Jesuits at work and play

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 07, 2005

An OTR reader found the advertisement above in the program for Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre last week. Seattle University is a Jesuit institution of higher something, and in the composition and placement of the ad we can all recognize a bit of political theater on the Jesuits' behalf. In fact, it might serve as a metaphor of the men who designed and paid for it.

The Society of Jesus, with respect to the Church as a whole, operates like those "United Colours of Benetton" ads. The Benetton ads work on two levels. First, there's the "shock the bourgeois" level -- the picture of some disturbing, but ambiguously disturbing, sight, such as a Latino man who might be dying of AIDS or a tattoo'd girl who might be mainlining heroin. Then there's a second ironic level: pleasure in the displeasure the ads will cause less sophisticated people. The snob appeal hinges on the wry amusement that "those in the know" experience in their self-conscious detachment from the distress humbler souls succumb to. In the same way, we find Jesuits continually testing the waters with ambiguously disturbing counter-Catholic messages, knowing that their allies take delight just imagining the perplexity and alarm they provoke among the stodgier faithful. Remember Loyola's dental dams for sexual health shtick? Same game.

As with the Benetton ads, part of the joke is that there's always deniability. Should any Catholic be so oafish as to level the accusation of treason, the response is a protestation of wounded innocence: "But what did I do wrong? I made no statement at all. Just displayed a photo."

The picture in the theater program ad shows a woman in alb and stole, a deliberate tease on the understanding that the Catholic Church does not ordain women. Does a mere photo show Jesuit support for the ordination of women? Of course it does. And of course this support, if challenged, is totally deniable: "This woman simply happens to have been a student in our Pastoral Leadership Program!" Game. Set. Match.

And then we have the insider's tease as well. The caption ID's the clergywoman as "Joy Haertig, pastor, Richmond Beach United Church of Christ." And the first Google search brings up this:

Rev. Joy Haertig, pastor of Richmond Beach Congregational Church, UCC, and a lesbian, spoke about how marriage is not defined by gender, but by covenant, and how supporting such covenants can only strengthen -- not threaten -- the institution of marriage.

Now isn't that a coincidence!

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Oct. 10, 2005 6:00 PM ET USA

    Yes, there are some orthodox Jesuits out there, who are obedient, humble witnesses to Jesus & His Church. But are there ANY orthodox Jesuits in Seattle? Any guess on Seattle Archbishop Alex "all about ecumenism" Brunett's response to this? I mean, could a diocesan bishop shut the place down? or at least put them on notice with regard to the Church's Teaching? A parishioner approached me about going to college there at Seattle U.... Now, I wonder whether I should discourage her from going...

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2005 5:11 PM ET USA

    It is obvious that there is a subversive and dissenting faction within the Jesuit order but not ALL of them are. My fiance and I are marrying next year at a very holy and orthodox Jesuit parish. I have attended many masses there, and also been to confession several times - I have not witnessed one unorthodox move of one finger of any of thier 4 holy priests. Frequent confessions with long lines, adoration - there are many good guys left! We must step up our prayers for them!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2005 2:35 PM ET USA

    Man, I WAS in a good mood this morning...

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2005 1:26 PM ET USA

    And my,my isn't that Church packed. Notice those standing outnumber those sitting. Minister, Minister, Minister. Yes, Minister!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2005 1:10 PM ET USA

    But the picture is so inclusive, Diogenes! I mean, you 'her nibs' in front; a nun in a red cardigan; a 'person of color' who may be a Baptist minister and the requisite hazy Jesuit in sweater and khakis in the background. Who could ask for anything more...?

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Oct. 07, 2005 11:46 AM ET USA

    I've assisted at Mass in that funky little chapel while visiting my brother in Seattle. They open the floor for private contributions to the prayers of the Faithful. I used to amuse myself by petitioning our Lord for orthodox favors. Stuff like an end to abortion and the contraceptive mentality. Then I'd listen to see how many responded with "Lord, hear our prayer." Good times in the Emerald City!

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Oct. 07, 2005 11:35 AM ET USA

    Of course the Society of Jesus has no official document advocating the ordination of women. There are however groups of Jesuits, especially of the Oregon Province who do advocate such a change from the established norms. The bad thing is that Jesuit Presidents, Rectors and Provincials do not have the conviction to call the perps. on the carpet and chew them out. Falta de huevos.

  • Posted by: Remigius - Oct. 07, 2005 11:14 AM ET USA

    What does it take for the General of the Society of Jesus to act in defense of the Church and her mission? Let's see if this subversive photo does the trick.