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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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In Ong's 1986 book Hopkins, the Self, and God, mentioned above, he carefully critiques Kleutgen (pages 94-97, 124, and 131-132), who undoubtedly influenced Pope Leo XIII's thinking about St. Thomas Aquinas that inspired the Thomistic Revival.

McGreevy reports that Kleutgen "authored an important 1846 text insisting on the possibility of God's direct, miraculous intervention into human affairs. 'The gift of miracles,' Kleutgen wrote, 'is one of the favors bestowed upon the Church by the Divine Benefactor'" (page 125).

In Ong's other 1967 book In the Human Grain: Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture (Macmillan), which young Hillary Rodham (born in 1947) read it the summer of 1967 and liked very much, Ong says, "Each human soul, it is true, is created by a direct act of God" (page 76). Ong also says, "At a point where living organisms approximating the present human body finally were appearing, the first human soul is created by God, infused within a body in the material universe. This is, of course, a special act of God, for the creation of the human soul is always a special act of His, since the soul in its spirituality transcends the merely material" (page 78).

In Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks' 2010 book Exodus: The Book of Redemption (Maggid Books/Koren Publishers), he devotes a chapter to discussing "Awakening from Above, Awakening from Below" (pages 271-276). As he explains awakening from above, what Ong describes as the special act of God in creating each distinctively human soul involves what Sacks refers to as awakening from above. Likewise, what Kleutgen describes as God's direct, miraculous intervention into human affairs involves what Sacks refers to as awakening from above.

For an accessible explanation of the non-materialist philosophical position that Ong works with when he describes the distinctively human soul as spiritual (i.e., non-material), see the American Aristotelian philosopher Mortimer J. Adler's book Intellect: Mind over Matter (Macmillan, 1990).

For the report that young Hillary Rodham read Ong's 1967 book In the Human Grain in the summer of 1967, see Gail Sheehy's book Hillary's Choice (Random House, 1999, pages 48-49 and 66).

Now, in Ong's 1981 book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness, mentioned above, Ong writes a kind of apologia for the agonistic (contesting) spirit of contending (the Greek word agon means contest, struggle). No doubt he was speaking from his own personal experience as part of his own formal education in the Jesuits.

In his 1981 book, Ong says, "once in a while a theological student of outstanding competence would perform the 'grand act,' the greatest performance of all, as did Father Joachim Villoslada, S.J., on April 29, 1903, when in impeccable logical form and equally impeccable Latin, he defended orally in open forum against all comers his 212 theses from theology and philosophy before an audience that included President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was visiting Saint Louis to inspect the site of the coming World's Fair" (pages 137-139).

McGreevy also reports President Roosevelt's visit to Saint Louis and his attendance at the Spanish Jesuit's performance of the grand act, which he says was the third held in the United States (pages 193-194). McGreevy also correctly notes that the Spanish Jesuit's name was Joaquin Vilallonga. According to McGreevy, Fr. Vilallonga later became the Jesuit superior of the Spanish mission in the Philippines (page 207). Later on, American Jesuits took over the Jesuit mission in the Philippines.

McGreevy says, "In the middle of the twentieth century, the single-largest group of Jesuits came from the United States. Since the 1980s, the single-largest group has come from South Asia" (page 221).

Finally, I want to mention something that McGreevy quotes from a 1940 article in French by the French Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac, mentioned above. McGreevy says that de Lubac "urged Catholic to view their faith as social, not private" (page 214).

But certain contemporary American Catholics now characterize Senator Kennedy's defense of his personal religious faith in his 1960 presidential campaign, mentioned above, as expressing the view of religion as private.

Arguably the American Catholics that Damon Linker alerts Americans to watch out for in his book The Theocons: Secular America under Siege (Doubleday, 2006) could claim that they are expressing the so-called "social" view of their religion that de Lubac urged in 1944.

No doubt American Catholic anti-abortion zealotry expresses the so-called "social" view of the Catholic religion that de Lubac urged in 1944. But one problem with their anti-abortion zealotry is that they tend to be suckers for Republican presidential candidates such as Trump who make big-sounding statements against legalized abortion.

So we may wonder what exactly the difference is, if any, between the so-called "social" view of the Roman Catholic religion that de Lubac urged in 1944 and the spirit of inculturation that we have mentioned above. Does bottom-up inculturation tend toward the view of religion as "private," rather than "social" (to use de Lubac's two terms)? Or should we set aside de Lubac's contrast of "private" versus "social" in favor of some other way to characterize bottom-up inculturation of religious faith?

In conclusion, because global history is now fashionable, McGreevy's new book about the Jesuits fits nicely within this new trend in historical studies. Because Jesuit missionaries both before the suppression of the Jesuit order in 1773 and after its restoration in 1814 were globetrotters, I suspect that his fast-moving study will be supplemented by further studies of the Jesuits in the near future.

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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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