semi-sweet nothings

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 23, 2006

Yesterday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano celebrated Mass for a "pilgrimage" of Jesuits and Jesuit collaborators in St. Peter's Basilica. After the Mass [can you blame him?] Pope Benedict arrived and addressed the assembly in pointedly unpointed words of the kind used at the deathbed of a rich but unloved relative: you might call it The Last Bedtime Story. I imagine, in keeping with his "let's focus on points of doctrinal agreement" theme -- a theme exhausted in less than a thousand words -- he also reminded the Jesuits to carry clean handkerchiefs and floss daily. Those lines didn't make it into the official version, but the lines that did could have been uttered a century ago with equal relevance.

If the Pope's remarks were free of topspin, the deficit was supplied by Sodano's homily, which was ghosted (I presume) by a staffer with a malicious sense of humor. In Vatican discourse, courtesy and benignity are usually warring twins, and the former speaks most distinctly when the latter is gagged and hog-tied. Here Sodano is pretending to expand on the meaning of the Mass in Eastertide:

Keep in mind that every Eucharistic Sacrifice also has a conciliatory purpose: today we wish to ask pardon for our infidelities.

Curious choice of delict, Eminence. What infidelities might you be referring to?

In truth, we are well aware that every human endeavor is accomplished by sons of Adam, who are disposed to sin, and that every day they must repeat the prayer Jesus taught us: "Pater noster …, libera nos a malo -- Our Father…, deliver us from evil."

The Cardinal's translation, for the benefit of his audience, of the Latin of the Lord's Prayer was probably not an inadvertence. It's even more pointedly patronizing in his Italian: "Pater noster ..., libera nos a malo – Padre nostro ..., liberaci dal male." Very helpful indeed. And it gets better:

Evil exists in the history of individual men, as it does in the history of communities.

Evil ...? Communities ...?

Already in the Apostolic College there was Judas, who betrayed the Lord, as was Peter who denied him. Also for us the cock often resumes his crowing, which invites us to bewail our infidelities and to ask pardon of our Lord.

Another baffling reference. What does Judas Iscariot have to do with the contemporary Society of Jesus? Can it be that the Secretary of State was caught short of time to prepare a congratulatory message and was obliged to recycle his Good Friday sermon? Then again, we have to concede that the Cardinal was operating under peculiar homiletic constraints. When a religious order has just concluded the spiritual enterprise of a Brokeback Lent, where do you go for Easter?

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Apr. 26, 2006 12:11 AM ET USA

    Indeed, might we pray that Pope Benedict XVI simply and profoundly scrap the current "leadership" within the Society of Jesus (a Society that is founded to serve and protect the Holy Father), and, as the Successor to Saint Peter, the Holy Father would appoint a new superior general and other leaders from among the orthodox Jesuits (yes, there are some, although in the minority).... A Reform of the reform... in the spirit of Saint Ignatius.. AMDG.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 25, 2006 1:24 AM ET USA

    The Society of Jesus needs to read its own history(as I have mentioned in previous posts). The Society has been surpressed, temporarily, and may be yet again, if the Holy Father should decide; and a surpression of permanence is not yet out of the question. Prayer, penance and a return to the fold, in all ways, is the only way I can see for the Society to escape eventual oblivion. The Holy Father would be justified in sacking the order and starting over.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 24, 2006 7:59 PM ET USA

    Corquin is correct; there are good, holy, orthodox Jesuits who do deserve our prayer. There is no way our secular press is ever going to extol these good men. Let's hope the new men entering the Order are good, holy, and orthodox.

  • Posted by: rpp - Apr. 24, 2006 11:33 AM ET USA

    Jesuits have always enjoyed indirect intellectual references. That is one of their identifying makrs. I think The Holy Father's and Cardinal Sodano's references were heard loud and clear, without the mess of public humuliation. Let's hope it takes for at least some of them. Others are correct in saying that correction must come from within. Jesuits are not the only order that has fallen into corruption.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 24, 2006 12:31 AM ET USA

    Nuance, subtley, allusion, implication, suggestions, hints, arch comments -- all mincing of words, when what is required is directness, strength, fortitude, unambiguity to end a mincing society.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Apr. 23, 2006 10:03 PM ET USA

    Dear corquin, With all due respect I think they need to fight each other first. Jesus says if salt loses its saltiness what good is it? Then, in another place, He compare "saltiness: with being "at peace" with one another. No wonder the "good ones" are demoralized! The best option would be for the Jesuits to correct themselves, but where is that going to come from, the bad ones? I don't think so. It will take a lot of courage. That is what we must pray for. Ave!

  • Posted by: corquin - Apr. 23, 2006 4:06 PM ET USA

    Just a word: There are faithful Jesuits still fighting mightily for the Faith. Please remember them daily in your prayers; pray that they will not give in to the discouragement that has to come when they look out at their order. Pray that they will continue to look up for their sustenance and that it will be granted.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Apr. 23, 2006 1:07 PM ET USA

    Excellent "Tongue-in-cheek" Diogenes. When I see Benedict's controlled resopnse with Sodano's more pointed follow-up (still very controlled) I know why I am not Pope or Secretary.... (Lead me NOT into temptation...) We will see what happens... JP

  • Posted by: - Apr. 23, 2006 12:33 PM ET USA

    Communities can fall into corrupt, unworthy hands. At least, hands not capable of proper leadership. If the navigation of a ship is left to an incompetent captain, someone who can restore the ship(community) to the right course must be found. That must be done individually or collectively. Can the Church and the Papacy still depend on the Jesuits to be the defenders of the faith? The sermon was indeed strange. But there are "queer" things going on within the Order.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 23, 2006 12:07 PM ET USA

    Thanks so much for the redact. Amazing call to repentence for Jesuits, one and all, since even the holy within any community must speak to the evils(s) among their own.