(Article changed on March 15, 2013 at 04:48)
Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 14, 2013: Wow! The Jesuits just got a windfall of free publicity. As the media reported, a Jesuit has been elected by the Cardinal-electors in the Roman Catholic Church as the new pope. He name is Jorge Bergoglio. Of Italian descent, he was born and raised in Argentina. Born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936, he was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969. He will be known as Pope Francis -- honoring the Italian saint Francis of Assisi.
Incidentally, Francis of Assisi recently got good press in the NEW YORKER, an obviously famous secular magazine that is not famous for running favorable essays about Catholic saints.
As the media correctly reported, never before has a Jesuit been elected pope. Because I happen to be a former Jesuit seminarian, a friend asked me what the arguments pro and con are regarding having a Jesuit serve as the pope.
The major con argument is that the election of Pope Francis establishes a precedent for other Jesuits to serve as the pope in the future. Because I see the monarchical aura of the papacy in recent centuries as a serious problem, I see this already serious problem as being compounded by allowing even one Jesuit to serve as pope. The prospect of having more Jesuits serve as pope in the future is not a pleasant prospect for me to consider.
As to the pro argument about having a Jesuit pope, I would say that it is probably safe to say that no Jesuit who could ever be elected pope would turn out to be a cowboy pope -- as George W. Bush turned out to be a cowboy president. If it moves, cowboys want to kill it. But the new Pope Francis will probably practice non-violence himself.
In the book MEN ASTUTELY TRAINED: A HISTORY OF THE JESUITS IN THE AMERICAN CENTURY (1992), Peter McDonough, himself a former Jesuit, calls attention to Jesuit training in his apt title.
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Young Jorge Bergoglio may have been a cowboy in spirit when he entered the Jesuit two-year novitiate. But as McDonough's apt title suggests, Jesuit training is astutely designed to take the cowboy spirit out of the man.
Do you remember how King Odysseus went around Ithaca as a beggar after he returned there from the Trojan war? That's kind of the spirit of the Jesuit two-year novitiate -- in other words, you don't get to act like you're the king -- not even of yourself and your own life and your daily activities. Then later in their Jesuit training, Jesuits complete a third year of novitiate-like simple living and working. Both during the novitiate and during the third year of novitiate-like living and working, Jesuits make a 30-day retreat in silence (except for daily conferences with the retreat director) following the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.
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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; Ph.D.in 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...