|Fr. James Carney, S.J.|
The Rev. Joseph McShane, president of the Jesuit Fordham University, opened a recent event with a quipplaying on the order's reputation and Francis' no-frills papacy. The pope has kept the simple, iron-plated pectoral cross he used as bishop and living in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the grand papal apartment.
"A humble Jesuit? An oxymoron. A Jesuit pope? An impossibility. A humble Jesuit pope? A miracle," McShane said.
In the 1970s, when the church was debating how it should relate to the modern world, the order's General Congregation, or legislative body, decreed that "the service of faith" and "the promotion of justice" would be the focus of every Jesuit ministry. This coincided with a period of high-profile — detractors would say notorious — activist Jesuits, including the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a founder of the anti-nuclear Plowshares Movement.
In Latin America, the Jesuit emphasis on helping the poorest peoples often drew the society into political upheaval, including the cause of liberation theology, a Latin American-inspired view that Jesus' teachings imbue followers with a duty to fight for social and economic justice. U.S. Jesuit James Carney was killed in 1983 serving as chaplain to a rebel column from Honduras.
Pope John Paul II, hoping to re-direct the religious order, took the extraordinary step in 1981 of replacing the Jesuit's chosen leader with his own representative. The society encompasses a range of outlooks, including tradition-minded men. Still, conservative
(Smolich rejects any suggestion that the order isn't faithful to the church or its teachings.) It's too early to say how these past conflicts could influence Francis and his relationships with the society.
He had disavowed liberation theology as a misguided strain of Catholic tenets, while still maintaining a focus on the economic failings of Western-style capitalism and the need to close the divide between rich and poor.
Jesuits also worry that the religious order could suffer in the spotlight. Maybe the new pope will keep his distance from the society, for fear of giving an appearance of favoritism. Or, he could use his new authority to become — from their perspective — too involved in the society, like John Paul. And they wonder if Jesuits would somehow be blamed for any of Francis' decisions that prove unpopular.
Link (here) to The Chronicle