Saturday, January 26, 2008


The pope asked the current GC for loyalty to dogma and obedience to himself.

What he got was the declaration of a troubled marriage. According to a CWN story:

the new superior general of the Society of Jesus said that the Jesuits remain loyal to the Pope. "If there are problems" in the relationship, he said, "it is precisely because we are so close."

So, the battle is engaged. The basic issue is, What is the source of church authority?

The Pope holds firm to the Great Chain of Being, in which he, the pope, and other worldly monarchs are answerable only to God Himself. Think “pecking order.”

As we have seen, much of the world has progressed beyond the belief that God chooses our monarchs for us. [This is meant as sarcastic understatement.] Many of us, too, have grown tired of the pecking, regardless of order.

The RCC clings to it. The nuns taught me that the Pope, any pope, is “Christ’s Vicar on Earth.”

Nicolas’ marriage model is way different. Marriages are dynamic. Powers shift, and are shared. Neither partner has dispositive authority.

Fr Nicolas seems to offer an assurance, but really just gives the coordinates of the battleground:

But as in a marriage, he added, the Jesuits and the Pope are wholly dedicated to the same goal: the welfare of the Church.

Sounds good. But Nicolas and Ratzinger have radically different definitions of the word “Church.” Nicolas thinks it’s a voluntary relationship among equals, Ratzinger thinks it’s still a shepherd and sheep thing.

My favorite quote from the story:

Before serving in Asia, [Nicolas] said, he had firm and unyielding views about what constitutes proper religious faith and practice. In Japan, he reported, such attitudes are seen as intolerant

It looks like a donnybrook. Reportedly vocations are up in East and Southeast Asia (Nicolas’ turf) and way down in Europe (Ratzinger’s).

I think the mere fact that Nicolas was elected, and that Benedict had to accept him, tends to support Nicolas’ point of view.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Georgetown Jesuits taught Bill Clinton defensive parsing.

For instance, one can deflect an accusation of lying, no matter how egregious the falsehood, by requiring the accuser to state what the meaning of “is” is.

Is St Louis University a Catholic institution? You guessed it—it depends on the meaning of "is."

If “is” means disqualified from receiving public funding for a new sports arena ($85Million), then the answer is No.

If “is” means permitted to require employees (such as high profile basketball coaches) to adhere to the Church’s anti-abortion position, then the answer is Yes.

This St Louis Post-Dispatch article covers the local Catholic bishop’s call to discipline SLU’s new head basketball coach, Rick Majerus, for his public statements supporting women’s choice and stem cell research. The second half of the story recaps “Jesuit” St Louis University’s effort to snag tax dollars to fund a new sports arena by denying that it’s a religious school.

The Jesuits are so well educated and so intellectually competent that they can show how SLU both is and isn’t a Catholic institution, plus if you have a few minutes, they’ll tell you how an $85Million sports arena comports with a preferential option for the poor.

[A: Sobrino says Theology shouldn’t be written in air-conditioned rooms. He doesn't say anything about basketball.]

Eventually, Bill Clinton pled guilty to perjury. Some judges aren't fooled by the is-is thing.

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Monday, January 21, 2008


Our attraction to love and truth, kindness and integrity, is the foundation of the Christian religion.

For many, Christ IS this attraction.

Such is the basis of the three modern Christological heresies.

Christ = Evolution
Christ = Poor people
Christ = One of many leaders
The original European Romantic, Novalis, (Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg), asked:

Who declared the writing of the Bible complete?

The three heresies assume that the writing of the Bible is NOT complete, that we live, still, in Biblical times.

These heresies are the only ways most thinking Catholics understand Christ, and there are too many of them for the Church to shoo away.

So the Jesuits have elected a new leader who seems to adhere to the last two heresies as explained (in veiled terms) by this John L. Allen NCR column:

A former director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila and head of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, Nicolás is said to be particularly close to the church in Japan. In broad strokes, Jesuit observers say he represents the theological outlook associated with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, with emphasis on inter-religious dialogue, advocacy for justice and peace, and “inculturation” of church teachings and practices.

Way to go, Jebbies!

On a darker note:

Coverage of the GC here in the USA has included quotes by Fr Thomas Smolich, S.J., who has risen to the be President of the Jesuit Conference in the United States.

Based on his scandalous denials regarding the serial rape by Jesuits of mentally retarded men, I would expect Smolich to be ladling soup on a skid row somewhere. It looks, rather, like he got a promotion.

Although the payout-per-victim was the highest of any clergy abuse settlement, Smolich kept it relatively quiet. Plus, I suppose, the Jesuits see Smolich’s Stanford MBA as a community asset that shouldn’t be squandered.

[BTW: Microsoft Word’s first suggested correct spelling for “Smolich,” is “Moloch.” Whoo!]

Smolich’s money quote:

I believe we’ve chosen the man God had in mind.

To explain the hubris here is either unnecessary, or would require a dissertation.

Notable about the quote is the Madison Avenue-quality phrasemaking. That kind of pithy froth could sell a lot of toothpaste.

“The man God had in mind” has the same scansion as the old Armour hotdog slogan: “The dog kids love to bite.”

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