Michael W. Higgins January 10, 2008 - 2:13pm
This is a time of some uncertainity and much challenge for the Society of Jesus, itself a microcosm of the turbulence afflicting the universal church. The loss in clerical numbers, the empowerment of the laity, the emergence of an articulate and restive body of Catholic theologians, the postmodern critique of authority, the intense struggles between the local and central powers of religious leadership--these and many other contemporary issues cut to the heart of Jesuit conflict. In addition, liberationist and pastoral strategies have calaled into question the log and venerable tradition of Jesuit commitment to structure, system and sodality. The contemporary Jesuit is more inclined to rugged independence, grassroots networking, and conscientizing than to the maintenance of dying institutional enterprises>In my view, Jesuits survive because they do not conform to that homogeneous block of rigid soldierly virtue that history and polemcics have made them. Surely the spirituality of the Exercises of Ignatius Loyola as well as the persistent appeal of the founder himself continue to define the Jesuit essence. All else is moot and malleable.The election of the new General and the charting of new directions--all in the shadow of a wary Roman Pontiff--beqar close watching if for not oher reason because the Company of Jesus is the perfect bellwether for an imperfect ecclesia.