Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pope calls Jesuits to obedience

Rocco Palmo has the text of a message of the Holy Father to the Jesuits gathered in Rome to elect their new Superior General on Saturday, he calls them to remember their vow of obedience to the Pope.

... too gladly wish to take this opportunity of a General Congregation to bring such a contribution to light and, at the same time, to offer for your common reflection some considerations which might be of encouragement for you and a stimulus to implement ever better the ideal of the Society, in full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, such as described in the following formula which is well familiar to you: “To serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth” (Apostolic Letter Exposcit debitum, 21 July 1550). One treats here of a “peculiar” fidelity confirmed also, by not a few among you, in a vow of immediate obedience to the Successor of Peter “perinde ac cadaver”. The Church has even more need today of this fidelity of yours, which constitutes a distinctive sign of your Order, in this era which warns of the urgency of transmitting in an integral manner to our contemporaries — distracted by many discordant voices — the unique and immutable message of salvation which is the Gospel, “not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the word of God”, which works in those who believe.

Before anyone else says it, yes, they do look a sad lot.


Anonymous said...

Soldiers of Christ?

They look like a bunch of overweight middle-aged men at a job club waiting for help with their CVs.

How sad.

Not a clerical collar to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Yes compare them to you, Fr Tim, & all our Oratorians oh & our other Priest bloggers, full of joy!

gemoftheocean said...

Okay, that last comment was my take on it too.

If they had just played a round of golf, okay. But let's just say I wouldn't lay odds on it.

The don't look a think like the Jezzies I knew in high school. I only have to close my eyes to see (the late) Fr. Earl LaRiviere in his slightly rumpled cassock pacing up and down the parking lot saying his breviary every afternoon after school had ended for the day. [that was before I drove and waited for mom to pick me up from school.]

Salt of the earth in manliness and orthodoxy. And had a way of making you feel he personally cared about whether or not you actually "got" the Federalist Papers. His confrere, Father Lanphier, was also much beloved in the school. [In the latter's case he was the drama coach.] Both Jesuits of the "old school."

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Is that a reference in the Pope's message to the Jesuits' "fourth vow" of immediate obedience to the Pope ?

I wonder they have bothered to retain the custom.

When I think of the "Jays" I knew as a schoolboy, I have to say I'm glad they died years ago and were spared the spectacle of what the Society has become.

And they used to be such good and holy men, and accomplished so much !

They really were an inspiration to the young mind.

And now look at them.

When I looked at the photo posted by Fr. Ray of this rather sad and rather pathetic bunch of men, I thought, well, here is a useful reminder of what has happened to the Church in the last forty years.

However, Christ is with us yet, just as he promised.

Things will get better.

(I believe things are getting better, and the S.J.s haven't noticed yet.)

Bro. Jim Hayes said...

There is a French proverb: "L'habit ne fait pas le moine." The cassock/habit doesn't define the monk. I personally think it is a good maxim to bear in mind, whatever one feels about other aspects of the modern day Jesuits.

I myself as a De La Mennais brother (not a priest) wear clerical collar, black shirt + suit as my uniform when I am in school working, just as our pupils have their own uniform. And I am quite happy doing so. When out of school, for the most part I wear "civvies" but always with a prominent 1+half inch crucifix around my neck with our order's motto "Dieu Seul" (For God Alone) represented by a "D.S.".

Last summer I was in Rome for meetings of Brothers responsible for vocations work in our order and attend regular Provincial gatherings in France (where formal religious dress has at various times been banned by secular governements, inc. during the first half of the 20th century). If you lined up a bunch of us from one such gathering we wouldn't look too dissimilar from the Js in the photo (perhaps a bit slimmer... working with young people in extra-curricular activities helps keep you fit!).

I would consider the confrères that I know amongst the 1,000 or so of us around the world to be a devout, orthodox group of apostolically courageous men, loyal to the Pope, living and working with ordinary folk, especially the young, seeking "to make Christ better known and better loved". Certainly "salt of the earth in manliness and orthodoxy".

But I really do take offense at the suggestion that we too could be seen as a "sad, rather pathetic bunch of men" just by the way we dressed???

I admit quite willingly that there is something to be said for the discipline and visibility afforded by formal religious dress. However, would Jesus think the way some of you do? Surely he would judge us more on the evangelical fire that was in our hearts, the love we show to others, the way we bring others closer to Him. And that, I'm afraid, you CANNOT tell by the way people dress. Look into their eyes and their hearts (if you have that gift) but for heaven's sake, look beyond appearances!

There's a real danger that such Pharisee-like attitudes (comparing the length of one's tassles, the smartness of one's robes, the outward representation...) may turn your hearts from the essential.

People will doubtless respond to this saying, "Ah, but the Jesuits have abandoned what made them great and this outward slovenliness symbolises this fall from grace." Fine, criticise the Jesuits for their actions if you must. But just remember that there are many good, devout, fired up Catholics (lay, priests + religious) who don't look the way you would like them to and this does not make them lesser Catholics.

Gregor Kollmorgen said...

Rev. Brother James,

While I agree of course taht we mustn't judge, it is really as simple as this:

Can. 669 of the Code of Canon Law unequivocally states:

§ 1. Religiosi habitum instituti deferant, ad normam iuris proprii confectum, in signum suae consecrationis et in testimonium paupertatis.

§ 2. Religiosi clerici instituti, quod proprium non habet habitum, vestem clericalem ad normam can. 284 assumant.

It doesn't say they are to wear the habit when they feel like it, or when executing some specific task. It says to wear it, period.
If one sees the General Congregation of an order, and not one single member appears to be complying with this law of the Church, the question must be permitted why, and whether this is a good thing (hint: no).

Moving beyond the legal argument: The habit is prescribed for a reason. It is (among other things, there are whole books about it, I only can make some very brief remarks here) to be what characterises the religious outwardly. And the Catholic Faith has never held the outward as unimportant, because it forms the inward and communicates it to others. The religious, when given the sacred habit at profession, puts it on as the new life he is beginning, just as at holy Baptism we put on the white gowns of the life of grace, we put off the old Adam and put on Christ. Now, if a religious does decide not to wear this habit, what are we layfolk to think?
Also, meaning no offence, I have to say I find the idea that the habit is worn like a school uniform while "at work", but not otherwise, unfortunate, to say the least. That is what many parish priests do: don the collar (if at all) for Mass, and wear civil clothes otherwise. What does that say to us laypeople? What I hear is "I have a bourgeois profession, just like you, but otherwise I'm an ordinary person, just like you." NO! Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, a man becomes a PRIEST-FOR-EVER. Not a part-time celebration employee. I really should think it is similar with religious (besides, probably most if not all members of the Jesuit GC are priests anyway). Sorry, but I have strong feelings on this.

Anonymous said...

The Jesuit constitutions specifically rule out a distinctive habit. They say that Jesuits should dress as ordinary working men. The cassock was later assumed to suit the cnnventions of the time. Many Jesuits continue to wear the dress of the secular clergy; others have reverted to St Ignatius's precepts.

Anonymous said...

This photograph presents the Jesuits as a happy, if rather sruffy, bunch. No lack of joy there, Mrs Parkes.

I hope your readers read the full account of the Holy Father's speech as presented in Whispers in the Loggia. It will give a different impression from Fr Blake's characteristically selective extract. Among much else he asked 'how can one not recognize the valid contribution which the Society offers the Church's activity in various fields in many ways? Truly a great and meritorious contribution, one which only the Lord will be able to rightly reward.'

Odd that. Best read the text in full.

Anonymous said...

Brother James,
They are meeting in Rome, the previous bishop issued quite clear instruction about the dress of clergy and religious in his diocese, this has not been rescinded. Not one of these priests are following those instructions.
As it is the Jesuits, on their recent track record you have to ask, "Why?"

Anonymous said...

I think any tendency on anyone's part to become too concerned with "tassles" and the like is right to be corrected and I am grateful to Br.Hayes for pointing that out. We should always be on our guard against that tendency.

That said there is in my humble opinion an important underlying point. This is that whatever one decides to wear says something not only about who one is but what statement one is making to the world around us. Many Jesuits (but by no means all) have made a very conscious decision to abandon clerical dress whether it is for reasons of solidarity with the poor, or fear of association with privilege. Unfortunately these men are stuck in the past and look as outdated as if they were in medieval costume. Jesuits who insist on wearing blazers and ties (the preferred dissident garb) simply look like the ageing secular academics they in fact are. Others have failed to realise that clerical dress in 2008, far from being a sign of great privilege and status as the ossified authorities at the Venerabile would have us believe, is in fact a very powerful counter cultural "Sign of Contradiction" which equates to the Gospel. That is why so many young priests and nuns have enthusiastially taken it up again and in the most traditional forms possible.

St.Ignatius Loyola specified that the men of his "Company of Jesus" should wear the standard priestly cassock of where they worked but always unadorned. Putting the English J's to one side for the moment who had their own distinctive dress, this led to a distinctive Jesuit cassock which was a powerful symbol of humility- baggy and untailored with no buttons (which were a sign of wealth). I suggest that this today in 2008 is a more powerful sign of the Jesuit witness than dodgy slacks and a cardigan which only serve to give the outward if misleading impression that one doesn't really care about anything but has rather given up one's enthusiasm for everything except perhaps a spot of gardening.

Anonymous said...

Br James,
I think the Pharisaic quip is easy and cheap.
Dressing in a habit or wearing clerical dress isn't about having broader philacteries or longer tassels than anyone else, it is about uniformity in philacteries and tassels.
Did Jesus wear a philactery and tassels? Of course he did, it was part of the normal religious dress of the day.
The habit / clerical dress is the normal dress of the Church. At least it was until we started swallowing the "You are being Pharisaic" rubbish and lost our religious identity. It was the Jesuits who pushed that, and brought about the end of so many religious orders.

Anonymous said...

The comments by Br. James are understandable. However, from the lay person's point of view I suppose we do tend to think of the priest as never being off duty so that is perhaps the reason why a priest in mufti is sometimes difficult to accept.

Of course a parish priest needs time off to 'replenish his batteries' and if it is easier for him to do so without wearing his clerical collar then it is his choice.

Priests wearing casual clothes seems to be a more recent trend in Britain whereas in France it has been the norm for decades. I remember in 1962 being told that the chap in t shirt and jeans putting up some trestle tables for a local fete was the parish priest!

I have had the privilege of meeting many retired French missionary priests during the last few years at their mother house in Paris and no longer expect them to be wearing a collar. Visiting working priests are also incognito and when I asked one why this was so he replied that people talk to him differently when he wore his collar!

All these men have given their lives to God around the world working among the poorest of the poor and it has taught me that what they wear is really unimportant. They do, of course, wear vestments when concelebrating Mass.

One thing which I cannot get used to is seeing a parish priest wearing an ordinary tie with his suit as is common in France. I have even seen a Bishop on French TV giving an interview like this!

br James is right when he says that 'L'Habit ne fait pas le moine' but it would be useful to know whether to address someone as 'Mon Pere' or 'Monsieur'!

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

I entirely disagree with Brother James Hayes, F.I.C. about the casting aside of the religious habit.

My comments are not meant as a criticism of the de la Mennais brothers who do excellent work.

The wearing of a habit by a religious signifies a consecrated life , a life of obedience, a life lived in the world, but set apart from the world.

Of course, the habit is a constraint. It's meant to be. And it's a constant reminder to the man or woman wearing it of the vows he or she has taken, and of the life he or she has to lead until the day of death.

To wear the habit is in itself an act of witness. It also an act of humility. Of obedience. Of self effacement. Why therefore, I have to ask, cast it aside ?

The religious habit has never come between me and a religious. In fact, I have found traditionally garbed religious more approachable.

The habit has a special significance, and it is a tired, rather old fashioned argument to say that appearances really don't matter that much.

If lay people went off to the office on Monday morning in the casual clothes they had worn over the weekend, they would not keep their job very long.

Imagine telling the office manager, "Well, you see, I don't think appearances are so important.
And if you do think so, then you're a Pharisee".

Many priests and religious cast aside their habits during and after Vatican II as if they were somehow liberated.

The old argument was of course trotted out : you must not judge us by appearance.

(Why mustn't I ? I would expect you to judge me by my appearance.)

The next thing was wholesale desertion by priests and religious, and a massive decline in vocations, with the results that we see now.

The only religious orders which are growing (fast) wear the cassock/habit.

You can't truthfully say there is no correlation between the two.

There obviously is.

Any General Chapter meeting in Rome ought to be able to dress more appropriately than the men in this photo. They are not even wearing a collar and tie.

You don't dress down like that in public without sending a message.

Deliberately sending a message.

In this case, the message seems to be : "As far as we're concerned, nothing has changed since the 1960s - 1970s when we cast off the old ways, and swept away the old rules, the old Mass, etc., along with the dust of centuries."

Well, things have changed since those decades, things are changing (slowly) for the better, but the men in the photo do not appear to have noticed.

I thank Brother James Hayes for the great work he and his confreres do in Catholic education.

I congratulate him on putting his own name to his comment.

A pity one of the S.J.s can't do the same !

Bro. Jim Hayes said...

I really do appreciate all the comments people have been making here and the way they have been made.

I also understand the persuasive arguments that people are making in favour of formal religious garb (habit, etc...) which, to some degree , I would agree with. It is surely the case that the relaxing of rules within religious orders in general (of which the relaxing of dress codes is but one) in the post-Vatican II years led to an exodus from religious life. The dress code issue should be seen as a symptom I feel, not a cause, however.

But the fact is that many (if not most) apostolic religious orders have now abandoned standardised religious dress, for better or for worse, so it is up to us individual religious to still give outward witness to the (inner) lives we lead. In my case I choose to wear a crucifix. You'd be surprised what an effect this can have on people (see recent public debate surrounding wearing a crucifix in the workplace) and, yes of course appearance can communicate a great deal.

But, the gathering of Jesuits in Rome is actually a private, not public gathering. There is no gallery, no audience. They are amongst their fellow brethren. The photo would have been taken by special permission.

Yes, the wearing clerical garb in school as a "uniform" is not ideal and can lead to misunderstandings. But in the absence of a habit (BTW I did not receive one when I made first vows in 1990) we English Brothers (before my time) decided that would be our dress in school, rightly or wrongly. Some do wear it more often than others as general dress outside school also. I choose not to (for the most part) other than at formal occasions, but to wear a crucifix. My choice, strongly influenced no doubt by my 5 years study in France, where wearing a crucifix alone can be a source of far greater controversy than over here.

To say (as one person suggests) that an individual religious chooses not to wear the habit would in the vast majority of cases not be true. It is a General (or Provincial) Chapter (or equivalent) that would do so.

Yes, the Pharisee quip was a bit facile... but I do feel it is a danger.

The bottom line is that a return to trad. dress is not going to happen overnight in terms of religious orders, no matter how hard you huff and puff and complain. Too many members of my congregation, for example, feel far too strongly about it for there to be a General Chapter decision in its favour in the foreseeable future. That's not to say the situation will not evolve. In fact, I'm pretty sure it will... and actually, I hope to be around to see it.

As regards religious identity + dress, my order (like many others) has in recent years been striving to return to the evangelical fire and dynamism of our founder(s) through a rediscovery of what makes us De La Mennais Brothers, of our particular charism, of our identity. A very fruitful experience for all of us that has led to new undertakings (eg. new missions in Indonesia, S. America and elsewhere), renewed hope, a willingness to leave our comfort zones and abandon the complacency that has undoubtedly set in since Vat. !!... new life + renewed spirit. And this without a return to the habit.

And thank you for your kind comments about my order...

One last little tongue-in-cheek provocation ;-)...

- some photos of us Bros. on a day off in Rome during our week of Vocations Directors meetings at Castelgondolfo in Aug.

Anonymous said...

Well actually i do know quite a few Jesuits...& joyful they ain't!

Take a look at my blog & see Fr Guy Nicholls in full clerical dress..there's a joyous Priest if ever i saw one!

Oh the Jesuits i have in mind are pretty prominent..they wear civvies, practice anyone can go to holy get the picture..sad!

Anonymous said...

Oh & the Miles Jesu fathers wear clerical dress & look oh so smart!

They are real 'Soldiers of Jesus'.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

And another thing ..

I recommend all readers and commenters to visit Fr. Z's post "Compare and Contrast", 17 January 2008, at his blog What Does The Prayer Really Say.

Compare the two photos, and read the 50 or so comments.

gemoftheocean said...

I expect I put myself in the middle camp, which means I can get hit by both sides.

I was taken aback by the photo, because even though as Bro. James said it was "a private meeting" and you "can't judge a book by its cover" - I also think of it as an "all business meeting" and surely in that case you'd think at least one or two or even by far the majority if not ALL would be wearing clericals.

OTOH, a few people seem to expect the priest to be wearing clericals if he goes jogging, or is doing a spot of gardening. In that case, a priest wearing clericals doesn't seem sensible to me.

Ronald Reagan is said to have not taken off his suit coat while he worked in the Oval Office itself, because of his own sense of awe at the responsibilities of the office devolved on him by election to office. He was no less president sitting at his ranch in California when going through briefing reports, even if dressed casually. And certainly as a citizen I expected him and all presidents to welcome foreign guests graciously etc. But even there, it's not infrequent after the white tie / black tie dinner, to also schedule some informal time. The casual dress at the tail end of the G8 summits also indicates that for the purposes of getting to know each other as "real people" also has its purposes too. Don't underestimate the common bonds that might be built over a back yard BBQ so to speak.

As regards France and other countries such as Mexico which had long had civil laws against wearing of clerical garb in public, in their cases I'd think they'd want to opportunity to seize on "witnessing" more, not less than priests from other countries where the laws were not so.


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