When we study the history of the Christian Church in America, we must ask ourselves, What role should the Christian Church play in our society, in our culture, in the making of the values of our nation? What role SHOULD the church play? What role DOES the church play? There is always a spiritual contest between the church and our culture, this contest is summed up in the eternal question: Who is going to influence whom? Will the Church succeed in influencing our culture? Or will our culture instead influence the Church? […]
The Church Fathers of Vatican II believed that the Catholic guarantee of Religious Liberty was crucial for regaining the respect of many believers and the modern world. History had evolved so that the Catholic Church was not on the side of truth regarding religious liberty. From ancient times the Catholic Church was supported first by the Roman emperors starting with Constantine, and then the royalty of medieval Europe, but the absolute monarchies had all disappeared, giving way to dictators and republics, some of which were constitutional monarchies. The Jacobism of the French Revolution and its grandchild communism were the enemies of the church, and the church supported fascism to combat communism. World War II totally discredited fascism, now the Catholic Church saw democracy as the bulwark opposing communism, and religious liberty was a cornerstone for democracy. […]
Although Mussolini’s totalitarian regime was brutal, and although Mussolini was not a practicing Catholic himself, he did cooperate with the Pope and the Catholic Church. Mussolini did not enact Nazi style anti-Semitic race laws until he fell under the spell of Hitler after 1938. Until then, the Catholics in the pews were not morally forced to choose between obeying the church and the state. […]
The Jesuits shares with the medieval orders the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but in addition the Jesuits take a fourth vow. O’Malley emphasizes this fourth vow is not a vow of loyalty to the pope, as many think it, but rather the fourth vow is a vow to go on “mission anywhere in the world, to be ready to travel among the Turks, or to the New World, or to the Lutherans, or to any others whether infidels or faithful.” They looked to the pope to send them out on mission, or to the superior general of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits also differed from the older religious orders in that they did not wear a distinctive habit, they did not give up their family name, and they were not be required to meet for group prayer several times a day.
The Jesuits started a modern ministry, the RETREAT, based on Loyola’s major work, the Spiritual Exercises. Weekend retreats today are common, Jesuit retreats can be longer, and are times of self-reflection similar to Loyola’s time of self-reflection when he asked for God’s guidance. Many in the sixteenth century criticized these retreats for under emphasizing the sacramental and penitential life and over emphasizing the direct communication of the individual believer with God, which many felt was a false mysticism. Indeed, Loyola’s Constitutions, the rule for Jesuits, does not prescribe penances or austerities for the brothers. […]