Jesuits told: "Sentire Cum Ecclesia"

You will remember the long discussion last year on this blog about the phrase “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” (see here and here and here and here for examples). Of course, the phrase which I use as the title for my blog (and will one day bequeath to my children as the family motto) in fact comes from the founder of the Society of Jesus, St Ignatius Loyola (see here).

Of course, anyone who knows anything of the recent history of the Jesuits will know that there many of those within the order have been doing anything other than “thinking with the Church” and their vow of obedience to the Pope and the Heirarchical Church has been honoured more in breach than in the keeping of it. Most would see that as a result of the leadership of the penultimate Superior General, Fr. Arrupe (see here for the current-retiring Superior General’s take on his predecessor–it is enlightening for what it implies as much as for what it says).

Anyway, they “got told” (as my daughters would say) by Cardinal Franc Rode, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as they opened their 35th General Congregation in Rome this week.

It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus Ecclesiae. The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius are your specialty. The rules of sentire cum ecclesiae form an integral and essential part of this masterpiece of Catholic spirituality. They form, as it were, a golden clasp which holds the book of The Spiritual Exercises closed [trans? together?]. You hold in your very hands the elements needed to realize and to deepen this desire, this Ignatian and Ecclesial sentiment.

Love for the Church in every sense of the word, – be it Church people of God be it hierarchical Church – is not a human sentiment which comes and goes according to the people who make it up or according to our conformity with the dispositions emanating from those whom the Lord has placed to direct the Church….

With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the Hierarchy. The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service “under the Roman Pontiff” does not allow for this separation. In the Constitutions which he left you, Ignatius wanted to truly shape your mind and in the book of the Exercises (n 353) he wrote” we must always keep our mind prepared and quick to obey the true Spouse of Christ and our Holy Mother, the Hierarchical Church”. Religious obedience can be understood only as obedience in love. The fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in uniting the love for God with love for the hierarchical Church…

Ignatius placed himself under the orders of the Roman Pontiff “in order to not err in via Domini” (Const 605) in the distribution of his religious throughout the world and to be present wherever the needs of the Church were greater.

Times have changed and the Church must today confront new and urgent necessities, I will mention one, which in my judgment is urgent today and is at the same time complex and I propose it for your consideration. It is the need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition. The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the Kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits. There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known.

It is the “living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (DV 10) which is the voucher for revealed truth… May those who, according to your legislation, have to oversee the doctrine of your magazines and publications do so in the light of and according to the “rules for sentire cum ecclesia”, with love and respect…

Recover these avant-garde positions which are so necessary to transmit the eternal truth to today’s world, in today’s language. Do not abandon this challenge. We know the task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and at times little appreciated and even misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church.

Especially that last paragraph struck me, in the light of what Fr Kolvenbach said about Fr Arrupe’s call for the Jesuits to adopt an “avant-garde” approach:

“We will witness rising up against us those who in the industrial society of today practice injustice, who on the other hand are considered excellent Christians and who have perhaps been able to be our benefactors, our friends and even members of our families,” Kolvenbach said, synthesizing Arrupe’s thought.

“They will accuse us of Marxism and subversion. They will withdraw their friendship from us and with it they will take away their long-standing trust and economic support. Are we willing to assume this responsibility of entering on the path of a heavier cross, of withstanding the incomprehension of the civil and ecclesiastic authorities, and of our best friends? Are we ourselves ready to offer a true witness in our lives, in our work, in our lifestyle?”

Against this, Cardinal Rode suggests that there is something even more important, more avant-garde, more aligned to carrying the cross of Christ, more likely to result in authentic martyrdom than the adoption of elements of Marxist ideology: the spreading of the Gospel.

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