Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deconstructing it all.

One of the most dangerous bits of bloggery is posting an opinion on something with which those whom you correspond and love will likely take exception. It's dangerous because one could very easily come across as gleefully taking whacks with a machete at someone else's adored object. It's even easier to do this if one is under the erroneous assumption the written medium can properly convey one's tone as intended.

So the choice is to barrel on, or to proceed

Now, part of the process of proceeding with deliberation is allowing the pulse to slacken, and the better angels of one's nature to come back from their coffee break and get things under control. With one's baser passions duly thralled, it's easier to glide and maneuver carefully and minimize misunderstandings.

"Why the protracted song-and-dance?" I hear you murmuring out there in Blogville.

Because I am going to take a more methodical look at Fr. Arrupe and, more importantly, at those people whose sense of self is inextricably bound up in the public perception of "the spirit of" Fr. Arrupe. I promise to avoid even the hint of ad hominem, but in exchange I ask that if I have gotten something factual wrong, that I be corrected.

This all started when I was graciously sent a link to an excerpt of an article in America Magazine on the legacy of Fr. Arrupe.

[There are some things which I consider beyond dispute: Fr. Arrupe's character, dignity, piety, morals, etc. are all, to my knowledge, above reproach. So don't go there.]

I'll go through the salient bits, with my emphasis and comments.

The article raised so many red flags with me that one would have thought the Kremlin had started its version of a Rennaissance Faire right on Red Square. Starting with the fact it was authored by someone (Peter Hebblethwaite) formerly of The Tablet. To someone with views like mine, this didn't bode well.


The 31st General Congregation, which elected [Fr. Arrupe] was unique: No previous congregation had required two sessions, and none had produced documents of such far-reaching scope and character. It was like a second founding of the Society of Jesus. I didn't know there was anything the matter with the first founding.

Though the Society, restored in 1814, could claim moral continuity with the dissolved Society, some aspects of the restoration were less faithful to its spirit. This strikes me as rampant subjectivity, and ought put any reader on his guard. The Dutchman Johann Roothaan, S.J., the first General after the restoration (he served from 1829-53), was the dominating figure. He presented the Spiritual Exercises in a rather wooden way How does he know?; Jesuits tended to be Ultramontane in theology a glittering and unsupported generalization, and one which is falsely cast as almost synonymous with the sort of albino-monk-sniper Catholic Church Inc. If the choice is between an ultramontanism and an unfettered subsidiarity and collegiality, chalk me up to play for the ultramontanists. and, as educators, to be the props of reactionary regimes a glittering, wildly erroneous and scandalously offensive generalization. Men who are craven acolytes of "reactionary regimes" -- kindly note the agitprop-speak -- do not go forth to martyrdom as they did in Mexico, Spain, the Soviet Union, Communist China and other places where The People's Non-Reactionary Regime was only too happy to violently catapult them into eternal life.


It was appropriate that another Basque, with an astonishing physical likeness to St. Ignatius, should preside over this reinvention of the Society of Jesus. What have I been saying all along? In Don Pedro, two lines of force converged. Conciliar renewal was the program of the church, and the council itself urged religious congregations to greater fidelity to their charism. Don Pedro never wavered on this, despite disappointments, and was never tempted by the fashionable pessimism of the 1980's that blames the present "crisis" Notice the scare quotes around crisis? on the council.

In November 1974, for example, Father Arrupe held a press conference to explain why men were leaving the Society. At that date, it had declined from 36,038 in 1965 to 29,462, and worse was to come. Don Pedro said that 0.8 percent of Jesuit priests were leaving each year. Though obviously he did not relish this trend, he was completely unfazed by it. He did not blame it on the modern world, and he refused to wring his hands in impotent grief. Admirable, but what did he do?

He learned from the departures. Some people leave to sort out personal psychological problems. They go with blessings on their head, and their departure, though sad, is not tragic. After all, there are other ways of serving God. "One mission-many ministries," as the council says. No one else in Rome was using such language. In a famous Maundy Thursday homily, for example, Pope Paul VI likened "ex-priests" to so many "Judases."

But Don Pedro said he was more worried by another kind of departure. Just as pain can be a sign of malfunctioning of the organism, so the losses of bright young men could be a warning that change must come or decline would set in irrevocably. It seems this is prescient. Don Pedro always held firmly to this principle: "The voice of the young Jesuits is the voice of the modern world within the order." And he wanted to give that voice a hearing. Remember these words.

I did not know Don Pedro's predecessor, the Belgian John Baptist Janssens, S.J., very well. He seems to have been content to stay in Rome and [snip] was always addressed as "Your Paternity." He seemed like a dry, old stick in need of much watering. When he came to recreation at Kaulbachstrasse in Munich in 1955, conversation dried up. Get that? Fr. Janssens was not the life of the party, clearly a bad man unfit for the job.


None of this meant that Don Pedro had abdicated the leadership of the Society, as some of his critics alleged. As you may surmise, this is hardly a "case closed" matter. In one sense he did more "leading" than any of his predecessors. But the gist of his approach was that he trusted other Jesuits to behave in a Jesuit way. If this is true, then it's a strange definition of "leadership" of which I hadn't previously been made aware. The problem is this writer -- and a sad many others -- mistake leadership with "bossing people around." Leadership is not just issuing corrective measures when needed, but also offering instruction and guidance. If they did that, they would get the right answer. He was not afraid to take the risk of trust. Those working in writing, theology, social action all benefited from this ordered liberty. All perfectly true, no doubt. Yet, one wonders at whether the Church and the world benefited from the output of all these writers, theologians and social action figures who benefited from this ostensibly ordered liberty. One of Don Pedro's crosses was listening to denunciations, which came from all over the world. The internal ones caused him most pain. But did these denunciations have or lack merit? But it could be said that the 32nd General Congregation dealt with them insofar as it was in a sense a plebiscite on the way he ran the Society. His mandate was confirmed. So...those who were doing what they will, approved of the liberty to do as they will? Novel, that.

But still the denunciations kept on rolling in. Did anyone ever stop to wonder why? Or stop to wonder if these just might have any merit? At synod after synod, bishops would come up to Father Arrupe and ask him what he was doing about the Jesuit who had joined the guerrillas or who said Mass in coveralls or who dismissed Humanae Vitae as tyrannical. Don Pedro's principle in such matters was to defend his men loyally. Not defend the Church, nor its doctrines, nor its strictures but "his men." I hope that for Father's sake, the author has this wrong. It makes my head throb to contemplate. But he asked for something in return: "Please make it easier for me to defend you!" Please, someone...anyone, explain to me why this is not equivalent to "Please change your rules so my guys can stop being rule-breakers." Those writing about the Vatican at that time, as I was, were liable to get letters from the Secretariat of State charging them with "offending against Truth and the Apostolic See" (as though the two terms were synonymous). Please, someone...anyone, explain to me why this isn't arrogant smokescreen. Did anyone bother to determine if the denunciations had any merit? This would happen, typically, when some Asian bishop had failed to detect a stroke of irony or see a joke. And why were jokes and ironies being banded about, again? I discussed this once with Don Pedro. "If I write about you," I suggested, "I would have to be free to be critical since, as Figaro said, 'Without the freedom to criticize, no praise has any value.'" Don Pedro liked that--thus effectively disarming me as a critic of him. Frankly, the author's armament is likely to not require much in the way of disabling.


It can now be freely admitted that relations [between Fr. Arrupe and] Pope John Paul II were not so cordial. No one quite knew where Pope John Paul's coldness, hostility even, to the Society came from. No one? Really? Nobody had ANY idea whatsoever from where they came? But it was an undoubted fact. He seemed to make them scapegoats for the "crisis" in the church. Scary scare quotes again.

As long ago as 1972, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla proposed that the synod should examine "religious life." He wrote a memo on the subject that begins with the evidence for a "crisis": Scary scare quotes again. This is getting tedious, Hebblethwaite. "Defections, lack of vocations, infidelity in keeping the vows." All of which strike me as perfectly reasonable criteria for a crisis. Is this author saying it's illogical and unsound for someone to have a problem with these being considered "bad?" Really? Among the "remedies" Scare quotes yet again. You bore me Hebblethwaite, and are beginning to strike me as a half-trick pony. was "a better insertion into the life of the church," which would naturally involve a "reexamination of the concept of exemption." These were Roman euphemisms for recovering control over a body that was behaving too independently. These would appear to be progressivist euphemisms for a body that does what it bloody well wants to regardless of what Church teaching actually says and arrogantly placing itself above same. Follow me here. If the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit (and it is) then what possible use is it to behave independently from it? Why would any sane person who disagrees with its doctrine -- and thus wishes to start "behaving too independently"-- even bother to devote his life to serving it in a clerical capacity? Though there was no specific mention of Jesuits there, when Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope, they soon found they were in his sights.

On Sept. 21, 1979, Pope John Paul II addressed Father Arrupe and his top advisers in menacing fashion: "I am not unaware--drawing on a few other sources of information--that the crisis which in recent times has troubled religious life and is still troubling it has not spared your Society, causing confusion among Christian people and concern to the church, to the hierarchy and personally to the Pope who is speaking to you." Keep in mind the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. Don Pedro responded to the Pope's address and bravely tried to pretend that there was nothing new here. On the Feast of the North American Martyrs, he wrote that "a call from three Popes leaves little room for doubt that it is the Lord Himself who, surely with love, expects something better of us. We cannot wait any longer."

The "third Pope," by the way, was Pope John Paul I, who had prepared a critical address that death prevented him delivering. Mind you, NOBODY who has ever written anything about JP1 has ever cast him as a reactionary troglodyte eager to hurl the Church back to the Dark Ages. Could it be (maybe, perhaps) that JP1 had possibly a semi-valid reason for his views?

But it was in truth difficult to "do something" about such imprecise charges. The Pope said he was worried by secularizing tendencies and a lack of austerity in community life, and exhorted the Jesuits to greater "fidelity to the magisterium of the church and to the priestly character of your apostolic work." One simple question. WHY would he do that? Assume, for the nonce that JP2 did not have some pathologically irrational hatred of the Society of Jesus. There was some evidence (!) that fidelity to the magisterium was from now on (!!) going to require not only a resolute defense of Humanae Vitae but also not bringing up questions--like the ordination of women--which the Curia did not like. Did you catch that "from now on" thing? Fidelity to the magisterium means precisely what it says, and always has: What the Magisterium* says goes, always, completely and unreservedly. JP2 didn't invent a new meaning of that phrase merely to suit his nefarious right-wing agenda. Let me put this as plainly as I can...without steadfast adherence to the teaching authority of the Church there is no true Catholicism. After all that's why they call it the teaching authority of the Church.

Oh, and did you also catch that "which the Curia did not like" bit as well? You see, in certain quarters, it seems there are no doctrines or unwavering truths...just things the Curia doesn't like. One presumes the Curia is like Lola and "what the Curia wants, the Curia gets" regardless of what Revelation has, erm, revealed. I wonder if people fall down because the Curia likes gravity.

Seriously, I defy anyone to read that sentence again and not be tempted to speechlessness.

This concealed rather than revealed the real point of conflict. It was simply that the Jesuits under Father Arrupe worked with an analysis of the present state of the church that was at odds with the papal analysis. Stop and let that sink in. Don Pedro had addressed the German Katholikentag in 1972 and declared: "For hundreds of millions of Catholics the real crisis of faith comes not from materialism or from unrestricted theological discussion, but from the brutal misery of their existence." With which I would disagree more strenuously than I can charitably express.

Crises of faith happen only when we pry God out of our life's center and cram something else therein -- money, fame, our narcissistic self, luxuries, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll -- in an invariably haphazard manner. An existence of brutal misery does not. Unrestricted theological discussion foments crises of faith gives people the idea that what are actually pillars of faith are perennially up for grabs and the foundations are malleable--only the silly whims of the Curia, if you will. An existence of brutal misery CANNOT do that. Crises of faith allow us to either turn a blind eye to brutal misery or only act in ways which will merely assuage our guilt over said brutal misery. Full stop. Those who believed that the crisis was caused by "materialism and unrestricted theological discussion" took exception to such statements and bided their time.... Cue ominous music to highlight the perfidy of the HyperOrthodox. The first anniversary of Archbishop Romero's death, ignored by L'Osservatore Romano at the explicit orders of the ultramontane HyperOrthodox lackeys of reactionary regimes, surely! was celebrated in March 1981 in the Church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. The Union of Major Religious Superiors, led by Father Arrupe, organized the event. The choirs of the Mexican and North American Colleges combined to make it memorable. But it was regarded as provocative by Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, then prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and president of the decisive Pontifical Commission for Latin America (C. A. L. ). Don Pedro was among the concelebrants. That put a bad mark against his name. More ominous music. Can we get Peter Cushing to play Baggio?

But a much graver crisis was already looming. At the 1977 Synod, Don Pedro had remarked that silence could not be an answer to the problems posed by Marxism: "Today, when catechesis includes, and quite legitimately includes, the political dimension of Christian duty and Christian existence, it is impossible to leave Marxism out of account." One would have expected this to be a platitude. One would have? For Latin America, it was more like firing a time-bomb. Marxism is evil. It has been proven, over and over again, to be a gallery of ceaseless horrors at worst and "hay and a barn for human cattle" at very best. Why are we even discussing this?

In 1979 Don Pedro went to Lima, Peru, to discuss with the Latin American provincials what to do about Marxism. Do what Bl. Miguel A. Pro, SJ did: engage people, challenge their erroneous Marxist assumptions and preach the Gospel to them. For Puebla had denied that it was possible to separate out various aspects of Marxism, notably its philosophy from its analysis. Self evident stuff, why is this even on the table? This matter needed studying in depth. No it didn't, unless one wished to reach a different conclusion. It could not be solved by repeating slogans. What slogans? No, it could be solved by doing what Bl. Miguel A. Pro, SJ did: engage people, challenge their erroneous Marxist assumptions and preach the Gospel to them. This is not particularly complicated.


To deny the use of Marxist concepts, in this sense, would be to ban serious political discourse altogether. No, it would not. To assert otherwise presupposes noxious, delapidated and intellectually banrupt political philosophies such as Marxism are even possibly a part of serious political discussions. But of course it did not mean that Don Pedro or the Society of Jesus had suddenly "gone Marxist." On the contrary, the rejection of Marxism as a whole package deal was clear and unhesitating, as was the rejection of the exclusive use of Marxist analysis. This is like saying one doesn't mind patronizing a doctor who performs abortions if all one is doing is getting a pelvic exam.

But perhaps the passage that most annoyed the critics in the Vatican was that which exposed the fraudulence of much anti-Communism: "Finally, we should also firmly oppose the efforts of anyone who wishes to take advantage of our reservations about Marxist analysis in order to condemn as Marxist or Communist, or at least to minimize esteem for, a commitment to justice and the cause of the poor, the defense of their rights against those who exploit them, the urging of legitimate claims." Let's read this carefully again, shall we? If Marxist analysis is ::cough, cough:: worthy of reservation, that means it simply cannot be the only avenue by which one arrives at being committed to the which case, why use it at all? Why leave yourself open to charges of Marxism? The above passage strikes me as a bit of innoculation...after all, how can someone practically offer any criticism of Marxism in action, without getting blasted for a lack of concern for the exploited poor?

In an oblique way, Hepplethwaite has put the arrow through the apple and exposed the decrepit fraudulence of much "social justice" which seeks to place itself above reproach by preemptively claiming that any criticism of its invariably collectivist "solutions" is hostility to the poor and derision towards their legitimate claims.


Instead of dying, he was gravely incapacitated, placed in that worst of states where his mind remained alert but he could no longer express himself. It was a final purification. He had been very hurt. A negative judgment had been passed on his stewardship. That was the plain meaning of the imposition of a "personal delegate." He and the team he had gathered were not to be trusted...Did anyone stop to seriously ask -- besides the usual back-room conspiracy theory stuff -- why this was?

In the fall of 1981, Father Dezza had other things on his mind. While some zealots expected a purge, Father Dezza kept the Jesuit curial team together, left all superiors in place, and continued all of Father Arrupe's policies, while making reassuring noises from time to time. Where to begin? Who are the zealots? Those who recklessly consider fidelity to the magisterium to encompass Humanae Vitae? Also notice that Fr. Dezza "continued all of Father Arrupe's policies, while making reassuring noises from time to time." If this really was a serious effort to think with the heart of the Church and the Vicar of Christ, please email and explain this to me with charts, graphs, circles and arrows, because frankly I don't see it. What I do see, alas, stands much further afield than my capacity for charitable explanation.

As someone who loves the Society of Jesus as much as I do, and who sweats out the future of the Society in daily prayer, this article did nothing to reassure me of the mindset of the more stalwart defenders of Fr. Arrupe. On the contrary.

If I am wrong, please show me how and where. I promise to listen patiently and humbly.



* "If we wish to proceed securely in all things we must hold fast to the following principle: What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines." - St. Ignatius of Loyola


  • At 7:52 AM, November 27, 2007 , Blogger Karen said...

    In a rare show of restraint, regarding all things Arrupian, I'd just like to say that it irks me whenever I read about his uncanny likeness to St. Ignatius. Anyone who has ever spent any time in Pais Vasco knows that ALL Basques have an uncanny likeness to each other.

    I'll do the research when I have time. Their skulls are shaped differently than most people's. No one knows from whence they came. They are not European. Arrupe and St. Ignatius are similar in appearance because they are bald Basques.

    I would argue that all similarities (physical and otherwise) end there.

  • At 8:01 PM, November 27, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    Next time you're in town we'll have to eat at Centro Vasco.



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