Emphasis and comments are mine :)
The Society of Jesus
Discernment is therefore a pillar of the spirituality of Pope Francis. It expresses in a particular manner his Jesuit identity. I ask him then how the Society of Jesus can be of service to the church today, what are its characteristics, but also the possible challenges facing the Society of Jesus.
The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension,” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself (One would hope not, but perhaps what's in the Spanish speaking world is a bit different that what the English speaking world experiences). The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church.(Why isn't Church capitalized? ugh, the Church universal should be capitalized)" The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension (that's putting it rather nicely),” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church (epic fail, capitalize Church!). So if the Society centers itself in Christ and the church (capitalized when referencing the Universal Church), it has two fundamental points of reference for its balance and for being able to live on the margins, on the frontier. If it looks too much in upon itself, it puts itself at the center as a very solid, very well ‘armed’ structure, but then it runs the risk of feeling safe and self-sufficient (perhaps that's what has happened a ton in the English speaking world the society turning inwards towards itself). The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord (the lack of capitalization of Church is disturbing...it is lowercase when referring to a local church or the parish, but uppercase when referring to the whole Church...to be fair Pope Francis didn't write this interview, but I need to point this out), Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate (all of us are inadequate, but God perfects us with His grace). This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better. (Let's just take a look at the vast majority of colleges ran by the SJ's...how are they doing mission wise? are they faithful to the Church?...(Don't even answer that)”
The pope is referring to the requirement in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus that the Jesuit must “manifest his conscience,” that is, his inner spiritual situation, so that the superior can be more conscious and knowledgeable about sending a person on mission.
“But it is difficult to speak of the Society,” continues Pope Francis. “When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood (Ironic isn't it?...Perhaps he's yet to learn that as Pope, one can't always yap without a script...but of course the reverse holds true too, if you express too little, you can also be misunderstood). The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but by discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. There have been periods in the Society in which Jesuits have lived in an environment of closed and rigid thought (riiiiiiiiiiiiiight), more instructive-ascetic than mystical (well, the Jesuits have never really been Liturgical): this distortion of Jesuit life gave birth to the Epitome Instituti.”
The pope is referring to a compendium, made for practical purposes, that came to be seen as a replacement for the Constitutions. The formation of Jesuits for some time was shaped by this text, to the extent that some never read the Constitutions, the foundational text. During this period, in the pope’s view, the rules threatened to overwhelm the spirit, and the Society yielded to the temptation to explicate and define its charism too narrowly.(Quite frankly, I think it was more or less intellectual pride that got in the way)
Pope Francis continues: “No, the Jesuit always thinks, again and again, looking at the horizon toward which he must go, with Christ at the center. This is his real strength. And that pushes the Society to be searching, creative and generous. So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.(good to see this mentioned)’ This requires much humility, sacrifice and courage, especially when you are misunderstood or you are the subject of misunderstandings and slanders, but that is the most fruitful attitude. Let us think of the tensions of the past history, in the previous centuries, about the Chinese rites controversy, the Malabar rites and the Reductions in Paraguay (Liturgical pluralism in of itself isn't a bad thing).
“I am a witness myself to the misunderstandings and problems that the Society has recently experienced. Among those there were tough times, especially when it came to the issue of extending to all Jesuits the fourth vow of obedience to the pope. What gave me confidence at the time of Father Arrupe [superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983] was the fact that he was a man of prayer, a man who spent much time in prayer. I remember him when he prayed sitting on the ground in the Japanese style. For this he had the right attitude and made the right decisions.” (That worked really well didn't it?)
The Model: Peter Faber, ‘Reformed Priest’
I am wondering if there are figures among the Jesuits, from the origins of the Society to the present date, that have affected him in a particular way, so I ask the pope who they are and why. He begins by mentioning Ignatius Loyola [founder of the Jesuits] and Francis Xavier, but then focuses on a figure who is not as well known to the general public: Peter Faber (1506-46), from Savoy. He was one of the first companions of St. Ignatius, in fact the first, with whom he shared a room when the two were students at the University of Paris. The third roommate was Francis Xavier. Pius IX declared Faber blessed on Sept. 5, 1872, and the cause for his canonization is still open.
The pope cites an edition of Faber’s works, which he asked two Jesuit scholars, Miguel A. Fiorito and Jaime H. Amadeo, to edit and publish when he was provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina. An edition that he particularly likes is the one by Michel de Certeau. I ask the pope why he is so impressed by Faber.
“[His] dialogue with all,” the pope says, “even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”
Michel de Certeau characterized Faber simply as “the reformed priest,” for whom interior experience, dogmatic expression and structural reform are inseparable. The pope then continues with a reflection on the true face of the founder of the Society.
“Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic,” he says. “It irritates me when I hear that the Spiritual Exercises are ‘Ignatian’ only because they are done in silence. In fact, the Exercises can be perfectly Ignatian also in daily life and without the silence. An interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasizes asceticism, silence and penance is a distorted one that became widespread even in the Society, especially in the Society of Jesus in Spain. I am rather close to the mystical movement, that of Louis Lallement and Jean-Joseph Surin. And Faber was a mystic.”
Experience in Church Government
What kind of experience in church government, as a Jesuit superior and then as superior of a province of the Society of Jesus, helped to fully form Father Bergoglio? The style of governance of the Society of Jesus involves decisions made by the superior, but also extensive consultation with his official advisors. So I ask: “Do you think that your past government experience can serve you in governing the universal church?” After a brief pause for reflection, he responds:
“In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation (A tendency to rule absolutely? This I suppose can be both a good and a bad). And this was not a good thing (Let's find out why). My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared (Why did they disappear?). Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy (Perhaps, but with God's grace all is possible right?). I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself (the abruptly part is the only bad thing in this situation really, making decisions on one's own is fine, as superior you have this "right" but one can say it would be wise to consult with others before jumping. But making quick decisions is not a good thing for anyone, one must always be wise and calculated). Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person (Perhaps a good, yet perhaps not so good). He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person (It's never the big things, it's alsways the little things). But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism (Well, if the right decisions are being made, I'd disagree, but if one uses their power corruptly, or incorrectly then absolutely this can happened).
To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger (Well, I guess the word would be moderate). It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems (Or perhaps it wasn't the authoritarianism per se, it may have been what you were deciding) “My authoritarian and quick manner (quick and decisions usually don't go well together) of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative (like this is a bad thing). I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
“I say these things from life experience and because I want to make clear what the dangers are (Okay). Over time I learned many things. The Lord has allowed this growth in knowledge of government through my faults and my sins. So as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I had a meeting with the six auxiliary bishops every two weeks, and several times a year with the council of priests (definitely a good thing). They asked questions and we opened the floor for discussion. This greatly helped me to make the best decisions. But now I hear some people tell me: ‘Do not consult too much, and decide by yourself (Others can lead you astray...this is why one must be careful in consulting).’ Instead, I believe that consultation is very important (Can't consult too much though).
I do not want token consultations, but real consultations.“The consistories [of cardinals], the synods [of bishops] are, for example, important places to make real and active this consultation (With the USCCB, God help us all). We must, however, give them a less rigid form. I do not want token consultations, but real consultations. The consultation group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ advisory group, is not only my decision, but it is the result of the will of the cardinals, as it was expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. And I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.” (Perhaps, we'll see)
a. I must say I don't get a sense that he see's the Church Universal quite yet...even though there were particular problems in his own country. I think that it's good that he's emphasizing faithfulness to the Church, but from the English speaking world, I haven't seen it, maybe the SJ's are different in the non-English speaking world, but from hearing about all the scandals at the Jesuit ran universities at least here in the states...
b. There is a saying that one can let intellect become a sense of idolatry. Perhaps these were some of the problems facing the Jesuits during the time of tension so to speak. Too much intellect didn't allow for the formation of the spiritual, which could have saved them from the major crisis of faith that happened during the 60's and so on.
c. I think it's a little suspect to trust people completely for a job. Perhaps that's the skeptic in me, or perhaps, it's the fact that I believe that a job well done is a job done by one's self. People can betray trust or not come through on a particular project. Now if people manage to come through, great...but I suppose he'll learn that sooner or later.
d. I also get the sense that, perhaps he connects rash and quick judgements with authoritarianism. To be authoritative doesn't necessarily mean that one has to make quick judgements. One can make slow and deliberate judgements and still be authoritative. As I tell my students, I'm an absolute dictator, this is not a democracy...your votes do not matter....But his own mistakes doesn't mean he does not need to be authoritative....In otherwords one doesn't need to be the opposite of what one is just to avoid mistakes...it's called perfecting who you are within yourself....instead of making quick decisions...don't....instead of making the wrong decisions...don't
e. I hope to God that the Bishops' Conferences (save Kazakstan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka)...don't get more power...that is the last thing Bishops' Conferences need....especially with our friends the USCCB and the CCB, Lord knows what will happen if we let the liberals there run the show.