I saw a story on a conservative blog a few days ago stating that Pope Francis kicked John Dear out of the order. That’s actually not true, according to a more respectable journalist.
I encountered John Dear’s autobiography, A Persistent Peace several years ago. I never finished it, I must admit. This review comes pretty close to describing my thoughts about the book:
John Dear makes few attempts here to hide his faults. He can be a bit of a name-dropper: Martin Sheen … Pete Seeger … Mother Teresa … and the index reads like a liberal Christian Who’s Who. He reports one meeting with a Provincial where the man struggles to get a word in edgeways, and as a novice master myself I sympathised with the efforts his own made to contain him. Yet it has been said that it is the function of prophets to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. John Dear’s story shows him to be a true prophet in this mould. Few Jesuits have the chutzpah to compose an autobiography before reaching fifty.
I found the man’s commitment to peace admirable. Not really so much the description that got him there. I’ve known peace activists who had a sense of humility (even Jesuits) and who embodied a sense of peace all through their life. Maybe John Dear has this. I didn’t see it in the book, which is why I abandoned reading it about halfway through.
I’ve known social justice believers who have let their passion for justice overtake their lives and corrupt it. Not knowing Fr Dear, I can’t say this is true. But I caught the whiff of something I wasn’t quite sure about.
From what I read, I tend to agree with his superiors for expelling him from the Society of Jesus. As a Jesuit, his obligation is to his brothers in the order. As a priest his obligation is to serve the Church in holy orders. Peacemaking is primarily a lay person’s task. I’ve said the same thing for Fr Frank Pavone, on the other side of the ideological spectrum. Both men have intruded into an area where lay people should be taking the lead.
I can appreciate if peacemaking overtakes other aspects in his life. But I have a hard time commending a continuing discernment outside of the life of an ordinary lay person. Where the man can devote himself exclusively to the cause.