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The Society of Jesus today presents Ignatius in caricature. Modern “Ignatian ideals” blandly encourage people to be caring, tolerant, and understanding. It enjoins them to love diversity and be “men and women for others.” The spiritual aspects, however, are vague. Mentions of the name of Jesus are rare. Sacred Scripture is cherry-picked to support this anodyne, toothless gospel. Teaching from the Catechism is practically verboten. Indeed, after eight years of Jesuit education in the 1980s and 90s, I can honestly say that I didn’t even know what a “catechism” was. Nor did I know what the word “magisterium” meant. I had to figure these things out for myself when my formal education ended and my actual education began.
The real Ignatius, however, was the man who adopted the motto “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem.” Everything he did was for the greater glory of God and the salvation of mankind. The Gospel that he preached was that of Jesus Christ in its full, unadulterated glory. His primary mission was to confront the heretics of his day with logic and sound teaching, and convert them from their errors. As far as dealing with those who enabled or promoted error within Catholic institutions, Ignatius was actually very intolerant. In a letter to Saint Peter Canisius dated August 18, 1554, Ignatius fulminated:
"All public professors and all persons holding administrative positions at the University of Vienna or other universities should be stripped of those positions if they speak negatively about things pertaining to the Catholic religion. We feel the same about rectors, administrators, and teachers at private colleges lest those who should be guiding young people to godliness corrupt them instead. Hence those who are suspect should not be retained there lest they taint the young people. Those who are openly heretical should certainly not be retained. It also seems obvious that those students, if any, who seem incapable of reconsidering, should also be expelled. All schoolmasters and teachers should understand this and be fully aware of the fact that they will hold no position in the king's provinces unless they are, and comport themselves as, Catholics."If such a strategy were applied to Jesuit institutions in our own time, about 80% of their faculty and most of the administration would be fired, and the majority of the students would be expelled. How often we hear those who are given the responsibility of running Jesuit universities, lay and religious alike, declare that so-called "academic freedom" supersedes their duty to hold and teach the truths of the Catholic faith, and not tolerate the proliferation of error. It is well to remember that the Society of Jesus was not always so wishy-washy, as the above quote from their founder amply demonstrates.
In another letter to St. Peter Canisius, Ignatius explains why protestant errors have been able to advance, and reveals the mandate of the Society of Jesus, using particularly vivid language:
"Seeing the progress that the heretics have made in so short a time, spreading the poison of their evil teaching throughout so many countries and peoples, and making use of the verse of the Apostle to describe their progress, and their speech will eat its way like gangrene [2 Tim. 2:17], it would seem that our Society, having been accepted by Divine Providence among the efficacious means to repair such great damage, should not only be solicitous in preparing the proper remedies but should be ready to apply them, exerting itself to the utmost of its powers to preserve what is still sound and to restore what has fallen sick of the plague of heresy, especially in the northern countries.
The heretics have made their false theology popular and presented it in a way that is within the capacity of the common people. They preach it to the people and teach it in the schools, and scatter pamphlets that can be bought and understood by many; they influence people by their writings when they cannot reach them by preaching. Their success is largely due to the negligence of those who should have shown some interest, and the bad example and the ignorance of Catholics, especially the clergy, have made such ravages in the vineyard of the Lord. Hence it would seem that our Society should use the following means to end and cure the evils which the Church has suffered through these heretics."Ignatius then gives suggestions on how to fight the heresies then raging, including the teaching of sound theology in Catholic institutions of higher learning, the creation of short catechisms for teaching the truths of the Church to children, the necessity of well-educated and moral priests to provide examples of virtue for the people, and the publication of pamphlets to specifically refute heretical errors.
These are the true Ignatian ideals as offered by Ignatius himself. Indeed, compassion and tolerance are to be used to assist those in error to understand the true teachings of Jesus Christ, not to confirm them in their errors, or to enable grotesquely sinful behavior because the true Gospel might be "hurtful" or "triggering." Ignatius knew that there is no compassion in enabling sin, nor is there understanding in condoning immoral behaviors.
Can anyone imagine our modern day Jesuits (with a few noteworthy exceptions) using such overtly and unapologetically Catholic language? Had Ignatius been born in 1991 instead of 1491, it is likely he would be rejected by the very order he founded as too "rigid". That, in itself, should tell us all we need to know.
May the Society of Jesus be both Jesuit and staunchly Catholic as it once was. May God send us courageous saints to reform the great religious order founded by Inigo Loyola and return it to its original mandate.
Saint Ignatius, pray for the conversion of your spiritual children.