Wednesday, June 04, 2008

One for Joseph Fromm

So I thought I'd throw a bone to Joseph Fromm over at GoodJesuitBadJesuit. Given his ability to stand in judgment over the relative goodness or badness of a member of the Society of Jesus, I reckon he'll appreciate that I've been spending some time with both the code of Canon Law and with various directives issued by the USCCB  in regard to the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

You see, there's a young diocesan priest in my Bronx neighborhood who has been the source of great consternation these past few months. Now for many, Father certainly looks the part: he struts regally throughout Little Italy in his cassock and biretta. He also has brought the Latin Mass to the parish. 

Yet Father sometimes forgets that the homily is often better spent breaking open the readings and preaching the Gospel of Christ rather than ranting about poor mass attendance (preaching, of course, to the people who do attend). And just yesterday, I heard from a friend that this week's homily - Matthew's Gospel on the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built on the sand - addressed the pressing need of a diatribe against taking communion in the hand. 

Now Father and I have had already a little skirmish over this issue. It's in the hands of the chancellory right now. But in my effort in wanting to be a GOOD Jesuit, I went back to the teaching of the hierarchical Church to see what it had to say.

And this is what I found:

1. In Canon 912, we read that "Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion." 
Now I mention this simply because I thought it very interesting.

Here's where it really starts to get interesting. On the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I found a work from the Committee on Divine Worship entitled Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

A little ways into the norms, I came upon this little gem. Believe me, I prayed over it at mass this morning:

41. Holy Communion under the form of bread is offered to the communicant with the words "The Body of Christ." The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: 'When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost."

Call me crazy, but I think that's quite lovely. And it's interesting, too, that St. Cyril - born in 315 CE - appreciated back in the good old days that Communion in the hand wasn't a grave offense to the Lord. 

Now I'm all for personal predilections: coffee with cream or without, vanilla or chocolate, bagel with cream cheese or butter. There may be all sorts of reasons motivating one's choice but, ultimately, one has a choice. As the norms are very clear, an attitude of reverence and devotion is to be maintained both on the part of the Minister and on the part of the Communicant. 

It may certainly happen that some day a directive will be promulgated that Holy Communion may be taken only on the tongue. On that day, I will do so. But to the extent that I have choice, that I have prayerfully considered and find that I have a preference for receiving in the hand, I will continue to do so. 

Not to be trite, but if I met our Lord today I'd sooner stick out my hand to greet him than stick my tongue out at him. Actually, I'd probably hug him but, I reckon, you get the gist.

I mention Joseph Fromm explicitly because I know how liturgical abuse gets under his skin. And I thought I could be a good Jesuit if I helped to limit what I see as a corruption of the purpose of the homily - to break open the living Word and to help articulate it to the Body of Christ - when it is used as a personal platform to expound upon one's personal preference. 

Perhaps it's just me, but when I am subjected to long harangues on ANY topic in the place of the homily, I leave the Eucharistic celebration somewhat irritated. I take it as an insult to me and to God's people that the priest has no interest in reflecting prayerfully on the readings and helping to bring us into contact with the living Word, choosing instead to trot out his own pet issue and give an address that is wholly out of place for the Eucharistic celebration. 



11 comments:

Joseph Fromm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Duns, SJ said...

Dear Joseph,

You see, I think we are operating on wholly different premises. You state that, "There are two different camps within the SOciety, that is a fact." Would you tell me what camps those are? You see, from my point of view, there are more than two camps. I reckon that there's nearly 20,000 of them: each one pitched under the Standard of the Cross. I think 'camps' or 'sides' is a too-easy distinction imposed upon groups in order to make for easy dichotomies; a dangerous practice, to my mind.

In short, I would say that while each Jesuit is galvanized by the call to serve Christ the King, each one incarnates that message differently. It is that response that has enabled the Society to engage in the host of apostolic endeavors that has marked it throughout its history and it is that dynamism that has given it its freshness and vitality. In a pluralistic world such as ours, two camps would be wholly insufficient to meet the needs and enter the milieus presented to us; what we need, to my mind, is for each Jesuit (and all Christians) to be possessed of the mind of Christ such that she or he can bring the Gospel to a world very much in need of it.

As for the 60% decrease in members, I would encourage you to look to the history of the Church. The mid-20th century was, within that history, wholly anomalous. The spike we saw in vocation and the residual images of that spike continues to hold captive our images of the Church. Now one can point to some groups and say, "See! They've recorded huge increases" but, especially with these new groups, we need to give them time. There is one group of priests, for instance, that seems to have had the same number of ordained priests and seminarians for the last decade -- if their numbers were increasing so rapidly, one would think we'd see more of it in their actual number of priests.

As for your last question, no, I have no intention of labeling him a Bad Diocesan. I'm not working in simplistic dichotomies that affix sweeping labels onto another.

Finally, as to Jesuit homilies, I reckon that we suffer from poor preaching everywhere we go. I don't know what the solution is, but I pray that I'll be able to deliver homilies that speak to the experience of those listening such that their hearts are enkindled with a deeper love of God and a felt call of service for the Church.

I would mention one other thing: your being led 'in a classic way' through the Exercises in daily life. As you probably know, one of the remarkable things about the Exercises is that they are adaptable to meet the needs of each retreatant. The director actually helps mold the Exercises in order to facilitate an encounter with God, rather than imposing a rigid structure that demands facile conformity. The flexibility of the Exercises can make for interesting adaptations, but adaptations intended to bring the soul into contact with God.

So I agree: we do need to reclaim the dynamism of the Exercises. We need to bring them to a world sorely in need of them, of learning to make decisions led by the Spirit in order to bring about God's Kingdom more fully. But this will demand that we be humble with our sharing the Exercises, knowing that God deals directly with the human soul each in its own way. Hence the pluralism of camps to meet the needs of myriad people who wish to have their hearts set on fire for Christ.

Joseph Fromm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Duns, SJ said...

Dear Joseph,

It is I who should thank you for giving me an opportunity to think more deeply on these topics.

George Ganss, SJ, has provided an interesting commentary on the Latin word 'regulas' or Spanish 'reglas' that you take to mean obligation. He would interpret as directive, guideline, or norm. I'm no expert on this semantic issue, so I'm going to suggest another approach.

I think that in approaching this issue, you are right to touch on Annotation 352. But I disagree in your approach. You see, The directive is that we are to "keep our minds disposed and ready to be obedient." This directive does not abrogate critical thinking. The default position is to assume that the hierarchical Church is correct, or has the better understanding, in a given matter...2,000 years of experience does have something to do with that! This also resonates with the milieu in which Ignatius is writing: there are suspicions of alumbrados, and operating within the nexus of the Church, he wants to avoid anything that will look as though he is throwing the doors wide open to deranged theological interpretation. Furthermore, [22] enjoins a hermeneutic of charity that puts the "good interpretation" on the neighbor's statement. I think these directives, or norms, are certainly pushing in that direction.

Theologians have, as a consequence, a tremendous burden when they arrive at positions that are at odds with long-standing teaching. In pushing the frontiers, they have the responsibility to respond to the tradition in a way that respects it and does not seek to dismiss it out of hand. But if, in an issue of conscience, the theologian is forced to disagree, I do think that he is obliged to do so. Ignatius never envisioned uncritical acceptance of positions; his structure of governance certainly seeks a dialogical relationship. But, as a good administrator, he knows that the buck must stop somewhere.

But I think it untenable to use this as a principle establishing an Ignatian dichotomy. As I read it, it gives a style and an approach. So when you enumerate points 1-4, I must say that I don't follow the logical order. Of course Ignatius thought that Catholicism was the surest way - and I do, too! But how point 4 follows is out of my reach, and 2-3 work only insofar as a Christian worldview is presupposed (which a Hindu will probably not accede).

I think it rather simplistic to proof text from the Exercises as though they were a binding document, rather than a guide to facilitate encounter. To look at the Exercises as a catechetical document is a gross misuse; they provide an arena of encounter, not a body of information.

As for the camps.

Again, you are putting people into camps that I just don't see as working. So a 'strict adherence' to the Exercises means what? That we all have the SAME experience of Christ, that we are called IN and THROUGH the SAME way? That's untenable - we are called as particular individuals, forgiven as individual sinners. HOW this is lived out is as distinctive as a person's fingerprint, because it is his/her discipleship.

I'm not going to mention names, but I can assure you that there are persons on Karen's list who would have Ignatius rolling in his grave concerning violations of the vow of obedience. Now some may say that they must do this because they are being oppressed by their wicked superiors, but does that work well as a rejoinder? It's okay to be disobedient If and only If you are a righteous interpretor of the Exercises/Constitutions? Seems a scary precedent to advocate for.

The Camp B theology you reference needs greater attention. The several - and this is several out of how many hundred - theologians who have come under investigation have not be excommunicated, have they? The Church and the theologian are exercising their respective roles in a system set up with corrective measures. The birth pangs of theology engaging in new dialogues seem to be experienced as hateful dissent. I see it as creative measures taken to articulate a faith in ever-new settings.

I'm pressed for time -- I have to head back to Grandma Hagan's house and my ride is leaving (I'm staying there, and she has no internet).

So let me conclude by saying that I'm going to press you on this: I think it untenable to maintain this Camp A/Camp B distinction. I do not see the latter - of whom I must count myself, I reckon - engaging in a smear campaign against the former. I do see many men trying to sort out how to preach the Gospel in a changing world, and I see them doing so in myriad ways. But the hostility that people decry I really don't experience and just don't think it's as present or as dramatic as some would think.

At heart, I will offer, is that we will disagree based both on vantage point and on interpretation. We will, further, part on the way the Exercises are to be used and lived out of. But these are issues that must be clarified and explicated in order to advance our particular discussion any further. Adducing individual examples (America editors, laicized Jesuits) doesn't prove anything; it offers an example. Michael Rose's book would offer a radically different picture of critical former Jesuits/seminarians and critical from a different direction (I will say I think the book is rubbish).

I'm off to ordinations, so I'll not have access to the computer until Sunday. I will be glad to continue in this if necessary but I suspect we're at something of an impasse.

Steve Hill said...

I'm a junior student of theology at Fordham and would like to add a few thoughts on the "camp B" issue.
First to address the "political liberation theologies." To simply condemn or hiss at theology that has a political dimension concerned with structural sin, because it seems "dangerous" is falling short of Vatican II's call to examine the signs of the times of the modern world. Furthermore, I believe those Jesuits of the mysterious camp B are obeying Pedro Arrupe's call to examine, define, and call every Christian to bear witness of social sin oppressing billions of people, which would indicate an observance and dedication to the ideals of the Society of Jesus.
Secondly, I'd like to address the "Buddhist and Hindu syncratism of the Exercises." There is an amazing quote from St. Ignatius which develops a very Christ like way of proceeding: "Enter through their door and bring them out yours." Now I do cringe at the thought of the Exercises not being Christo-centric, but I do not cringe at the Exercises incorporating and inculturated worldview that enables a Buddhist or Hindu to fruitfully experience the Exercises. To incorporate the certain elements of truth from these Eastern religions, as noted in the Second Vatican Council, is the love and respect for every one of our brothers and sisters, regardless of creed, that is a true Christian witness. Furthermore, if the Exercises can be culturally adapted to bring a Buddhist and Hindu to the Merciful One than it is the duty of the retreat leader to do so.
I agree with Duns that this two camp dichotomy is woefully imprudent and, to be frank, wrong. I just got back from a seminar on Catholic Social Teaching at the Holy See Mission to the UN and was engaged in extensive dialogue with a kid, also in the seminar, from Ave Maria University. We differed greatly on almost every issue, but by the end of the seminar and a talk with a very good priest I came to realize we both, I repeat both, desired above anything to bring Christ into this world. Albeit we had very different ideas and approaches, but we had the same Spirit with different manifestations. I think it is important that the Church recognize it is a big enough institution to let differing views be flushed out without the threat of condemnation from the CDF.
Thank you Duns for keeping it real and Mr. Fromm for the respectful dialogue.
AMDG.
-Steve Hill

joe said...

The two camps are:

1- Those who agree with me, and
2- Those who have not yet had the opportunity to engage me in conversation.

A man of few words,

-J.

Jennifer said...

Ryan, why indicate that the priest in question is diocesan? Not sure how that adds anything to your discussion.

Joseph Fromm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Duns, SJ said...

Dear Joseph,

As Steve is one of the students with whom I work, I see it as only fitting that I insist on some distinctions in your response to him.

First, I think you overstate your case concerning liberation theology. In its 1984 decree signed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the CDF wrote that, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation." Any constructive theology that does not engage the liberative power of the Gospel - liberation from oneself (solipsism), liberation from death, liberation from sin, a profound freedom to love, a freedom from naturalism that would see each person as another 'cog' in nature's machine rather than a specially called and chosen individual - does not merit the name of theology.

This being said, what the CDF took exception to was the use of dialectical materialism and the Marxist analysis that some liberation theologians employed. Further, the CDF bristled at the fomenting of revolution that seem to be inspired by these theologians. "Yes," it can be agreed that there are structures of social sin in the world (John Paul II contributed greatly to this notion of social structure of sin), "but we cannot accept violence as a means of bringing about God's Kingdom."

It seems to my mind that where the CDF was/is apt in questioning liberation theologians is in their method and the social praxis that this reflection entails. We can, of course, discuss these critiques more but they seem to take me further afield than where I want to go.

Thus, on Steve's behalf, I would insist that you be very clear in how you construe Liberation Theology. If you mean, "theology that draws heavily on Marx and incites revolution," then you are on more solid footing. If you mean anything but that, then you've missed a great deal of the nuance and power of authentically done theological reflection that always reflects upon the liberative power of the Gospel as freeing us for full membership in God's Kingdom.

This being said, do wonder about how you really see the non-mixing of the Church and politics. I seem to recall quite clearly the whole "Give or Deny Communion" debate concerning politicians. You aren't, I'm hoping, saying that our 'spiritual life' is wholly and fully separate from our 'secular life'. Freshmen in college usually use that as a rejoinder, "Like, I'm spiritual but I don't need a community. I do my own thing." The Church, as a social body, is a also a political body and the call to Communion is a response BOTH to the call of the Lamb AND a movement within this body. There is no such easy distinction to be made, but again, this seems to be a major point of contest between us.

Also, I don't understand what you mean by 'moral grafting'. I've never heard of such a thing before, so if you could enlighten me I would be grateful.

Your adducing the SE, yet again, as a support for your argument is wholly faulty. If you took the time to read the 18th annotation. Ignatius brilliantly recognizes that the Exercises are not a one size fits all sort of shoe. Thus he writes that "the Spiritual Exercises have to be adapted to the dispositions of the persons who wish to receive them."

Now there are many and various ways of this adaptation. In a retreat in daily life, would it not make sense that "soccer mom" may find the centering techniques of meditation to be helpful in bringing her to quiet and inner peace such that she might begin to pray? Is the use of these techniques antithetical in some way? I see no reason why we can't adapt the riches of another tradition if it facilitates or brings out more clearly the treasures of our own.

I think it profoundly arrogant and wholly untenable to think that the Christian tradition, or more specifically the Catholic tradition, has a patent on all things spiritual.

But tell me this: the Kairos retreat, so popular in the Jesuit high schools, is not contained in the Exercises. In fact, it's not the product of the Jesuits at all! If it's not in the Exercises, should a Jesuit school make use of it at all?

Finally, you are demonstrating something of a persecution complex. I was just at Province Days where Mitch Pacwa attended. It's funny: no one seemed to be engaged in the active vilification of him! He seemed to mingle among his classmates and brothers and, to my eyes, had a great time of it.

To be honest, I think that IF there were really two groups of Jesuits, they'd be self-selecting. I think you are dead wrong in trying to assert that there is an active and conscious effort of some Jesuits to stigmatize others.

As a point of reflection, let me offer this. It is often hard to discern the movement of God's Spirit in the endeavors of humans...we are afflicted with mixed motives and stained by sin, so sometimes even what appears to be very good turns out to be less-than helpful. A wise Jesuit offered this as a probe: "Does this ____________ advance or hinder the culture of God's Kingdom? Does it promote love, healing, and reconciliation between people? Does it place the Cross at its center? Or does it cultivate divisiveness and hostility, creating rifts and fissures such as to hinder the advance of the Kingdom?"

Now, the culture of God's Kingdom does not include an "I'm okay, you're okay" sort of mentality. I think that there are sheep and goats and wheat and chaff, but it is not for me to decide who lives in which pen or which part of the garden. I think that the truth leads to reconciliation of parties and toward a healing of rifts.

Joe, I simply do not see your blog contributing to this service of God's Kingdom. I find what you do to pander to divisiveness and I do not see how it is to be a part of God's Kingdom. I have read your blog for a long time and I just don't see how this has Christ as its center. I am fully aware that all Jesuits do not, all of the time, respond to the Call of Christ with the purist of hearts or without going astray...we are not all saints! But you seem to think that unless each Jesuit conforms to YOUR image of what the Society should be, that he is incorrect. Have you scrutinized your own presuppositions, or have you disregarded any idea/system/interpretation that challenges you or your understanding of the Exercises/Jesuits/faith? You wrote earlier of a 'rigid fundamentalism' on the part of "Camp B" Jesuits. I should wonder, Joe, if you might have been touched by the same.

All the best,

Ryan

Joseph Fromm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Pope-Handy said...

This seemed like a very interesting thread and I'm sorry that Joseph Fromm removed his comments. But I enjoyed the responses none the less.

I have known many, many Jesuits in my lifetime (some relatives, some professors, some classmates, some friends). I do not see two groups of them either. It's just like the rest of us - there are all kind of viewpoints and philosophies. It is so easy to demonize the other side, but often several groups all want the same thing (such as "peace") but simply see different approaches to getting there.

Loved the historical insight on communion in the hand. I was suprised that the left hand needed to be under the right, though - harkens back to the days when lefties were told they could not write or eat with their left hands! Hopefully that part of the historical insight can be dropped :-)