Thursday, March 14, 2013
A Jesuit Pope!
Who says the Church is behind the times? The College of Cardinals elected the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla Pope in 1978, breaking a long chain of Italian Pontiffs going back to 1523. They followed in 2005 by anointing German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope. The Cardinals today elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope. Pope Francis is from Argentina, making him both the first Pope from the Third World and the New World. He’s not Hispanic though, being the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, which makes him the first Italian Pope from the New World. He is also though the first Jesuit to become Pope. That is revolutionary for the Church. You might even call it a miracle. The Jesuits have had a contentious relationship with European governments, usually royalty, and sometimes the Papacy. The Jesuits were banned in 1773 in all countries except Russia and its province of Poland. Many Jesuit priests were martyred for their religion in countries such as England. A few countries continued to ban Jesuits into the 20th Century. Members of the Society of Jesus take an oath of obedience to the Pope. Jesuits, being Jesuits, sometimes stray from the orthodoxy of the Church. The Pope occasionally reminds the Black Pope, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, of their religious obligations. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointed ten Jesuits as Cardinals, a sign of their acceptance in the Modern Church. Note carefully though that the Pope is not going to appoint a Cardinal who is opposed to the core Church teachings on abortion, contraception, and gay rights. Do not expect Pope Francis to change the teachings of the Church in these areas. Jesuits have two distinguishing characteristics; they are highly educated and highly progressive. Saint Ignatius of Loyola in founding the Society of Jesus in 1534 desired an educated priesthood. It normally takes about 13 years to receive the final vows as a Jesuit priest. The Jesuit in training will earn his Doctorate in Sacred Theology and often a Ph. D., J.D., or M.D. from a prestigious university during this time. Thus, the Jesuit priest is usually much more educated than the parish priest. The Jesuits are educators, scholars, missionaries, scientists, poets, writers, sociologists, community activists and occasionally parish priests They are the leading educators of the Church with scores of colleges, high schools, and a few elementary schools around the world. They founded over 100 universities around the world, 28 universities in the United States, usually to educate the sons of the Irish and Italian immigrants, often with night classes. They continue that legacy today with the sons and daughters of the Hispanic immigrants to America. My foremost impression of the Jesuits as educators is not, as you might think their dedication to teaching or their expertise, but their open mindedness, their catholic with a small “c” approach. They did not care so much what you thought, but that you thought. Jesuits are among the most liberal priests. They are thinkers, supportive of social justice. Many Jesuits became advocates of Liberation Theology in Latin America in response to the widespread poverty coupled with corrupt and often brutal dictatorships in the region. Six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were murdered in El Salvador on November 16, 1989 by the military because of their social advocacy. Other Jesuits, such as Fr. Robert Drinan, Dean of Boston College School of Law, became active in politics. He was elected to Congress from Boston until Pope John Paul II barred priests from electoral political activities. I am proud of the Jesuit education I received at the University of San Francisco. Pope Francis will accomplish many tasks in the upcoming years, but he will not radically change the Church. A. M. D. G.