On National Review Online, Sam Gregg, Acton’s director of research, takes a look at the new Father-General of the Society of Jesus and what’s ahead for “one of Catholicism’s most influential — and controversial — religious orders.”

The Jesuits are dealing with a steep decline in numbers and other serious problems, as Sam points out:

Many Jesuit universities have become virtually indistinguishable from your average left-wing secular academy. Some Jesuits candidly say the order’s intellectual edge began seriously fraying in the 1970s, corroded by an idolatry of the contemporary — marked particularly by an embrace of Marxist critiques that would engender bad politics and even worse theology, including efforts to water down Christ’s uniqueness in the name of that ubiquitous word: “dialogue.”

By the early 1980s, Rome had had enough. In 1981, John Paul II took the radical step of suspending the order’s normal governance. In 1983, Fr. Kolvenbach was elected Father-General. Though widely considered a good man, it’s unclear he affected any significant change in the Jesuits’ direction.

For example, three of the last four Catholic theologians publicly notified by the Vatican’s doctrinal office that their writings contradict basic Christian beliefs were Jesuits: Frs. Jon Sobrino, Roger Haight, and Jacques Dupuis. Some see this as the price of doing cutting-edge theology. Others view it as the result of simply muddled theology.

Read “End of the Jesuits?” on NRO here.

  • Antal P.

    I am not very familiar with the quality and content of Acton Institute publications. However, I hope that they are more factual, and less ideological and partisan than Samuel Greg’s article “End of the Jesuits?”.

    For brevity’s sake, I would like to point out one issue only. Greg writes: “For example, three of the last four Catholic theologians publicly notified by the Vatican’s doctrinal office that their writings contradict basic Christian beliefs were Jesuits: Frs. Jon Sobrino, Roger Haight, and Jacques Dupuis. Some see this as the price of doing cutting-edge theology. Others view it as the result of simply muddled theology.”

    He has a limited understanding of the vocation of the theologian in the Catholic Church. Becesue of this he draws some prejudicial (and less factual) conclusions. For example, it is good to remember that significant theologians (e.g.: Aquinas, Augustine) in the Church’s history often experienced public rebuking and rejection by Church authorities? Some of Augustine’s teachings (on double predestination) even today are considered heretical, and he is a Doctor of the Church.

    Please read the following passages from the “Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith May 24, 1990,:
    12. Freedom of research, which the academic community rightly holds most precious, means an openness to accepting the truth that emerges at the end of an investigation in which no element has intruded that is foreign to the methodology corresponding to the object under study.
    In theology this freedom of inquiry is the hallmark of a rational discipline whose object is given by Revelation, handed on and interpreted in the Church under the authority of the Magisterium, and received by faith. These givens have the force of principles. To eliminate them would mean to cease doing theology. In order to set forth precisely the ways in which the theologian relates to the Church’s teaching authority, it is appropriate now to reflect upon the role of the Magisterium in the Church.
    25. Even when collaboration takes place under the best conditions, the possibility cannot be excluded that tensions may arise between the theologian and the Magisterium. The meaning attributed to such tensions and the spirit with which they are faced are not matters of indifference. If tensions do not spring from hostile and contrary feelings, they can become a dynamic factor, a stimulus to both the Magisterium and theologians to fulfill their respective roles while practicing dialogue.
    30. If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.

  • Russell P

    In short, I think that Sam Gregg should write about what he knows. It is clear that he knows very little about the Jesuits. it is this kind of little knowledge that is dangerous and is at the orrt of many problems in the world. One could read a biased viewpoint into anything if you are bent on doing that. Revisionist history is a great asset for those with little knowledge. His claims about Jesuit theologians is incorrect. In Dupuis case the Vatican offered an apology (in a Vatican way!) I wish that people like Gregg, who are meant to be learned people, would be more balanced and accurate. It is sad but I guess that propaganda, even in esteemed academic circles, is perhaps the only hope that some people have. Thankfully most intelligent thinking Catholics can see the those in the Gregg camp are wrong and that the Jesuits will still be the salvation of a church in crisis!!