A controversial editorial published in Mensajero, one of the official publications of the Jesuit Order in Spain, has characterized the pontificate of Pope John Paul II as raising suspicions about the Jesuits and of being incapable of resolving the breach between the faith and the modern world.
The editorial announced that a General Congregation of the Society of Jesus is being planned for 2008 and will address important issues for the future of the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Among the issues to be discussed are what kind of structural organization responds best to the challenges of globalization, which apostolic priorities should be focused upon, what type of formation today’s Jesuit needs and how to incorporate the laity into the apostolic work of the Society.
The editorial said the meeting would set the agenda for the Society for the first quarter of the 21st century.
“Under the leadership of Pedro Arrupe,” the editorial states, “Jesuits were enthusiastic fans of Vatican II.” But, the authors lament, “Their very institution paid a heavy price because of it.”
“Many members left the Society and the number of vocations dropped, especially in the consumerist and satiated North. This has led to a notable increase in the average age of today’s Jesuits,” the editorial notes.
The editorial accused “the spin which the papacy of John Paul II introduced into the Church” of stifling the reforms being led by Father Pedro Arrupe (Father General of the Society during the post-conciliar period). “The Jesuits went from being the defenders of the Roman Pontiff, to the object of suspicion because of progressivism, sympathy for Communism, and excessive concern for human justice, thus downplaying eternal salvation,” the editorial complains.
The authors claim Pope John Paul’s immensely successful papal voyages “may have led some to believe in the effectiveness of this ministry which was more spectacular than profound.” The Pope’s ministry was a failure, they claim, because it did not “close the gap between a technologically advanced society that is global in nature—and that continues to marginalize the poor—and the dictates of Christian faith and morals, as they are officially proclaimed.”
“The Jesuits have observed a ‘time of silence’ during these years,” the editorial continues.
The “creative fidelity” of the Jesuits towards the Church “has not always been well understood and accepted.”
“This has led to conflicts and harassment. Neither has there been a lack of stupidity and even foolishness on the part of members of the Society, which has led to reprimands.”
The editorial concludes by humbling pointing out that the “Society of Jesus constitutes an important reference point for consecrated life in the Church and also for some lay movements. In this jubilee year which [the Jesuits] are celebrating, they should reflect on not only their problems, which is very legitimate, but also on the Church itself which they form a part of and which they want to be more fraternal and evangelical.”