Speaking out of what he called sadness and anxiety, the Vaticans top official for religious life has called upon the Jesuit order to obey the hierarchy, to defend church teaching and to deepen its commitment to think with the church.
Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rod specifically urged the Jesuits to greater fidelity in theological work as well as in your magazines and publications, both areas of tension between the Jesuits and the Vatican in recent years.
The comments came in Rods homily for the opening Mass this morning in Rome of the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits. The gathering of 225 Jesuits representing the entire order, which is expected to last at least a month, will elect a new leader to replace Dutch Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach and set policy for the next couple of decades.
In effect, Rods homily represents the Vaticans attempt to help frame the agenda for the Jesuits deliberations.
Noting that the Jesuits exercise wide influence through their seminaries, colleges and universities, Rod said he wanted to share both his joys and hopes and his sorrows and anguishes as the General Congregation gets underway.
After praising the order for thousands of religious who generously respond to the Lords call, Rod cited several areas of concern.
First, he warned of a waning sense of sentire cum ecclesia, meaning to think with the church. Love for the church, Rod argued, was central to the vision of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits in the 16th century.
It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families, Rod said. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus ecclesiae.
Rod also bluntly called for greater obedience to the hierarchy.
With sadness and anxiety, I also see a growing distancing from the hierarchy, he told the Jesuits. The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service under the Roman Pontiff does not allow for this separation.
The fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in uniting the love for God with love for the hierarchical Church, Rod said.
Cardinal Rod has said exactly what needed to be said as the Jesuits meet to choose the new Jesuit General.