Sunday, January 27, 2008

Samuel Gregg on Jesuits on National Review Online

Yet it's hard to deny today's Jesuits are in trouble. In raw numbers, the Jesuits have dropped from 36,000 in 1965 to about 19,000 today.

A key figure in the story of the Jesuits' implosion is Fr. Pedro Arrupe — another Spaniard who lived in Japan — and who, oddly enough, employed Nicolás as his personal barber. Elected 28th General of the Order in 1965, Arrupe was either a "second Ignatius" of prophetic proportions or a well-meaning naïf, depending on whom you talk to. Under Arrupe's guidance, the Jesuits' 1974 General Congregation decreed "the promotion of justice" as an "absolute requirement" for Jesuit activities.

The problem is that many Jesuits' "promotion of justice" collapsed almost immediately into radical left-wing activism. Sensible Jesuit-authored critiques of Latin American oligarchies, for example, soon degenerated into Marxist versions of liberation theology. 

Many Jesuit universities have become virtually indistinguishable from your average left-wing secular academy. Some Jesuits candidly say the order's intellectual edge began seriously fraying in the 1970s, corroded by an idolatry of the contemporary — marked particularly by an embrace of Marxist critiques that would engender bad politics and even worse theology, including efforts to water down Christ's uniqueness in the name of that ubiquitous word"dialogue."

By the early 1980s, Rome had had enough. In 1981, John Paul II took the radical step of suspending the order's normal governance. In 1983, Fr. Kolvenbach was elected Father-General. Though widely considered a good man, it's unclear he affected any significant change in the Jesuits' direction.

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