Outlook cloudy

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 02, 2003

The Jesuit Superior General P.-H. Kolvenbach recently delivered his State of the Society of Jesus address at a congregation of delegates held in Loyola, Spain. The text is posted on the U.S. Jesuit website. It strikes me as weird -- drifting in and out of focus, swinging back and forth between unconvinced optimism and self-loathing. For example, the paragraph below defeats me. See what you can make of it:

Reading your reports and taking into account the extraordinary apostolic activity throughout much of the world, it would be difficult to conclude that the Society is very ill; even sick unto death. But if we are to believe an Indian sage, that "a well man is a sick man who lacks self-knowledge," we should look more closely at the state of our health.

Well, is the order sick or is it well? Or is the concept of health simply an illusion of pre-modern consciousness? My first suspicion was that a negative or two had dropped out in the translation, but what we're assured is the original French isn't much more lucid:

A lire vos rapports, qui font état d'une activité apostolique débordante, un peu partout dans le monde, il serait difficile d'aboutir à la conclusion que la Compagnie est profondément malade, voire mourante. Mais à en croire un sage de l'Inde, « un homme en bonne santé est un malade qui s'ignore ». Cela nous incite à examiner d’un peu plus près notre état de santé.

I suppose there are those who reflexively bend the knee at the wisdom of the East, but I just hope the "sage d'Inde" doesn't practice thoracic surgery as his day job. For another perspective on Jesuit self-knowledge, go here.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 02, 2003 8:38 PM ET USA

    Having been to a Jesuit Retreat this summer I can tell you for sure "it is sick"

  • Posted by: - Oct. 02, 2003 5:00 PM ET USA

    Did it go something like this: You do not have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing?....I do not believe, I know the Jesuits are sick. Not all, just most. I used to look on each and every one as soldiers of Christ. Today, most have gone AWOL.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 02, 2003 3:09 PM ET USA

    The translation isn't helping you: [To read your reports, which take account of an abundant apostolic activity spread throughout the world, it would be difficult to jump to the conclusion that the Society is profoundly sick, let alone dying. But if we are to believe an Indian sage, "A healthy man is a sick man who doesn't know it"; which impels us to look more closely at the state of our health.] To me, this sounds like a mild admission that there are problems worth examining.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 02, 2003 1:48 PM ET USA

    Pretty clear to me. Sickness unto death is a veiled reference to Kierkegaard. Even though I doubt Fr. Kov...(keys are sticking) knows his Kierkegaard very well. The well man is a sickman who doesn't know himself well, means that all morality is relative, don't lecture me, if you take a strong stand against anything you're intolerant, we're all saved, you just don't know it, what's that knock at the door, who's suing the order now, AIDS is a gift, become one with the universe. Etc, etc ad rem.