Pedro Arrupe, Perfectae Caritatis, and the Help of Souls
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.
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