Sunday, 20 January 2008

Requiem for the Jesuits?

Yesterday the Society of Jesus elected a new Superior General after their general congregation. Reading between the lines of what is going on, it seems highly unlikely that there will be any change in the direction that they have taken in the last forty years since the disastrous leadership of Pedro Arrupe.

In that period they have suffered catastrophic decline, and those remaining are now mainly over seventy years old. The state of the English province itself is very revealing. They have virtually abandoned education, and the great Jesuit school of Stonyhurst is now effectively lay run. But even worse they have abandoned the majority of their great parishes. The list is endless: St. Aloysius, Oxford (now the Oxford Oratory), Holy Name, Manchester (now an Oratory in formation), St. George, Worcester (where my parents were married), St. Francis Xavier, Hereford, St.Wilfred, Preston, St.Mary on the Quay, Bristol, Sacred Heart, Bournemouth, and many others. All they now seem to have kept are the churches in Farm Street and Wimbledon, London.

Why? They have to all intents and purposes abandoned the core vocation of their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola: to be soldiers of Christ with unfailing loyalty to the pope and the magisterium. So much so that they made loyalty to the pope their fourth vow along with poverty, chastity and obedience. Instead they have now become nothing but a bastion of dissent and the so - called 'parallel magisterium'. It seems that nothing can be done to reform the order, as dissidents have virtually cornered its leadership.

Yet paradoxically it has been those Jesuits who have been faithful to their vocations and against all odds who have been largely responsible for preserving the orthodox faith in the church's Babylonian exile of the 1970's and 1980's. And not only that, they have been some of the key architects of the revival and renewal we are seeing now. Just as an example we could quote Fathers John Hardon, James V. Schall, Hugh Thwaites and Joseph Fessio, as well as many other obscure and unsung priests.

But these have been virtually marginalised if not pushed out altogether from the order. To all intents and purposes they are effectively on their own. The main body of the order is nothing but a cancer in the mystical body of Christ. And significantly, our Holy Father did not come to the Church of the Gesu at the new year, right before their general congregation. With all this in mind, could it be possible that they could be suppressed for a second time?

Harsh this may be, it may be the only way to save the order, for it could then be reconstituted with those members who are loyal to the pope. Or perhaps God in his mercy could work a miracle that could confound our expectations, and bring the Society of Jesus back to life and the vocation and vision of it's founder.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.


Joseph Fromm said...

Great post! Balanced and thoughtful. We have to support the Society were we can, constructively criticize when neccesary without being crass. We have to support the Jesuits we know personaly and pray for them.



Anonymous said...

Yes those Jesuits i know locally are over 70 & novices come & go...with hospitality practiced ie anyone can come to Holy Communion etc's just a joke!Without naming anyone we do have a very famous author nearby..
who once we subjected to some orthodox prayers in our house! lol

Anonymous said...

Hey Oliver! So after Vespers everyone was raving about your's reached Maryvale & lots more places..i was starting to get a bit competitive there for a while! i told you though you do the quality & i'll do the quantity & we should work well together! lol