with friends like these ...

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 04, 2005

Say you were pope in the era of Benedict XV (1914-1922), and you needed a priest to defend a particularly unpopular Catholic position in some controversy in Germany or France or the United States. You could have dispatched a Jesuit, any Jesuit, confident that 1) he would fight your corner, and 2) if he screwed-up for any reason, his superiors would yank him long before you had to intervene to fix the problem.

Now imagine you're Benedict XVI. The Church's moral authority is under assault worldwide and her teaching on sexuality is particularly counter-cultural -- violently detested in centers of elite metropolitan culture. You've got a Jesuit apostolate in the belly of the beast, in same-sex marriage-celebrating Boston. How will the Jesuits come to your defense and the defense of the Church? Here's a homily on the subject from last month:

[In his homily at the beginning of the conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger] spoke of the church as a "little boat of Christian thought" tossed around on waves of "extreme" modern tendencies. And he spoke of the world as a "dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain...." It was all reminiscent for me of another time and place, when one of his illustrious predecessors, the more-than-somewhat reactionary Pius IX, actually condemned all modern progress in the Syllabus of Errors published in the late 19th century. This even included the church's condemnation of electricity as evil! No, I am not kidding! The world cannot be trusted.

Note that the good father puts forth

1) a historical falsehood (Pius IX anathematized, not modern progress, but the contention that the Pope must reconcile and adapt himself to it: Romanus Pontifex potest ac debet cum progressu, cum liberalismo et cum recenti civilitate sese reconciliare et componere);

to which he gratuitously adds

2) a false and tendentious inference ("This even included the church's condemnation of electricity as evil") carrying the scurrilous innuendo that Pope Pius IX was an especially ignorant alarmist;

by way of delivering

3) a sneer ("one of his illustrious predecessors ...") intended to disparage the person of Benedict XVI.

Decrypted, the syllogism runs thus: Pius IX was skeptical toward modernity. He said electricity was evil. Benedict XVI is skeptical toward modernity. He says abortion and sodomy are evil. Ergo, abortion, contraception, and sodomy are like electricity.

If you're Benedict XVI, do you trust the Jesuits to have your good and the good of the Church at heart? If you're a Jesuit, wouldn't you think him a fool for doing so?

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jun. 05, 2005 5:07 PM ET USA

    Let us pray that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will facilitate a reform of the Society of Jesus, ousting the traitorous priests/brothers, many of whom are in leadership posts, and renewing the Society by replacing the old guard with such priests as Frs. Fessio, Shaghnessy, McNelis and other orthodox Jesuits, with the younger JPII millennials who love Jesus and His Church, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier. AMDG.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 05, 2005 3:17 PM ET USA

    The sneer of the Liberal, like the snarl of cur (which it resembles), frequently bespeaks anxiety. So, perhaps, this is a good sign.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2005 12:23 PM ET USA

    You forgot the one about Von Balthasar leaving the Jesuits to marry.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2005 12:22 PM ET USA

    I believe the Jesuits modified the oath so that now it is to the "papacy". Benedict should simply disallow them from recruiting any more members and from ordaining any more priests. He should also, at their next constituional meeting, simple refuse to accept the next constitution and let them wander where they will.

  • Posted by: Patrick461 - Jun. 04, 2005 7:38 AM ET USA

    Terribly sad, indeed. Am I correct in thinking that Jesuits take a special oath of loyalty to the pope? If they cannot defend the pope's positions, why don't they simply say nothing or take action to opt out of the Jesuits? I get the feeling that they believe they "own" the order and so can decide to do what they will with it, rather than realizing the order has a definite mission to which its members must be faithful.