|Dear being arrested|
This week, with a heavy heart, I am officially leaving the Jesuits after 32 years. After three years of discernment, I’m leaving because the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has changed so much since I entered in 1982 and because my Jesuit superiors have tried so hard over the decades to stop my work for peace, most recently, when my provincial ordered me to Baltimore but gave me no assignment and, I felt, encouraged me to leave, as many other superiors have done in the past. According to my provincial, the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has renounced its commitment to “the faith that does justice.” It’s also deepened its financial involvement with the culture of war, and decreased its work with the poor in favor of serving through its universities and high schools. Given this change and the lack of support and at times censure which I have endured over the years, and its debilitating effect on my health, I realized I could no longer stay. This decision was sparked three years ago when Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico removed my priestly faculties because he objected to the prayer vigils for peace and against nuclear weapons development that I was leading at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of nuclear weapons. He had received many complaints regarding my peace efforts over the years from the local pastor in Los Alamos and other Catholics who work in Los Alamos building nuclear weapons.
After this, Fr. James Shea, my Jesuit provincial, the head of the Maryland Province, ordered me to leave New Mexico and return to Baltimore, to be near province headquarters. Instead of supporting my work for peace, he was embarrassed by it. I moved to Baltimore where the Archbishop there gave me full priestly faculties as a priest in good standing, though I was not given an assignment by my provincial.
Over the course of several meetings, I felt he was urging me to stop my work for justice and peace and leave the Society. He said, for example, that nothing I have done over the last ten years has had anything to do with the Society of Jesus.
He explained that the Society of Jesus has renounced Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s groundbreaking vision of justice and the documents of the 31st and 32nd General Congregations, which call for a radical commitment to justice.
It no longer advocates for justice or works for justice, he said. The Maryland Province has closed all its projects that serve the poor. From now on, he said, because the number of Jesuits is in sharp decline, U.S. Jesuits will only serve in our 25 universities and 25 high schools. This direction, it seems to me, differs vastly from the Order I entered in 1982, with its visionary call to “accompany Jesus as he carries the cross in the struggle for justice.” If I stayed, he said, I would have to work in one of the Jesuit high schools. In recent years, I’ve been saddened to see many Jesuits involved in the U.S. military, our schools deepen their involvement in the U.S. military, and Jesuits permitted to work even in places such as the Los Alamos Labs, West Point, and Abu Graib prison in Iraq. As far as I can tell, Jesuits who work for the military can continue their work. I’ve been especially saddened that the Jesuits at Loyola University in Baltimore have been allowed to hold an annual Mass where after communion, they bring their nearly 100 ROTC cadets onto the altar to profess to the Blessed Sacrament the ROTC oath “to kill the enemies of the United States.” I told my provincial that I consider this blasphemy, a mockery of Jesus and the Eucharist, but he said he had no problem with it. So after five months in Baltimore, as a priest in good standing, I moved back to New Mexico, went on a leave of absence from the Jesuits, continued my discernment, asked to leave and this week have now left the Society. I’m still a Catholic priest, but have no priestly faculties. I doubt that any U.S. bishop will give me faculties, because most also object to my work against war and injustice, so I’m not sure if I will remain a priest.Read the open letter (here) at John Dear's website