Thursday, March 14, 2013

We see things not as they are...

...but as we are.

Poor George Weigel. A wry smile crept across my face as I read his piece in the National Review (page three for the juicy bits) where he muses:
I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.
I smile because Mr. Weigel succeeds in being simultaneously totally correct and totally wrong. That is, there were no champagne corks flying in our community last night - we can't afford champagne, but a lot of guys did toast our Jesuit brother, Pope Francis, with raised bottles of beer. I can't say that I partook in the festivities for too long, although I did have a glass of wine. I went, instead, to a 9:00 pm celebration of the Eucharist where we prayed for the Holy Father.

What's sort of sad about Weigel is that he is a mirror image of what he despises in the Church. He perceives a liberal feint to the left, so he moves right. Some read the election of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis as an act of the Holy Spirit, Weigel takes it as an issue of political intrigue. This coming from the guy who stridently defended the Legion of Christ, once claiming to have been "deeply impressed by the work of Legionaries of Christ in the United States" and praised its disgraced founder, ex-Father Maciel, and his charism whose "fruits are most impressive indeed."

Orchard owners and farmers: be warned! If this is Mr. Weigel demonstrating his knowledge of fruits, better not rely on his forecast your next harvest.

Nor should the Church.

What Weigel fails to grasp is that men entering religious life today aren't fighting yesterday's battles. We are men and women who feel called to live their discipleship as servants of the Church which, itself, serves Jesus' mission to spread the Gospel. We serve the mission God gave to the Church to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we know the Church is not perfect...but neither are we. Still, we choose to serve joyfully because we are excited about the future the Lord is inviting us into.

His myopia aside, it must be admitted, it must be said that for all his blustering,  Mr. Weigel desperately needs those for whom "the Catholic Revolution that Never Was" because, without them, what is he? Just another voice, another pundit, offering his two-cents as he works as a Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center. I say "work" loosely, because I'm not quite certain what a "Fellow" does all day long. Think thoughts? Have leisure time to cultivate grudges and snark?

Weigel's a pitiable sort, really, with not much knowledge of how the Society of Jesus works and seemingly out of touch with the state of contemporary religious life. Let's look at another gem. Of Cardinal Bergoglio's relationship to the Jesuits, he writes that he
...embodied “dynamic orthodoxy,” just like John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger; who had been persecuted by his more theologically and politically left-leaning Jesuit brethren after his term as Jesuit provincial in Argentina (they exiled him to northern Argentina, where he taught high-school chemistry until rescued by John Paul II and eventually made archbishop of Buenos Aires); and who was doubtless appalled by the whole exercise on his putative behalf.
I mean, I reckon it's hard to imagine from the heights of being a "Fellow," but teaching high school students is probably a more effective form of evangelization than any series of luncheons or "think tank" sessions one can attend in a lifetime. If you can make something interesting and accessible to a high school student, Lord knows, you can surely bring it to any corner of the world. Having taught high school, in my estimation, may be the best credential the Holy Father brings to this new job.

In the current Holy Father's election, a long untapped resource of those who have been, and are being taught, by Jesuits is now accessed in a potentially exciting ways. It's my suspicion that many - certainly not all - alums of Jesuit institutions felt a sense of pride in knowing that they have, however loosely, a connection to the Holy Father by virtue of a brotherhood that encompasses the globe. Struck by his simplicity of style and how he has eschewed much pageantry, how cannot I not hear an echo of our deceased brother Cardinal Martini's words, "...our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous."

A day into his pontificate, I have hope. I had hope the day before his pontificate began, too. Why? Because my hope is in God, revealed in Jesus Christ whose Spirit gathers us together and leads us on our earthly pilgrimage toward the Kingdom of God. Our Holy Father will now take his turn shepherding the flock. He will make strides and, undoubtedly, stumble along the way. Yet, rather that trying to parse his allegiance to the Jesuits and speculate about how he's going to "reform the Jesuits," I shall look to the Pope with brotherly affection and a spirit of availability to go where the Vicar of Christ might send me.

I don't speak alone, of this I have no doubt. But don't tell Mr. Weigel...he continues to need shadows to box, if only to prompt him to write books, make television appearances, and do whatever it is a Fellow does. 


Christopher M said...

I think Jesuits can get a bad rap because some believe that a left-leaning political structure will actually achieve the left's stated goals: educating the poor, helping the sick and elderly.

Some liberals think that they are being charititable by demanding that the government provide services to the poor, financed by everyone but themselves.

I think history has shown that these government social programs never acheive their goals. It also reduces people's expectations for the need to personally do charitible works -you give your money, your time, to the poor, not obviscate responsibility by saying "well I pay my taxes, I don't have to do anything."

All in all, I think these Jesuits were well intentioned, but their bedfellows (leftists), where quite against the Church as long as they didn't further their aims of growing their own power.

Advocatus Diaboli said...

"You see, men entering religious life today aren't fighting yesterday's battles."

Thank you! I wish more 40+ year olds in the church would realize that there is a new generation with new understandings and new projects in a changed/changing world faced with different issues. I'm tired of hearing about things from the 1970's and 80's.

Anonymous said...

I think you are reading Weigel's article all wrong. You write, "What Weigel fails to grasp is that men entering religious life today aren't fighting yesterday's battles. We are men and women who feel called to live their discipleship as servants of the Church which, itself, serves Jesus' mission to spread the Gospel." Trust me, Weigel knows this very well. He has spent many hours visiting with the seminarians of the North American College in Rome over the years, and knows who the young men entering the seminary and religious life are. Weigel is on your side my friend. Trust me.

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

Thank you but, I'm afraid, you misunderstand me. We're not here "on any side." Language of sides is divisive and encourages rancor and animosity within the body. There can be, and must be, fruitful discussion how we are getting to where we are going, but "sides" are wholly unhelpful on this journey.

We're here to serve the mission given to the Church. I'm not interested in "right/left" or "liberal/conservative" designations. I want to know that women and men can walk together, with a sense of joy, toward the Kingdom.

It's not you I'd have a hard time trusting. It's Weigel's intentions I which I am dubious.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. You may eschew the language of "sides," but calling the man a "pitiable sort, really" who in his work as a Fellow ("I say 'work' loosely") has the "leisure time to cutltivate grudges and snark" while he gazes down from "the heights of a Fellow" kind of makes me think you may actually see him as being on some "other side."

Dismissing the hard work of thinking and writing (which is what Fellows do) is, frankly, something I never expected to hear from a Jesuit.

It's not that I'm a defender of Weigel. Honestly, I never heard of the man until I read your post, but having Googled him, here's a small bit of what he's done: he's the author and editor of twenty-some books, the Vatican analyst for NBC News, and past president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He wrote "Witness to Hope," a biography of John Paul II that seems to have been widely read. He has been awarded fifteen honorary doctorates, and "the papal cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice."

All of this was very easy to find, by the way. I Googled his name and the third or fourth hit was this:

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

Perhaps I was more glib that I ought to have been: having been a long admirer of the Woodstock Theological Center where the work of its fellows has produced great work. Indeed, I'm sure he does some great things.

That said, perhaps in aping his style of rhetoric, dismissive of others and quick to point out faults, I've fallen prey to what I cannot abide. I think, though, the larger point is that he's quite obviously ensnared in a polarizing agenda that really doesn't any longer have the opponents he attempts to conjure.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You hate George Weigel a lot. You're willing to slap him across the face with Maciel, a position he no longer holds, and you're willing to ridicule his livelihood.

And when someone calls you on it you are willing to say your tone is his fault.

I bet people will like Weigel more after reading your article. Seeing someone bullied does that.

And if modern Jesuits get this prickly when someone dares mention the confusion and corruption so many of us have seen in the Society, then you're right. Talk of "reform" isn't really relevant.

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

Hate is such a strong word.

Bullying is such an over-used phrase these days, really. George Weigel spares no punches against the Jesuits over "abuses" that have happened in the past which he recycles as though they were only just being reported. I'm simply aping.

I must say, too, that I love your stereotype. I become "modern Jesuits." As the disclaimer says: I am a Jesuit, but I don't speak on behalf of the Society of Jesus. Confusion and corruption: many saw it in the Legion, yet Weigel defended them. He has since recanted, moved on into the future from a mistake he has made in the past.

You'll grant him that indulgence yet the "confusion and corruption" you've seen in the Society -- and I'd love to hear what those words mean to you -- is unforgivable? Keep in mind as well that the abuse of an individual Jesuit does not speak for the Society of Jesus. When people say "the Jesuits" are so-and-so I grow irritated because while we are united as brother in the Lord, we are not uniform.

So my questions back to you:

What are the sources of ongoing "confusion and corruption" many of you have seen in the Society? Second, if you were to reform the Society, into what would you "reform" it?

Anonymous said...

Hate *is* a strong word. Snarky clever put downs are easier to accept. Charity is hardest of all.

Your question: "What are the sources of ongoing 'confusion and corruption' many of you have seen in the Society? Second, if you were to reform the Society, into what would you 'reform' it?"

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).

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.

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.

How would I reform it?

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.

The world is desperate for more Ad Majorem Dei Glorium, more self-criticism, more honest engagement with the world (the real world, the porn-and-sex-obsessed increasingly sad and lonely world), and a lot less prickly defensive snark.

Karl said...

This was well said Ryan. Weigel may have a point in that he may be referring to a small group of Jesuits 70 and over who are still living in the 1970s and 80s. Weigel should be more even handed in his judgement by letting people know that the cadre of people to which he is referring, exists in almost every order and diocese. What he dislikes so much about the Jesuits is true in general about the clergy in that cohort. Unfortunately, Weigel is part of the same age and thus, he fighting battles against a foe that is slowly disappearing. He needs to join the Church of the 21st century.

David said...

I am encouraged to hear that you went to the Eucharist to celebrate the election of the first Jesuit pope, one of the only Jesuits I have heard of celebrating anything regarding the election of Pope Francis. Yesterday I stepped foot onto Rockhurst University, a unabashedly Jesuit institution, and there were no signs of celebration, or that a Pope, let alone the first Jesuit pope, had just been elected. No visible signs, no celebrations, no parties, no special Masses or prayer vigils, and when talking to students, none of them even knew what had happened two days prior. The only posters hanging on campus were for Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure.

"Maybe they took all of the Papal posters down" I thought. Perhaps Rockhurst advertised the historical news over the internet and social media. That search ended rather depressingly when Rockhurst's homepage was filled with headlines boasting of their own MBA program and ability to form leaders--nope no pope news there.

In a critical time when world was united watching Rome, the Jesuit's Rockhurst remained apart and silent.

Anonymous said...

In the Philippines, prominent Jesuits favored and abetted the new universal contraception law. A host of university professors from the Jesuit university issued a public statement in favor of the law. The university itself issued a statement against the law, but encouraged the professors for doing the work of discernment.