Sunday, October 02, 2005

The gaying and graying of the priesthood

Once upon a time the Society of Jesus was the spearhead of the Counter-Reformation and mission to the New World.


McDonough and Bianchi base Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits on their interviews with several hundred Jesuits. The number of American Jesuits declined from the peak in 1965 of 8,393 to the 2000 figure of 3,635, and is still falling. The Jesuits have changed from a cohesive, disciplined society to a loose association of groups held together by little more than the name Jesuit and a common administrative structure. The old close-knit Catholic communities from which Jesuits were recruited have dissolved, as have the theological certainties that sustained those communities. Jesuits turned to psychology for salvation, and reinterpreted Ignatian spirituality to arrive at a therapeutic religion.

Sexual dissent among Jesuits is the most controversial issue. McDonough and Bianchi hesitate to guess the size of the gay population in the Jesuits, but one Jesuit they quote estimates it as a fifth of the total, another as a majority of Jesuits under age 40. Sexual orientation has replaced nationality as a way that Jesuits identify themselves. A substantial gay presence in a religious house is disruptive because of the discomfort that heterosexuals feel about the gay lifestyle (celibate or not). As heterosexual Jesuits age or depart, the “‘gaying and greying’ of the Society” advances.

Jesuits have been feminized in other ways: “God the Father has become the least popular manifestation of the deity.” Confrontation is out, dialogue is in. Jesuits have “shifted from a masculine assertiveness to a feminine emphasis on conciliation and healing.” Current Jesuits claim devotion to Jesus, but he does not seem to be the Jesus of the Gospels, the Son of the Father, but an androgynous therapist. Former Jesuits drift off into vague Protestant liberalism mixed with New Age and Eastern elements, but even some current Jesuits have no sure answers to this question: Is the risen Jesus figurative, or divine, or what?



  1. It's sad that the homosexual priests that have been so brave are now getting old. We can only hope God raises up more. Amen?

  2. (1) Isn't the diversity within Roman Catholicism simply great?

    (2) I've been told by a few people that I'd make a good Jesuit, given my personality. Depending on whether we're talking about the J's of old or the more recent J's, we either have an accurate assessment of my personality, or somebody thinks I'm an effeminate lib!

  3. rev james,

    If you are trying to be funny, you're not.

    If you are serious, then your plight is worse than you seem willing, or able, to imagine.

    Either way, how the judgements of Elohim are rendered in the end, will not be influenced by the immoral sentiments of fallen man.

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