Tuesday, January 7, 2014


 These are the words of Father John Dear (not the tractor)SJ in an article he has in the National Chismatic Reporter concerning his unjust superiors (which presumably includes Pope Francis) and their move away from 1970's style religious life. (LCWR are you listening?) On top of that another kick in the side to the NCR is that there one and only really, really good reporter, John Allen, is moving over to the Boston Globe! Oh, the humanity of it all!

There are several kinds of clericalism in the Church, the progressive type being the most virulent, that of haughtiness and seeing Church ministry, especially in the priesthood and religious life, be that person a sister or brother, as being self-employed and in private practice, doing as one pleases. This seems to describe Fr. John Dear exactly, but also the mentality of the LCWR.

Is it any wonder Pope Francis wants diocesan bishops to be more involved in the lives of the religious orders in their dioceses?

Leaving the Jesuits after 32 years


 |  On the Road to Peace

This week, with a heavy heart, I am officially leaving the Jesuits after 32 years. After three years of discernment, I'm leaving because the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has changed so much since I entered in 1982 and because my Jesuit superiors have tried so hard over the decades to stop my work for peace -- most recently, when my provincial ordered me to Baltimore but gave me no assignment and, I felt, encouraged me to leave, as many other superiors have done in the past.

According to my provincial, the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has renounced its commitment to "the faith that does justice." It has also deepened its financial involvement with the culture of war and decreased its work with the poor in favor of serving through its universities and high schools. Given this change and the lack of support (and, at times, censure) I have endured over the years and its debilitating effect on my health, I realized I could no longer stay.

This decision was sparked three years ago, when Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., removed my priestly faculties because he objected to the prayer vigils for peace and against nuclear weapons development I was leading at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of nuclear weapons. He had received many complaints regarding my peace efforts over the years from the local pastor in Los Alamos and other Catholics who work in Los Alamos, building nuclear weapons.

After this, Fr. James Shea, my Jesuit provincial, the head of the Maryland Province, ordered me to leave New Mexico and return to Baltimore, to be near province headquarters. Instead of supporting my work for peace, he was embarrassed by it. I moved to Baltimore, where the archbishop there gave me full priestly faculties as a priest in good standing, though I was not given an assignment by my provincial. Over the course of several meetings, I felt Fr. Shea was urging me to stop my work for justice and peace and leave the society. He said, for example, that nothing I have done over the last 10 years has had anything to do with the Society of Jesus.

He explained to me that the Society of Jesus has renounced Fr. Pedro Arrupe's groundbreaking vision of justice and the documents of the 31st and 32nd General Congregations, which call for a radical commitment to justice. It no longer advocates for justice or works for justice, he told me. The Maryland Province has closed all its projects that serve the poor. From now on, he said, because the number of Jesuits is in sharp decline, U.S. Jesuits will only serve in our 25 universities and 25 high schools. This direction, it seems to me, differs vastly from the order I entered in 1982, with its visionary call to "accompany Jesus as he carries the cross in the struggle for justice." If I stayed, he said, I would have to work in one of the Jesuit high schools.

In recent years, I've been saddened to see many Jesuits involved in the U.S. military, our schools deepen their involvement in the U.S. military, and Jesuits permitted to work even in places such as the Los Alamos Labs, West Point, and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As far as I can tell, Jesuits who work for the military can continue their work. I've been especially saddened that the Jesuits at Loyola University in Baltimore have been allowed to hold an annual Mass where after Communion, they bring their nearly 100 ROTC cadets into the sanctuary to profess an oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." I told my provincial that I consider this blasphemy, a mockery of Jesus and the Eucharist, but he said he had no problem with it.

So after five months in Baltimore as a priest in good standing, I moved back to New Mexico, went on a leave of absence from the Jesuits, continued my discernment, asked to leave and this week, left the society. I'm still a Catholic priest but have no priestly faculties. I doubt any U.S. bishop will give me faculties because most also object to my work against war and injustice, so I'm not sure if I will remain a priest.

In his recent America interview, Pope Francis spoke of the great harm he did when he was a Jesuit provincial through what he called his "authoritarianism." For decades, my friends and I have suffered under similar authoritarianism. We believe many U.S. provincials and superiors abuse the vow of obedience to suppress public, political work for justice and peace, which we regard as central to discipleship to Jesus and at the heart of the Jesuit mission.

I've long believed that Jesus was nonviolent and that he commands us to put down the sword, love our enemies, and become peacemakers and justice-seekers. I think that means every Christian has to become nonviolent and reject war and violence, and that the church, locally and globally, has to reject war and violence and espouse and practice nonviolence. Also, that every religious order has to reject war and violence and espouse and practice nonviolence. If Jesus really is the divine embodiment of peace and nonviolence, then everything has to change to fit within his vision and methodology of nonviolence.

My vocation is to follow the nonviolent Jesus by teaching and practicing the Sermon on the Mount, resisting the culture of war and injustice, and proclaiming and welcoming God's reign of peace and nonviolence. I've been told in very clear terms by many Jesuit leaders that U.S. Jesuits do not do this. I'm very sad about this and am moving on to try to remain faithful to my calling. I'm grateful for all the wonderful experiences I've had as a Jesuit -- the studies, retreats, prayers, travels, good works and, most of all, friendships.

I think the nonviolent Jesus wants us -- all of us -- to work as best we can in these critical times for the abolition of war, poverty, nuclear weapons and catastrophic climate change so God's reign of peace will spread. So I have joined the staff of Pace e Bene, a small group that works to promote Gospel nonviolence. I'm also helping to organize Campaign Nonviolence, which calls for demonstrations across the country in every congressional district before the elections this fall to protest war, poverty and environmental destruction, beginning with a national gathering Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. I hope everyone will join this exciting movement. We need everyone's help.

I thank all those who have supported me and my work over the years and ask for your prayers in this time of transition, that I might continue to do my part to promote God's reign of peace and justice for many years to come. Let's also pray that the Society of Jesus and the church might uphold the nonviolence of Jesus more and more. May the God of peace bless us all!


Anonymous said...

Snide, snotty, mean spirited, uncharitable, unchristian remarks.

Anonymous said...

...and supercilious.

Gene said...

All these "peace"types are a totally narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-righteous bunch of twits. I've known them since the 60's. The guys are dumb and the girls are easy...

Anonymous 2 said...

Not to belabor the obvious but there seem to be two issues here:

(1) Assessing the value of such work for justice and peace.

(2) Assessing Father Dear’s disobedience to the orders of his superiors and their expressed need for him to serve in another capacity in light of changed circumstances.

Whatever one thinks about these respective issues, it is probably helpful to keep them separate in thinking through the case.

rcg said...

I remember that incident. The doofus was hammering on a fuel tank. It is MUCH safer to bang on a an actual nuclear weapon.

John Nolan said...

"Abolition of war". War is endemic to the human condition and inseparable from human progress. "Abolition of poverty". Since poverty is a relative concept, this is a non-starter. "Abolition of nuclear weapons". Once a particular technology has been developed, it can't be uninvented. We have to live with it. "Abolition of catastrophic climate change". The climate has always been changing, and it is probable that our activities have little effect. You might as well argue for the abolition of the sun and the moon, or of ocean currents.

I thought Jesuits were supposed to be intelligent.

rcg said...

Not this one, John. He can't even work a hammer.

Anonymous 2 said...

John, I have some questions:

“‘Abolition of War.’ War is endemic to the human condition.” Why, then, have liberal democracies never (or very rarely depending on the definition of “liberal democracy”) gone to war with one another but only seem to have to go to war with nondemocratic and illiberal regimes?

“‘Abolition of poverty’". Since poverty is a relative concept, this is a non-starter.” Agreed, poverty will likely never be completely eliminated, especially if it is defined in relative terms. But isn’t it possible to aim for significant improvements as part of the “progress” you celebrate?

“‘Abolition of nuclear weapons.’ Once a particular technology has been developed, it can't be uninvented. We have to live with it.” Agreed. But isn’t a collective decision not to use such weapons one way (perhaps the only way) of “liv[ing] with” them?

“‘Abolition of catastrophic climate change’ The climate has always been changing, and it is probable that our activities have little effect.” Isn’t the jury still out on this? And, if the jury returns a verdict of guilty for humanity, what then?

And a general question: What is Catholic teaching on all these matters?

I am not trying to pick a fight on these matters. But I am just wondering if antipathy towards the antics of Father Dear may be provoking some overly broad reactions.

Anonymous 2 said...

Rcg: That’s funny about the hammer. If ever I find myself banging on a nuclear bomb I will console myself with that thought.

John Nolan said...

Anonymous 2

As far as I am aware one can be a Catholic and support nuclear deterrence (many do) and be sceptical about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, as is Cardinal Pell. The Church can set moral guidelines but is not an authority on these matters. Pope Francis may have a penchant for Peronist economics, but he can't expect everyone to agree with him.

The Church strove with some success to reduce the incidence of warfare and mitigate its savagery, but forays into the field of arms control (As seen in attempts by Urban II in the 11th century and Innocent II in the 12th to ban the crossbow) were notably unsuccessful.

John Nolan said...

And although the peaceniks will focus on Dear's pacifist tendencies, on many other matters he is an out-and-out heretic. We don't need these people masquerading as priests, in the Society of Jesus or anywhere else. Bloody good riddance, I say.

Bobby said...

What is upsetting to me is not Fr John Dears peace activities, but his lack of respect for authority. As some have commented, it represents a sort of narcissistic clericalism of the left. I actually support some of his causes, but more importantly I believe , I accept the authority of the Church over the authority of Fr. John Dear. The fact that he would write such a letter singling out his opposition to specific superiors and bishops just demonstrates his lack of humility, his narcissism and general immaturity. The mission of the Church is not MY mission, or YOU mission. It is OUR mission of ONE Church, and we rely on authority , not blind, or malevolent authority, but prudential authority, as clearly exercised by the Jesuit Order. Dear Fr. John Dear, it is time to grow up, and if you want to be a peacenik hippie (which I personally have no problem with) youll have to do it on your own if you cannot follow the authority handed down by Holy Mother Church.

Anonymous said...

Narcissistic clericalism is alive and well on the right as well as the left. Anyone remember the "Black Sheep Dog" John Corapi?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Remember him well, but he was a phony and perhaps psychopathic liar. I don't think this former Jesuit is either of those.