Is The Jesuit Order Finished?

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I like St.Ignatius of Loyola. I love his conversion story which I feel is incredibly similar to my one. Like him I found myself alone and with nothing better to do than read. The only books in my house were religious ones so I read them. My journey began with the reading of a book by a Jesuit priest Anthony de mello. A controversial figure like most Jesuits which is why I decided to write this post.

A lot of people have written to me about their disgust towards this order. This post will act as both a defense of the order but also an admittance that they’ve somewhat lost the plot. It’s not an academic post designed to delve deep into the heart of the Jesuit order I have not got time for that. It’s a simple diagnosis coming from personal experience with them and how I’ve observed some of their priests through the media. Therefore, take it with a grain of salt.

When I look at history and see all the Jesuit martyrs who went into the likes of Japan, China and India to convert others I am filled with awe towards them. I see those types of Jesuits as hard working men who really genuinely followed in the apostles footsteps. They really were men of valor who readily offered their lives for Christ. They were big on the education especially of the poor. After all its founder was himself uneducated and destitute.

In recent decades and even over the last 100 years or so the Jesuits have molded themselves as something a bit different. They are now an order that caters for the rich and wealthy. I watch how many of them like Father James Martin desperately try to meet the popular culture which is the Jesuit way of doing things. But their priests, mostly chosen from a wealthy intellectual background lack life experience and their attempts at becoming a Jew to save a Jew looks desperate and corny.

Some look at the Jesuits today as liberals who have sacrificed the truth for the sake of converting the masses. This is not entirely true. There are many great Jesuits out there like Bishop Barron for example, who, although their connection with the popular culture is not without criticism (in good faith), nevertheless provides us an example of what it means to be a Jesuit.

Jesuits like Fr.James Martin who tend to dabble into a bit of heresy mean really well. They’re coming from a really good place in their hearts but because they lack a little discernment end up sacrificing not just rules and regulations of the Church to save the other, but the faith and morals itself. You see, St.Paul sacrificed the rules of his Church to save the other. In scriptures he condemns the practice of circumcision but in order to save another person who wanted to be circumsised went back on his own rule simply to help convert that person.

The Jesuits (and not only them but others as well) who lack discernment end up sacrificing and compromising the actual faith and morals of the Church which is wrong. You see, the Church has this long standing practice of sacrificing certain rules and regulations in order to meet the culture head on. For example take Vatican II which took place when feminism was the in thing at the time. They got rid of the rule for women wearing the head covering. Again, they sacrificed one rule in order to make conversion of a culture on the decline easier.

They relaxed certain rules to make the faith more accessible to the weak minded and willed. There’s nothing wrong with that, take full advantage of it I say. The Church, to keep up with modern culture had to find a way to modernize itself and covert the heathen without compromise of faith and morals.

To some the abrogation of certain Church rules and regulations by Jesuits and the Church has the appearance of liberalism, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a very traditional approach going all the way back to St.Paul. Conservatives who lack the theological balance necessary to discern this often end up going off the rails themselves and disobeying the Church in pursuit of their own theological outlook.

Theological balance and the scales of discernment are required for every person in all their vocations. Without this a man will simply be the play thing of the devil. The Jesuit can be from a wealthy intellectual background or a poor uneducated one yet without discernment it wouldn’t matter, the devil will ravage him and tear him to pieces anyway as he doesn’t discriminate on this basis.

The devil is operating on all levels from the highest order in the Church to the poor streets of Calcutta in the hearts and minds of peasants. But a man who possesses discernment (and I don’t claim to have this) can be either of these and being like Saint Paul, be happy in all circumstances rich or poor, highly educated or not. This is because faith is a Grace and is higher than any intellectual training one could ever receive. Not something the Jesuits reading this want to hear but it’s the truth. In fact Grace and discernment from it embellishes the intellectual learning.

There is this funny moment in the movie Star wars where Yoda blows up the Jedi Tree that contained all the books by the Jedi masters. Luke is upset he did it because those where all the books on the Jedi religion. Yoda says to him, “Read them have you?”. hahaha. I love that line it’s perfect. Then he says what will they teach her that she does not already possess?

To Luke Skywalker the books were the backbone of his Jedi religion and many Jesuits fall into the same intellectual trap. The Body of Christ, Sacraments and the Graces are the backbone of our faith. The intellect plays a small part in introducing us to all these things but that is all.

I suppose my advice to Jesuits would be that if you’re going to reach out to the popular culture, do so in the spirit of balance. Make whatever sacrifices of certain rules and regulations of the Church you have to make, but pray and ask for discernment that you don’t end up taking it too far and condemn yourself like the devil was condemned for his spiritual pride.

You’re supposed to convert the world not become absorbed by it. You must enter the dark caves of humanity and creep around like a thief in the night. Under the cover of darkness (the worlds ignorance) you shine the light of knowledge but don’t become the darkness. The danger that faces every priest and deacon is that like the journalist who takes Heroin to feel one with the heroin addict end up becoming an addict himself. Be careful when you enter the popular culture that the devil does not weaken your will during that battle and you end up becoming one of the slain on the field for the demons to come and pick at whatever is left of your rotten worldly corpse.

Retreat often and ask God to grant you the grace of discernment and theological balance. Everything must be balanced. Get away from the reputation you currently have for being a group of intellectual highly educated yuppies and get back to working with the poor and educating them. When looking for vocations don’t look only at the highly educated but the man with life experience, the one qualified for the job, the one who will readily sacrifice his life and go to the darkest parts of the world to bring the light of Christ.

If he is too fresh of a convert or excited about the faith, that’s ok. Invite him in and get him now while the spark is still in him. That is how Jesus did it. Lets go. . . now. . . there’s no time come follow me. Make him work in the community and don’t send him away. Feed him as much religion as he wants and observe him over time because you risk losing that soul forever.

But I can’t emphasis enough the need for you to get rid of that reputation as an organization for the wealthy kids. That needs to go because it was never the dream of the original founder that his order become some sort of country club for wealthy intellectuals. By doing this you limit yourself to the outreach of only one section of society when you should be reaching it all. Jesus wants us to bring the Gospel to all the world not one small fragment of it.

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