Sculpture of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Jesuit church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Prague, Czech Republic

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A state of war exists between the papacy and the Religious Order of the Jesuits — the Society of Jesus, to give the order its official name.” —The first sentence of the book The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church, by Malachi Martin, published in 1987, 32 years ago (link)

At the close of this (32nd) Congregation (of the Jesuit Order), We (Pope Paul VI speaking of himself) gladly take advantage of the occasion to give this reminder to each and every son of St. Ignatius, scattered as they are throughout the world: Be loyal! This loyalty… will safeguard the original and true form of the companions of Ignatius and strengthen the fruitfulness of their apostolate… so that the name of Jesus may be spread and glorified throughout the world in the many and diverse areas of endeavor where you labor as members of a priestly and apostolic religious order that is united to the Supreme Pontiff by a special vow.” —Pope St. Paul VI, addressing Father Pedro Arrupe, the head of the Jesuit order, and his general assistants on March 7, 1975 (44 years ago), toward the end of the 32nd General Chapter of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits were founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola. They have been, arguably, the most influential order in the Catholic Church for nearly 500 years. During that 1975 Congregation, the Jesuits, led by Father Arrupe, were attempting to make the struggle for social justice and the ending of all forms of political and economic oppression a central focus of the order

The Holy Father (Pope St. Paul VI) follows the work of the Society with special and fervent prayer to the Lord that it always remain true to itselfand to its mission in the bosom of the Church.” —Jean Cardinal Villot, Vatican Secretary of State under Pope Paul VI, May 2, 1975, in a letter to the head of the Jesuit Order, Father Pedro Arrupe

The problem lies precisely in this, that that equilibrium and integration must be kept; thus it happens that activities that seem most distant from the priesthood, because they seem more secular or material, are assumed, integrated, directed and vivified by the very priestly character of the apostolic man. Therefore, that sacerdotal character that leads us to total identification with Christ and deeper union with Him automatically leads us to evangelize just as Christ Himself did, that is, by means of the cross; and in that evangelization, to promote and accomplish properly the work of justice... Is our General Congregation ready to take up this responsibility and to carry it out to its ultimate consequences? Is it ready to enter upon the more severe way of the cross, which surely will mean for us a lack of understanding on the part of civil and ecclesiastical authority and of our best friends?” —Father Pedro Arrupe, head of the Society of Jesus, in an address to Jesuits attending the order’s 32nd General Congregation in Rome in early 1975. He was encouraging the Jesuits to put the work of justice at the very center of the mission of the Jesuit order

During the time of its greatest flowering, in the first half of the 20th century, Jesuit numbers reached their apogee — about 36,038 — of whom at least one-fifth were missionaries. Jesuit influence on papal policy was never before (or since) greater; and Jesuit prestige among Catholics and non-Catholics was never higher. Yet, already some inner rot was corroding both Jesuits and the Catholic ecclesial body. Some hidden cancer planted decades before within these bodies...” —Malachi Martin, The Jesuits

Classical Jesuitism, based on the spiritual teaching of Ignatius, saw the Jesuit mission in very clear outline. There was a perpetual state of war on earth between Christ and Lucifer. Those who fought on Christ’s side, the truly choice fighters, served the Roman Pontiff diligently, were at his complete disposal, were ‘Pope’s Men.’ The ‘Kingdom’ being fought over was the Heaven of God’s glory. The enemy, the archenemy, the only enemy, was Lucifer. The weapons Jesuits used were supernatural: the Sacraments, preaching, writing, suffering. The objective was spiritual, supernatural, and otherworldly… The renewed Jesuit mission debased this Ignatian ideal of the Jesuits. The ‘Kingdom’ being fought over was the ‘Kingdom’ everyone fights over and always has: material well-being… The enemy was now economic, political, and social: the secular system called democratic and economic capitalism. The objective was material: to uproot poverty and injustice, which were caused by capitalism, and the betterment of the millions who suffered want and injustice from that capitalism. The weapons to be used now were those of social agitation, labor relations, sociopolitical movements, government offices…”—Malachi Martin, from the same book, speaking of the 20th-century change that altered the Jesuit Order’s understanding of its mission in the Church and in the world

What the Popes and Council Fathers were expecting (to come from the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65) was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which — to use the words of Paul VI — seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction. There had been the expectation of a new enthusiasm, and instead too often it has ended in boredom and discouragement. There had been the expectation of a step forward and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence ….—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI) in The Ratzinger Report, a conversation with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, first published in Italian in 1984, 35 years ago

When I met with Pope Francis on June 23, 2013, he asked me about Cardinal McCarrick, and I told him there was a thick dossier on him. But then he asked me a second question, about the Jesuits. He wanted to know my opinion about the Jesuits in America. And I told him of my many concerns…Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in a conversation with me in September 2019

And that conversation is why I began to make a more detailed study of the history of the Jesuit order — because the Pope, who was himself a Jesuit, had asked me precisely that question. And I now believe that, in order to understand what has happened to the Catholic Church in recent decades, and to understand the mind of Pope Francis, we must understand what has happened to the Jesuits.

The Jesuits were the pre-eminent order in the Church. They did incredible things. Following St. Ignatius of Loyola, for almost 500 years ago they served as the disciplined, loyal guardians of Christian doctrine and faithfully served each Pope.

I myself studied in a Jesuit high school in Milan. I am who I am due in part to the example and encouragement of many Jesuit fathers. They formed me.

But something happened to the Jesuits, and we must understand what happened to understand the present crisis of the Church. Thinking that by political activism they would incarnate their Christian mission in an ever more profound way, they lost their way.

Now, except for a minority of exceptions, they no longer carry out that high calling which made them the support of Popes for more than 400 years.

Now a complete restoration of the order to its former greatness is needed. Otherwise, it would be better if the order were again suppressed by the Pope.—Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in a conversation with me in September 2019

I (name) firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. (…) Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition. (…) I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God.—The Oath against Modernism, given by His Holiness St. Pius X on September 1, 1910, to be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries. In this way, Pius hoped to limit the spread of modernist ideas. But those ideas continued to circulate in an underground way, and have returned with great force in recent decades

I beseech you, brethren, that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.” —St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:10

Corruptio optimi pessima est (The corruption of the best is the worst).—Old Latin saying. The meaning: that the best, most courageous, generous and noble men and women, dedicated to the good, the true and the beautiful, if corrupted, may become the worst, dedicating themselves to what is evil, false and ugly

I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all. Likewise, when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise.—St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits in the year 1540 when he was 49, in his Spiritual Exercises, Rules for Perceiving and Knowing in Some Manner the Different Movements which Are Caused in the Soul, The Third Rule (link)

The Jesuits, Part #1

“Let’s go back once again to your now-famous conversation with Pope Francis on June 23, 2013, just three months after the papal election. Pope Francis asked you about Cardinal McCarrick, and you answered, saying he had corrupted two generations of seminarians. That was the burden of your Testimony a year ago, that first question. But then Francis asked you a second question…”

“Yes,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said to me. “He asked me how were the Jesuits in the United States. And I gave him my answer. I said to him that the Jesuits have been key in removing most of the system of Catholic higher education from Church ownership and authority. And I said that they had become doctrinally deviated, and that, because of their greatness and outstanding human capacities, their deviation was all the more tragic. And I said that if he could manage to do something to address these challenges, he would be giving a great gift to the Church.”

“So if I understand you,” I said to the archbishop, “you believe there is a problem specifically with the Jesuits. What is that problem, exactly?”

“For centuries the Jesuits were the greatest order in the Church, and the most faithful and obedient men of the Pope,” the archbishop said. “They produced so many great saints and missionaries! But now the order seems to have lost its way and many Jesuits have embraced the temptations of modernism. They have fallen away from the high vision of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“This is a great sadness to me personally, because I was educated and spiritually formed by Jesuit fathers in my high school in Milan in the 1950s. I was devoted to them, I owe them very much, and I do not forget them. But for precisely this reason, I must raise my voice: the Jesuits themselves must recover their ancient integrity and fidelity. We need them, the Church needs them.”

“Where and when, in your view, did the problem begin?” I asked.

“It began in the early part of the last century, in connection with the Modernist movement, then went underground for a time, then emerged again, stronger than ever, in the years after the Second Vatican Council. Essentially, the Jesuits came to believe that they had a different mission than their predecessors, a mission to struggle for justice in society, and not primarily to convert and save souls. They concluded — doubtless in many cases sincerely — that the struggle for justice may replace the encounter with Christ both in daily life and in the sacraments of the Church — that something else is more important than Christ. This was the error,” Viganò said. “The Jesuits were deceived. They came to believe that fighting for social justice should become their chief mission, not preaching Christ crucified. So, almost imperceptibly at first, they turned away from the Gospel, replacing Christ with an ideal of social and economic justice. That ideal, expressed in theological terms as Liberation Theology, was heavily influenced by Marxism, and that led to further deviations and departures from our tradition. In this way, the greatest order in the Church was seduced. The Jesuits yielded to a worldly vision. Corruptio optimi pessima(“The corruption of the best is the worst”)… And many of the other religious orders have followed their lead.”

“What do you think now needs to be done?” I asked.

“The Jesuits should return to the vision of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola,” he said. “All of the recent Popes have encouraged them to be faithful to that vision, but they have repeatedly disobeyed the Popes, even though doing so they are breaking their own fourth vow of obedience.”



Note: In my next Letters, I hope to offer (modestly) a sketch of the modern history of the Jesuits. Sketches are inevitably incomplete. The contours of features, the shades of color which offer so much insight into the true image, are not in a sketch. A sketch is an outline. But perhaps an outline may be useful. So, beginning with St. Ignatius of Loyola, his character and vision, followed by a rapid review of four centuries of Jesuit history(!) — including 40 years when the order was suppressed, following a papal brief in which no reasons were given issued by Pope Clement XIV on July 21, 1773, up until their restoration by Pope Pius VII in 1814 — and concluding with the order’s relations with the Popes of our times (Paul VI, John Paul 1, John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis), I will offer a sketch which may be helpful in understanding our situation today. —RM

St. Ignatius of Loyola

So we begin with Ignatius.

It is an astonishing story.

And it is told with riveting intensity by the Irish writer Malachi Martin (1921-1999), who himself was a priest and a Jesuit (Martin in 1964 was released from certain aspects of his Jesuit vows, but always remained a priest).

Martin himself has intrigued, instructed, puzzled and irritated two generations of readers who have found his numerous works on the Church and its inner-workings in these times well-informed, sometimes fascinating, sometimes disconcerting, but also sometimes maddeningly allusive (not naming names) and unclear (not stating exactly what he thinks happened). I spoke several times with Malachi on the telephone in the 1990s, asking for his insight on certain questions, but I never met him in person. He died in 1999 in Manhattan at the age of 78.

What follows is drawn from Martin’s dramatic and eloquent account of Ignatius of Loyola’s early life and vocation in his The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church (1987). Since a vocation, a calling, and the conversion it provokes, is what is at the heart of all spiritual experience, it seems appropriate to begin with the vocation which is at the origin of the entire history of the Jesuit order.

“At age 16, about the time his father, Don Beltran, died, he (young Ignatius, then called Inigo) was made a pageboy at the royal summer residence of Arevalo (Spain). He was to spend the next 10 years of his life in the pomp and formalism of court life and aristocratic ways…

“Automatically, at a certain age, he was inducted into the ranks of young knights and equerries at the Spanish royal court. From then until he was 26, life would have been an endless round of martial exercises with sword, pistol and lance… and, finally, falling desperately in love with one particular lady ‘of no ordinary rank,’ as he later wrote in his autobiography, ‘rather a countess or a duchess; but of nobility much higher than all of these.’

“Inigo had become a 5-foot-1-inch, dark-eyed, bearded knight, armed with dagger, sword and pistol, clothed in tight-fitting hose and soft leather cordoba high boots and a suit of gaudy colors. His abundant, bright blond hair flowed down from his red velvet cap, out of which a jaunty gray feather waved…

“Bold, defiant, lying through his teeth, blaming others, described as ‘the criminal,’ as ‘disgraceful in his dress, worse in his conduct’… The unbendable iron of his will was noted: Inigo de Loyola was defiant to the point of death when his honor or interest was involved. Once he had made up his mind, nothing could shake his determination or put him off the pursuit.


“In 1517, at age 26, he was still desirous of finding glory in the service of the Kingdom… He joined the army of the Viceroy of Navarre, the Duke de Najera. Six years later, he found himself defending an impossible position in the citadel of the town of Pamplona against an overwhelming French army. On May 20, 1521, a French cannonball passed between his legs, shattering his right and wounding his left. The fight was over.

“French army surgeons set the bones of his right leg so clumsily that when Inigo reached home, his own doctors had to break and reset them all over again. But still the bones knitted incorrectly, leaving an ugly protuberance. If it remained, he would not be able to wear the fashionable military boot, nor would he be able to dance or bow gracefully. Fine physical grace was part of a true knight’s accoutrements.

“At his behest, the doctors sawed off the protuberance; but then, they found, he walked with a limp. So they strapped him on a surgical rack where he lay motionless for weeks on end, suffering excruciating pain, all in a vain hope that the leg could be stretched back to normal length.

“Inigo underwent all four of these operations without anesthetic and without a murmur or sign of protest ‘beyond the clenching of his fists.’ Later, he described it all pithily as ‘butchery.’ (…)

“As often happened in Inigo’s life, however, one door shut and another started to open. During the long weeks of convalescence in the summer and autumn of 1521, as he read the lives of the saints to pass the time, he underwent what is known in the language of religious experience as a profound conversion. In Catholic theology and belief, Inigo was the recipient of divine grace — special, supernatural communications of strength in will, enlightenment in mind, and orientation of spirit. It was an initial purification. As soon as he was well enough, early in the New Year of 1522, he left Casa Torre of Loyola forever to find a new life.

“He spent the best part of the next six years, from 1522 to 1528, cultivating the life of the spirit that had opened itself to him — doing dreadful penances for his sins, practicing contemplation of divine mysteries, performing works of charity, and codifying in writing his new outlook on life in a short book that has always been known as Spiritual Exercises. (…)

“Buffeted by depression now, exalted by free-flowing happiness then, suddenly afflicted with growing doubts about God, about Christ, about the Church, about his sanity, about everything, he carefully sought to dissect the changing texture of his inner being…

“Out of this minute and unsparing self-observation, Inigo fashioned a set of rules by which one could discern what action was taking place in one’s spirit, and test who was the agent-spirit acting on one’s soul. Side-by-side with these practical rules, he assembled a series of meditations, contemplations and considerations.

“The process was agonizing. There were moments when it did look as if the inner conflict would be too much for his sanity… But by the spiritual means he had already devised and by heroic self-discipline in applying those means to himself, he recognized this inclination in time as the suggestion of the one whom Jesus had described as ‘murderer from the beginning.’ (Note: That is, a suggestion of the devil.)

“Out of this crucible of trial, self-examination, and anguished yearning for peace and light, there emerged in Inigo de Loyola that balance of spirit and matter, of mind and body, of mystical contemplation and pragmatic action that has ever since been recognized as typically and specifically ‘Ignatian,’ as distinct from the spirituality of, say, St. Benedict or St. Dominic or St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila.

“Inigo desired nothing more ardently than to meet the Risen Christ in person in His glorified body, and to venerate each of Christ’s wounds — in his hands, his feet, his side, to kiss those wounds and adore them, to cover them with his love and adoration expressed by his lips and his eyes and his hands. He had discovered the secret of Christian mysticism…”


(to be continued)

(Note: These Letters are archived on the ITV website…)

Click here to read all of the Moynihan Letters.


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