Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Modern Ultramontanism: a Jesuit Problem
Parishioners received a letter from the Provincial last weekend telling them the Jesuits are pulling out of their flagship parish of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon. With far more deaths than professions this is perhaps inevitable. A friend refers to Heythrop College as the "London School of Heresy", Fordham and Georgetown once bastions of orthodoxy are now in the vanguard of dissent.
It is perhaps worth pondering the Jesuits rise and fall from their reconstitution after their suppression in 1814 to the present day. The First Vatican Council, could be described as the "Jesuit Council", their half century of preaching throughout Europe and the Americas on the unique role of the Pope in the Church, inspired by their special fourth vow of undying loyalty to the person of the Sovereign Roman Pontiff had borne fruit. They were the intellectual and devotional power force behind the 19th century Ultramontane movement.
From their beginning the Jesuits were never "liturgical", Ignatius' innovation was that his religious order even when living in community would say the office in private, on their own. In that sense they were detached from the liturgical tradition of the Church, whilst at the same time they promoted devotion to the person of Jesus, primarilly through the Sacred Heart. Their prayer method, tended to emphasise personal biblical interpretation, almost Protestant but with the safeguard that within the strong orthodoxy of submitting everything to the mind of the Church.
How then did they move from strong loyalty before VI, to what many might describe as being the initiators of dissent after VII?
I think the answer is that it is based on the issue of personal loyalty to the Pope, rather than to Tradition as a constituant part of Revelation. The loyalty to the Pope after VII meant fierce loyalty to a Spirit of Reform, to what was understood as the Pope's Council. The absence of a reverence for the Tradition of the church was no problem when the Pope himself was seen as the "custodian of Tradition". However when the Pope is perceived as wanting to break from Tradition, what is left is a loyalty to the imagined agenda of the Pope. The problem comes when an Ultramontane, or at least a Pope who sees his role as different in some sense from his predecessors.
No longer prisoners of the Vatican, and in Church lacking the past certainties, Pope Paul and Pope John Paul II were quite different from their predecessors; the ease of travel, the nature of modern media transformed their role. They are Popes as no other Pope has been in the entire history of the Church. Now the Papacy is as much about personality as much as doctrine, doctrine might is about continuity but personality is about rupture. Paul VI and John Paul II were entirely different personalities, as Benedict. So the Jesuit problem is what does it mean to be loyal to the Pope after VII?
It seems "to be loyal" means to be loyal to what you either imagine the Pope to be, or would like the Pope to be.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake