Jesuits. “Always go to the Jesuits
for confession,” it was said in Germany, “for they put cushions under your knees and under your elbows, too.” Merchants, aristocrats, courtiers, and crowned heads insisted
that Jesuit confessional direction was the best in all Christendom. They considered the Jesuits to be the greatest converters of hardened sinners, the surest moral guides through life’s bewildering complexities. Indeed, for two centuries, all the French kings, from Henry III to Louis XV, would confess to Jesuits. All German emperors after the early seventeenth century would confess to Jesuits, too. Jesuits would take the confessions of all Dukes of Bavaria after 1579, most rulers of Poland and Portugal, the Spanish kings in the eighteenth century, and James II of England.
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