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Best of 2013: A Jesuit learns to live with a Jesuit Pope

  • 06 January 2014

'What's it like to get a Jesuit pope?' A hard question to wake up to, but I have got used to it during the day.

I must say that I hadn't thought of the new Pope in Jesuit terms. I was glad we had a new Pope, felt the sense of hope and possibility that seems to accompany any such changes, and felt sympathy and benevolence for Cardinal Bergoglio in the demanding responsibilities he had assumed.

But of course then I began to recognise in myself the quirky responses that had quickly to be censored. The partisan reaction, for example. A Jesuit pope, great. Just like a Demons player winning the Brownlow. Eat your hearts out, Magpies ... Franciscans and Dominicans! Look who won the big one.

Censored, too, was the self-congratulatory thought that the new Pope is one of us and will understand our Jesuit ways. And that the Church, of course, will benefit immeasurably from his Jesuit training.

That satisfying reflection was immediately followed by a touch of anxiety that I was also reluctant to share. 'Perhaps he will understand our Jesuit ways all too well,' I thought. 'He will recognise some of the slovenly habits we Jesuits have picked up and send us to reform school.'

By this time people had begun congratulating me on the first Jesuit pope, and sharing our satisfaction that now we had our man in the Vatican. I was mildly irritated. 'Don't they know that when Jesuits become bishops, still less the Bishop of Rome, they do not live under the Jesuit rule? The Pope owes the Jesuits nothing, but the Jesuits owe the Pope respect and obedience in accepting jobs he gives us. He is not our man in Rome.

'And don't they know that Ignatius, the Jesuits' founder, was strongly opposed to Jesuits accepting ecclesiastical dignities, especially becoming bishops and cardinals? He saw it as incompatible with the kind of service to which Jesuits were called. Of course, the good of the universal church sometimes trumps the good of the Jesuit order, so there have been many Jesuit bishops and cardinals. But this is more a cause for grief than for congratulation.'

So I thought to myself with increasing passion. But there was no reason why people should know any of these things, so I accepted the congratulations cheerfully. Congratulations are a way of sharing the hope and cheer