Jesuit: Is He Or Isn’t He?

As the inimitable Father Z scrambles to a new niche in the post-conciliar Church, I did notice a little twist of commentary, and so did someone else.

In a blog post that sought to downplay the significance of Francis’ interview, the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative commentator popularly known as “Father Z,” wrote that Pope Francis is “formerly a Jesuit.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

I can’t say I’m more than a beginner at Ignatian spirituality, but the Jesuit thing was coming out all over that interview.

What to say about the commentator? Is he ignorant of Jesuit spirituality? Is he trying to score a subtle ideological point? Does the acceptance of a Jesuit to the role of bishop or pope abnegate his standing in the Society of Jesus? And if it does so for some theological or hierarchical reason, is it accurate to say that someone whose entire public ministry seems well-rooted in the Jesuit tradition, has somehow just “lost it”?

I heard a homily once on Peter, and the preacher interpreted veiled sarcasm on the part of the apostle in this passage:

After (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5)

You think about it, and sure: Peter the pro is telling the carpenter, “Like we don’t know what we’re doing here, and don’t you know a lot about fish, you woodworker. But if you insist …”

Peter admitted he needed help after the big catch. With the interpretation of sarcasm, the preacher suggested his confession made more sense in context:

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. (Luke 5:8b)

Discernment. Especially for ourselves. The sanctity of Peter, through the lens of Jesuit spirituality, is that he was confronted with life events, and even when he erred, he was willing to reconsider an old position, and take up a new stance.

I certainly read that in the Holy Father. It sure seemed Ignatian to me. And even Petrine.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Jesuit: Is He Or Isn’t He?

  1. John McGrath says:

    If the traditional Jesuit rules are still in force, no Jesuit may serve as a bishop. Therefore Pope Francis may well be an “ex-Jesuit.” On the other hand dispensations may be granted, but I doubt it. How could a bishop, never mind a pope, observe the vow of obedience to his Jesuit superior?

  2. Liam says:

    Actually, Canon Law addresses this. He is still a Jesuit (and has been for his decades as a bishop), but not subject to obedience to the Jesuit General.

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/pope-francis-still-jesuit

    That said, IIRC, early in his reign, Pope Francis half-joked that it would be good if he as pope were accountable to someone like the Jesuit General.

  3. crystal says:

    There have been a number of Jesuit bishops/cardinals, like Carlo Maria Martini. Ignatius was against Jesuits becoming bishops/cardinals, but the one who have done so aren’t put out of the order. Maybe the question is what makes a Jesuit …. living in community with other Jesuits, following the suggestions of the Superior General of the Society, organizing your spirituality in an Ignatian way? I think the pope is indeed a Jesuit and still follows Ignatian spirituality, although he’s also interested in spiritualities other than that too.

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