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Jesuit general: all doctrine is subject to discernment

February 22, 2017

The superior general of the Society of Jesus has said that all Church doctrine must be subject to discernment.

In an interview with a Swiss journalist, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal said that the words of Jesus, too, must be weighed in their “historical context,” taking into account the culture in which Jesus lived and the human limitations of the men who wrote the Gospels.

In an exchange about Church teaching on marriage and divorce, when questioned about Christ’s condemnation of adultery, Father Sosa said that “there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said.” He continued:

At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualized, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.

Father Sosa explained that he did not meant to question the words of Jesus, but to suggest further examination of “the word of Jesus as we have interpreted it.” He said that this new process of discernment should be guided by the Holy Spirit.

When the interviewer remarked that an individual’s discernment might lead him to a conclusion at odds with Catholic doctrine, the Jesuit superior replied: “That is so, because doctrine does not replace discernment, nor does it [replace the] Holy Spirit.”


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  • Posted by: Erusmas - Feb. 25, 2017 10:12 AM ET USA

    When Raymond Brown expressed similar ideas, Lawrence Cardinal Shehan responded, "Where was the Holy Spirit when the original traditions were being formed among the early Christians? . . . When the general Councils, including Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II, were making their decisions for the Church?" - Homiletic and Pastoral Review, January 1976

  • Posted by: Terri11 - Feb. 24, 2017 11:26 AM ET USA

    "He said that this new process of discernment should be guided by the Holy Spirit." The question is who or what is guided? When teh Church is guided, we have the Catholic Church. When the priest/pastor is guided, we have the Protestant churches. When the individual is guided, we have no church.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 23, 2017 11:35 AM ET USA

    The words of Fr. Sosa in this article reflect the very definition of secular scholarship: question everything that does not accord with current trends, especially much of which has preceded the current generation of scholars. Modern secular scholarship began infecting catechetical materials in the 1950s and is in full blossom today in many institutions of higher learning that stubbornly continue to refer to themselves as Catholic, but who had lost their Catholicism during the period 1965-2017.

  • Posted by: mirus - Feb. 23, 2017 8:06 AM ET USA

    another modernist tenet

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Feb. 23, 2017 3:22 AM ET USA

    "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." (John 15:22)

  • Posted by: skall391825 - Feb. 22, 2017 11:31 PM ET USA

    "He said that his new process of discernment should be guided by the Holy Spirit." Well, my process of discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, screams out "ENOUGH!" Francis should order Cardinal Muller, prefect of the CDF, to rebuke and correct Father Sosa. If he does not, Muller must do so on his own authority.

  • Posted by: Erusmas - Feb. 22, 2017 10:10 PM ET USA

    Does this poor priest not know that the Holy Spirit guides the Church?

  • Posted by: bnewman - Feb. 22, 2017 9:43 PM ET USA

    But the question is who does the discerning and with what authority.?The Jesuits?

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Feb. 22, 2017 9:00 PM ET USA

    He said that" his new process of discernment should be guided by the Holy Spirit". "doctrine does not replace discernment" - But the Holy Spirit inspires doctrine, so we are now to believe that the HS says one thing to the discerner and another to the Church? Is this Jesuit serious? We are now in hitherto unimaginable confusion. You alone can save us, Lord. Grasp the hand of Peter and pull him up, please.

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Feb. 22, 2017 8:19 PM ET USA

    "At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words." Thus, the Jesuit dismisses the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding the Holy Father in proclaiming doctrine. The Evil One never ceases to beguile even those--like the Jesuits--who really ought to know better. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Feb. 22, 2017 8:16 PM ET USA

    The General of the Jesuits - with a silent approval of the pope - proclaims heresy. We don't need to be judges, he does it to himself.

  • Posted by: Dr TJ Eckelberg - Feb. 22, 2017 7:17 PM ET USA

    Apparently two thousand years of discernment is insufficient.

  • Posted by: feedback - Feb. 22, 2017 6:46 PM ET USA

    If "the words of Jesus must be contextualized" and all Catholic doctrine is "subject to discernment," what does it say about all the words and the doctrines of those theologians? If the said theologians have no respect for the teachings of Christ, why would anyone at all respect what they have to say? Matthew 5:13: What good is salt if it has lost its flavor? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

  • Posted by: Elan - Feb. 22, 2017 6:39 PM ET USA

    The interviewers have to be a little more astute. The statements by the superior general are ludicrous. How arrogant to think that the Holy Spirit waited until today, when we are so much smarter, to reveal doctrinal truth. Where does he think doctrine came from? He is too cowardly to say what he really believes, or rather, doesn't really believe.

  • Posted by: JimKcda - Feb. 22, 2017 6:18 PM ET USA

    "Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit" as re-interpreted by the Jesuits this week. Stand by, it might change next week!

  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Feb. 22, 2017 6:14 PM ET USA

    But why does Father Abascal stop with "discernment" concerning the words of Jesus? Why not use "discernment" to consider whether or not the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred, or even whether Jesus existed at all? All this is enough to almost make you want to cry out with the Psalmist, "How long, O Lord, how long?"

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Feb. 22, 2017 4:32 PM ET USA

    Let us pray that the Holy Spirit not delay in setting Fr. Sosa, and all who think as he does, straight, lest souls be lost following these clerics into error.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Feb. 22, 2017 3:59 PM ET USA

    One wonders whether Fr. Abascal is in contact with the Holy Spirit via telephone or e-mail. Or perhaps Facebook or Twitter. Or does he use a Ouija board to hear directly from the ghost of Martin Luther?