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COMMUNITY VIEW

The Journal News Saturday, March 17, 2001 7B

Most Jesuits do not oppose the teachings of the Catholic Church


Dimitri Cavalli As a graduate of Fordham University in the Bronx, I was ecstatic when I read that Pope John Paul II elevated the Rev. Avery Dulles, the Jesuit theologian, to cardinal. Although Dulles' intellectual abilities, scholarship, character and decades of service to the Roman (Jatholic Church were being recognized by the pope, I think that the tribute also helps refute the popular image in the media and among many Catholics that the Society of Jesus is filled with priests who actively oppose many of the church's teachings. There is no denying that there are plenty of Jesuits who are leading dissenters within the church. For example, the late theologian the Rev. Richard McCormick of tie University of Notre Dame pubIjply opposed the church's teachiags on contraception, sterilization, divorce, homosexuality and fye ordination of women. In his article for Commonweal (Feb. 27, 1998), McCormick claimed that dissent was necessary to achieve progress, and that Catholics "must learn to institutionalize dissent and profit from it." (To his credit, McCormick strongly opposed abortion and euthanasia.) From 1971-1981, the Rev. Robert Drinan served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from Massachusetts. Actording to an article by Professor James Hitchcock in Catholic World Report (June 1996), Drinan repeatedly deceived the Rev. Pedro Arrupe, the father general of _the Society of Jesus in Rome, in order to obtain and hold his seat in Congress. As a congressman, Drinan brought shame to the Jesuit order by voting for public financing of abortions. He also served as a" role model for future liberal Catholic politicians by claiming to "personally oppose" abortion while strongly supporting its legalization. In 1980, the pope, who objected to priests holding political office, forced Drinan to leave Congress. The Jesuit remained active in liberal politics, however, serving as the unofficial chaplain for the pro-abortion movement In 1996 Drinan sunk to a new low when he defended President Clinton's veto of a bill to outlaw partial-birth abortions in an oo-ed piece in The New York Times. Af.ter a substantial outcry from Catholic leaders, including the late Cardinal John O'Connor, Dri.fian retracted his position. To varying degrees, McCormick, Drinan and even Daniel Berrigan represent a significant faction in the Society of Jesus that seeks to reshape Catholicism in order to accommodate the prevailing secular culture and achieve progress through social activism. By contrast, Jesuits such as Avery Dulles, while supporting ecumenicism and dialogue with other faiths and traditions, refuse to compromise important truths and seek to reform society by reforming the culture. Writing in America (June 20,1998), Dulles opposed efforts to undermine the church's teachings through moral relativism and subjectivism, arguing that a "religion that firmly adheres to its sacred heritage can make itself a sign of hope and a beacon of truth to the multitudes who are repelled by the easy relativism and cheap hedonism of popular culture." Dulles is hardly a lonely voice in the Society of Jesus. His fellow Fordham Jesuit, the Rev. Francis Canavan of the political science department, is also well known among traditional Catholics as a perceptive critic of contemporary liberalism. In his book, "Pins in the Liberal Balloon" (1990), Canavan observed that most Catholic dissidents today seem exclusively preoccupied with "the restraints which Catholic moral doctrine puts on the sexual appetite. One is left sadly wondering: Has the Reformation come to this?" Every two years, a group of Jesuit scholars meet at the John Paul II Symposium to discuss the pope's teachings on several important issues. Although the participants do not always agree with one another, they generally approve of the direction Pope John Paul II has steered the church during the 23 years of his reign. Unlike Catholic dissident organizations such as Call to Action and We Are the Church, the symposium receives very little attention despite attracting some of the most brilliant minds in the Society of Jesus. In 1999, the Revs. John Conley and Joseph Koterski co-edited a collection of papers delivered at previous symposiums in the book, "Prophecy and Diplomacy: The Moral Doctrine of John Paul II." Despite the widespread publicity over Avery Dulles' elevation to cardinal, those Jesuits who are eager to explain why the pope; is wrong on a particular issue-will probably continue to receive"-a public platform. When this happens, Catholics should remember that there are also many Jesuits who are more than willing to1 explain why the pope is making a Jot of sense. All we have to do is ioolc for them.
The writer is a Bronx resident. '