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. 

8 comments:

Jim said...

"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."

Dear friend- I think this is as marvelous an encapsulation of Ignation spirituality as I have ever seen- yes the ways of the world CAN lead to God- it's a matter of the choices we make.

Thanks for this- and Godspeed in your ministry-

naturgesetz said...

It's always bothered me that the Jesuits alienated my Alma Mater, Georgetown. When the announcement was made there was no indication that the Society had received fair value in compensation — actually, no indication that they had been paid anything: it seemed that they just gave it away. And, as it seemed to me, the announcement disclosed no real necessity for giving it away.

Do you have any information about why the Society deemed this massive giveaway (not only Georgetown, but the whole lot of formerly Jesuit colleges and universities) desirable or necessary?

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

I can't say for certain, but I will look into it. I would say that were the Society to have held the universities and high schools, they'd have become assets which could have, through a lawsuit, been seized. Further, even if the numbers had held, or increased a bit, there's probably no way we could have staffed the schools as they grew. I think it was does for business and professional reasons, not because the Society ceased believing in the work of education.

owen swain said...

Ryan, (do I call you Ryan?)

thanks for moving this discussion to a post of it's own. I would have otherwise missed it.

"One cannot accept another until one accepts oneself." This is at the core if not the core issue of bias and presumption that are rife in various 'camps' within the Church. I appreciate the manner in which you have addressed the points because, while you speak specifically of the Jesuits and rightly so, the same points, the same bias, presumption and lack of a will to fully understand the 'other' which are behind the points put to you and your response can be easily transposed to the criticism leveled from other 'camps' at other religious (such as our own Basilian Fathers who take plenty of heat from self-identifying 'conservatives' or 'traditionalists'), at the Church, at other brothers and sisters in-Christ...

I should take the time to write that all out better but I hope you catch the drift.

P.S. When I say "own own" Basilian Fathers I refer to the fact that our parish has been Basilian run since the mid-late 1800s and that my Love (of 30 years) and I are in our year of discernment as Basilian Lay Associates.

P.P.S. So I am not perceived as sitting on some high thrown, "One cannot accept another until one accepts oneself." has been my own lifelong issue, through ordained Protestant ministry and into my Catholic life. Only recently am I getting a hold of this innate weakness and trying to hold forth with grace toward others as it has been afforded me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I'm the anonymous who raised this issue.

Here is one study showing the problem http://cns.winxweb.com/Portals/0/docs/UCLAStudy.pdf But it is pretty clear to anyone familiar with Jesuit colleges and universities.

I don't know how to take your comments. They clearly demonstrate that there is confusion and corruption in Jesuit institutions.

Worse, it's a confusion and corruption you are willing to use verbal shuffling to wish away.

Yes, if Jesuit institutions were getting people sick with their kitchens I would blame the Jesuits, not shrug my shoulders and say "those lousy staffs! But those Jesuits are great!"

But this is worse than getting kids sick. I was one such college student at a Jesuit university, where the right to life was scoffed at in class, where students were encouraged to write their own creeds in senior theology classes, and where there was no confession and minimal Mass attendance, and no encouragement of either by anyone. Just a Jesuit campus minister who snarked about pious people.

My nephews and nieces are going through exactly the same thing now, shrugging off the faith of their youth and getting swallowed up by the culture.

Wake up. Be relevant. This is no time to smirk and mutter about how Jesuits bear no responsibility for the schools that are their biggest boast.

There is a revolution sweeping American Catholic youth. They march in droves for the right to life. They go on mission trips -- real mission trips that, like the Jesuit pope said, offering Christ, not just "pitiful NGO" work. They study the Bible. They evangelize. And yes, they get on their knees, even on Friday nights when necessary.

I pray daily for a reform of the Jesuits -- however you want to define reform --- a reform which would mean the Jesuits stopped ushering kids into the arms of the culture's worst excesses.

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

Anonymous,

Thank you. There's no reason for us to continue this discussion. You're citing a "study" by Patrick Reilly. This is as far from a professional, objective, study as one can get. If this is a definitive study for you, well, there's not much I can say.

As for your other points, to the extent that they are points, you've really not grasped my point. You'd blame a religious institute for a problem with of the work. Fine, but as I've said, it's not the Jesuits at work in this. You may criticize it, but the distinction is as clear as I can make it.

You want me to "be relevant" and to "wake up" yet you have nephews and a niece "going through exactly the same thing now." Have you been a model of faith to them? Have you shown them the credibility of faith through your life? Have you actually asked if they've personally tried to get involved in the faith life of the school, or do you expect that it get ram-rodded down their throats?

You think the Jesuits usher kids into the "cultures worst excesses." Let me be blunt: if this is your attitude, I curse it completely. Do you really presume so much as to stand behind the veil of anonymity and accuse and order who had dedicated itself to Companionship with Jesus as being guilty of leading the youth entrusted to it into sin? If that is your attitude and the firmness of your conviction, then you have failed as an uncle in allowing your family members to attend a school associated with the Society of Jesus.

Let me allow you an insight into my prayer: I pray that men and women of good will will enliven to God's Spirit in the world that calls them from an ossified past and draws them into a living present. You can pray for "a reform of the Jesuits" but it's not going to happen according to your design - you long for a church that neither exists any longer nor exists as you wish it to have been. We are, all of us, trying to discern God's Spirit and your pining for some nostalgic "old days" is hardly helpful. We, as the people of God, need to take seriously the questions raised by our current era and engage them. You, it seems, want an agenda of questioning set in some bygone era.

Unless you can engage the world as it is today, and pray for the Society to engage the culture as it is, your position is erroneous and everything that follows is irrelevant.

Yeah, you may say I'm being unkind or uncharitable. I'm simply telling my anonymous interlocutor how I see it. You say there is a revolution sweeping American Catholic youth, I see signs of this and I see it especially in Jesuit high schools.

I'm not responding again to your comments. You clearly are convinced of your own rectitude and I've spent enough time engaging you. If I knew who you were, that is, as a real person, I might be inclined to keep up this correspondence. There's not much that I can say to convince you, I suspect, so my response ceases here.

Anonymous said...

Okay, then!

The study is UCLA/heri, by the way, so your ad hominem non-response is factually incorrect.

A Jesuit once told me -- in the confessional, as it happens -- that "You can't play games with God." That helped change my life.

God is love, and with all its difficulties living in trust of that love brings a lot more happiness than living a life that makes excuses, keeps the status quo and dodges reality.

C.S. Lewis said that anyone we are talking to (even college students) 100 years from now will be either so glorious in heaven we would be tempted to worship them or so horrible in hell we would flee in terror.

I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

Anonymous said...

A study commissioned by CNR and the Cardinal Newman Society using data from 1997-2001, involving not only Jesuit schools but Notre Dame and various others, provides the definitive proof for your claim? Your argument is ad populum: a study says some students lose their faith in college, Jesuits sponsor some colleges, therefore the Jesuits are responsible for many students losing their faith...and anyone familiar with Jesuit colleges/universities sees this clearly.


PB