Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits

Are the Jesuits Catholic?
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The vocations seem to be there, but the Jesuits, at the moment, are getting too few of them. Decisive action on the part of superiors is needed to reverse this trend. The higher administrators, for the most part, are competent managers.

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While they keep the machinery going rather smoothly, they seem unwilling or unable to correct obvious defects and to project an unambiguous vision of what the Society of Jesus is about. It contains an abundance of useful information, even though it is in many respects a flawed study. Decked out with all the paraphernalia of scientific sociology, the research is heavily slanted, partly because the authors worked with a definite parti pris. The thesis of the book may be summarized roughly as follows. The Society of Jesus is caught in a bind.

The hierarchical Church is a rigid institution striving in vain to bring the behavior and ideas of its members into line with traditional orthodoxy.

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The bishops are impotent creatures of the Vatican. Jesuits, for the most part, are to be praised for deploring the repressive structures but at the same time pitied for their inability to change the situation. As a religious order, the Society is bound to preserve at least the appearance of conformity. Even among Jesuits, therefore, dissent has for the most part gone underground.

The competitive professionalization of higher education, the authors believe, only adds to the difficulty.

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It deprives Jesuits of any privileged position in the academic world. Their identity as priests and as religious does nothing to advance them in their own institutions. Conversely, their professional career fails to support their priestly and Jesuit identity.

Jesuits are therefore helpless victims of a dysfunctional Church and a secularized educational system. This thesis, while it clearly dominates the book, is for the most part unstated. Only in the Epilogue does it surface in explicit form. But it influences the data and their interpretation.

Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits

The opinions of traditionalists, moderates, liberals, and radical reformers are dutifully recorded-even to the point of tedium. Some distinctions are made between older and younger Jesuits. But little light is thrown on the inner dynamics of recent decades, which have affected not only Jesuits but other religious orders, diocesan clergy, and laity. The distinction, I believe, is not between older and younger Jesuits-the categories most often used by the authors-but rather between those whose attitudes were shaped by the ideological revolutions of the s and the rest of the Society.

For the most part, the Jesuits who had completed their formation before Vatican II have remained faithful to their previous vision of the Church and the Society, and were able to integrate Vatican II into that vision. Like many of their contemporaries, they became wildly optimistic about secularization in the early s, and then in the early s deeply involved in protests against the Vietnam War and in fighting for various social causes. The Council, some believe, renounced the high claims previously made for the Church and put Catholic Christianity on a plane of equality with other churches and religions.

It also ostensibly embraced the modern world and the process of secularization.

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Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. The authors of this sociological study spent about phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits. James T. Fisher, author of Catholics in America "Passionate Uncertainty is a powerful book, tough but required reading for Jesuits and former Jesuits, for those.

They saw little but evil in pre-conciliar Catholicism. Drifting from historical consciousness into historical relativism, some of this generation questioned the current validity of the accepted creeds and dogmas of the Church. At the present moment members of this intermediate age group hold positions of greatest power and influence in the Society, but they no longer represent the cutting edge. A younger group is arising, much more committed to the Church and its traditions.

Passionate Uncertainty

In spite of their grim view of the Jesuit situation, the authors report that the morale of Jesuits in all age groups is relatively high. Jesuits see themselves as companions of Jesus, engaged in a mission they share with fellow members of their communities and with colleagues all over the world. They are sustained by an inner life of prayer and by the vision of Christ and his Kingdom set forth in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius.

Although they may suffer from the lack of intimate companionship that could be offered by married life, they are as a group more satisfied in their work than men who have left the Society.


Founded by Ignatius Loyola in , the Society of Jesus remains the largest and most controversial religious order of men in Catholicism. Even overlooking the question of reliability, the book has other more serious problems. With little or no context, comments such as the following are abundantly scattered throughout the book: Mainstreaming threatens to obliterate the identity of groups like the Society of Jesus. The order was suppressed by a distrustful pope in , restored after the French Revolution and revolutionized by the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the America Peter McDonough and Eugene Bianchi give a superb account of the organizational, ideological, and psychological changes facing the Jesuits. Bianchi Univ.

Although not the only factor, the crisis in priestly identity plays a major role in the decline in numbers chap. As the possibilities for lay ministry expanded after Vatican II, the distinctive areas of ordained ministry contracted and Jesuits began asking themselves whether the sacrifice of "giving up sex and independence" was worthwhile ; cf. This identity crisis was accompanied by changes in community life and spirituality, namely a shift from the old-style Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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LOG IN. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 3. They discuss issues ranging from celibacy to the ordination of women, homosexuality, the rationale of the priesthood, the challenges of community life, and the divinity of Jesus. Passionate Uncertainty traces the transformation of the Society of Jesus from a fairly unified organization into a smaller, looser community with disparate goals and an elusive corporate identity.

From its role as a traditional subculture during the days of immigrant Catholicism, the order has changed into an amalgam of countercultures shaped around social mission, sexual identity, and an eclectic spirituality. The story of the Jesuits reflects the crisis of clerical authority and the deep ambivalence surrounding American Catholicism's encounter with modernity.

Eugene C.

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Acknowledgments Prologue: Diversity without Democracy 1. Staying and Leaving 2. Becoming a Jesuit 3. From Innocence to Experience 4.

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Sex, Celibacy, and Identity 5. Ignatian Spiritualities 6.