Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What to make of Don Pedro.

The lovely and gracious Karen who likely assumed -- erroneously, I'd wager -- that her adoring public was growing weary with her labor union agitprop against The Man, and clearly missing the combox fireworks related to discussing the woes of how the Genius Bar is neither, posted a little something or two on the matter of Pedro Arrupe, SJ.

Whence the fireworks began.

The estimable Mark Mossa, SJ vigorously reacted with, as Jeeves might have said, "no little warmth" and explained to Karen how this was something which both displeased him and with which he disagreed. Then someone brought up Truman and the atomic bomb and the discussion devolved and I simply couldn't muster the interest to remain involved.

But the question remained rattling in my brain about what to think of Fr. Arrupe.

There are Jesuits -- of the "you'd know them if you saw them" sort -- who taught me wa-a-a-a-ay back when, who did absolutely nothing to conceal their dismay at the way the Society of Jesus had changed under his tenure and I believe it is fair to say they held him responsible. Some may have even held more censorious personal views of the then-Father General. The latter are, for the purposes of this blog entry, out of bounds.

Having read a fair bit of what Fr. Arrupe wrote, I cannot say his writing blips my "ooky-meter" like it does Karen's (Why, I may not even HAVE such a meter.) but I fear I must confess his writing does strike me as...don't hate me...a bit saccharine and banal. Certainly I can gather the meaning behind his words and they, while a bit syrupy and underwhelming, depict a man who is clearly a man of Christian faith.

So, not much drama there.

The thorny issue is that of the legacy of his stewardship as Father General. Here's how I look at it, and feel free to disabuse me as need be. These days I'll point out some spectacularly regrettable action by a given Jesuit and, invariably, some kind soul will email me and tell me not to vex myself so because (and this is the part they all say in nearly identical words) "there are a lot of different sorts of men in the Society of Jesus, and therefore with such a large and diverse group there will be many different ways in which someone could behave."

Since I like litmus tests, let's take such a test. Ready?

Please find for me ONE instance of public idiocy by a Jesuit pre-1965. Not 100, or 10. One. A measly, lousy, itty-bitty one.

One assumes the Society of Jesus was just as diverse 50 years ago as it is today -- certainly it was larger -- yet reports of a pre-1965 Jesuit priest admitting his sexual orientation during Mass or calling homosexuality "a gift" or serving in the cabinet of a Communist government or bemoaning that a would-be Papal assassin was a "bloody Turk" who "couldn't shoot straight" or saying how the Vatican's instruction on _____ doesn't really mean what it plainly says, these all seem to have escaped public notice.

So, inquisitive lad that I am, I ask an impertinent "Why?"

Why is it that in 2007 we find saddening public displays by Jesuits (almost on a continual basis) and in 1957 we found none? It can't be the case that from St. Ignatius on, every single Jesuit was a man of exclusively heterosexual inclination, right? So what changed? My guess is that a Jesuit in 1907 who faced, say, homosexual inclinations, correctly regarded them as his cross to bear. Not as a "gift." The point at which I am driving is that it's not okay for X% of the Jesuits to careen off the rails. The kind souls who worry about how I fret myself over some Jesuit's rendition of Claire de Lunacy will attempt to assuage me with "Most Jesuits, who never make the news, are good and holy men."

Which doesn't really assuage me, because the percentage of Jesuits who are good and holy men AND who preserve the Church from scandal (by act or omission) is less than 100%. At this point I'm not interested in how much less -- 0.0001% or 99.99% -- that may be.

Something changed. And that something, it changed during Fr. Arrupe's watch.

I will emphatically NOT issue a screed detailing how this was Fr. Arrupe's willful doing, or how he was clandestinely sacrificing rats to Baal at the full moon. But he was the man at the helm when things started to go wobbly and I, for the life of me, can't find any evidence to the effect he desired to right them.

Two classic illustrations of this are the cases of Fr. Robert Drinan, who as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives had a ::cough, cough:: favorable view of legalized abortion and gave scandalous cover to myriad self-described Catholic politicians' 100% NARAL rating. Then we come to Fr. Ernesto Cardenal who served as a cabinet minister in the Communist "Sandinista" government (A government that was so "of the people" that as soon as the people got hold of free elections they were all heaved out, incidentally.) and cheerfully espoused its, er, economic theories. Such as they were.

The sad litany continues, unabated, to this day.

This didn't happen overnight.

It happened slowly, gradually and began when someone, somewhere in the Society of Jesus during Fr. Arrupe's early tenure decided the Church was moderately wrong about some minor issue (it doesn't matter what...ordaining cats, marrying outside your species, whatever) and went public with this opinion. For reasons which have never been adequately explored, the upper management at the Society just shrugged and said "meh."

Which in turn led to some bright-eyed young Jesuit (delirious with Spirit of Vatican II Fever and whose opinion on Church wrongness on the issue of ____ was held with considerably greater vigor) to actually make a greater splash of his strenuous disagreement (eightieth trimester abortion, polyamorous clergy, whatever) and nobody did anything.

Then all Hell broke loose, all while Fr. Arrupe's leadership merely blinked in a semi-concerned manner. Furthermore, many from within greeted the breaking loose of Hell as a very good thing and told us so.
At this point, those whose general worldview is in sharp contradistinction to mine, will invariably comment this is just my Goldwaterishness wailing about the social justice stuff. Which is a sad little red herring. The problem with the social justice stuff is twofold:
1- It assumes that Jesuits pre-1965 were all loitering about the salons of men dressed like the MonopolyTM guy and wrenching morsels of bread from the starving lips of the proletariat, and
2- That the stuff that passes as "social justice stuff" these days will produce any permament, worthwhile results. (Hint: It won't. More on this anon.)
However, the concern for social justice had two unfortunate side effects (What? I like enumerating. Shut up.) :
1- It afforded unassailable cover to the Liberation Theology types -- who flourished in Latin America as a result, with the consequence that Evangelical Protestantism is growing like mad -- who would argue that all they were doing was for social justice, and anyone who disagreed was a plutocrat who be the first up against the wall when the RevoluciĆ³n comes, anyway.
2- It allowed many to take their eyes off the ball; forgetting that the paramount goal is to get to Heaven and take as many people with us as we can. (The "Equitable distribution of the people's resources and just allocation of the means of production" is pretty useless if you're in Hell.) This is vital stuff. I shan't out anyone here, but I am continually amazed by Jesuits whose blogs have multiple entries on the minimum wage but where you cannot find ONE mention of the Rosary or the Sacraments in three years of writing.
Finally, the most frustrating thing of all is, for me, the guardianship of Fr. Arrupe's legacy. To my untrained eyes, to hold a divergent view on Fr. Arrupe's leadership is simply not allowed. It is beyond discussion and to have such a view is equivalent to being a flat-earther. Further conversation is impossible, and all refuting evidence must be inadmissible.
So I ask myself...why?
P.S. I am aware that a lot of situations are handled through back-channels and behind the scenes and all that. Fine. Granted. But the onslaught of imbecility continues apace, meaning only one of two things:
1- There are not enough (in number and/or vehemence) of these back channel actions going on
2- Back channel stuff is useless


  • At 11:04 AM, November 19, 2007 , Blogger Karen said...

    I find myself wanting to refer you back to the Pedro Arrupe "prayer" that I cited and offering that "Love is blind."

    St. Ignatius knew how to be "in love" and pragmatic. And he knew that it was not only necessary, but VITAL.

    My dos pesos.

  • At 4:12 PM, November 28, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    "Please find for me ONE instance of public idiocy by a Jesuit pre-1965. Not 100, or 10. One. A measly, lousy, itty-bitty one."

    Would anything done by Leonard Feeney count?

    "Then we come to Fr. Ernesto Cardenal who served as a cabinet minister in the Communist "Sandinista" government"

    Ernesto Cardenal was never a Jesuit. You're thinking of his brother Fernando (who, to be fair, also accepted a position in the Ortega cabinet, but as a result of that choice he was forced to leave the Society). I won't hold that against you, though, for many have made the same mistake.


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