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Ignatius Loyola and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

November 3, 2016 | by: Sam Storms| 4 Comments


Mike Taylor

Nov 5, 2016

As a former Jesuit who has made the 30-day silent retreat in which the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises are given, I can assure you that they are not nearly as sinister as Ozmet makes them out to be. But I made the exercises in 1990 in California, not in 1540's Spain, and so certainly some things have changed.

Missing from this piece is how much the Jesuits themselves have evolved since the time of Ignatius. It's not simply that their numbers are declining (they are--and most of those 16,000 are well over the hill, in skilled nursing facilities); rather they in many ways represent the liberal (and often dissident) wing of the Catholic Church.

The typical Jesuit today is not nearly as loyal to the papacy and the official teachings of Rome as the Jesuits of old. If Ignatius were alive today, he probably wouldn't recognize half of them, most of whom could care less about "the defense and propagation of the [Roman Catholic] faith" (from the 1550 formula of the Institute).

In any event, I certainly do not see in the Spiritual Exercises anything more than a method (subject to human imperfect) for using the power of one's imagination for contemplating much of what we read in the four Gospels. I also believe the Exercises, at least in their modern incarnation, are extremely Christ-centered, as most of of the contemplations are of the person and work of Christ himself.

I also find it amusing how sinister the Jesuits continue to be within the imaginations of those who have no personal knowledge of the Society of Jesus. Don't get me wrong--there's plenty of reason not to trust the Jesuits (for many of the same reasons we wouldn't want to trust any organization with a liberal social/moral agenda, especially in the area of sexuality).

But this idea of the pope's special forces in black robes needs to die. That hasn't described most Jesuits for generations, now. If you want to know what a typical Jesuit is like (at least in this country), picture a 60-something man, very likely same-sex attracted, probably teaching in an institution of higher learning, accustomed to three square catered meals a day (and therefore a bit on the self-indulgent side around the midriff) and almost certainly not wearing a clerical collar.

But they are also sinners in need of a savior just like the rest of us. And I do believe many of them are doing the Lord's work (insofar as that can be done within Romanism).


Nov 4, 2016

Instead of casting in terms of Protestant vs Catholic, why not simply recognize his spiritual exercises as a way of becoming an active participant in one's own sanctification, instead of being simply passive. There are many imperatives in Scripture toward doing good works, practicing virtue, and shunning evil. I recognize that there is debate within the Reformed community on the role of works with regard to sanctification, so it isn't a strictly Catholic thing.


Nov 4, 2016

The title to Steven Ozment's book is The Age of Reform (Yale University Press).

Ed Sager

Nov 4, 2016

Please post the reference from Ozment. Thank you so much.

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