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Jesuits IIn our last post, your humble blogger informed the loyal readership that the Soap Bubble Papacy™ Page was finally completed and put up on the Deus Ex Machina Blog. One of the post that caught your humble bloggers eye was titled Religious Order Whose Mission on Earth is Coming to an End. (see here) Today’s post will be an update to that post written on the 18th of June 2015, or roughly one year ago.

For your information, the title of this post comes from a quote attributed to Francis, the bishop of Rome, addressed to the religious of an order who were having a hard time coming to terms with the “new springtime of the spirit of Vatican II”, and went something like this:

It is just another religious order whose mission on Earth is coming to an end, but does not want to sell its real estate.

I have not put the above in quotes since I have misplaced the source of this quote. Once I find it, I will source it. In the mean time, if any of my readers come across it, please feel free to drop the link in my comment box.

But back to the subject at hand. In the above mentioned post, the following  was written:

An example of a negative case for the Restoration can be seen at the Catholic Heirarchy website. Here the news is also very good with respect to the recently published 2014 statistics for the Society of Jesus. It would appear that in 2014, the Society lost a net 191 priests and net 279 male religious. The even better news is that it lost 38 parishes. Here is a snap shot of the results:

Jesuits 2015

And then your humble blogger made a forecast, namely:

Furthermore, the news is even better. Seeing as we are already midway through 2015, it could be likely that the Society has fallen below 12,000 priests and definitely fallen below 17,000 male religious.

So how did our prognostication pan out?

Below is the same table, with the 2015 totals:

Jesuits 2016

It would appear that in 2015, the Society lost a net 129 priests (less than the previous 191) and net 268 male religious (a bit less than the previous 279). With respect to lost parishes, the Society lost another 26 parishes (less than the previous 38 parishes).

With respect to our prediction, both turned out to be accurate in that as of the end of 2015, the Society manpower fell below 12,000 priests and 17,000 male religious.

Given the above, and if one wants to look at the bright side, from a Jesuit’s perspective that is, one can say that the Jesuits rate of decline is slowing. And it would appear that this is “big news” in the Jesuit-o-sphere.

Needless to say, there are voices that are playing this narrative for all it’s worth. One such source for this “arresting the decline” NARRATIVE comes via Anne Hendershott of the Catholic World Report. Here is what Mrs  Hendershott writes: (see here) (emphasis added)

Defying predictions of what some anticipated as an “implosion” of the Society of Jesus in America just a few years ago, the Jesuits recently announced the ordination of 20 new Jesuit priests in the US, Canada, and Haiti in 2016. In 2015, 28 new priests were ordained in the US and Canada—the largest group to be ordained in 15 years. That same year the order welcomed a robust class of 44 novices. In 2014, 19 new Jesuit priests were ordained.

So the above is one side of the coin. Yet there are voices, you know the ones, those “Long-faced, mournful funeral Christian!”, those “Inquisitorial beater!” who claim that the laws of mathematics apply to everyone and everywhere and always, even to Jesuits,  coming from the National Catholic Register. These “Specialist of the Logos!” are not impressed by this “lack of anticipated implosion”. One of these “Rigid Christians!” voices is Patrick Reilly, writing at the National Catholic Register. Here is what Mr. Reilly has to say about the same subject matter, i.e. the 2016 North American Jesuit ordination totals: (see here)

Unfortunately, the ordinations have given rise to misleading claims that the Jesuits’ membership woes are coming to an end. Last month, a Jesuit official told the National Catholic Register that “the trends of new Jesuit entrants show demographic stability is on the horizon.” As best I can determine, that’s fantasy. It’s easy to understand why the Jesuits would look for any sign of hope after decades of decline, but exaggeration is dangerous if it diverts attention away from a very real crisis that is deeper than the numbers alone.

And on what basis does Mr. Reilly assert his pessimistic opinion of what he was told by “a Jesuit official”? Further down we read the following:

If we take the deceased into account, any prediction of approaching “stability” in the Society of Jesus seems ludicrous. The Register reports that the average age of the North American Jesuits is 65. In the period 2008-2013, CARA counts 445 Jesuit deaths in the United States, an average of 89 per year. In the same period, the U.S. Jesuits had a net gain of just 10 novices per year, subtracting those who departed from those who stayed.

So as we see, the better case is made for the “Jesuits in Free Fall” NARRATIVE than the Jesuits “arresting the decline” NARRATIVE.

What is also of note is the lack of accurate statistical data for a religious organization that has an entire “research center, affiliated with Georgetown University whose mission is to conduct  social scientific studies about the Catholic Church (CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH IN THE APOSTOLATE – CARA). If this “research center” can’t keep track of 16,740 Jesuits… or is that 16,376 Jesuits, and draw inferences as to whether the Society is “in FreeFall” or “arresting the decline”, then one has to ask the question: Just how sound are their “research activities”.

Come to think of it, where did the 16,376 figure in the above paragraph come from?

This figure represents 364 dead Jesuit bodies (16,740 – 16,376). In terms of annual decline, this is about 1.3 years worth of dead Jesuits. Here is the explanation:

I’ve been told by the spokeswoman for the North American provinces that this year’s membership is 16,376 worldwide. That makes perfect sense; it’s consistent with the trends. By contrast, recent news reports claim “more than 17,000” and “just over 18,000,” but they cite no sources for their data. Those numbers couldn’t possibly be correct.

So it would appear that there are two sets of statistics, one for external mass consumption and one for internal purposes.  The statistics for internal consumption appear to be the ones that “make perfect sense” in terms of OBJECTIVE measuring CRITERIA.

Concluding, in the bigger scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if the accurate count of Jesuits world wide is 16,740 or 16,376. What is important is the following:

  1. First, the Jesuits do not appear to be honest enough to provide accurate figures for the true state of the membership in their organization. What is the point of hiding 364 Dead Jesuits?
  2. The above leads to the following observation: if the Jesuits can’t be honest with respect to the true state of their organization, (putting out dishonest spin and over-bloated membership figures), then it is hard to see that this kind of an organization, an organization in denial, will be able to set out an OBJECTIVE restructuring plan to arrest this decline.

If there is one silver lining in the cited text, it is the following:

Excitement is building for Jesuits worldwide as their general congregation to elect a new superior general is quickly approaching this fall. The election presents an important opportunity for them to reflect on the future of the Society of Jesus—and to address serious concerns. Even under a Jesuit Pope, the order suffers from a steady decline in membership, dissent and moral confusion within its ranks, and a widening gulf between many Jesuit universities and the Church.

I guess we will have to wait and see if saner, more rational elements within the Society can be elected.

I for one an not holding my breath. I keep reminding myself that Jesuits are neo-modernists, and just as with other neo-modernist, Dishonesty Is The ONLY Neo-Modernist Policy. (see here)