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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/18/15

Profiling Pope Francis as a Jesuit

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Maurer notes that Gracian's writings were not regarded as heretical and that "the Jesuits never accused Gracian of contradicting Catholic doctrine" (pages xiii, xiv).

In a related vein, Robbins points out "[f]or what it is worth, the 1647 censor's license granted by the Augustinian Gabriel Hernandez states that the POCKET ORACLE 'has nothing against Our Faith [ . . . ] nor is it a reef on which Christian customs will founder'" (page xli; ellipsis inserted by Robbins).

In 10 of his 112 learned endnotes, Robbins discusses St. Ignatius Loyola in connection with 10 of Gracian's maxims and explanation/commentaries. Perhaps each of Gracian's 10 items will help us understand Pope Francis. However, more than one of Robbins' notes connecting something in Gracian's text (numbered as 144; and the related item numbered as 193) with St. Ignatius Loyola involves Robbins in explaining a rather complicated connection. As a result, I will quote here only eight items from Gracian's text that are numbered as 49, 70, 77, 187, 242, 251, 288, and, in part, 297.

(49) "A judicious and observant person. Such people master things, things don't master them. They plumb the greatest depth and know how to dissect perfectly the talents of every individual [e.g., Cardinal Burke?] As soon as they see someone, they understand and evaluate their very essence [Robbins notes that Jesuits attributed this quality to St. Ignatius Loyola]. Uniquely perceptive, they can decipher even the most cautious person's inner self. They observe acutely, understand subtly and infer judiciously: they discover, notice, grasp and understand everything" (page 20; Robbins' note, page 114).

Is Pope Francis a judicious and observant person as Gracian describes such a person here?

(70) "Know how to refuse. Not everything has to be granted, nor to everyone. This is as important as knowing how to grant something, and is a vital necessity for rulers. Your manner is important here: one person's 'no' is valued more than another's 'yes', because a gilded 'no' satisfies far more than a blunt 'yes'. Many are always ready to say 'no', turning everything sour. 'No' is always the first reaction, and although they subsequently grant everything, they are not held in esteem because of the taste left by the initial refusal. Things shouldn't be refused in one fell swoop; let disappointment sink in gradually. Nor should refusals be categoric, for dependants then give up all hope. Always let there be a few crumbs of hope to temper the bitterness of refusal. Let courtesy make up for the lack of favour, and fine words the lack of deeds. 'Yes' and 'no' are quick to say, and require much thought" (page 27; Robbins' note, page 115).

Does the smooth-talking Pope Francis know how to refuse in the way that Gracian describes here?

(77) "Know how to be all things to all people [Robbins points out that St. Ignatius Loyola advocated this]. A discreet Proteus: with the learned, learned, and with the devout, devout. A great art to win everyone over, since similarity creates goodwill [today psychologists refer to doing this as mirroring someone]. Observe each person's temperament and tune yours to it. Whether with a serious or a jovial person, go with the current, undergoing a transformation that is politic -- and essential for those in positions of dependency. Such vital subtlety requires great ability. It is less difficult for the universal man [or woman] with his [or her] wide-ranging intellect and taste" (pages 29-30; Robbins' note, page 116).

Does Pope Francis know how to be all things to all people as Gracian describes this great ability here?

(187) "Anything popular, do yourself; anything unpopular, use others to do it [Robbins notes that St. Ignatius Loyola often said this]. With the one you garner affection, with the other you deflect hatred. The great are fortunate in their generosity, since for them, doing good is more pleasurable than receiving it. Rarely do you upset someone without upsetting yourself, either through compassion or remorse. Those at the top necessarily have to reward or punish. Let good things come directly, bad ones indirectly. Have something to deflect hatred and slander, the blows of the disgruntled. Common anger is normally like an angry dog which, not knowing the reason for its pain, attacks the instrument that inflicts it simply because this, though not the ultimate cause, is close at hand" (page 71; Robbins' note, page 118).

Does Pope Francis do himself the popular things but assigned others to do the unpopular things?

(242) "Carry things through. Some people put everything into the beginning, and finish nothing. They come up with something, but never press on with it, revealing their fickle character. They never receive any praise because they don't press on with anything; everything ends with nothing being ended. In others, this arises out of impatience, a characteristic vice of the Spanish, just as patience is the virtue of the Belgians. The latter finish things, the former finish with them. They sweat until a difficulty is overcome, and are happy simply to conquer it, but they don't know how to carry their victory through; they show they have the ability, but not the desire. This is always a defect, arising from taking on the impossible or from fickleness. If an undertaking is good, why not finish it? And if it's bad, why was it started? The shrewd should kill their prey, not give up after flushing it out" (page 91; Robbins' note, page 120).

Is Pope Francis likely to carry through the things that he has started to their completion?

(251) "Human means must be sought as if there were no divine ones, and divine ones as if there were no human ones. The rule of a great master [i.e., St. Ignatius Loyola]. No further comment is necessary" (page 94; Robbins' note, page 120).

Does Pope Francis follow this rule of the great master?

(288) "Live as circumstances demand. Ruling, reasoning, everything must be opportune Act when you can, for time and tide wait for no one. To live, don't follow your generalizations, except where virtue is concerned, and don't insist on precise rules for desire, for you'll have to drink tomorrow the water you shunned today. There are some so outlandishly misguided that they expect all circumstances necessary for success to conform to their own whims, not the reverse [Robbins notes that a key teaching of St. Ignatius Loyola "was precisely to accommodate the self to the situation, not the reverse"]. But the wise know that the lodestar of prudence is to behave as circumstances demand" (page 108; Robbins' note, page 122).

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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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