What About the Good Jesuits?

A couple weeks ago, an old friend of mine, KateMax commented on my posts (here and here) about the Jesuits by saying:

Hey Joe, I was perusing your website and happened upon this. I feel compelled to say that my experience at a Jesuit school for the last three years has been excellent. I have incredibly respect for every Jesuit I have been blessed enough to learn under. I have several close relationships with current and former professors and found them to men of integrity, intelligence, and great faith.

I don’t doubt that this is true. There have been, and still are, men of outstanding character and courage within the Jesuit order. Men like Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, the founder of Ignatius Press, immediately leap to mind. The question is not, “Are there men who try and do what they think is right?” Neither is the question, “Are there men who try and obey the will of God?,” a question far more important than the first, in my opinion. The question is not even, “Are there good and holy men within the Jesuit Order, men who routinely try, and succeed, with the help of the Ghost, to turn from sin and obey God?” I have no doubt that the answer to all three of these questions is a mighty affirmation. There were doubtless be a good number of Jesuits living today who sing God’s praises triumphantly in Heaven.

The question, then, is this: Does the Jesuit Order assist these men in their part of holiness, or are these men holy despite the Jesuit Order, as constituted today? That, and only that, is the measure of the Order’s vitality, from what I can tell. And when we see an Order in which the head of the order cannot bring himself to affirm the Fatherhood of God, we see an Order which is at best on the peripheries of Catholicism.

An older example, but one which I heard this past weekend, when I heard Dr. Peter Kreeft lecture:

Peter Kreeft: Well, I was teaching comparative religions, and during the long break, there was a Jewish student and a Muslim student in the front row. The Jewish student noticed a faint cross painted on the wall behind me, so he asked me, “Is that supposed to be a cross?”

I started to explain that that’s where the crucifix used to be, and another student, a Catholic, said “Oh, we took the crucifixes down last year.”

“Why did you do take them down?”

“Oh, well, we didn’t want to offend people.”

“When did you take them down?”

“Well, let’s see. 1979.”

“Aha,” said the Jewish student. “It was the Bundy money.”

No one understood that, so he explained that President Carter’s secretary of state, McGeorge Bundy, had brokered a deal by which federal money could go to private schools if and only if those schools were not sectarian, divisive, discriminatory… something like that. And – by coincidence – all 21 Jesuit colleges took down their crucifixes from their classrooms in the year following that decision. So when he explained that to the students, the students were rather scandalized, and one said, “Oh, no, we wouldn’t do that for money.”

And he said, “Of course you wouldn’t, but I hope you got more than thirty pieces of silver this time.” Rather wicked… some of them were so biblically illiterate that he had to explain to them that Judas Iscariot was the first Catholic bishop to accept a government grant.

This is only part of the story (and the rest is worth reading), but it demonstrates my point. Surely, there are living Saints with the Society of Jesus: you and I probably know of some. But when every Jesuit college, including my own, is willing to eliminate Christ’s presence from the classroom for federal funds, this isn’t the sign of an institution committed to proclaiming Christ through the educational mission (which is, after all, the only reason to have distinctively Catholic universities at all). Perhaps that’s changing. There’s hope, in the fact that Boston College has brought the crucifix back. But given the election of Fr. Adolfo Nicol├ís, SJ, as Superior General, my hope is strongly buoyed by a strong dose of sadness.


  1. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjgxNDA1NGI3Y2UzYjY3YWZkMjhkMTU0YWYxNzZhNjA=&w=MA==

    Did you read this? If you haven’t, I think you should. I would love to hear your thoughts on the future and if Bradley’s suggestion is even feasible.

    I also posted a comment on you Eucharistic Adoration post, but don’t see it up. I may not have posted it correctly, but now I don’t have the energy to go back through my rambling challenges. I did challenge the rite, if sloppily.



  2. DJ|AMDG,

    I never saw the Eucharistic adoration comment, which is a shame. If you feel like reposting some version of it, I’d appreciate it, but if not, that’s ok. It seems that all the kinks aren’t out of the combox quite yet.

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