A Squandered Patrimony

A Squandered Patrimony

August 19, 2016

Recent editions of First Teachers have featured letters from readers who are unhappy with the drift toward secular liberalism and politically correct cultural views at Jesuit universities. This week we offer a different perspective, not from parents of students at Jesuit colleges but from a Jesuit priest. We will identify him only as a “Jesuit correspondent” to preserve his anonymity. You will have to take my word that he is who he says he is.

This priest does not pull his punches: He says the critics of Jesuit higher education who wrote to First Teachers are “on the money,” that modern Jesuit educators have “squandered the patrimony donated by Irish, German, Italian, and other European immigrants who built the Jesuit colleges and universities.” He says that he bases his views on what he has seen “watching the decline of Jesuit universities since 1987. The Society of Jesus has just given up trying to control and keep Catholic its universities.”

Strong words, but our correspondent backs them up: “There is a complete lack of will. Spiritually, Jesuit superiors have ignored Ignatius’ meditation of the ‘Two Standards’ — the Devil tempts first by riches, second by fame and honor, and third by pride. The Society has fallen to temptation on all three counts in regard to their universities.”

Our Jesuit correspondent points to how “riches, honor, and pride have weakened the wills and darkened the minds of the Jesuit decision-makers. Avarice, vainglory, and pride have led to other vices that feed the desire to have a university that is competitive according to secular criteria.” He is confirming what many outside the order suspect: that the modern Jesuits are seeking to curry favor with their peers in the secular academic world.

Our correspondent quickly adds, “This is not to say that there are not some good, orthodox members of the Society of Jesus swimming against the current. There are still pockets of Catholic faith at Jesuit universities. There are retreats, service projects, and some good faculty at all the schools.”

Our correspondent then makes an ironic observation. He contends that the presence of these “pockets of Catholic faith” at modern Jesuit universities “makes them equal to Texas A&M with their outstanding Newman Center, which has produced a steady stream of vocations for decades.” I guess that is what people mean by a back-handed compliment: No doubt Texas A&M’s Newman Center does admirable work. But one would think that Catholic parents paying the steep tuition at a Jesuit university are entitled to expect something more.

Our Jesuit correspondent adds another poignant observation. He writes of a Jesuit provincial who once said, “If someone offered the Society key administrative positions, campus ministry, and several professorships at a private or state university we would probably take that offer….That is what we have with our universities.”

Our Jesuit correspondent underscores the point: “This administrator had already seen that control of our universities has passed out of the order’s hands, and what the so-called Jesuit universities of today offer is little more than good ministerial possibilities to the order.”

Our Jesuit correspondent closes with the following: “It is sad that the Society has let their universities become as corrupt as any secular institution. Let donors beware. The Land O’Lakes agreement,” which severed the authority of Church authorities over Catholic colleges in the name of academic freedom, “was a disaster caused by pride and overconfidence in Catholic cultural resilience.”

Reading the comments of this Jesuit educator leads one to ponder if modern Jesuits are aware that they give the impression that their goal is to organize their schools to please non-Catholic critics of Catholic education, with little concern for the wishes of those who have historically been most loyal and supportive of the Church and Catholic schools.

I am not exaggerating for emphasis: When reading the promotional literature of modern Jesuit colleges, I sometimes am struck by the thought that Jesuit universities have concluded that Catholics with traditional values are what is wrong with the Church, and that they seek the formation of a new kind of Catholic, someone more likely to be found at a meeting of the Sierra Club than at a novena.

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2 comments on “A Squandered Patrimony

  1. It would be helpful if this priest would say so publicly (perhaps when he retires and is beyond danger of losing a position). In fact, ALL of the members of the Society of Jesus who dissent from the progressive modernist drift of apostasy, heresy, and secularization afflicting their colleges, universities, and high schools, should say so publicly and begin the process of repairing the damage and restoring the true Catholic faith on their campuses. Father Pacwa? Father Schall? Father Fessio?

    Just imagine the outpouring of grace if just one of their campuses was restored to the true Catholic faith. Think about it. Pray about it. Act on it. Discuss it with fellow priests and orthodox Catholic educators. Offer a course this semester on Catholic Classics, Aquinas, Augustine, The Spiritual Exercises, and the Ratio Studiorum. Don’t wait. Do it now.

  2. Perhaps Wuerl missed this, yet another perspective on Catholic identity and Vatican II modernism:

    Msgr. Pope: “The Church of the 1970s-1990s was surely well described as the era of “beige Catholicism” (a term coined by Bishop Robert Barron, and not by way of flattery either). Those of us who lived through that era, especially in the 1970s, remember it as a time when many parish signs beckoned people to “come and experience our welcoming and warm Catholic community.” Our most evident desire was to fit in and be thought of as “normal.” Yes, Catholics were just like everyone else; and we had been working very hard to do that, at least since the early 1960s when John F. Kennedy was elected. Catholics had finally “made it” into the mainstream; we had been accepted by the culture.

    Church architecture and interiors became minimalist and non-descript. Music and language in the liturgy became folksy. Marian processions, Corpus Christi processions, many things of distinctive and colorful Catholicism all but disappeared. Even our crucifixes disappeared, to be replaced by floating “resurrection Jesus” images. The emphasis was on blending in, speaking to things that made people feel comfortable, and affirming rather than challenging. If there was to be any challenge at all it would be on “safe” exhortations such as not abusing the environment or polluting, not judging or being intolerant, and so forth.”

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