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.


Et Expecto said...

After withdrawing from Wimbledon, will the concentrate on the manufacture of Jayes Fluid?

TLMWx said...

Nice theory Father, but I don't think it holds water. The apostasy is across all orders. The Pope should be the personification of Tradition by definition, so their loyalty to the Pope should not have posed any difficulty in this regard. I would say the Dominicans and the Jesuits are most sorely hit. I would suggest maybe the nature of the apostasy is intellectual and intellectual pride is a perfect feeding ground for the germs to spread.

Mercury said...

Yes, but they dissented from the pope himself, as well as papal teaching since then. You'd think that I what you were saying is true, they may not be traditionalists, but would at least be strong promoters of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the papal encyclicals since Paul VI, but they are the leading dissenters even from those things.

But, more importantly, why do you have a picture of the mural at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana? I was at the school when they unveiled it (though I graduated from somewhere else). After being liberal like many Catholic high schools for a while, they are one of the leading schools in the area thy is returning to orthodoxy - they have 14-year-olds reading Aquinas!

umblepie said...

I can hardly believe this. A magnificent Church adjoining Wimbledon College, my old school of good memories, to be abandoned by the Jesuits! How the mighty have fallen, but what a tragedy!

Anonymous said...

One exemplary Jesuit priest was Fr William Doyle SJ. The cause for his beatification was "unpromoted" by the Jesuits as he wasn't seen to be "relevant for our time". Interestingly I think he is more relevant than ever in terms of his authentic Ignatian spirituality.
In reading a biography about him the reverence shown to the Mass in the battlefields of the Somme by the Irish soldiers is very moving. Little gems of information such as the soldiers being "scraped" ie going to Confession and another at the Sanctus - guns being fired (there is a term for this - sorry can't think..)

More info on this saintly Jesuit :

Flambeaux said...

I thought that mural was from my alma mater, although it was created after my time.

@Mercury, glad to hear things are improving. They weren't great when I was there in the early 1990s but they still provided me a decent-enough education that I found my way back to the Faith. :D

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ma, I think you seriously underestimate the pull Jesuits (and Ultramontanism) had on Catholic intellectual life before, during and after the Council. It was that which slashed at the carapice of the Church the Liturgy. Its change, and the acceptance of it stems entirely from the high Ultramontane view of the Papacy.

Yes, I think you also have to add into the mix Liberation Theology, with its Marxist bias, Liberalism and Modernism too but the touch paper was Ultramontaism.

Mercury, I am glad to hear about the picture and the revival of the College, I just thought it iconic.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Father Blake,

You are so right. The "prestige" and status of the Jesuits was enormous.

Had they retained their faith and practised it according to the rules of their illustrious founder, we would not be where we are today.

Thank you for raising the issue.

Anagnostis said...

"As lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week"
- An old Benedictine saying.

Says it all, really. Sooner they and their ideological "orthodoxies" have vanished from the scene for good, the better.

Anagnostis said...

" I think you seriously underestimate the pull Jesuits (and Ultramontanism) had on Catholic intellectual life before, during and after the Council. It was that which slashed at the carapice of the Church the Liturgy."

Yes. The Party Line changed, but the underlying mentality remained absolutely untouched.

Mercury said...

Thanks, Father. It's a high school, though - New Orleans has a long tradition of excellent - and affordable Catholic high schools. After some weak catechesis since the 70s, many of them are starting to teach the Faith again.

By the way, are you saying Vatican I was a bad thing? What is the difference between Ultramontanism and what Vatican I actually said (which is binding)?

Also, don't you think a lot of the increasing focus in the person of the pope is a consequence of modern media and transportation technology? I mean, since the 19th century it has been easier and easier for the pope's person to be known to the world.

Jacobi said...

A good article Father, which helps me try to understand the baffling changes I see in the Jesuits.

I grew up in a Jesuit parish where Catholicism was something almost tangible, but on recent visits there the church and the liturgy seemed empty. The vibrant Jesuit priests of my youth must be turning in their graves.

Incidentally, I believe there is a movement to canonise John XXIII and John Paul II. Personally I think this would be most inappropriate

Fr Ray Blake said...

"... are you saying Vatican I was a bad thing? What is the difference between Ultramontanism and what Vatican I actually said (which is binding)?"

No Vat I was good, its Spirit is evil.
Newman's understanding of Infallibity is useful. Though the wording of VI is rather grandiloquent, I do not think that we can claim it is introducing new doctrine, that is not possible, it merely unpacking what Greek and Latin fathers were saying in the 1st Millenium. We can only read VI & VII in continuity, it would be heretical to read it in rupture.

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