Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pedro Arrupe, Perfectae Caritatis, and the Help of Souls

For context on this post, you might first want to read the referenced rant by Karen, and its inspiration by Joe. Joe, interestingly, has also provided his own counterrant. So, here goes:

When a post begins with a personal reminder for you, you know you’re being baited. Though I’m not sure, as in this case, reminding me that I’m a peacenik is so relevant to what followed. Nonetheless, I fear I must take the bait. Karen would be disappointed if I didn’t.

Karen at Some Have Hats has offered her variation on that old saw that Pedro Arrupe is the architect of the downfall of the Society of Jesus. But I would suggest, before casting that stone, one have a look at Vatican II’s Perfectae Caritatis. It seems to me that if blame is to be laid, it must first be laid at the foot of that document, which instructed the following:

The adaptation and renewal of the religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time. This renewal, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church, must be advanced according to the following principles:

a) Since the ultimate norm of the religious life is the following of Christ set forth in the Gospels, let this be held by all institutes as the highest rule.

b) It redounds to the good of the Church that institutes have their own particular characteristics and work. Therefore let their founders' spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions-all of which make up the patrimony of each institute-be faithfully held in honor.

c) All institutes should share in the life of the Church, adapting as their own and implementing in accordance with their own characteristics the Church's undertakings and aims in matters biblical, liturgical, dogmatic, pastoral, ecumenical, missionary and social.

d) Institutes should promote among their members an adequate knowledge of the social conditions of the times they live in and of the needs of the Church. In such a way, judging current events wisely in the light of faith and burning with apostolic zeal, they may be able to assist men more effectively.

e ) The purpose of the religious life is to help the members follow Christ and be united to God through the profession of the evangelical counsels. It should be constantly kept in mind, therefore, that even the best adjustments made in accordance with the needs of our age will be ineffectual unless they are animated by a renewal of spirit. This must take precedence over even the active ministry.

The direction which the Society of Jesus took under Pedro Arrupe, was the Society’s attempt to renew itself according to the above principles, which call not only for due attention to the “founders’ spirit and special aims,” but also to “adaptation to the changed condition of our times.” If we are to take this document at its word, then it should certainly not be the case that all that the Jesuits are and do in the 20th and 21st centuries should be in strict accord with Ignatius’ 16th century vision.

That said, Karen’s comment that “the Society of Saint Ignatius and the Society of Pedro Arrupe have little to do with each other” is a gross exaggeration. Of course, they are different. But every Jesuit reads, learns, is formed by and lives by the same Constitutions and the same Spiritual Exercises which Saint Ignatius himself penned.

Karen won’t be surprised to hear that it saddens me that Pedro Arrupe should be looked upon so disdainfully. Indeed, if I were not certain of her good will I would have taken far greater offense at her likening this holy man to Lucifer. Arrupe was not perfect, and certainly he himself would acknowledge that some of the experimentation in the renewal of religious life among the Jesuits went a little too far during his tenure. He himself reined some of that in before his debilitating stroke. But Pedro Arrupe can’t shoulder all the blame for the direction which the Society took while he was Father General, no matter what you think of that direction. This direction was a response to Vatican II, and it was decreed by the Jesuit General Congregation, not Arrupe.

This theory of the downfall of the Society of Jesus, at least as Karen frames it, suffers from what I see as several mistaken presumptions:

1) That a commitment to faith and justice is somehow antithetical to a commitment to saving souls.

2) That Ignatius’ main focus was the saving of souls. If Jesuit historian John O’Malley is to be trusted, it is more accurate to say that his focus was rather on “the help of souls.” Semantics, maybe, but I do think the latter is more expansive.

3) That permanence is more virtuous than change. Karen, God does change his mind in the Bible, several times.

Finally, Karen asks: When was the last time you heard a Jesuit talk about saving someone’s soul?

Well, I realize that I’m at an unfair advantage, but several times, recently. Indeed, I’m guilty of it myself.

Maybe it’s just that I spend too much time around Jesuits, but despite our commitment to peace and justice, I see my brother Jesuits spending a lot more time day-to-day in the help of souls than in campaigns for “overturning oppressive governments,” as Karen colorfully put it. Indeed, I’d say on the whole, while we have achieved much for the sake of peace and justice, it is the less noticed, smaller, day-to-day, “help of souls”--administering the Sacraments and engaging in the works of mercy that Ignatius insisted upon--that we do best! Of that Saint Ignatius and Pedro Arrupe would be proud.

Note: I'm temporarily turning on the "moderate comments" feature, so your comments won't appear right away.


Blogger crystal said...

I don't know a lot about the Society of Jesus, but ...

I see no contradiction between serving peace/justice and "saving" souls. There may be many ways to save someone's soul ... being a living example to others of the ideals of the gospels might be one way. If nothing else, liberation theology was proof to the poor in Latin America of the compassion of the church ... a willingness to "suffer with" them and a willingness to express solidarity (and love) through deeds, not just words ... sounds pretty Ignatian to me.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Moonshadow said...

administering the Sacraments and engaging in the works of mercy that Ignatius insisted upon--that we do best!

The rants were lively reading but the statement quoted above sums up my experience of yearly retreats at Loyola House in Morristown, NJ.

Nobody does it better.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...

The thing is, I don't see a difference between working for a world where peace and justice reign (ie - God's kingdom on earth) and saving souls. They are variations on the same theme.

It's interesting to read about the renewal of religious life from the Jesuit perspective. My own community was only 80 years old at the time, and yet we went through a major shift. The woman we'd thought was our foundress it turns out wasn't! And we discovered that what we were founded to be about wasn't teaching and nursing, but peace through justice. Of course, there are many ways to go about that ... including teaching and nursing.

I think the thing religious didn't do well in the post Vatican II renewal period was explain to the outside world why they were changing and how they were changing.

Some thoughts.

10:38 AM  
Blogger mamagiglio said...

Far, Far, FAR too much of this bashing of each other going on in American Catholicism, and I've been guilty of it too. It's disgusting and disturbing. Thank the Lord He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us and a guarantee that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church.

Well said, Mark. Though you "took the bait," You presented a clearly thought out, intelligent response. Praying for you and for your order.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

My apologies to Matt, who I suspect won't be surprised by my choice not to publish his comment.

12:42 PM  
Blogger ShadowMayhem said...

Fr. Eddie at Loyola N.O. Is one of the few that I not only trust, but view as almost family. If it wernt for him I have no idea where I would be, so not only do Jesuits save souls, they save and improve lives... they just don't announce it with trumpets in the streets.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Natalia said...

As St. Irenaeus of Lyons once wrote, Chapter III of Book V(since today is his feast day): "The Power and Glory of God Shine Forth in the Weakness of Human Flesh". We can be assured that in all our attempts to bring good to this Earth, through reforms, transformations and the like, God will help us find what is best for us.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you, Mark, for this very well-reasoned and informative post.

The experience of the Jesuits is not unlike what many religious commmunities experienced in the time since Vatican II. For the Jesuits, however, the journey was much more public because of their visibility and consequently the critique of Arrupe (and his leadership) more direct.

Your highlighting of the document, which I will shorthand as PC, is very important. "Perfect Charity" was to be the guide for renewing religious life in the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The challenge for many communities in responding to it has been finding the right/appropriate balance between a return to the charism of the founder(s) and adaptation to the needs of contemporary world realities. In many cases, the focus moved more heavily toward one or the other and the penduluum swung in many many cases accordingly.

I believe the challenge for religious life today -- across communities -- is finding and/or maintaining that balance towards which PC leads while remaining rooted in the greatest teaching and call of all: the gospel love that is Jesus Christ.

The challenge for leader-servants in religious communities is guiding while enabling individuals to own responsibility for their actions and their lives personally, within community, and within the world. Arrupe, I believe, understood the gospel mandate, recognized the call in PC, and endeavored to facilitate the Spirit's direction of the post-Vatican II journey that the Society of Jesus was invited to take.

In looking back over recent time, we need also to look at the bigger picture. The Jesuit experience was in many ways no different from the experience of the larger Church. Yet for some reason it seems easy to mark as Jesuit particular expressions of post-Vatican II renewal and adaptation. It's an interesting reality, but quite frankly a mishistoricization that incorrectly overemphasizes the human attempts at religious renewal both within the Society of Jesus and the Church.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew Fish said...

I just wrote a long response to these matters at my blog,

and in summary I would say that a careful examination will show that Arrupe is not to blame, and in fact his vision is still the viable one. So much of this discussion concerns many problems/issues in the Church at large, and the question of sectarian divisions between the orthodox and liberal, the pure and impure. Suffice to say, I think the Society still has a mission and vocation to the whole universal Church, and an important one at that.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I would like to point out that what I was ranting about (the first time) was not "gee, aren't the Jesuits awful?" but what I perceive as an all-too-frequent inability of my Jesuit friends to see the things going on within the Society that trouble the more orthodox among us.

With that in mind, I issued my own counter-rant, because in spite of all the things which I read some individual Jesuits doing which wound me deeply, I love the Company and stick up for them when I am seemingly the last man standing. Mark, you know I love the Jesuits, jointly and individually, even the ones who disagree with me on everything.

My "gripe" with the Peace and Justice perspective is not that I am against peace or justice, or even that what I consider the best ways to achieve them might differ (significantly?) from anyone else's. Rather, my concern is that P&J has been given (in my view) an undeservedly co-equal status to evangelization and catechesis, which is counterproductive to both P&J and E&C.

I'd rather be tossed to ill-tempered Iroquois than slag the Jesuits.



8:37 PM  
Blogger Matthew Fish said...

Joe: the point is, and Paul VI and esp. John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis have made this clear, that the work for peace and justice is irreducibly a constitutive part of evangelization, and therefore catechesis and all that. The problem would be an immanentized p&j, or a marxist version, or what have you. A Gospel that could be proclaimed without the truths of peace and justice simply would be something less than the Gospel. Love of God, as St. Thomas makes clear, means a love for the common good, the universal good, which is a love for all that God has willed in creation, for the sake of God. The common good is in fact Christ, the Totus Christus, which includes the recapitulation of all of creation, the entire material and temporal orders. Working for peace and justice (in the right sense) is always eschatological, and always/already a part of the work of the Kingdom.

A secular version of peace and justice would ultimately be a sham, and a lie. For then, death is the great abyss, and contingency and entropy would make a wreck of all our work for posterity. And I admit some Jesuits have held this.

But others such as Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Roger Charles, to name a few, would emphasize that the work for peace and justice is the work for the Totus Christus. Of course this isn't the same as a Church-State, or the end of all conflict, or classes, etc. But you get the drift.

And a Gospel without peace and justice is a Gospel cut off from the world, gnostic and esoteric, non-sacramental and ultimately the hell of being alone. The fullness of Justice is the right order that God has intended for all of creation, and peace is the tranquility that order brings. And in this order, the last shall be first, and other surprising things. And our lives here on earth with our neighbors should anticipate that reality.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...


I'm not disagreeing. What I have been trying to say (and failing badly, I fear) is what you said: Peace and Justice is a constitutive part of evangelization. (For the purposes of clarity we'll set aside the discussion on the mechanics via which P&J are best achieved.)

Like a motor is part of a car. You have the motor you have because you got the car you wanted. The motor is a constitutive part of the car, but it is not the whole car, nor the reason for the car's existence.

You strive to keep the motor in good repair not just to have a good motor per se but for the good of the car.

Like Yogi Berra used to say, I think we "just agree differently."



2:08 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

The latter description, "help of souls," also more aptly reflects the humility I would expect from Ignatius. It is Christ who saves souls; we men and women can only aid in that effort.

I've always been offended at what people impute to the Jesuits (particularly the nasty jibes of which Richard John Neuhaus is so fond) in the way of anti-Catholicism. The Jesuits who taught me and became my friends all expressed deep love for the Church, deep reverence for her sacraments, and deep adherance to her teachings.

The social justice mission of the Jesuits is in no way inconsistent with those characteristics. Service to the poor is the direct command of the Gospel; what better way to help souls than to nourish bodies and, as a result, minds and hearts?

4:21 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

To "American Pheonix":

Please e-mail me if you could.

I have your comment, but wasn't able to post it for several reasons:

1)TOO LONG, 3 pages single-spaced.

2)Some factual errors, and accusations based on hearsay.

3)Only a small part of it actually was relevant to the original post.

4)The tone was largely uncharitable and inflammatory.

With your permission, I will post an edited version. Or, you could send me another comment--Shorter please!!



9:29 PM  

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