Another aspect of “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”

I recently posted a comment by Stephen K. about the true meaning of “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” – the attitude of Mary’s answer to the Angel: “Fiat”.

Now, from Fr Z, comes another example of what “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” means in reality.

“Two hours on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, is known to have said something about how he would accept the suppression of the Jesuits. The quote is something like:

“Two hours on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

Can anyone come up with a citation? Where? When? To whom?

I actually asked a friend of mine who knows a bit about Loyola and he tells me the quote is “Half an hour on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

Note that St Ignatius of Loyola is the same fellow who came up with the motto “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”. His attitude in this remark (which may, according to my friend, be apocryphal or included in one of the early biographies) exemplifies that motto completely. As we all know, the suppression – unjustly – did take place, although St Ignatius did not live to see that sad day.

When I was in the process of becoming a Catholic, some of my friends said to me “You are becoming Catholic because you are attracted to the Church as it is now. But what if a new pope comes who is completely different to John Paul II and does totally different things, like allowing the ordination of women?”

Well, we do now have a new Pope, and he is not “completely different”, and the ordination of women has been definitively ruled out by the Catholic Church’s magisterium, so perhaps that is not a good example to use. The Church will never ordain women to the priesthood. But there could well one day be a pope with whom I do not feel as comfortable as I do with the current encumbant or his predecessor.

But the fact is that whenever and if ever the Church were to do something that I didn’t personally agree with, would I reject the Catholic Church for this reason? My answer would be the same as St Ignatius’: Half an hour on my knees and I should never think of it again. That’s what it means to “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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One Response to Another aspect of “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”

  1. Stephen K says:

    You know, David, when I first read this, I thought “yes, that’s a good illustration”. I even thought – not only of St Ignatius but of you – ‘well, that’s obedience and humility for you!”

    I still think there’s some good instinct in my initial response – after all, the idea behind religious submission to a superior is to foster anti-ego, and trust in, and receptivity to, God. However, after some further reflection, I think that, like in most things, some qualification (or even nuance) might apply and be salutary.

    What I mean is, I wonder whether there is a legitimate and valid demarcation point between SCE submission to doctrinal instruction, and submission in administrative decisions. Now, in the case of a decision to suppress an order one had founded, one might be able to say that the decision was “for a spiritual good”, and this would be no different from accepting a teaching that x was y. On the other hand, one might be aware of very human motivations at work (like political/territorial jealousy), and think it patently not a decision made in the Spirit. What would one do about that?

    Of course, some might say, ‘well, a real “sentire cum ecclesia” lies more obviously where submission is given to a hard-to-swallow, unspiritual decision than where it is non-controversial’.

    But some might say that such an absolute approach removes the obligation or possibility of the exercise of discerning and discriminate judgment, and leaves open the situation which we have regrettably witnessed, namely the silence over imprudent or harmful decisions in the history of clerical abuses. So, I ask the question, in what circumstances would you say Ignatian SCE submission should pull up short? A genuine question, in the interests of accuracy.

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