Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sources of Confusion and Corruption

I invited an anonymous poster to share what s/he thought were the sources of "Confusion and Corruption" in the Society of Jesus. Rather than carry the conversation on in the comment box, I'll move the meat of it up here. 

1. Studies show students losing their faith in Jesuit universities despite or even because of Jesuit theology classes. No Jesuit University demands the canon law mandatum of theology professors (Creighton did for a while). 

First, unless we're willfully participating in an exercise of Data-Free Analysis, I would expect a link, or a footnote referencing, these studies. When I hear, "studies have shown" my stomach twinges a bit in that, unless I have recourse to look at and consider the study, it does me no good. If this study were made public, I'd relish the chance to read it. 

As to the mandatum, I can only say that at Canisius College (back in 2002) they Catholic faculty members has them. My friends who are Catholics and teach theology in Jesuit schools have them. Again, do you have proof of this claim?

2. The Jesuits' honors to Sebelius during the HHS showdown were as brave and academically free as honors for segregationist thinkers would have been during the Civil Rights era. 

Okay, so this is how it works. Think of the relationship between the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and our college and universities like a family who starts a corporation, turns it over to a board of directors independent of the family's control, but retains seats on the board. 

If Dunscorp, my imaginary company founded by my family, decided to cede its control, it could establish a board to whom it would entrust authority over the company. That is, it could hire a CEO, a COO, CFO, and create a board with various Trustees to manage the company. Sure, we might keep a few seats on the board but, knowing my family, we'd retire to some condos on a tacky beach where we'd drink inexpensive beer by the side of a pool...starting, daily, before noon.

So if, one day, Dunscorp gives an aware to someone, that doesn't mean the Duns Family has given the award. The corporation has, quite possibly in defiance of the Duns family board members. The institution is not the family.

This should be clear. When Gonzaga does well in basketball, no one ever says, "Hell! The Jesuits are the best basketball players" or "The Jesuits won a basketball game." We recognize the distinction. Nor would one, upon walking upon an immaculately clean campus, say, "The Jesuits are marvelous custodians" (Get a look at our bedrooms: many of us are not!). Instead, you'd praise the custodial staff. 

Your analogy, consequently, fails because of the distinction between the Society of Jesus (with its governance, provinces, etc.) and the institutions it founded but does not exercise direct and immediate control over. You may not like that we don't have direct control over every facet, but it's the reality. A University made the decision, the Jesuits did not. 

3. Jesuit student life offices sponsor LGBTQ coming out days that aren't charitable practical helps to accept others and live the Christian vocation, but are about embracing the culture's wrongheaded anything-goes view.

Maybe you have more experience in this than I do, but I have worked with many students (high school and college aged) who have struggled with the issue of human sexuality. If a programming office (again, go back to the distinction made in #2) should run an event whereby a student finds the support to take ownership of his or her sexuality so that it might be healthily integrated into the student's life: where is the problem with this? Surely, you know the Church teaches it is not a sin to be a homosexual, only to act on those sexual desires. 

One cannot accept another until one accepts oneself. Or, as a venerable spiritual director told me, "You can't be holy until you're whole." I agree: if a coming-out day is simply a display of profligacy, then it's probably not in keeping with anything I'd support (then again, if you think that the heterosexual students are bowed before the Blessed Sacrament on a Friday night, you should visit a college campus). 

4. The final question: How would you reform the Society of Jesus? The answer's in the word itself: Put it back into its rightful form. It's what the Holy Fathers always say to you guys: Return to the founder.

I can think of no better place to start that with Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI who said, addressing the General Congregation 35, 
As my Predecessors have said to you on various occasions, the Church needs you, relies on you and continues to turn to you with trust, particularly to reach those physical and spiritual places which others do not reach or have difficulty in reaching. 
Your presumption is that there is "rightful form" as though were a static body, a thing, perhaps even a weapon. We're not. We're Companions of of Jesus, pilgrims through time summoned to dialogue with and engage culture animated by the Gospel and a deep love of Jesus Christ.  

We can't "return" to the founder if by that you mean turning back the clocks and trying to live in a Church that no longer exists and will never again exist. Not for nothing, although you may see our world as "porn-and-sex-obsessed," I'd say we're probably just as sex-obsessed today as we were fifty years ago: we're just tremendously transparent about it. If we speak only of clergy sex abuse, we can easily find numerous recorded instances (John Jay Report 2004) of abuse long before Vatican II.

Saint Ignatius understood the ways of the world and saw that these ways could lead to God. Not uncritically, mind you, but with discernment and care. When I see my brother Jesuits working with refugees, on the frontiers of the internet, or engaged with other culture I am proud of their efforts. The credibility of faith today will not be found in mandatums, as important as they are, but in the living witness of a discipleship that gives us courage to proclaim the Gospel in ever new situations. Our "return to the founder" isn't an exercise in time travel, but retrieval - we need to stay in touch with Ignatius's insight that God can be found in all things and bring that joy to a world in desperate need of Good news. 
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