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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/7/16

John T. McGreevy's Account of Jesuit Globalization (REVIEW ESSAY)

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However, McGreevy adds, "The celebration was ill timed, since it coincided exactly with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo (with an Austrian Jesuit delivering last rites) and the beginning of World War I" (page 173).

McGreevy also notes that the American Catholic subculture that emerged in the nineteenth century "endured and even strengthened, into the 1960s" (page 168).

Of course in the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church significantly changed certain church teachings regarding religious freedom, as McGreevy points out (page 216). American Catholics to this day rightly celebrate the influence of the American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray on Vatican II's decree regarding religious freedom. But apart from this rightly celebrated decree, most of the theologians who influenced other aspects of Vatican II were Europeans, not Americans. For example, McGreevy mentions the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (pages 214 and 221), the French Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac (pages 214 and 216), and the German Jesuit theologian Augustin Bea (page 214). (McGreevy discusses Murray on pages 210-211, 213-214, and 215-216.)

Before Vatican II's welcome decree regarding religious freedom, Senator John F. Kennedy, the Harvard educated Irish American Roman Catholic from Massachusetts, had to defend his religion against understandable anti-Catholic prejudice in his 1960 presidential campaign.

In McGreevy's tactfully worded concluding assessment of nineteenth-century Jesuits, he says, "Their hesitations about democracy and religious liberty did not equip them for the challenges of the twentieth century" (page 217).

McGreevy quotes Rahner as saying that in the nineteenth century the Roman Catholic Church "'exported a European religion as a commodity it did not really want to change . . . together with the rest of the culture and civilization it considered superior. . . . [But] the victory of the vernacular in the church liturgy [as decreed by Vatican II] signals unmistakably the coming-to-be of a world Church whose individual churches exist with a certain independence in their respective cultural spheres, inculturated, and no longer a European export'" (quoted on page 221; I've added the material in square brackets here).

McGreevy says, "A Belgian Jesuit coined a verb -- 'inculturate' -- that became talismanic for missionaries, signaling a turn away from soul-by-soul conversion to 'inculturating' Catholicism into local societies" (page 219).

In effect, Ong was urging his fellow American Catholics to undertake the spirit of inculturation in his 1957 book Frontiers in American Catholicism, a theme he also advances in his 1959 book American Catholic Crossroads: Religious-Secular Encounters in the Modern World (Macmillan).

In effect, Ong celebrates the spirit of inculturation in his article "Mass in Ewondo" in the Jesuit-sponsored magazine America, volume 131, number 8 (September 28, 1974): pages 148-151. Ong's essay is reprinted in volume four of Ong's Faith and Contexts (Scholars Press, 1999, pages 103-110.

Because OEN's Rob Kall likes to work with the imagery of bottom-up versus top-down, I want to note here that the spirit of inculturation is basically oriented to bottom-up assimilation of religious faith.

No doubt many Jesuit missionaries in the past manifested the attitude that Rahner characterizes as "export[ing] a European religion as a commodity [that the church] did not want to change." Evidently, that attitude characterized the French Jesuit missionaries to North America in the seventeenth century, some of whom were martyred along with some of their converts. They are known collectively as the North American martyrs. The Jesuits maintain shrines to their memory. One is in Auriesville, New York; the other, in Midland, Ontario.

When Pope John-Paul II visited Canada in 1984, he celebrated a Mass outdoors in the large field adjacent to the shrine in Midland, as Emma Anderson in religious studies at the University of Ottawa recounts in her book The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs (Harvard University Press, 2013, page 271). She says that in the Vatican II era a "new notion [emerged] that native peoples who has not yet heard the Gospel were nevertheless imbued with the spirit of Christ" (page 272). She says, "No longer were missionaries seen as bequeathing to native peoples new and saving truths but rather as recognizing those that native culture had independently evolved and from which the missionaries could learn. This new theology was perhaps most memorably captured in Pope John-Paul II's much quoted but little understood catchphrase uttered during his 1984 visit to the Midland shrine: 'Christ, in the members of his Body, is himself Indian'" (page 272).

Disclosure: When I was in the Jesuits (1979-1987), I participated in Pope John-Paul II's Mass outdoors at the North American Martyrs shrine in Midland, Ontario, in 1984.

However, despite Pope John-Paul II's much quoted catchphrase uttered at the Midland shrine in 1984, we should not forget that he cracked down hard on the Jesuits in the 1980s and on liberation theology in South America, as Matthew Fox reminds us in his book The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved (Sterling Ethos, 2011).

But liberation theology may be rehabilitated a wee bit under Pope Francis. Basically, liberation theology is about the bottom-up spirit of inculturation of religious faith. But liberation theology should be freed up from Marxist terminology about power and power struggles.

Now, even though McGreevy does not happen to mention it, Vatican II also enjoined all religious orders to re-examine the orders original charism. For the Jesuits, this re-examination included studying more carefully how St. Ignatius Loyola himself had directed individual persons making retreats following the Spiritual Exercises.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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