Monday, January 21, 2008

Let me be passive-aggressive for a moment

I have read with much interest the dismay expressed by several bloggers over the election of our new general. I must admit: I don't understand it because, by all accounts, he is a wonderful man of prayer and service and will be an excellent leader for the Society. One of my Jesuit heros - a man who offers the model of the type of Jesuit I aspire to become - has said that this is the best possible choice for General.

For those who worry about the Society's concern for justice:

Christian belief is not merely concerned, as one might at first suspect from all the talk of belief or faith, with the eternal, which as the "entirely Other" would remain completely outside the human world and time; on the contrary, it is much more concerned with God in history, with God as man. By thus seeming to bridge the gulf between eternal and temporal, between visible and invisible, by making us meet God as a man, the eternal as the temporal, as one of us, it understands itself as revelation.
Not too shabby, I'd say. But coming from the Holy Father's Introduction to Christianity this may come as a shock to some (page 54, if you want to check).

My point is this: the Holy Father recognizes the importance of the temporal order. He's an Augustinian thinker --- read City of God book XIX if you should like. "Revelation" is not some book that comes floating down on a pink cloud; rather, it is an encounter IN HISTORY that calls for the response of faith.

The Society of Jesus realizes, much to the chagrin of many, that "Revelation" is not a series of propositions. It is an encounter (Jn 1:18 - Jesus makes known the Father. It is through an encounter with Christ that we have come to know God....he didn't give us a Summa or a list of "Top-10 Things About God." The Holy Father presses on this point, also on page 54). The difficulty with encounter is that it is refracted through the lenses of history. We struggle, as many love to point out, but the fact of the matter is that we're discerning how God is inviting us to respond today.

I have a lot to say on this issue, but I fear that I'll get carried away. I'm excited for this new General and I hope that my readers will join me in my prayers for him. In my experience of the leadership of the Society - and I know quite a few delegates - they are all men of deep prayer and discernment. I would not be so bold as to question the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these matters and, frankly, I'm horrified by the number of bloggers who think they know better than the Spirit. There are not a few out there who could do well to close their mouths and fold their hands and do some praying rather than prattling.


steve said...

I completely agree. From everything I have read about Fr. Nicolas, he seems like an unbelievably learned and charitable man. It is amazing (and scary) that there are bloggers actually suggesting suppression of the order over his election!

Jason nSJ said...

Thank you, Ryan. Well said.

Jeff Miller said...

No problem joining you in prayers for him since I am already doing so.

I would love to have the Jesuit order as a whole to return to what it once was.

Ryan Duns, SJ said...


I am glad that we are praying together, but would you mind telling me what you mean by your final comment that "the Jesuit order as a whole to return to what it once was."

I get the sense that there is a nostalgia that varnishes the past with a too-pristine patina. I will confess that I feel honored and blessed to be the heir of a wonderful tradition and I look excitedly to the future. I desire nothing more than to stand at the vanguard of the Church as it dialogues with the world. Throughout our history I see the Jesuits at their best when they are doing this.

But I do want to know at what point you see us at our apex. The entire pre-Vatican II history? Post-Suppression? The "Golden Era" of American Catholicism? The First Companions? "What it once was" seems to me a very ambiguous desire and I'd like to know more concretely when you mean.

kabloona said...

This comment may lack any real purpose, but let me fire away. No offense is intended either. You've probably heard this type of thing thousands of times.
I am a life-long Catholic, age 52. I am well aware of the Jesuits reputation for having "gone off the deep end" with Vatican II, although I suspect it had as much to do with everything else going on in the world as well. I have a sister-in-law who attended Fordham U., and to hear her talk, the Jesuits taught her that you can't believe anything you read in the bible. I happened to have read the biography St. Ignatius Loyola, subtitled The Pilgrim Years. 1491-1538, by James Broderick, S.J.
Inigo is very, very impressive. Would that every Jesuit, every priest, every Christian leader take Inigo as a model! I assume that there are many, many Jesuits out there doing the Lord's work. But it seems that at least as they are presented in the media, that the Jesuits insist continually on accommodating to secular fashion and challenging church teaching at every step, although this too seems to have diminished, perhaps in parallel with the papacy of JPII. I admit I do not know the reality from the PR and spin. But someone needs to try and restore the Jesuits reputation in the public mind. I shall google your new leader to see what I can find out about him. I wish you nothing but the best in your vocation.


Jeff Miller said...

I have no idealized concept of Jesuits of old due to some type of nostalgia. After all I am a convert. But in a word what I meant is an order that is faithful to the teaching Magisterium of the Church and to their vows, especially their fourth vow.

It would be nice to go to a Jesuit University without being worried about being taught heresy or have to be concerned that what you were being taught was not quite faithful to the Magisterium. The Cardinal Newman society in their guide could not recommend one Jesuit University, though there is some progress made.

That you could pick up a Jesuit magazine and not get both sides of a settled question.

While there has never been Golden Age surely there have never been so many pubic dissidents as in recent years. The simple fact is that their is a major problem of obedience within the order that is not being addressed from within and Jesuits who say the most outrageous things are pretty much never penalized.

Now I don't want to be negative and as a convert I have been formed by very solid Jesuits, but it does bother me how so many times I find those involved with the order saying something that is quite off.

Anonymous said...

"I would not be so bold as to question the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these matters"

Ryan, you seem like a good guy... But since when do we have a promise that the Jesuit electors are listening to the Holy Spirit? I have total faith that Jesus will redeem everything in the end, but are you saying the Jesuits can't make a mistake and elect the wrong guy between now and then?

That said, I don't think most of us with opinions know enough to praise or condemn Fr. Nicolas. I'll go ahead and be an optimist though and assume the Holy Spirit was at work... But I don't think anyone who doubts that is going out on any limb here.

Joe said...

OK. Let me take a whack at this.

I am not among those who were "dismayed" by the election of Fr. Nicolás. That said, what I have read has given me, well, some pause. My official reaction is "I think I'm somewhat concerned."

Of course I pray for him and of course I give him the benefit of the doubt.

But I do have concerns which I hope time will allay. Make that I pray time will allay.



shera10 said...

I understand it is easy to divide B/W the catholicism, but the faith is not so simple.

"That you could pick up a Jesuit magazine and not get both sides of a settled question."
Popes have only made two infallible declarations since Vatican I, the time when the infallibility of the Pope was defined: on the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Some people tend to give all Vatican statements a definitive or infallible status, and that is just not the case.
On many topics we are ok to see both sides.

Tito said...

I would have to agree with Jeff on this. The Jesuits are not what they used to be, orthodox and obedient to the Pope.

With the line of thinking that only two infallible statements have been said by the pope means that every Jesuit can pursue multiple wives while keeping their Holy Orders.

I wouldn't be surprised if that is the case.

But that is where the problem lies with the Jesuits, that I wouldn't be surprised by this type of behavior from the Jesuits.


Karen said...

I have written plenty about this elsewhere, and have started a new blog (shameless blog promotion: Some Wear Clerics ...

... just to have a place to talk about it. But let me add (a) What Jeff Miller said! and (b) I feel VERY strongly, as do many other people who wish the Jesuits nothing but good fortune, that the Holy Spirit DID speak last week. The Holy Spirit spoke twice through the Vicar of Christ. And the Jesuits answered.

I'm sure the Holy Spirit was speaking LOUDLY in that room. I'm just not convinced (yet) that anyone was listening -- if I had to take the case to court, I'd point out the fact that there is no evidence (yet) that they listened the first two times.

PLEASE tell me why I'm wrong. Or show me where Fr. Nicolas (I will pray mightily for him) has shown any intention of addressing the Vatican's very clearly stated concerns.

Love you, sorry this is causing you pain.

shera10 said...

Karen wrote:

"The Holy Spirit spoke twice through the Vicar of Christ."
This isn't the catholic doctrine.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Jesuits have serious problems but I find the bloggers in question insufferable in their shrieking arrogance.


Karen said...

Well, I was catechized in Los Angeles, so I have no problem taking your word for that.

Please enlighten me. (I mean that in a non-sarcastic sense.)

My fallback position was that the Holy Spirit was presented with limited resources. But I will be THRILLED if Fr. Nicolas turns out to be the second coming of St. Ignatius. (Less thrilled if he turns out to be the second coming of the other Basque.)

I think one thing that the rejoicing folk fail to realize is how passionately we worriers would love to be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you're being uncharitable. It's not that they're arrogant, its just that they have nothing better to do.

P.S. The shrieking is impressive, though.

shera10 said...

if you mean that the Holy Spirit spoke through the pope, me, you, every christian, a jesuit congregation, through many ways in our life you are absolutely right.
If you mean this papal letter was an ex-cattedra authoritative act this is not the case.

Anonymous said...

From's 'On Faith' column, buy a Jesuit:

Thus, entertaining thoughts that are unworthy of a Christian, speaking words that goad others or myself to sin...could be seen as spiritually killing myself. Wallowing in wrathful thoughts towards those who draw different conclusions than I do could serve as a gateway to false pride. Pride can distort the position of the servant relative to the master, putting the created being in the place of God.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. What happens when the Wicked Witch of the West comes out of her manic phase and realizes she's basically spent all her energy for the past week insulting and denouncing the same people who hosted her in their homes and opened their lives to her?

I'm guessing there'll be two seconds of thought given to apologizing, then four thousand words dedicated to explaining it away. You know, because its all done out of love.

Jason nSJ said...


I know this isn't my blog, and it's true that I have greatly disliked what a particular blogger has written in the past, but name calling just brings us all down.

Karen said...

I meant that the Holy Spirit spoke through the Pope.

The message was clearly delivered. The answer was -- it seems to me, based on a lot of research I've done since then -- also clearly delivered.

I have an idea. I have a feeling that Ryan didn't intend to launch a name-calling cat fight in his combox, so maybe we could have that somewhere else? (Or not at all.)

Ryan Duns, SJ said...

Hi All,

Sorry for my silence -- I'm bogged down with work at the moment. I'm responsible for two dinners and a brunch this weekend in addition to leading a prayer service AND doing class reading so I've been away from my computer.

I'm all for disagreements and, believe me, I plan on addressing several contentious issues when I have a free moment. But let's not devolve into name-calling. That is beneath us and is wholly counter-productive.

The stance that I desire to see toward the new General - charity - is the same stance I'd expect people to assume in relation to one another.

Jason nSJ said...

Jeff Miller said:

That you could pick up a Jesuit magazine and not get both sides of a settled question.

The Aquinas Center at Univ. of Colorado (part of the Catholic university parish) held a debate on abortion recently, with one side espousing a pro-abortion position, the other an anti-abortion position.

I wonder, is Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Boulder being criticized in Catholic blogs for presenting both sides of a settled question, or is this an example of a double standard applied to Jesuits?

kabloona said...

I think This is actually a very loaded set of questions.

Are the Jesuits being unfairly picked on?
Just on an impressionistic level: No! They
deserve it! Consider that, in general, they have the
reputation for being the most
anti-church-establishment bunch, and I mean
not directed towards reform but towards overthrow
and rejection. But that is just my impression.

About the abortion debate that was referenced.
That a debate was sponsored by a parish
certainly suggests that the question is not settled.

However, We should always welcome a spirit of honest
inquiry and take advantages to teach and preach.

Why have a debate over something that's basically
settled? Well, because society and the church have
many people who do not accept the church's position.
It is a significant conflict in society and one
that would be irresponsible to avoid.

It is also a university environment.
A university is a place full of young people
with active minds who are still searching for meaning in
their lives and forming their consciences. It may be
possible that a debate is an excellent forum for
the presentation of facts, including the reasoning and
justification behind the church's position, as well
as answering the arguments of the other side.

Anonymous said...

The blogger in question wrote this:

While pedophiles and pro-aborts rise through the Jesuit ranks, the orthodox Jesuits are being persecuted and the laity don't know it because those in power hold them hostage by the vow of obedience that they take seriously.


She is saying that pedophiles are "rising through the ranks" of the Jesuits. That's a serious charge.

So, in terms of "name calling" - pot, kettle, etc...


utopie said...

i again and again thought about becoming a jesuit. have not until now and it seems like i'm getting too old.
nevertheless i am interested what#s going on with the jesuits. i always was and still am fascinated that they explore new fields in bringing the gospel to the people.

the few i know about fr. nicolas (only what's in the news) i was very happy to hear about his first homily. a very simple one. not one that tries to be a government program.

Karen said...

It is indeed a very serious charge. Shall I substatiate it for you? I believe the case of Robert Drinan is well-documented. I'm happy to provide other names and stats, but I'd prefer to do that at my own blog.

This is all common knowledge among my lay friends. It honestly surprises me that it isn't inside the Soc. But it explains a lot of rancour and I can certainly see why you think I'm the Wicked Witch. Sadly, you may just have to keep thinking that.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see any substantiation of the charge that "pedophiles and pro-aborts are rising through the ranks."

Let's see it.

Or, more likely, let's see her change her tune, and announce "we parents" are being robbed by Jesuit universities (her own child, whom she admits is now an agnostic, she sent to a public school); or, let's see her announce "the laity are crying out for Jesuits to be faithful" (she means her angry mother-in-law); or, let's see her declare Jesuits disobedient (her two Jesuit heroes are notoriously disobedient, in direct violation of every one of Ignatius' rules on obedience).

Or let's see the original claim proved. "Pedophiles and pro-aborts rise through the Jesuit ranks."

Maybe this is a good chance for this writer who proclaims herself to have had a "brilliant career" to show how skilled with words she is!

An amused lay colleague.

kabloona said...

>>>not one that tries to be a >>>government program.

That's hilarious! Seriously, with nothing implied.

utopie said...

quite a lot implied. because our mission as christians in this world is first of all to serve. not to govern. like christ has done, like all the known or unknown saints have. so the best jesuit general is one who wants to serve and be an example to get into a close relationship with christ, follow him.

Karen said...

"My Brilliant Caereer" was a movie, evidently you missed it. Maybe it was before you were born?

I will address the rest of your charges at my own blog, when I have time. Like I keep saying.

shera10 said...

a former mayor of Roma, now a lawmaker, voted for introduce abortion in Italy. he is always,publicy, pro-choice.
He attented several time private mass of John Paul II, he publicy took communion by the pope, By Benedetto xVI too.
His marriage wes celebrated by an important cardinal president of a Vatican dicastero.
the american lay people don't now this story, I look forward to see your crusade against the vatican and the Pope.

Joe said...

What do all these -- self-evidently VERY interesting -- digressions have to do with people's concerns or expectations of Fr. Nicolás?


Karen said...

Re the former mayor of Rome: that is news to me and certainly very interesting.

I find a lot of what the Vatican does to be incredibly confusing. The Levada appointment made no sense to me, and still doesn't. What happened last week with the Jesuits makes no sense to me.

If what you say is true, then that makes no sense to me. Archbishop Burke makes sense to me. St. Thomas More makes sense to me. And St. Ignatius ALWAYS makes sense to me.

I come at all of this as a convert, who grew very weary of "church doctrine" changing every four years when we changed ministers. I was (and I still am) attracted to the idea of there being a place where the buck stopped. A voice of authority. I became successfully convinced that it is a voice of Divine Authority. Trust me, I put up a hell of a fight before I believed that.

That's all a long story that I've told before and will tell again at (say it with me) my own blog. (I am NOT trying to drum up business. I'm just worried about all this nastiness on Ryan's blog, when Ryan is easily the least nasty person I know.)

I won't be taking on the Vatican. I made a conscious decision, two years after the scandal broke, to cross the Tiber for real. The Pope does things that I don't understand, but he is a brilliant man and a holy man and in my mind, I've made the same pact with him that I've made with God: I will always give him the benefit of the doubt when he looks like he doesn't know what he's doing.

Mark Mossa, SJ said...

I'm with you Ryan. We need to pray for our "friends."

uriel said...

Some here are forgotten elementary manners. If a Jesuit cannot make his point charitably, he has been poorly schooled.

Karen said...

Mark, that was unnecessarily snarky.

Fake friends tell you what you want to hear and everyone enjoys how great that feels, and frankly, it would be much easier and more pleasant to say, "Wow, the new guy seems awesome!" and be loved for it.

But Ryan asked why people were upset. And I assumed he really wanted to know.

At any rate, I appreciate and return the prayers. I'm sure Joe does too.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...this is surprising. Karen Hall has not given "names or stats" on her blog to back up her claim that "pedophiles and pro-aborts" are rising through the Jesuit ranks, as she promised she would do. I'd hate to think she was dishonest.

To assume that, after all, would be uncharitable. She's just trying to help you guys, right?

Anonymous said...

From Russ Shaw:

"Papal greetings to meetings of groups are customarily bland and forgettable: "Thanks for the wonderful work you do, please keep it up" -- and usually not a whole lot more. But Benedict XVI's message to the Jesuit electors departed markedly from the cookie-cutter prose. Clearly he wanted them and the rest of the Society to hear his call, in language both fatherly and tough, to heed the spirit of their founder and return without delay to traditional Jesuit loyalty to the pope and the doctrine of the Church.

Some Jesuits have been loyal all along, of course, but in the last four decades many haven't. In this time, members of the Society have acquired a reputation as a not-so-loyal opposition, with a habit of circumventing or rationalizing away elements of Church teaching they don't accept. Father Nicolas's immediate predecessor as general, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., restored some stability to this troubled scene, but the phenomenon of Jesuit dissent has persisted."

Joe said...


Karen, I appreciate that you are under no little stress, given all the stuff going on, to say nothing of the ceaseless hectoring to which you're subject of late. I understand. I get it.

However, I'm dead-certain Mark's words -- which I admit came across as edgier than he probably would have preferred -- were not addressing you (or me).

Regardless of how much disagreement may exist between Mark and you (or, indeed, between Mark and me) I cannot believe he harbors any doubt of your (or my!)sincere love for the SoJ.

Rather, I believe, he meant those who've come right out of the box and all but declared Fr. Nicolás a minion of Lucifer...before the guy has done anything.

Unfortunately, this time/place/curcumstance brings out less savory aspects in most of us. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to pause and reflect.



Joe said...

Dear Anonymous (if that's your real name) may wish to consider the possibility that Karen, who has been on a protracted strike -- justice for the exploited worker and all that -- may be too busy trying to sell her cars and her home just to pay for her mounting bills.

As a consequence of these efforts, she just might have prioritized your request somewhat lower than you'd prefer.

I mean, just a thought.


Karen said...

Anonymous: I'm working on it.

Meanwhile, do you see no irony on your calling me re not supplying names?

Karen said...

Here's a name while you're waiting: Robert Drinan.

Karen said...

Joe: Don't say "cars" -- I'm only supposed to have one. To be shared between three college kids (the ones who committed the unpardonable sin of going to public schools) and a husband (son of my angry mother-in-law) in four states. They should all have been taking the bus all along, and the car money could have gone to the poor back before I was one of them. They would have learned that if I'd made them go to Jesuit Schools. Plus they would have seen "The Vagina Monologues" by now.

I hope you're right about Mark. It didn't read your way to me.

Anonymous said...

How can Bob Drinan be rising through the ranks of the Jesuits? I thought he was dead?

Joe said...

Does the 50th commenter win anything?

Just askin',


Karen said...

Robert Drinan was and still is a Jesuit hero. Fr. Hardon was and still is...not so much.

This may be of interest:

Jason said...

Karen writes:

But Ryan asked why people were upset. And I assumed he really wanted to know.

Actually, other than a directed question to Jeff Miller, I don't think Ryan did ask why, not in the original post anyway.

Anonymous said...

Still no posts from Karen Hall on how "pedophiles and pro-aborts are rising through the Jesuit ranks." Been a couple of days now, though! Was she lying when she said she would offer stats and names on her own blog?

Anonymous said...

Future Events for Which Christians May Hope:

1. Eschatological Justice.
2. The Resurrection of the Dead.
3. Karen Hall's promised substantiation of what appears to be slander.

kabloona said...

In the name of charity, can we please stop this?

Anonymous said...


Probably, but the fact is that Karen stated that pedophiles are "rising through the tranks" of the Jesuits. She didn't say that Jesuits have in the past been guilty of sexual abuse and covered it up (which they have). She said that right now, at this moment, pedophiles are in the leadership of the Jesuits.

That is serious. She's tossed it out there in a very public forum.

And she won't respond to questions about the accusation.

It is interesting to hear folks beg for charity for Karen, when her words about anyone who disagrees with her are profoundly lacking in charity and are characterized by the "snark" that so offended her about Mark Mossa's comment.


kabloona said...

I repeat: in the name of charity, can we please stop this?

Karen said...

Anonymous: Do you see no irony in your pounding me about names?

kabloona: I agree.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaah! This is good, indeed. Karen Hall has responded, as promised, on her blog. Only problem? She has changed her original charge, that pedophiles and pro-aborts "are rising" to "once rose" through the Society of Jesus. In other words, she had no evidence for her original slander? Nice work, Karen! You should be a writer! Wait, you already are paid to do this? Yikes, I was being ironic. Nice work if one can get it, I suppose.

Karen is incensed that any of you would question the affairs of her family. The same woman who wrote, when that Jesuit out in California died, that she suspected he was secretly having an affair with the woman who died in his car. Without any evidence. When the local papers retracted their original report that the Jesuit was sharing a room with the woman (who also died), and in fact admitted they had separate rooms everywhere they stayed, Karen apologized and withdrew her charge., you're right, she did nothing of the fact, she said NOTHING. Even though she had suggested A DEAD JESUIT was guilty of breaking his vows, DAYS AFTER HIS DEATH.

But Karen loves you guys. Keep helping her out in her quest to "help" you. Hilarious.

kabloona said...

I am neutral. My intent was to try and persuade all parties from further disgracing themselves.

Karen said...

As I explained in my post, and as anyone with a search engine can see, YOU changed my verb tense.

Your synopsis of your new charge is your own version of the truth as well.

I don't know who you are (obviously) or why you have such an intense hatred for me, but I wish you would have the guts -- as I have suggested several times -- to move this fight off of Ryan's blog and over to mine. If there is anyone listening to you, I'm sure they would follow.

The people who want to declare me Public Enemy of the Society #1 have already done so. It doesn't bother me if that number swells. So I'm not sure what you think all your venom is going to accomplish. I'm pretty sure it's making you look worse than me.

Anonymous said...

Another lie. Here is the original quote, before Karen Hall attempted to alter it:

"While pedophiles and pro-aborts rise through the Jesuit ranks, the orthodox Jesuits are being persecuted and the laity don't know it because those in power hold them hostage by the vow of obedience that they take seriously."

St. Ignatius is surely very proud.

Joe said...

Odd, I'd've thought St. Ignatius would be aware pride is a sin.


Laura said...

Quite an interesting debate took place here.

I am by no means a logician, nor am I in a position to be able to determine corruption or unorthodoxy in the Jesuit ranks. However, it saddens me to see what could be a fruitful conversation between intellects become more of a cat fight between children. I am sure I am not the only one who noticed the ad hominem twist.

I'm not attacking, it seems hard to find a good debate anymore. These comments are easily found, and in much more brutal form, in many situations.

The bottom line is this. The human creature is fallible. Though some idealists would wish that we were fundamentally good...well, I know I daily have to fight against my own sinful nature.

Therefore, since man has that basis of corruption in his own heart, it would follow that an institution of his creation would likewise have fault.

The Church, along with its laity, its priests, and so forth, is an institution founded by Christ, but made up of men. Yes, there is going to be sin. Humans tend to do that. There is going to be imperfection, and though many of us believe that we could run everything much better, is there another institution that has lasted so long? One that can equal as much good over as long a time?

This is because the foundation of the Church is perfect, for it came from Christ himself.

Therefore, instead of brutal attack, let us try to perfect ourselves. Let's pray for the leaders of the Church, our country, and let's have our comments be uplifting. Comments that will benefit our own souls as well as the recipients.

The words of the Godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. Proverbs 10:21

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:1

kabloona said...