S Joseph Calasantius
Rome, ca. 1750
350 x 240 mm
Joseph Calasanctius (Spanish: José de Calasanz) (September 11, 1557 – August 25, 1648), also known as Joseph Calasanz and Josephus a Matre Dei, was the founder of the Pious Schools and the Order of the Piarists.
Of Spainish origin he moved to Rome in 1592, he
was the founder of the first free public school in modern Europe
His pedagogical ideas of educating every child, his schools for the poor, his support of the heliocentric sciences of Galileo Galilei, and his service towards children and youth, carried with them the opposition of many among the governing classes in society and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In 1642, as a result of an internal crisis in the congregation and outside intrigues and pressures, Calasanz was briefly held and interrogated by the Inquisition.
Father Stefano Cherubini, headmaster of the Piarist school in Naples who systematically sexually abused the pupils in his care. Father Stefano made no secret about at least some of his transgressions, and Calasanz came to know of them. Unfortunately for Calasanz as administrator of the Order, Father Stefano was the son and the brother of powerful papal lawyers; no one wanted to offend the Cherubini family. Father Stefano pointed out that if allegations of his abuse of his boys became public, actions would be taken to destroy the Piarists. Calasanz therefore promoted Father Stefano, to get him away from the scene of the crime, citing only his luxurious diet and failure to attend prayers. However, he knew what Cherubini had really been up to.
Superiors in Rome found out, but bowed to the same family ties that had bound Calasanz. Cherubini became visitor-general for the Piarists, able to conduct himself just as he wanted in any school he visited The support for Cherubini was broad enough that, in 1643, he was made head of the Order and the elderly Calasanz was pushed aside. Upon this appointment, Calasanz publicly documented Cherubini’s long pattern of child molestation, a pattern that he had known about for years. Even this did not block Cherubini’s appointment, but other members of the Order were indignant about it, although they may have objected to Cherubini’s more overt shortcomings. With such dissention, the Vatican took the easy course of suppressing the Order. In 1646, the Order was deprived of its privileges by Pope Innocent X.
Calasanz continued to live in disgrace and the whole system built up over the years was in danger of collapse. Nevertheless, he always remained faithful to the Church and died August 25, 1648, at the age of 90, admired for his holiness and courage by his students, their families, his fellow Piarists, and the people of Rome. He was buried in the Church of San Pantaleo.
He was canonized by Pope Clement XIII on July 16, 1767.
S. Joseph Calasantius
Giuseppe AllegriniS Joseph CalasantiusRome, ca. 1750Engraving350 x 240 mm