Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Obedience & Reactions & GC35

A curious thing has dawned upon me as I read the various reactions to GC35 (in general and The Homily in particular) by "public-eye Jesuits." They all seem to say, in a slightly different way something along these lines: This is the sort of thing that happens at these sorts of occasions. This is commonplace, this is boilerplate, this is the standard thing to be said. Those of you who have some knowledge of judo will know exactly what I mean.

This is exemplified by phrases such as:
"Not surprisingly, and as Vatican officials usually choose to do on these occasions, the cardinal spoke of..."
or
"[Cardinal Rodé] clearly wanted to impress upon us the seriousness of our congregation and the necessity of maintaining fidelity to the Holy See and the magisterium."
or
"The Cardinal expressed sorrow and anxiety because in his estimation the sentire cum ecclesia is diminishing among some members of religious families."
Cynical people -- not me, y'understand, but cynical people -- might be reminded of Kevin Bacon's last lines in Animal House, which he delivers with ever-increasing levels of distress: "Remain calm. All is well."

Part of what is at play here ties in with the concept of obedience and sentire cum Ecclesia. This latter phrases is often translated as "thinking with the Church" but that's not quite it. It really means much more than that, something like "to feel what the Church feels." In this case, Church means the hierarchical Church and not that nebulous, warm 'n' fuzzy "People* of God" concept. Which is a very extraordinary thing to ask, come to think of it. It's like having to ask your spouse or child to love you unconditionally. Unconditional love, empathy can be faked, but -- and watch this, now -- can't be produced. You either have it or you don't.

Which is what is at the center of the nucleus of the atom at the core of the problem.

You cannot expect anyone to walk up to Fr. Heretic Q. Heterodox, SJ, tell him "Hey! You! Think with the Church!" and then have Father say to himself "Oh. Right. Sorry about that. I'll get right on it."

I'd venture to say the overwhelming majority of the issues we are seeing with Jesuits (note that I didn't say "the Jesuits") these days stem from an intriguingly subtle and near-undetectable sort of pride. This I define as placing something of the self at the very center where discipleship to Christ and His Church ought to be. In most cases, this is manifested by having some sort of socio-political agenda; perhaps enrobed in Church-speak, perhaps not. A quickie litmus test is this: When you hear a given person (Jesuit or otherwise) saying "I want to do X because Christ said..." your antenna should be twitching like mad at the giveaway phrase "I want to do X."

Another obstacle many Jesuits face in feeling what the Church feels is, let's call it what it is, arrogance. Sometimes it's manifested brazenly, but more frequently we see it as a gloss, a shine, a shading on dicta and pronouncements and opinions. It can be a masterful thing, in its own way, to see how a wayward Jesuit -- feel free to think "Jedi" at this point -- manages to shut the door on any possible admission of refuting evidence. Sometimes this is done so well you never realize there was a door to shut in the first place.

So, we're back where we started. Praying for a change of heart. Which means the Holy Spirit must get involved.

And so, to prayer.

-J.

* After all, Karen and I are People of God, and yet the Usual Suspects who bandy about such a phrase don't seem to include those of us who think along these lines among the People of God. I was about to posit a suggestion as to what they might possibly mean, but then I reminded myself of how imperative it is to be charitable.