From Our Rome Office WHAT can the Society
of Jesus, the Church's largest and most influential religious order, do to update itself on the lines of the Vatican Council's aggiornainento, without overthrowing fundamentals which, through the centuries, have given the society its brilliant distinction among religious orders?
This is the great problem which the second session of the Jesuits' 38th General Congregation in Rome has been discussing. In the words of one delegate, "a good deal of what we've said is the sort of thing that delights lawyers."
Pope Paul's recent statements and Vatican ll's decrees, particularly the one on the religious life, have had a tremendous impact upon Jesuit thinking.
Even rigid conservatives who a year ago were convinced "no change would be the best change" are now certain that it is time for a new look to be taken at the society in all its aspects.
Their revised stand is largely due to last July's decision to adjourn the General Congregation after its first session so that delegates could go home and think things over quietly. It was the first time in the Society's 425 years that a Congregation was interrupted like that.
And during their year's break the delegates have been thinking hard. As my delegate friend explains, their attitude today emphasises renewal, "the getting rid of what is obsolete rather than blind fidelity to past tradition."
LESS INEQUALITY One matter the Jesuits seem certain to alter is their traditional approach to "grades" in the religious life: some posts being reserved for priests to the exclusion of Brothers, and so on.
The priest-brother distinction is built solidly into the whole Jesuit construction. But taking the Vatican Council as their guide—with its insistence on equality in religious orders— the delegates to the general congregation want to revise any rules that seem to create inequality among Jesuits. All this involves such questions as simple vows and obedience.
AETHEISM ATTACK Besides the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that all religious take, the Jesuits take a fourth vow, pledging special obedience to the Pope. Whatever is changed in the Order one thing is certain: Nothing will undermine the Jesuits' time honoured role as the Church's 'front line soldiers", that is, being in the immediate service of the Holy Father.
This was emphasised last year, when Pope Paul specifically appealed to the Jesuits to spearhead a mighty campaign against the "fearful danger" of atheism throughout the world.
The Superior-General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, has appointed three moderators to prepare and direct the general congregation's sessions. They are Fathers Paolo Dena (Italy), Calvez (France) and Klubertanz (USA). Fr. Antonio de Aldarna (Spain) has been appointed a member of the secretariat for drawing up the acts of the congregation.