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Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits

Eugene C. Bianchi and Peter McDonough

For our money, Chapter Eight of Eugene C. Bianchi and Peter McDonough’s celebrated recent work, Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits, published by the  University of California Press, encapsulated the core of their analysis of the Society of Jesus in the U.S. and the changes it has undergone since Vatican II. Some Jesuits sniffed over the book, claiming it was shallow and biased and negative. Paul Shaugnessy, a Jesuit serving as a Navy chaplain in Hawaii, called the book “ a quirky yet convincing depiction of the collapse of the renegade Society of Jesus: papists who hate the pope, evangelists who have lost the faith.”We liked the book, because it raised questions about the future of the Jesuits that need asking, particularly questions about celibacy and the Jesuits’ second vow. And we didn’t find it negative. We rather liked their report that that many Jesuits find a great deal of satisfaction in their work, which, Bianchi and McDonough said, “is both expressive (‘I do what I like, I like what I do’) and devotional (for the greater glory of God). “ Here, for those who didn’t have the time to read their whole book, is that chapter eight, along with the authors’ expansive footnotes.



. . .  we are engaged in massive corporate denial.  We simply cannot continue running these major institutions on the scale we have been, and I see no provincial (superior) making provision.  Sometimes I am a bit pissed off because I think that my generation is going to have to deal with it. 

. . . in theology a number of men suddenly confronted the fact that they could not articulate for themselves any fundamental difference between ordained ministry and lay ministry. Consequently, they began to wonder why they were making the sacrifices that ordained ministry required . . . .

            As they struggle to set the course of the Society, Jesuits argue about alternative slants on ministry. Mission-minded priorities contend with therapeutic concerns, and collaborative approaches vie with assertive faith-and-justice agendas. Underlying the skirmishes over corporate purpose, a deeper question looms. What, if any, is the connection between ministry and priesthood?

            The Jesuit presence in the schools, parishes, retreat houses and other operations affiliated with the Society has dropped precipitously. Secondary education provides as good an example as any of the decline. In the early sixties, just before Vatican II, about half of the instructors in the 45 high schools run by the order in the United States were Jesuits. By the mid-seventies, this figure had fallen to slightly above 30 percent; by the mid-eighties to a little over 20 percent, and by the turn of the millennium into the neighborhood of single digits.[i] The result has been a partial takeover of the works by lay people. It is no longer accurate to speak of these places as run by the Jesuits. Non-Jesuits and in some cases non-Catholics have taken up the slack.[ii]        

            A second change has entailed the seepage of Jesuits out of the classroom and educational administration into various types of pastoral and parish work. This shift has been slower than the drop in numbers. To some extent it flows from the aging of the Society. Jesuits have customarily spent their retirement years in spiritual counseling and helping out with the round of parish chores. As the membership of the order ages, the proportion of Jesuits in pastoral work grows larger. But some fraction of the exodus from education also stems from competition with lay professionals; it is harder for Jesuits to get tenure in what were once their institutions. The brain drain is also driven by the demand for men to carry out priestly duties and by such competing priorities as the commitment to social action. Altogether, the occupational profile of Jesuits makes the order look more like a network of parish priests than would have been the case a few decades ago.[iii]

            The impact of these trends on organizational performance and morale is more complex than the changes themselves. The apostolic operations of the Society look to be in reasonably good shape. With the professionalization of faculty and staff, the quality of the high schools and many of the colleges and universities has risen. If the Society of Jesus goes under, it will not be because its ministries collapse.[iv]

            Success in these terms raises a pair of questions. If the schools and other operations launched by the Society can do well enough on their own, what’s left for Jesuits to do?[v] And what remains of the religious identity of the schools, with a vestigial Jesuit presence or none at all?[vi] This chapter and the next address these questions.

            Apart from the professional upgrading of the schools and other activities, another development has accompanied the decline in membership and the reallocation of manpower in the Society. On the average, Jesuits turn out to be more satisfied with their work than former Jesuits – not by much but by a large enough margin to dash sweeping conclusions about demoralization throughout the ranks.[vii]

            For all their tribulations, Jesuits find it a bit easier to infuse their work with a sense of ministry than do their former peers. Men who leave the Jesuits generally do not switch fields. They usually wind up doing what they were trained to do or have an affinity for, with the result that their professional profile is similar to the distribution of jobs among those who remain. But not quite. Somewhat fewer former Jesuits work in education and the service professions than do Jesuits themselves. Earning a living to support a family sometimes forces them to take on work and follow career lines that might not represent their heart’s desire.[viii]

            So, many operations that took shape under Jesuit auspices are now thriving or doing well enough under non-Jesuit or team direction, and most Jesuits do not seem to be frustrated on the job. Outcomes such as these, which join promising and discouraging elements, are the result of two different responses to the crisis in religious life. On the one hand, in the wake of the disorientation following Vatican II, the Society of Jesus has undergone what anthropologists call a revitalization movement.[ix] The interior life of Jesuits has been made over. The rejuvenation of the Spiritual Exercises in one-on-one-form has been the paramount demonstration of this revival. On the other hand, much of the energy of the Society of Jesus has been devoted to coping with demographic and institutional decline. This stopgap stewardship becomes apparent in efforts to manage retrenchment and the geriatric bulge in membership. But it also crops up in urgent attempts to keep the Jesuit presence alive, and occasionally to innovate, within the apostolic infrastructure.[x] The contemplative side of Jesuit life appears to have been turned around. The record on the activist side, especially as it concerns the corporate thrust of the order, is less impressive.

            The numerous mission statements, issued by the Society’s General Congregations, redirect Jesuits toward a commitment to social justice, collaboration with the laity, and a dialogue with contemporary culture. These declarations represent an effort to supply a unifying link between renewal of the interior life and ministerial effectiveness across the various areas in which Jesuits are active, against a backdrop of falling numbers.[xi]

            The guidelines remain controversial, however, in part because the new direction runs up against the turf wars or sluggishness built into long-standing commitments in other quarters, such as education, and in part because they arouse principled or ideological opposition. Jesuits have succeeded in reconstituting themselves as individuals more readily than they have managed to adopt and push forward a common direction. The disjuncture between individual progress and uneven collective success is a leitmotif of the analysis that follows.

            Our initial focus is on the motivations and satisfactions that Jesuits, and not a few former Jesuits, bring to and take from their work. Then we move from the psychological toward the strategic dimensions of ministry. We look at the main programmatic shifts – collaboration with the laity and the priority to social justice – which the Society has adopted in order to give direction to its collective ventures. The relationship between these agendas is not altogether harmonious, and the ligatures they are supposed to provide between the therapeutic and institutional goals of the Jesuit enterprise sometimes pull apart. Laying out these tensions prepares the way for the analysis of changes in Jesuit secondary and higher education presented in Chapter Nine.


            Most Jesuits and many former Jesuits have no trouble understanding what they do as ministry. But what do they mean by “ministry?” Sometimes it is simply a gratifying task that stretches a man by challenging him. “Teaching high school was very demanding but I generally enjoyed my work within the Society,” one former Jesuit says plainly. “I like to work and the Society had a lot of really worthwhile work to do.” Paeans to fulfilling activity are interspersed with half-jocular jibes at workaholism. Even so, tasks that somehow make a difference are prized. Ministry takes many forms but at the heart of it is a precious satisfaction that Marx would understand: a sense of non-alienating labor.[xii]

            The core idea of ministry is satisfaction in personal service to others. “I do what I like,” a 65-year-old Jesuit in campus ministry declares. “I enjoy what I do. They let me do unusual and creative projects. I do love kids.” Not only do such men like what they do but they give the impression of considerable freedom, of really doing what they like. The twin themes are service to others, with a strong person-to-person touch. The maxim that virtue, with a measure of self-esteem thrown in, is its own reward holds true for many Jesuits. Work is both expressive (“I do what I like, I like what I do”) and devotional (for the greater glory of God). 

            Meaningful ministry, then, consists of personal service; a motivational boost that lifts work beyond the pastoral or the purely ad hoc is often present as well. Ministry is transfigured with a zeal for pitching into the sacred adventure (“building the Kingdom”). Self-satisfaction is magnified through a sense of taking part in something larger than the self.

            A 35-year-old theologian, soon to be ordained and about to return to high school teaching, combines these elements. He complains, as do many of his colleagues, about the tedium of the theological lucubrations that pull him away from person-to-person work on the outside:

As a full time student, my days are filled with reading and study. Although we talk about studies as an “apostolate,” for most of us, I think, this is little more than a language game designed to soften the hard fact that time spent with books, no matter how interesting, is no substitute for time spent working with people. I know only a few Jesuits who entered the Society in order to study more.

Quickly, he warms to his passion:

The high point for me, and I imagine for most of my peers, was regency. I taught English at ___. During those three years I found myself finally doing the sort of work I had entered the Society to do. I was making a contribution to people’s lives and to the life of the church that simply could not be missed. I spent myself with great joy in that work. At no point in my Jesuit life has it been clearer to me how it is that this life can make sense. The needs of the People of God were clear and obvious and “in my face” from the moment my homeroom began to fill with students at 7:30 or so each morning for three years. I loved being a regent at ___. Those are probably the three happiest years of my life so far.

            I stay because the love which I have for the church and the Society fires a vision or a dream in me that helps me to see this life in what many would probably call “romantic” terms. Despite the occasional setbacks, I do find Jesuit life to be a noble and ennobling endeavor. I do see Jesuit life as a project or an undertaking full of challenge and meaning which make it worth the efforts of a man’s whole life.


            Often, men who leave the Jesuits pursue careers that allow them to keep up a sense of ministry. This case of a 47-year-old educator is a little exceptional in the strength of the carryover.

The vision I developed in the Society still burns with great ferocity today. I wanted to help the poor. I organized in the Society, left, and for the last 16 years have worked with kids who dropped out of high school and returned in Brooklyn . . . . This career choice is terrific. I’ve been able to help kids who need it and I feel great about that. I’ve also grown a lot.

On occasion, however, the sense of ministry gets short-circuited among former Jesuits. Sometimes the problem can be traced to distasteful aspects of the job, compounded by competing personal obligations. And outside the Society, communal support for selfless dedication may be in short supply.

            The frustration of this 49-year-old lawyer is that he is obliged to pay the bills by working at a job that doesn’t live up to his yearning for service. “When I left the Society [after four years, 27 years ago], I went on to graduate school and obtained a Master of Social Work degree,” he begins.

I continued in youth work for eighteen years, during the last of which I went to night school for a law degree. I now work as a lawyer. I defend doctors and hospital in cases of alleged medical malpractice.

            I have found over the years that neither social work nor law have been fully satisfying. Both have their good points but both are mainly ways to earn enough money to support myself.

The striking feature of the lawyer’s story is the persistence of his aspiration for ministry. The work he happens to do takes up “nine to twelve hours a day” but it remains a sideline compared to his appetite for the ideal of service and taking part in a larger cause:

I try to find connections between my work and “building up the Kingdom.” I do not find the connections to be strong or immediate. It takes a constant mental effort, and I fail more often than I succeed even in remembering to look for connections.

            The Kingdom is more accessible outside the law office. I listen to the New Testament on tape in my car nearly every day, and I find that exercise very helpful. I am active in my parish and in my [adopted] son’s . . . high school, and that helps too. I find I need to be in contact with a faith community. It is very hard for me to keep on track otherwise.

            I continue to hear a quiet call to work for the Lord on a more full-time basis. I do not know how to do that and still support myself and my son. Perhaps when he is grown up, I will be able to do something along those lines.

          In the end, however, the greater satisfaction that Jesuits report in their work is only modestly higher compared to that of former Jesuits. As a rule, because so many of them stay in the helping professions, a good many former Jesuits are apt to consider their work as ministry of some sort, even if they do not surround it with the vocabulary of religious heavy-breathing.  A few former Jesuits object to the terminology itself. One former Jesuit in his mid-fifties who runs a data-processing system at a government hospital prefers the word “service” to “ministry” because the latter has the note of evangelizing, “which I don’t try to do.” Another man, a management consultant who was with the Society for over 25 years, argues that

The border around the category “ministry” has become very fuzzy. I never did like the category much. Good people contribute to the commonweal the best parts of themselves. That’s it. Calling some of this ministry puts a halo on it that is inappropriate.

As with Jesuits themselves, the more directly their work brings former Jesuits into face-to-face contact with others, and the more directly it requires efforts at care-taking and remediation, the more likely they are to retain a sense of ministry and the more likely they are to find satisfaction on the job. Cura personalis and pastoral flair are at the core of the longing expressed by this 43-year-old former Jesuit:

Connections between my work and a sense of ministry? Not many connections really.  My “ministry” now, I suppose, is to the quality of the printed word in religious publishing.  I bring to bear on this my sensitivity to the English language, my knowledge of Church and theology, and the Catholic/religious market that we serve.  But this more often feels quite detached and unconnected to other people. The personal contact dimension of ministry I sorely miss.  I see myself as having more people skills than I can presently use. I feel drawn to some form of pastoral ministry in which I can both share/explore and counsel in terms of more personal and spiritual issues.

            In short, freedom from family obligations may be advantageous in certain cases, but it also appears to heighten the need to find personal satisfaction through face-to-face interaction with others. If sociability is reduced, the sense of ministry suffers and personal satisfaction falls. Jesuits are not troglodytes.


            Jesuits are supposed to be contemplatives in action, dedicated to ministry. For men committed to “an honorable worldliness” (as one lay colleague put it), navel-gazing is no substitute for action. “Mission is after all what we are here for,” a Jesuit in his late sixties insists, invoking the Society’s activist bent.

            Remarks like these belie an uneasiness with the self-absorption released by the cultural revolution of the sixties. A Jesuit psychologist in his late thirties points ruefully to the therapeutic syndrome. He worries about the inclination of Jesuits responsible for decisions on the deployment of manpower to second-guess the value of the approach. The introspective path may lead to gossamer puzzles. By comparison, the ministerial arena at least sets up objective problems that may be solved. After so much self-scrutiny, an extroverted pragmatism has the appeal of engagement with reality.

Some of the men presently in positions of authority are reacting to the ‘60s, ‘70s focus on interpersonal knowing, deep sharing, and so on, and they’re investing in the apostolical. It is as if you were looking at a pendulum swinging in the other direction. “Let’s keep our focus there and if you have  problems or whatever, we can talk about it and work it out.” Right. And the fear of navel-gazing – I think they are terrified that people are going to get into a kind of inward focus that would be crippling.

            Another young (32-year-old) Jesuit, who was to leave the Society within a year, distinguished between “the mission model,” familiar to Jesuits of older generations, and “the therapeutic model” prevalent in the post-conciliar era. The distinction (“an oversimplification,” he warns) is largely self-explanatory. In the old days

Formation was structured, programs were developed, experiments were offered, that prepared the man to take part in the apostolic mission of the Society.  In other words, you were trained for the apostolate. Personal concerns and “issues,” were subjugated to the apostolate (if allowed to surface at all). Today, however, I think it is clear that the therapeutic has taken over. Under this model the individual’s formation is aimed at self-knowledge, mental and physical health, emotional stability, and lives of intimacy.

Balancing the two – “integrating” is the preferred word in counseling  circles – proves difficult. There is a suggestion that self-awareness cannot measure up to the romance of being swept along in collective purpose. But perhaps because corporate mission has yet to be clarified, the therapeutic model remains attractive: 

Those formed by the mission model may well look at young Jesuits and say (and I quote) “your needs are all well and good, but look to the apostolate for meaning and vision.  If you are happy in your work, you can put up with some of the smaller stuff around community.” There is wisdom here. One of my contemporaries puts it this way: “Give the men a job and they’ll be fine.” . . . We know that the apostolate is the focus and the reason, but no matter how good my day at work was, or how much I am nourished by the apostolate, if I come home to closed doors, unhappiness, privatization, and solitude, the previous eight hours are of little consequence.

In the end, achievement on the job, however gratifying, doesn’t make up for the lack of human warmth. This is why so many Jesuits seek out face-to-face ministries.

            Jesuits nowadays are more willing to acknowledge the sentimental rewards and the creative rush they derive from what used to be depicted as heroic self-abnegation. In the old days a cordon sanitaire of tight-lipped unflappability and long suffering was drawn around the Jesuit whose emotions were expressed in athletic competition or drowned in a drop too much. The therapeutic manner has heightened awareness of the desiccating effects of absorption in work and of toughing it out through self-effacement. Jesuits were supposed to care for others but to be weirdly impartial with themselves. Such severity toward the self has been rejected.[xiii]

            Few post-Freudian Jesuits are wholly convinced of the beneficence of displacing libidinal energies into work. The jokes about workaholism are uneasy. At the same time, the talk of personal integration is very earnest. Jesuits these days favor a mix of personal contact, zeal, and professionalism – a somewhat contradictory bundle that may be at least as demanding as the traditional, harshly ascetic code surrounding ministry.

            As happens with expectations for community life, aspirations about work tend to be both turbo-charged and cautious regarding the possibility of contentment. What may constitute a plausible ideal of getting it together for one man may for another be a sack of competing pulls.[xiv] Here is a 28-year-old Jesuit describing the gratification he gets from face-to-face ministry, only to question how far it can take him toward fulfillment:

It is a struggle to integrate sexuality as a vowed celibate and I am not convinced it is possible to do so in an entirely healthy manner. I can say that I have found that when I am engaged in a work requiring me to become involved in people’s lives because they trust me, there is an intimacy present that is very satisfying. That is something that I suspect few people outside of priests and ministers get to experience very often. It is a privileged place to be present for the foundation moments of so many lives. On the other hand, this is a very lonely life at times. Having both Jesuit and lay friends, both gay and straight, helps to give vent to some sexual needs. But in the end the physical needs basically go unmet unless one breaks his vows, which happens sometimes.

            While their views are slipping into the minority, some older Jesuits are inclined to dismiss such reservations as sissified. In their place they put a massive dedication to work, suffused by an obdurate passion for the divine. Obedience, not fulfillment, is the watchword. An elderly pastor, more than half a century a Jesuit, sums up this stern, heartfelt perspective:

I think a personal love of Jesus Christ is the only reason men stay; I think they leave because of expecting the glory and getting the cross, and not being able to handle it. I am a pastor of an African-American parish.  I do not have an assistant or a secretary or a bookkeeper.  I am kept quite busy doing all the things that these would do, and I find all of these things to be part of my ministry to which I have been assigned, and which I love deeply.

            The traditional and therapeutic takes on Jesuit life converge in their somewhat parochial, on-the-ground view of ministry. Neither has much truck with abstract doctrine. The operational code of ministry is outgoing service. This is the ordinary view of ministry and, though it is non-monastic, it doesn’t distinguish Jesuits from parish priests. The traditional and therapeutic approaches toward ministry differ more in their expectations than in their working definitions. One carries the baggage of disciplined obedience and love expressed as zeal. The other prizes personal growth and intimacy.

            In both cases it is the hands-on, practical, personal element of ministry that counts. Like troops in combat, many older Jesuits expect to receive orders. They’re used to obedience, not to ruminating over grand strategy, and some of them get confused and angry when clear directions are not forthcoming and they hear repeated exhortations to be self-starters. Likewise, younger Jesuits wrapped up in concerns over intimacy are not given to contemplating the big picture. The result is the same in both instances: a focus on the here-and-now, with not much in the way of strategic vision.

            Structural transformations – professional specialization, increased competition in the market for education and services, and the erosion of institutional control by the Society – have also contributed to the sense that ministry is what goes on locally and rather haphazardly in the midst of larger, barely comprehensible forces. It is institutional fragmentation in the apostolic agenda of the order, as much as a cultural fashion for self-indulgence, that limits horizons and simultaneously heightens anxiety about the direction of corporate change.

            “The most satisfying part of my work is, by far, having the sense that I am connecting with people – a wide range of people on a fairly intimate and significant level of their lives,” a 31-year-old theology student and part-time teacher declares, echoing the personalist line. “The most frustrating part, I suppose, is not knowing where we are going collectively/communally.” It is difficult to step back from close-up interaction and contemplate grand strategy.

I think that we are engaged in massive corporate denial.  We simply cannot continue running these major institutions on the scale we have been, and I see no provincial making provision.  Sometimes I am a bit pissed off because I think that my generation is going to have to deal with it.  I am not terribly concerned with the shortage of vocations, because I do think that God will give us what we need, so long as we are not stupid ourselves.

The testimony of a 39-year-old former Jesuit, recently retired from banking and looking forward to a stint with the Peace Corps, conveys a similar message. He praises the spiritual renewal that has taken hold in Jesuit life (“the most positive feature of formation was the personal integrity and witness to our faith by individual Jesuits on a daily basis”) but expresses dismay at the failure to lay out a strategy of institutional renewal. 

The most important negative feature of formation was the difficulty the novitiate team had in telling us what the Society of Jesus was going to look like in the future, even the near future.  We read and studied documents of the Society’s Congregations, but were all too aware that the documents and the lived experience were far apart. In a generation before, guys knew when they entered what they were getting into: a monastic formation, jobs at some Jesuit high school or university, probably cut off from much of the mainstream intellectual tradition of this country.  When they retired, they would head to a Jesuit retreat center or a Jesuit parish.  All the communities were large and institutional.  Someone may like or not like this future, but they knew when they came what they were buying into.

            No longer! Some guys came because they wanted the old style Society, complete with Latin and cassocks.  Others wanted to live in poor urban areas and had visions of cooking lentils and rice for their small communities for the rest of their lives.  They wanted nothing to do with traditional Jesuit structures.  Our formation team was unable to tell us what we would expect. They didn’t know themselves.  I suspect that the answer may still not be known, even now, almost 20 years after many of the most dramatic changes in Jesuit community.

            In brief, two transformations have reshaped the opportunities presented by and attitudes toward Jesuit apostolates. The infrastructure of schools, not to mention other operations such as retreat houses, once under the control of the Society of Jesus, has become a loosely coordinated network that is impossible to steer in a single direction. This organizational transformation has a dynamic of its own, apart from though perfectly compatible with a second major change: the therapeutic revolution. Close to becoming the universal language of religious life, the latter change accentuates skills at individual self-discovery and rehabilitation over collective problem-solving.

            Together, these trends have produced a fragmented market of decentralized institutions and initiatives that preserve considerable room for maneuver but that resist coordination and planning. The myth of a synoptic, self-contained coherence in “the works” has gone the way of theological system-builders and holistic paradigms.


            Three other developments confound inherited approaches to ministry besides the slide in institutional control and the emergence of a therapeutic ethos. One is the decay of the humanistic ideal as a pedagogical model. Another is variation in the spiritual feel of ministry across different apostolates. Finally, there is puzzlement over the connection between priestly ordination and the conduct of ministry. 

            Historically, Jesuit identity has been bound up not only with ordained ministry but also with the humanities and the liberal arts. From the outset, the Society of Jesus became identified with educational apostolates – with what in retrospect could be called the cultivation of human capital.[xv] During the postwar period, with the success of the GI Bill of Rights and then with the expansion of enrollments and professional specialization from the 1960s, as most of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States grew, the number of students in the humanities has dropped in relative as well as absolute terms.[xvi] Far from being distinctive to Jesuit or Catholic schools, the declension in the liberal arts reflects what has been happening in American higher education generally.[xvii]

            The decline of the humanities has been accompanied by some curious sidebars: for example, the creation of professional schools (initiated at least as far back as the 1920s) partly as cash cows and as mechanisms for recruiting women, as paying customers, into an educational enterprise from which they otherwise would have been excluded. The exclusion of women from the liberal arts colleges was maintained (as the practice was at Yale) for some time after the profit-making professional schools were established.[xviii] But, unlike some of their elite secular counterparts with ample endowments, not many Jesuit colleges and universities could afford to preserve the humanities as their intellectual flagship.[xix]

            More was at stake in the crisis of the humanities in Jesuit education than financial solvency. The Jesuit understanding of the humanities resembled the vision shared by Protestant ventures in higher education in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the humanistic disciplines signaled the union of learning and virtue at the crux of the Renaissance ideal. Because their wisdom was supposed to shape values and build character, propagating the classics and more broadly the liberal arts was a kind of ministry.[xx] The project – forming leaders, as it was called – had ethical purpose as well as a vocational payoff. Even if the humanities were never as central to the schools as idealized renditions of Jesuit pedagogy might suggest, the liberal arts curriculum set the tone. It was the institutional signature of the Society, much as the commitment to faith-and-justice has striven to dominate the ethos of the order in recent years.[xxi]

            The influence of the Society of Jesus in higher education has come in for hard times not just on account of the reduction of Jesuits in the classroom but also because the nature of the Jesuits’ specialty, the humanities, has changed drastically. At least in research universities and graduate faculties, the convergence between learning and virtue has been stretched to the point of breaking.[xxii] In light of this dissociation, the testimony of a 64-year-old former Jesuit, now a university professor, has special poignancy:

For a long time I was unable to formulate what it was I was doing in the classroom. One of the losses I felt after I left the Jesuits was the loss of a larger context within which to place my own life and doings.  That has continued, though without distress.  However, some years ago, as we discussed our new core curriculum, I arrived at the very clear understanding that, whereas others were in the classroom to raise consciousness, I was decidedly there to hand on the intellectual and cultural tradition of the West.  I am clearly not a post-modernist; however, my Jesuit initiation into the culture of the West also made me very aware that it was, at its best, an open tradition.  I hand on the tradition.

            A professor of English at one of the smaller Jesuit colleges makes a case that reports of the death of the humanities may be overblown. “The general erosion of confidence in humanistic education,” he admits, “[is] a major factor in shaking these guys’ [the Jesuits’] confidence in the educational apostolate . . . . It’s the perception of doom that’s most important and that certainly is the mood of the day. But,” he continues,

I think (hope?) that the prophesies of doom for the humanities and the traditional arts and sciences are exaggerated . . . . In fact, the more I get to know faculty at other [Jesuit] institutions, the more I think that we – somehow! and at least at the undergraduate level – have retained more of a generally humanistic sense of what the university is up to (and of at least the wish for interdisciplinary synthesis) than have the secular institutions that we compete with. It may finally be nothing deeper than the survival of a core curriculum that includes philosophy and theology, so that at least the Marxist literature professor may occasionally be confronted by a student who may know something that would stand up against a glib identification of religion with opiates. But I do think there’s a difference.

            A second change goes with the descent of the humanities. A sense of ministry is apt to be more compelling in pastoral work, spiritual direction, social advocacy, and the high schools than in research and teaching as these activities have developed in American higher education. Spiritual direction is replete with God-talk. “It’s easier being in pastoral or social work to see ministry and priesthood and the Society as integrated into everything I do,” a 56-year-old associate pastor says.

You asked about a typical work day. Today’s Ash Wednesday.  I got up at 5:30 as I usually do, spent some time in prayer and finished off my homily preparation.  I presided at two Eucharists at 8:00 and 12:00. I took Eucharist and ashes to six shut-ins spread out all over the city.  I met one of my three retreatants doing the seven week parish directed retreat.  I talked with four people, out of the 26 I have met so far, who are doing the Lenten Journey, a parish program that gives an orientation to Lent and helps people discover an integrated approach to prayer, fasting and almsgiving that gets them where they want to be on Easter.  I returned 27 phone calls and fixed up the legal papers for a marriage that was performed at ____ without proper authorization by the local government.  I opened eleven pieces of mail and dashed off a few notes.  Tonight I am supposed to have dinner with a parishioner and his female companion, not his wife; believe me, I’ll still be on the clock.  I do a lot of work with couples preparing for marriage and with people seeking annulments.  I talk with a lot of angry Catholics, angry from every imaginable angle.  Yesterday I had two long phone conversations with parishioners who are going to write the Cardinal because [the parish] had introduced the Nicene Creed.  My Annotation 19 retreatant came in right after that and she won’t recite the Gloria because it’s not inclusive.  I’ve been taking an hour a week of scripture with two Visitation novices, the only non-Americans in the community, one from Kenya and the other from Kerala.  I’m active in WIN, a community organizing project for DC sponsored by the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation], a Saul Alinski-inspired organization.[xxiii]

In contrast to all this hands-on pastoral work, the figure of the pastor-in-the-classroom as a model of Jesuit pedagogy and scholarly achievement has not quite passed from the scene. But it has seen better days.[xxiv]

            In addition, one of the prime motivators of apostolic dedication appears to be identification with the people to whom Jesuits minister. Many Jesuits can see the face of Christ in the inner-city poor, in Native Americans, in those who suffer from AIDS, in the materially marginalized more readily than they can in college and university students. Empathetic identification is not limited to the economically deprived. Frequently, such commitment is extended, as a form of paternal care, to “the kids” in high school. Nevertheless, the structure of spiritual incentives in the colleges and universities is a little opaque. Crudely put, there is a tension between intellectual-humanistic and humanitarian-spiritual rationales.[xxv]

            These factors – the deterioration in the status of “the classics” (associated with the silent burial of Latin) and variations on the differential sense of ministry present in the schools as compared to other apostolates – are all developments that pertain directly to Jesuit education. One other factor affects the role of Jesuits elsewhere as well: the disconnect not between work and a sense of ministry but between ministry and ordination.

            For some, mainly older Jesuits, the ministry-ordination tie-in remains as clear as can be. Their work is ministry, and ministry has a sacerdotal aura. In the words of one 63-year-old professor of literature:

I view myself as a writer and teacher who is not a hyphenated priest. St. Paul’s famous [statement that] whatever furthers understanding, in individuals and academic fields, of God’s creation – human and other – furthers understanding of the Creator. I believe that all serious learning is advanced contemplation, and I believe that my teaching and preaching often bring something new to classes and congregations.

Another Jesuit, about the same age (61) and in the same field, admits to misgivings about the sacerdotal aspects of his work. He recognizes some tension between priesthood and dedication to professionalism:

I wonder if I’m adequately perceived as priest in the incarnational work I do, especially by my students.  Working to be integral to my field, I do not teach from a professedly Christian “angle” (though I do choose some course material for religious or faith-justice reasons, e.g., a course on the contemporary Catholic imagination in America, or a novel about race or the poor).

The concern expressed here is deeper than the spiritual equivalent of a paper cut but it is still at a considerable distance from the dismay that emerges among younger Jesuits about the connection between their lives as priests and their ministerial activities. A 31-year-old Jesuit in theological studies captures this anxiety, which comes to a head as the time for ordination nears, and which he dealt with affirmatively:

One thing that I found interesting was that in theology a number of men suddenly confronted the fact that they could not articulate for themselves any fundamental difference between ordained ministry and lay ministry. Consequently, they began to wonder why they were making the sacrifices that ordained ministry required, and some concluded that the sacrifices could not be justified so they left.

            In the two theologates that I attended . . . I didn’t find anyone providing a cogent explanation of ordained ministry and its relation to lay ministry. I find it difficult to articulate the difference between the two, but I have a sufficient sense of it for myself that I could see the rationale for making a commitment to the ordained ministry.

Still another younger (35) Jesuit, now ordained and working as a high school teacher, voiced frustration during his days as a student of theology at what he saw as surrender to the notion that the priesthood has became a gratuitous adornment to ministry:

I am constantly trying to find connections between the studies I am doing and the work I will be doing once I am ordained. Some days this is easier to do than others. It is a task that is not made any easier by the fact that the world of a theology center is largely divorced from the real world of the church. I find much of our energy is spent fighting the battles of the immediate fallout of Vatican II (battles which have left deep scars on many professors but which are not the pressing issues for Jesuits of my generation) or preparing for life in an idealized, politically correct church that does not exist now and is not likely to exist in my lifetime.

            Tellingly, the word “priesthood” is rarely mentioned in our classes. In fact, this year when the third year theologians . . .  gathered in Boston, most men from all three centers reported that they had spent the last two years either ignoring or apologizing for the fact that they were preparing for ordination. Such is life in the ideologically insulated and trendy city‑states on the self-proclaimed cutting edge of theology. In an atmosphere such as that, it can often be difficult to make connections between what I am doing now and what I will be doing once I am ordained. For now, I play the game of political correctness and try to remind myself that life in the real world and the real church has little to do with life in a theology center. A sad statement, but true.

            An older (71) Jesuit, still at work in university administration, also sees the declining credibility and attractiveness of the priesthood as the noxious product of cultural fashion. But with most of his career behind him, he sounds less caustic than the neoconservative Jesuit who is just beginning his career. The older man writes:

One [main problem I see is] lack of vocations not only to [the] Jesuits, [but] to the priesthood, to religious life in general. There seems to be no special dignity attached to such a vocation or way of life by society in general, by “good” “Catholic” parents, and schools no longer have religious models. Emphasis on the work of the laity in the church and the anger of women in not being allowed to serve as priests have increased the negative aspect of priestly vocations. I have no solution but I am sure the Holy Spirit is leading us somehow.

            A couple of problems, then, are distinctive to Jesuit ministry in higher education. Aside from the likelihood that the sense of ministry is less palpable in higher education than in some other apostolates, the decline and metamorphosis of the humanities, much of it coincident with the decades following Vatican II, have eroded a traditional source of collective mission. The liberal arts are on the defensive not only as preparation for career choices that pay off but also normatively, vis--vis the faith-and-justice thrust. But the gravest problem is almost certainly disarray over the role of the priesthood as it pertains to ministry. This is particularly worrisome for an activist, apostolic order.[xxvi]


            The dispersion of organizational control has coincided with doubts about the functions of the priesthood in ministerial work. Both the outward, apostolic operations of the Jesuit project and the interior, normative foundations of the Jesuit priesthood are in flux. Organizational decentralization realigns the institutional activities of the Society. Qualms about the sacerdotal role reflect symbolic uncertainty and psychological anxiety. To this might be added, in higher education specifically, the slump in the prestige and perceived utility of the humanities.

            When time-honored routines no longer hold, “ideologies” frequently emerge to restore meaning and direction to events that seem to have taken on their own wayward dynamic.[xxvii] The Society of Jesus has responded with two all-embracing mission statements. One stresses collaboration with the laity, the other gives priority to “the faith that does justice.” 

            These broad visions capture the conciliatory and the contrarian strains in the Jesuit tradition. One is founded on the drive toward “acculturation”; the other is a “counter-sign.” At a very general level the two elements of the Society’s agenda are complementary. The option for faith-and-justice helps preserve the institutional identity that is in danger of vanishing in the rush toward Jesuit-lay collaboration.

            While it is hard to find non-Jesuit coworkers who would argue with the benefits of collaboration, some have doubts about the faith-and-justice program. Conversely, a few Jesuits fear an erosion of authority and a confusion of roles in the promotion of collaboration. Nevertheless, the collaborative agenda, bent on compromise and inclusion, confers legitimacy on what even most die-hards see as adaptation to the inevitable. The faith-and-justice program is more controversial. Even if Jesuits are sympathetic to the priority in philosophical terms, implementing it requires hard choices about the allocation of personnel and other organizational resources.

            A striking formulation of the collaborative theme was laid out in 1995. In the guise of a report to his colleagues on the 34th general congregation of the Society that had completed its work earlier that year in Rome, Edward Kinerk, then provincial superior of the Missouri province, gave an address that accorded pride of place to Jesuit-lay collaboration. By then, thirty years after Vatican II, outright resistance to collaboration between Jesuits and their colleagues had all but disappeared. Fr. Kinerk was doing little more, he said, than naming something already in place.[xxviii] His purpose was to harness commitment to a transformation that looked unstoppable.

            “Imagine for a moment,” Kinerk begins with a modern-day parable, “that I am standing on a moving sidewalk. You know what a moving sidewalk is if you have ever been in an airport; it’s like a conveyor belt. Remember, too, that moving sidewalks run in only one direction, and the particular direction is not an option.” The analogy with the course of the Society of Jesus is inescapable.

Now, I am standing on the moving sidewalk, and there is no question about the direction in which the sidewalk is moving. Right now I am standing on the year 1995, and the next stop is 1996, not 1994, and not 1950. The direction is not a choice; it is not good, not bad, not liberal, not conservative – it is just the way it is. Time only moves in one direction. I think we all agree that this is true. We would also agree that the hopes we have for SLUH (Saint Louis University High School) in 2010 are great hopes and that such a SLUH would be a wonderful place in its own right.

            So what is the issue? The issue is that I have a choice on this moving sidewalk, only one choice really, and that is the choice about which direction I will face while the sidewalk moves from 1950 to 2010. Knowing that I am going to 2010 . . . I can still choose to move toward 2010 with my face turned to 1950. Certainly, this is understandable – and we can rightly grieve over something great which has passed – but if I remain facing in that direction, the focus of my vision will remain a past which gets dimmer and dimmer, and this is sad, because I am watching what will never be. But, if I look in the other direction, facing 2010, if I direct my energies in this way, I am looking at the school which is to come. Now I am focusing not on what the school once was, but on what I hope it will and can be.

The task is not to analyze much less brood over the past but to get with the program, even if a master plan for how to get from here to there is lacking.

            Objections to this strategy have less to do with issues of efficiency than with nervousness concerning the loss of identity and authority and the collapse of a way of life that the criteria of efficiency or fairness address only obliquely. “I guess I am one of the conservative crowd,” a 67-year-old college professor, fifty years a Jesuit, avers:

I hate the fact that we have dropped clerical dress and are embarrassed to be recognized as priests. I hate the sloppy way we do liturgy, the fact that liturgical vessels are now cheap five-and-dime glassware. I hate the fact that liturgical music is just guitar music. I hate the loss of real artists to do liturgical art. I hate the sell-out to liberal scriptural scholars who date the gospels in the 80’s or 90’s or later.[xxix] But I still love God and the Church and try to say a public mass as reverently as I can despite the liturgical chaos. And I love to spend time preparing sermons each week and I very much like the Jesuits I live with. They could not get me out of this group with a shoe-horn. God willing, I will be around till I die and keep trying to regain an atmosphere of  adoration and reverence.

The aroma of nostalgia is thicker in statements like these than in most avowals of concern over Jesuit-lay collaboration, which are rare in any case. But the underlying worry is widespread. From the standpoint of most Jesuits, the difficulty is not with collaboration. Instead they worry about what the Society actually brings to the table, and it is at this point that the priority assigned to faith-and-justice assumes strategic importance. It is “the faith that does justice” that is supposed to lend content and militancy, a definitive stamp, to the Jesuit enterprise in the post-conciliar years. The program is not merely a matter of strategy; it is also bound up with corporate identity. It is a call to action that sets the agenda of what the order is about.

            Even if many of them cannot make out what it means in practice, ordinary Jesuits tend to be receptive to the faith-and-justice agenda in principle and out of a kind of humanitarian instinct. For this reason, much of the friction generated by the priority given to the righting of social wrongs stems from institutional rivalries and turf-protection, not only from ideological divisions in the abstract. The question of who steers the specific ministries associated with the Society of Jesus through Sartre’s “disordered monotony of the everyday” has been all but settled in favor of coalitional and broadly consultative arrangements. But the question of where the works should be headed, giving the variety of pre-existing commitments and the diversity of functional interests, is difficult to sort out. The mix of players has become more heterogeneous with collaboration.[xxx] 

            The outcome has been low-grade polarization among Jesuits and, to some extent, between Jesuits and their colleagues regarding the faith-and-justice agenda. Sometimes, as happens in higher education, this takes the form of bewilderment about what the faith-and-justice agenda could mean, short of absurdity, in a mathematics class.[xxxi] A different criticism surfaces in reservations about the possible displacement of what many Jesuits take to be the order’s foundational, spiritual goals.

            Martin Tripole, a Jesuit theologian, asked more than a dozen colleagues in leadership positions what the Society’s faith-and-justice mission meant and concluded that they weren’t sure. “The most common answer was ‘I don’t know.’ And the second most common answer consisted of words to that same effect.” Tripole goes on:

Once a temporal work is prioritized to such an extent that it becomes the integrating dimension of all mission activity, the danger is present that work becomes the principle legitimizing that mission, rather than being an action that furthers the mission’s more ultimate spiritual goals. The contention of this study is that no foundational principle is legitimate for the Society, any more than it is for the Church, other than the mission of  evangelization, that is, the proclamation of the gospel and the promotion of God’s kingdom, in this world as well as for the next. . . . [W]e risk being . . . social workers with – at best – pious motivation . . . [T]he promotion of justice may and should be understood as a significant and important apostolate of the Society. But it is not the one that integrates and constitutes the norm against which every apostolate in the Society is justified.[xxxii]

            The faith-and-justice agenda threatens the traditional investment of the Society of Jesus in “the intellectual apostolate.” Arguments are made to the effect that, in theory, one activity reinforces the other.[xxxiii] But the tradeoffs can be harsh. Pondering over what is permissible within the current ecclesiastical climate, searching for where he senses the main chance of the Society lies, one influential Jesuit expressed his position this way: “If I had to choose between an organization that provided guarantees of civil liberties, free speech, et cetera but that didn’t do much for the poor, and an institution that struggled for the poor but didn’t bother to defend freedom of speech and the like, I think I know which one I’d pick.”

            The implication is that the schools draw too much fire from Rome, that some of them are elitist, and that they aren’t worth standing up for, compared to investment in the good that might be done elsewhere.[xxxiv] At some point, the argument goes, the rivalry between intellectual liberty or excellence and social justice takes on an either-or cast, and it is the Jesuits’ intellectual tradition that has to give in light of the Society’s newfound commitment to the underprivileged.

            The option is a matter of prudence as well as principle. Attacks on theological exploration and academic independence stemming from the Vatican trouble the schools and raise the costs of intellectual controversy. The generally favorable reception accorded to good works within the church makes it easier, on that score, to pursue social justice.


            The faith-and-justice agenda is a prescriptive resolution more than a blueprint for action. It imparts a counter-cultural, cutting-edge aura to an assortment of pastoral and meliorative activities that coexist with a scattering of challenges to the social status quo. Commitment to the faith-that-does-justice evokes the militant side of the Jesuit legacy, in counterbalance to the order’s equally venerable habit of collaborative, adaptive ministry. Both of these currents – the push toward collective purpose versus the pull toward piecemeal accomplishment, and the tradition of a conciliatory, accommodating strategy versus the adversarial impetus toward cutting against the cultural grain – are evident among Jesuits.

            Two further patterns are especially significant. Jesuits who are content with their work tend to be supportive of the institutional church and to be relatively conservative on moral and sexual issues.[xxxv] These Jesuits keep their heads down and get on with their work without bothering about grand controversies, except to affirm their confidence in the overall direction of the church and its core teachings regarding sexuality.

            The second pattern comes into view when corporate ministries rather than individual works are considered. A significant association can be detected between progressive thinking on faith-and-justice questions and approval of the performance of Jesuit ministries. Similarly, Jesuits who take advanced positions on sexual-moral controversies also express satisfaction with the apostolic agenda of the Society.[xxxvi]

            What do these linkages add up to? When Jesuits try to envision the course of the Society as a whole, principles are engaged and tensions come to the surface. The faith-and-justice tenor of declarations from recent General Congregations has resonated positively among Jesuits who call themselves progressives. Conversely, the minority who see themselves as conservative on such matters are less happy with the apostolic strategy of the Society. Jesuits who express enthusiasm over the social agenda of the Society are also likely to entertain liberal views on sexual-moral issues, and vice-versa. Differences over ministerial strategy are not just administrative quarrels over the disposition of resources. Ideological rancor is involved as well.[xxxvii]

            Yet a certain compartmentalization between individual work, specific ministries, and global directives mitigates confrontation within the Society. The degree to which Jesuits claim to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their own work has nothing to do, one way or the other, with their perceptions of the overall performance of the Society or with their views on social and economic policy.[xxxviii] Assessments of the collective accomplishments of the order are one thing, judgments of performance closer to home another.

            Some Jesuits, convinced that synoptic issues are a waste of time, ignore the managerial apparatus of the Society as best they can and plunge ahead with their own priorities. This man, a 53-year-old high school administrator, has little use for those in staff positions in the Society who busy themselves, so he feels, with well-meaning directives and calming nerves. His attitude oscillates between indifference and contempt.

The local leaders [superiors and provincials] are inexperienced managers, and too much runs on “nice guy-ism,” rather than on any kind of goal-centered direction for the provinces, so the provinces don’t have any goals .  . .

            The provincial comes around, or the superior comes around, and he has his annual visit, and he asks “How’s it going?” and “How’s your spiritual life?” and all these generalized kinds of questions.  “How’s your health?” and all . . . . But say “What goals did you have, Father, for this last year? What were you trying to achieve? And how did those mesh with the goals of the institution?” Whatever those particular goals are.  And, “Father, do you know what the goals of the institution are?”...And if you’re not trying to foster the goals of the institution, you should be elsewhere . . . .

Dedication to the work at hand compensates for cynicism with regard to the powers-that-be. This Jesuit cultivates his garden.

The work I do isn’t for the Society.  I work as a member of the Society, but the work I do is for the kids in the school, and education in general . . . . . Do I like to think about the Society dying? I think no more than I like to think about me dying.  I don’t think about either one of them very much.  I just don’t find it helpful to review it on a frequent basis.  I just have other positive things to do with people than to be thinking about it.  So I put it out of my mind, because I am not in a position to do anything concrete about it.


            A feeling that control over the works has slipped out of the hands of the Society of Jesus is not new. During the Depression, a number of schools went under and other operations were scaled back. Hectic scrambling and hand-to-mouth subsistence were the order of the day. On the upside, authorization was sometimes given after the fact to initiatives that grew like topsy, spurred by enterprising Jesuits acting on their own. Almost always, however, there was little doubt that the works was headed in the general direction of pre-established goals.

            Three things set the current situation apart from the usual gap between ideal and actuality. One is that expectations regarding the personal fulfillment to be had from ministerial work receive at least as much attention as the organization of the ministries themselves. Second, the connection between qualification for ministry and the requirement of priestly ordination is less convincing. Both these concerns, along with a few others, are voiced by a 28-year-old Jesuit in theological studies:

It will be harder as lay people take more and more leadership positions in the church to justify having to give up sex and independence. The Society will have to reinterpret ministry as such in the near future. What will make us distinct from committed laity?

            Obviously, the whole question of priestly roles in the church has to be re‑examined in the light of seeing all as being called to ministry. Community has got to change. Jesuit identity within our institutions somehow has to be guaranteed despite the shrinking number of Jesuits. Vocations have sunk to such low levels that it may well be that religious life is dying out and unless there are radical changes it will disappear. I do not see any of the leadership of the Society at present as facing honestly up to the situation. We will be forced to react in the future because we have not been honest in the present about what is going on.

            The third new circumstance conditioning the apostolic direction of the Society of Jesus involves the match or misfit between norms about ministry and their actual operation. The one area in which a reasonable congruence prevails between rhetoric and reality is in Jesuit-lay collaboration. Most Jesuits accept and many of them welcome the advent of a “lay-centered church.” A major concern of the Society is with preparing for the transition by assuring that lay people, whose theology literacy may not be up to snuff, are equipped for the takeover. The strategic question is not whether but how and when.[xxxix]

            But in two other areas, institutional arrangements are out of synch with official rhetoric. Organizational habits have yet to catch up with exhortations toward commitment to the poor. Conversely, no official blessing has been given to the drift of Jesuits into parish and other forms of pastoral work. Here, demographic and organizational changes have outrun suppositions about what Jesuits should be doing.[xl] In the first case, it is a matter of rhetoric outstripping reality; in the second case, of reality outrunning rhetoric. In both instances practical incentives are out of line with the articulation of goals.

            Competition over agenda-setting is the most contentious area of apostolic planning in the Society of Jesus. Claims that the rival priorities given to faith-and-justice endeavors and educational institutions are blendable are not just wishful thinking. But clashes about putting strategic goals into practice persist, especially when they entail decisions about missioning scarce manpower under circumstances when manpower itself has considerable leverage for bargaining.

            Underlying this conflict, however, is a pair of perhaps even less tractable dilemmas. The credibility of hierarchy itself has declined, along with the administrative centralization of the works. The pull toward self-realization in service and away from corporate strategizing begins to look irresistible. The question becomes not one of which agenda or style to adopt (the conciliatory in balance with the adversarial) but of the feasibility of any sort of collective action in religious life.

            In addition, the debate over the faith-and-justice agenda versus the more traditional commitments of the Society fails to address the question of how holy orders – that is, the priesthood – bears on ministry. Once shielded in charismatic mystery, the status of the priesthood becomes all the more puzzling as its practical functions recede. “None of the men I know,” a seminary official, deeply committed to social justice, observed, “care about being a priest. What matters is being a Jesuit.” Such doubts reflect the declining acceptance of celibacy as a prerequisite for ordination. The problem has as much to do with the dubious link between celibacy and priesthood as with the customarily privileged connection between priesthood and ministry. In either case the sacerdotal legacy has fallen on hard ground.

Notes to Chapter Eight 

                [i]Estimated from reports of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association. See also John W. Padberg, SJ, “Of All Things . . .” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 32 (March 2000), iii-iv.

            [ii]See Catherine M. Harmer, MMS, “Religious, the Laity, and the Future of Catholic Institutions,” Review for Religious 53 (May-June 1994), 375-85.

            [iii]Compare George B. Wilson, SJ, “Where Do We Belong? United States Jesuits and Their Memberships,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 21 (January 1989). We were able to tally the assignments of Jesuits in three large provinces – California, Maryland, and New England – at ten-year intervals, starting in 1966 and ending in 1996. The results of this exercise are given in appendix. It reveals a slow decline in the proportion as well as the number of Jesuits in higher education.

            [iv]For an upbeat reading, see Douglas Letson and Michael Higgins, The Jesuit Mystique (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1995).

            [v]Compare Patricia Wittberg, “Declining Institutional Sponsorship and Religious Orders: A Study in Reverse Impacts,” Sociology of Religion 61 (Fall 2000), 315-24.

            [vi]See Clarke E. Cochran, “Another Identity Crisis: Catholic Hospitals Face Hard Choices,” Commonweal (February 25, 2000), 12-16 and Charles E. Curran, “The Catholic Identity of Catholic Institutions,” Theological Studies 58 (March1997), 90-108.

            [vii]On a scale running from one to ten, where one equals “dissatisfied,” the average for former Jesuits is 7.9, and for Jesuits 8.4. The difference is statistically significant. Our results are in line with those reported by Andrew M. Greeley, “A Sea of Paradoxes: Two Surveys of Priests,” America (July 16, 1994), 6-10.

            [viii]See the appendix for a statistical comparison of the occupational distributions of Jesuits and former Jesuits. We cannot rule out alternative explanations for why men who choose to leave the Society are slightly less satisfied with their work than Jesuits. It could well be, as James T. Fisher noticed in going over an early draft, “that a decision to leave a community may be partly grounded in personal characteristics (e.g., a restless, searching nature) less conducive to contentment” (personal communication, August, 2000). When we broke levels of satisfaction down by type of work, we found no significant correlation. The data don’t permit us to dig much further. Ampler life histories would clarify the causal linkages.

            [ix]See the classic statement by Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970).

            [x]See Dean Ludwig, “Adapting to a Declining Environment: Lessons from a Religious Order,” Organization Science 4 (February 1993), 41-56.

            [xi]See Francisco Ivern, SJ, “The Future of Faith and Justice: A Critical Review of Decree Four,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 14 (November 1982); John W. Padberg, SJ, Together as a Companionship: A History of the Thirty-First, Thirty-Second and Thirty-Third General Congregations of the Society of Jesus (Saint Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994), and John Tagliabue, “Jesuits Redefine Their Role and Ties to the Pope,” New York Times (March 23, 1995).

            [xii]Compare Joseph F. Conwell, SJ, “The Kamikaze Factor: Choosing Jesuit Ministries,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 11 (November 1979).

            [xiii]See Simon Peter, SJ, “Alcoholism and Jesuit Life: An Individual and Community Illness,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 13 (January 1981).

            [xiv]See William H.Cleary, Hyphenated Priests: Ministry of the Future (Washington and Cleveland: Corpus Books, 1969).

                [xv]See John W. O’Malley, SJ, The First Jesuits (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Gary Remer, Humanism and the Rhetoric of Toleration (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), and Erika Rummel, The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and the Reformation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).

                [xvi]See Paul A. Fitzgerald, SJ, The Governance of Jesuit Colleges in the United States, 1920-1970 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).

                [xvii]See Geoffrey H. Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Alvin Kernan, ed., What’s Happened to the Humanities? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), and Robert Weisbruch, “Six Proposals to Revive the Humanities,” Chronicle of Higher Education (March 26, 1999), B4-B5.

            [xviii]See Calvin Trillin, Remembering Denny (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993).

            [xix]The situation of the humanities across all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities awaits systematic investigation. It is clear that a few colleges and universities, large and small, continue to emphasize the liberal arts, even if the number of course offerings has fallen off from the peak of the 1950s and sixties. For example, at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, the core curriculum is the same for arts and science and business majors, and it takes up twenty of the forty courses required of undergraduates.

                [xx]See Peter Green, “Homer Lives!” New York Review of Books (March 18, 1999), 45-48; James A. Donahue, SJ “Jesuit Education and the Cultivation of Virtue,” Thought 67 (June 1992), 192-206; Paul Nellis, “Historia Magistra Antiquitatis: Cicero and Jesuit History Teaching,” Renaissance Studies 13 (June 1999), 130-72, and Christopher Stray, Classics Transformed: Schools, Universities, and Society in England, 1830-1960 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

            [xxi]Compare George Sher, “Ethics, Character, and Action,” Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (Winter 1998), 1-17. For an account of the movement away from the fusion between academic and moral training in higher education that locates the origins of this change in the later part of the nineteenth century, see John H. Roberts and James Turner, The Sacred and the Secular University (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

                [xxii]Compare David J. O’Brien, “The Jesuits and Catholic Higher Education,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 13 (November 1981), Julie A. Reuben, The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Tranformation and the Marginalization of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), and Olivier Zunz, Why the American Century? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

            [xxiii]The “nineteenth-annotation retreat” is a variation on the Spiritual Exercises designed for people who cannot devote four full weeks to the experience.

                [xxiv]Compare Alvin Kernan, In Plato’s Cave (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), William P. Leahy, SJ, Adapting to America: Catholics, Jesuits, and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991), and Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, “The Jesuits’ Mission in Higher Education: Perspectives and Contexts,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 15-16 (November 1983-January 1984)..

            [xxv]See however Arthur F. McGovern, SJ, “Jesuit Education and Jesuit Spirituality,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 20 (September 1988).

            [xxvi]See Michael J. Buckley, SJ, “Jesuit Priesthood: Its Meaning and Commitments,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (December 1976) and Avery Dulles, SJ, The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).

            [xxvii]See Ann Swidler, “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies,” American Sociological Review 51 (April 1986), 273-86 and Neil J. Smelser, “The Rational and the Ambivalent in the Social Sciences,” American Sociological Review 63 (February 1998), 1-16.

            [xxviii]The theme of Jesuit-lay collaboration had been taken up as early as the mid-seventies during one of Pedro Arrupe’s visits to the United States.

            [xxix]The Jesuit has in mind scholars like John Dominic Crossan and Elaine Pagels whose work challenges traditional understandings of the historical Jesus and the origins of Christianity. See John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 1998); Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979) and Richard E. Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999).

            [xxx]Compare David Coghlan, SJ, Good Instruments: Organization Development for the Renewal of Ministries (Rome: Center for Ignatian Spirituality, 2000).

            [xxxi]See Dennis C. Smolarski, SJ, “The Ratio Studiorum and New Technology: Opportunities and Challenges,” Explore, Bannan Institute for Jesuit Education and Christian Values 4 (Fall 2000), 22-30.

            [xxxii]Martin R. Tripole, SJ, Faith Beyond Justice: Widening the Perspective (Saint Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994), 9, 25.

            [xxxiii]See for example David O’Brien, From the Heart of the American Church: Catholic Higher Educatrion and American Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994).

                [xxxiv]Compare John A. Coleman, SJ, “A Company of Critics: Jesuits and the Intellectual Life,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 22 (Novemer 1990); Lawrence J. Engel, “The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development,” Theological Studies 59 (1998), 636-61, and Terence McGoldrick, “Episcopal Conferences Worldwide on Catholic Social Teaching,” Theological Studies 59 (1998), 22-75.

            [xxxv]Among Jesuits, the correlation between work satisfaction and satisfaction with the institutional church is .20, and between work satisfaction and moral-sexual conservatism .19. The “church question” was phrased as follows, with a dissatisfaction-satisfaction scale running from one to ten: “Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the direction that the institutional church has taken over the past few years?”

            [xxxvi]The correlation among Jesuits between liberalism on social and economic issues and satisfaction with the performance of Jesuit ministries is .35. The correlation between liberalism on sexual-moral issues and satisfaction with ministries is .23.

            [xxxvii]It should be clear that this line of analysis is based on signficant though less than robust correlations in the .30 range (reported above). If the coefficients were on the order of .50 or .60, interpretation could be more assertive. The tentativeness of the numerical results almost certainly reflects some of the turbulent story behind the reception of the faith-and-justice line among Jesuits. The justice agenda took off at the 32nd General Congregation of the Society (December, 1974-March, 1975), when Pedro Arrupe was in his prime as Superior General. By the 34th General Congregation, twenty years later, a mild reaction (“balance” is the word Jesuits prefer) to this agenda was put in place, in the form, for example, of an insistence on “dialogue with culture.”

            [xxxviii]The correlation between work satisfaction and satisfaction with the performance of Jesuit ministries (.09) is in the right direction but too small to reach statistical significance. Likewise, the correlation between work satisfaction and progressivism on social and economic issues is a wholly insignificant .03.

            [xxxix]See Ralph E. Metts, SJ and Joseph F. O’Connell, SJ, eds., Perspectives on Collaboration: A Workbook (New York: Jesuit Secondary Education Association, 1992).

            [xl]For a step in this direction see Peter D. Byrne, SJ, “Jesuits and Parish Ministry,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 29 (May 1997).

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