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By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 28, 2006

The badge pictured above belongs to the Intelligence Corps of the Royal Army. Sardonic observers claim it's meant to represent "a pansy resting on its laurels." I've no reason to think the IC deserves the gibe, but recent history has shown that, were it sewn on a sport-shirt as a shoulder patch, it applies exceptionally well to the contemporary Society of Jesus.

This unfriendly judgment is not primarily a consequence of the Society's tumbles into farce -- its Extra Virgin fiasco (which occasioned some official crawfishing) or its Brokeback Lent (which didn't) -- rather it's the diffuse attitude of feline complacency and insubordination that rankles, and that calls to mind the pansy-flattened greenery.

If you were the Pope, and needed someone to fight your battles, would you trust today's Jesuits? If you were a Jesuit, would you think the Pope sane if he did? Of course not. The old-style obedience still has a ceremonial function in the obligatory public exchange of compliments, but neither the papacy nor the Society is therein fooled. Regrettably, there's an overabundance of proof for this point. In bouncing around a Google search on the Roger Haight affair, I found that the Jesuits' America magazine, in the very news item in which it announced that the CDF found "serious doctrinal errors" in Haight's Jesus Symbol of God, included an Amazon hotlink to the same book. OK, I'll grant you there's a cheeky kind of wit to the stunt, but the outfit that indulges in this kind of needling forfeits the right to climb on its high horse and, against its detractors, protest its deathless allegiance to the Holy See. You can enjoy flipping off the Pope or you can enjoy the esteem that comes from loyalty, but you can't have it both ways.

Nor are the popes oblivious to the changed reality. True, Benedict toured Vatican Radio three weeks ago on its 75th anniversary, but have post-Conciliar popes entrusted any important mission to the Jesuits? True, recent popes have made some Jesuits bishops, but is this attention flattering to the Society? After all, it implies the order has become a kind of broken tractor, a repository of spare parts. They find a functioning Catholic here or there, mothball his vows, and give him a diocese -- like a farmer yanking a generator off his old Allis-Chalmers and fitting it onto his new Ford. Of course an outfit as large as the SJ will always contain many refractory members: bad guys in epochs when it's healthy, good guys in epochs when it's not. But the point is that the Allis-Chalmers's plowing days are over. Sure, the Pope's Light Infantry still exists as a religious institute, but collectively they've refashioned themselves as the Church's Intelligence Corps (in the words of P.J. O'Rourke, Aromatherapists Without Borders). Do schismatics still tremble when the Jesuits show up in town?

Oblique symbolic actions underline the same point. The 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier occurs next month, and Xavier -- undoubtedly the Jesuit with the greatest popular devotion -- is in some respects the quintessential member of his order. The Pontifical Liturgy Office says the principal celebrant of the official Jubilee Mass in St. Peter's will be His Holiness Pope Bened His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano. I'm no expert in Vaticanese but I think I can read that message. Imagine Aretha Franklin fans crowding a concert only to find, as a stand-in, she's sent Nancy Reagan to do readings from Maya Angelou. In Benedict's case it's not a question of dismaying the audience, but the substitutionary gift of Sodano says it all.

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Show 12 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: rpp - Mar. 29, 2006 6:35 PM ET USA

    Have you looked at this site with the explanantion today? Now they say it is not their fault if they accept and ad that desecrates a holy icon. Take a look! http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=114 It is hard for me to picture these people in love with the Lord and His Mother.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 29, 2006 10:15 AM ET USA

    What a pity that the good Jesuits left have to bear such a heavy cross.

  • Posted by: Canismater - Mar. 29, 2006 7:25 AM ET USA

    I don't know about you guys, but I believe in the Resurrection...

  • Posted by: Linus682 - Mar. 29, 2006 7:16 AM ET USA

    Work against them, don't support them and forget them for they are finished. Simply one more victim of the "spirit" of VC2.

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - Mar. 29, 2006 5:42 AM ET USA

    The notion that the patron of Opus Dei and Legionaries must offer a Jubilee Jesuit Mass in honor of the Spaniard Xavier is delicious, particularly when Lavada is in charge of investigating Marcel. But one must remember that Ignatius founded the Order to defend Alexander VI, the last of the Spanish Borgia Popes. Benedict does have a sense of irony. AMDG

  • Posted by: Cantor Rich - Mar. 29, 2006 1:18 AM ET USA

    I still think my old dad said it best: 'Kick their bloody arses up betwixt their shoulder blades'. They have been surpressed before. One would think that they are capable of reading the order's history-such an action is very possible again. Only a fool ignores history; he's doomed to repeat it. And the Society of Jesus is an organisation that is begging for surpression. St Francis Xavier and St Ignatius are probably ashamed of the present-day society.

  • Posted by: snowbird - Mar. 28, 2006 10:47 PM ET USA

    How the once mighty Jesuits have fallen. Like the clergy-sex scandal, another sad time in the history of the 21st century church. Wonder how the history books will write this one up? These are not the same Jesuits who gave me my high school and college education. Those were Jesuits! These are truly only facsimiles. Darn poor, at that.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Mar. 28, 2006 3:25 PM ET USA

    Ignacio has an excellent idea. I think many recalcitrant Jesuits would make excellent expiditionaries to the Antarctic ice floes to baptize penguins in the manner of the novel Penguin Island starring St. Mael.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Mar. 28, 2006 2:44 PM ET USA

    The other option is to call their bluff. The Professed members still take the 4th vow to go anywhere the Pope sends him. Wouldn't Potosí Bolivia be a great place for America mag.'s office? Insertion and all that, mate.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 28, 2006 12:37 PM ET USA

    In OTR on 12.18.05, you ran the story about the advertisement in America that defiled a statue of Mary with a condom. Your suggestion was to write to the editor, his provincial, the nuncio, and the appropriate Prefect in the Vatican. And so I wrote. That is over 3 months ago and not one of these people had the courtesy to respond, not even a little patronizing note thanking me and including some free Vatican postcards. They have learned nothing about how to respond to the faithful.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 28, 2006 11:00 AM ET USA

    The Jesuits' problem reached the point of critical mass under Pedro Arrupe. For a time to some of us who knew many of them well, they seemed like an order in search of a religion. No more community meals. No common prayer in most communities. However, there are loyal Jesuits who are "professed" and living within the rules and tenents of the order and the Church. The are generally relagated to the background. Let them read the handwriting on the wall. America is a good example.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Mar. 28, 2006 8:40 AM ET USA

    Given the hot water that Sando Magister believes Sodano is in (troll through CWN news archives for the link, folks) the symbolism is more dire than Diogenes alludes to. If I were Kolvenbach, I'd be practicing my declensions and conjugations in front of the mirror: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, which Order is the wariest of all?" The Mirror Crack'd.

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