‘Risks of religious life’; God & suffering

Perilous Vows

I was disappointed in Barry Gault’s article on Jesuits (“Society Men,” April 22), but I enjoyed the letters in response (May 20) and the debate over whether religious vows can keep the young Jesuit from growing up. In a little-known essay published in Woodstock Letters (Vol. 96, Fall 1967), John Courtney Murray, SJ, discussed the dangers of the vows. It was originally a talk he gave to fellow Jesuits in 1947.

He warned young Jesuits about the “risks of religious life,” especially “the one supremely perilous risk—that of losing your manhood.” Look around, he said, and see men damaged by their reaction to poverty, chastity, and obedience; and see men unorganized, and intellectually and emotionally immature. They lack responsibility and purpose because they have failed to grapple with three elemental forces—the earth, woman, and their own spirits. “Man is not a man until by his own hard work he has bent stubborn earth to his own purposes.” Without woman, a man loses the possibility of becoming a father, more fully like God, and the “possibility of headship”: Adam’s fault was allowing Eve to “rule” him into temptation. (Obviously Murray wrote long before Theological Studies had...

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