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What has Mary Magdalene to do with Arturo Sosa Abascal, SJ?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 28, 2017

A helpful reader, who is very good at spotting our typos, has also called my attention to C. C. Pecknold’s excellent critique of the relativist slush spewed out recently by the Black Pope. You may recall that the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, was a prominent figure in my commentary last Friday: Why is there a resurgence of infidelity among Catholic leaders? Pecknold’s column neatly juxtaposes the current doctrinal scandal with the largely political suppression of the Society in the eighteenth century.

The implication is that the Society of Jesus right now is in far worse shape—and accordingly far more beloved by the world—than it was in the dark years of its official non-history. This extended from Pope Clement XIV’s bull of suppression, Dominus ac Redemptor Noster, in 1773 to the restoration of the Society in 1814 by Pope Pius VII. Here we have a damning insight, and all the more important for that reason.

To take a minor (and even possibly unobjectionable) case in point, Jesuit Modernism is represented by the kind of superficial exegesis that led to the demise of the fascinating figure of Mary Magdalene in the gospels. The Catholic tradition in the West has always held that Mary Magdalene (a witness to the Resurrection from whom seven demons had been driven out) is one and the same not only with the sinful woman who tearfully anointed the feet of Our Lord in Luke 7, but also with Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. As a general rule, modern scholars, with scant evidence, say things that sound very like, “Pooh, pooh. Lessen your faith.”

It is true that the Eastern churches have not made the same identification, and—officially speaking—the Catholic Church is agnostic on the subject. It is also true that I receive angry emails from a crackpot reader every time we mention that St. Mary Magdalene’s memorial on July 22nd was raised to the level of a feast in 2016. He, at least, is absolutely certain she is not all she is cracked up to be. But for those who try hard to discern the inner connections in Scripture through the eyes of faith, the evidence for what is called the “identification theory” is actually quite strong. It is also telling that there is a separate feast for St. Martha (the sister of Lazarus) on July 29th, and yet there is no separate feast in the West for Mary of Bethany (Lazarus’ more contemplative sister). There is only the one mysterious feast for the Magdalene.

CatholicCulture.org has, of course, some useful articles on the subject. Our trusty chronicler of the Liturgical Year, Jennifer Gregory Miller, has always maintained that the three Marys are the same, and we also have in our library a useful summary of the Scriptural evidence by Fr. William Saunders. But the pièce de résistance is a new book from Ignatius Press by Fr. Sean Davidson: Saint Mary Magdalene, Prophetess of Eucharistic Love.

Fr. Davidson provides the full exegetical evidence as drawn from the landmark work of the stellar French exegete Fr. André Feuillet (1909-1998). Feuillet is not well-known in the English-speaking world. Suffice it to say, then, that he had a significant influence on one of our own leading (faithful) Scripture scholars, Scott Hahn. In any case, after Fr. Davidson completes this task, he goes on to explore the Catholic devotional life prompted by Mary Magdalene—prodigal daughter, image of the New Eve, woman with a love stronger than death, prophetess of the passion, first consoler of Jesus and Mary, and (in case you have never thought about it) “apostle to the apostles”.

Not everyone thrives on this type of devotion, which so easily descries luxuriant plants in what Scripture plants as seeds. That is perfectly all right. We may gain as much from our own meditations, at our own pace, even if they are less-developed. And yet the evidence and the logic are there, in both Scripture and Tradition. On this matter of “apostle to the apostles”, for example, Our Lord really did say to Mary Magdalene:

Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. [Jn 20:17]

Yes, and it is precisely such spiritual ways of thinking that Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal and his Jesuit sons must immediately take to heart, if they are not to betray the Church, if they are not to descend when Jesus Christ ascends.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Mar. 01, 2017 12:16 PM ET USA

    hartwood01: Your point is well-taken in that what I said was subject to misinterpretation. But you would never be referred to in such a way by me because you would not send me repeated messages attacking the Church for not recognizing that Mary Magdalene is nothing special and definitely not who many Catholics think she is, and that the Church has been irresponsibly perpetuating a myth by celebrating her feast. Talk about being a man of one idea! For future reference, this is the kind of thing I mean when I use the term "crackpot".

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Feb. 28, 2017 8:00 PM ET USA

    Jeff,you lost me at " a crackpot reader". This rhetoric is acceptable in the bar room but distasteful in Catholic media. I disagree with your article Mary Magdalene,but I would not want to be ripped to shreds by your acid tongue.