By John-Henry Westen

ROME, January 7, 2008 ( – The top Vatican official who deals with religious orders, Cardinal Franc Rode, addressed the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) today.  Cardinal Rode who was installed by Pope Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life spoke repeatedly about his “sorrow and anxiety” at the state of the Jesuit order in terms of infidelity to the teachings of the Church.

Cardinal Rode recalled the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius and his primary formula for the order: “To serve the Lord and his Spouse the Church under the Roman Pontiff”

“It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia (thinking with the church) of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families,” he said.

The once illustrious Jesuits, the great defenders of faith, have over the last 40 years been steeped in dissident controversy.  Jesuit priests have featured prominently in the homosexual priest scandal and Jesuit universities and their theologians have been hotbeds of dissent on Church teachings especially those on life and family.

Pope Benedict has put an end to some of the scandal, issuing public corrections of several prominent Jesuit theologians.  Last year, the editor of the U.S. Jesuit flagship publication ‘America’, Thomas J. Reese abruptly resigned after a career of increasing hostility to Church teaching.

The Cardinal’s address is being seen by Vatican watchers as another move in the Pope’s efforts to restore the order to its former glory. 

Later in his address, the Cardinal added, “With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the Hierarchy.” He explained: “The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service ‘under the Roman Pontiff’ does not allow for this separation.  In the Constitutions which he left you, Ignatius  . . .  wrote ‘we must always keep our mind prepared and quick to obey’ . . . the Hierarchical Church”

Addressing specific areas the Prefect said, “May those who, according to your legislation, have to oversee the doctrine of your magazines and publications do so in the light of and according to the “rules for sentire cum ecclesia”, with love and respect.”

Cardinal Rode did not content himself with correction but challenged the Jesuits to avant-garde position in the culture war – the very area where there have been so many traitors within the ranks of the Jesuits. 

“The Tradition of the Society, from the first beginnings of the Collegio Romano always placed itself at the crossroads between Church and society, between faith and culture, between religion and secularism,” said the Cardinal. “Recover these avant-garde positions which are so necessary to transmit the eternal truth to today’s world, in today’s language. Do not abandon this challenge.”

See the full address of Cardinal Rode here:

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