Catholic World News News Feature
Blunt Vatican challenge to Jesuit leaders January 08, 2008
A top Vatican official offered some blunt criticism of the Society of Jesus as the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits began.
Cardinal Franc Rode, the prefect of the Congregation for Religious, was the principal celebrant at a Mass in the Gesu, the famous Jesuit church near the Vatican, where 225 Jesuit delegates are meeting this month to elect a new superior. In his homily the cardinal challenged the Jesuit delegates to correct a critical attitude toward Church authority.
"With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the hierarchy" among the world's Jesuits, Cardinal Rode said. He challenged the order's leaders to embrace the tradition established by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who had insisted on loyalty to the Church and the Roman Pontiff.
The cardinal said:
Consecration to service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration to service to the Church. Ignatius and his first companions considered it thus when they wrote the formula of your Institute in which the essence of your charism is spelled out: "To serve the Lord and his Spouse the Church under the Roman Pontiff." It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus Ecclesiae.
Cardinal Rode began his homily by praising the outgoing Jesuit superior, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who is resigning after 24 of leadership. Citing the words of St. Ignatius, the Slovenian cardinal said that the new superior, to be chosen by the General Congregation, should be "a man very united to the Lord our God and familiar with prayer."
The cardinal also acknowledged one of the themes that many Jesuits have raised for discussion during this month's meetings at the Gesu: the prospects for broader collaboration with the laity as the number of active Jesuits continues to fall. The Vatican official only cautioned the delegates to ensure that "the growing participation of laity in your activities does not obscure your identity but rather enriches it."
When he spoke directly about the Jesuit identity, however, Cardinal Rode's words were sobering. "Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church," he told the delegates, returning to the theme of unity between the Jesuit order and the Catholic hierarchy.
To underline that theme, the cardinal mentioned one particular challenge for Jesuits in their work of education and evangelization. He called particular attention to "the need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition."
Explaining the importance of that issue, Cardinal Rode again made an implicit criticism of Jesuit scholars whose theological novelties have caused confusion among the faithful. He said:
The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the Kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits. There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known.
Cardinal Rode concluded his challenge to the Jesuit delegates with the assurance that he would join them in prayer for the success of their deliberations. He urged them to continue leading the Society fo Jesus along "the same path trodden by Ignatius from Loyola to Rome, a path of generosity, of penance, of discernment, of prayer, of apostolic zeal of obedience, of charity, of fidelity to and love for the hierarchical Church."