Update: a more recent post on this here
I was very sad to see that peace activist Fr. John Dear has been dismissed from the Jesuit order. He writes about it here - Leaving the Jesuits after 32 years
. There's a follow-up story at NCR: John Dear, Jesuit known for peace witness, dismissed from order
. Another NCR post on this is Jesuits made a mistake in letting John Dear go
. And there's this from US Catholic: Jesuits dismiss peace activist John Dear from Society
. Here's a bit from the US Catholic post ...
[...] If Dear's account is accurate--and I have no reason to doubt him--it reflects a general contraction in U.S. religious life that focuses more on a congregation's institutional ministries than on the individual ministries of members. Numbers are too few, and many communities are counting on the fact that their institutional ministries will funnel new members into their ranks. That was my experience in my own brief time in religious life back in the mid-1990s. But it is too bad that at least a "tithe" of a community's members can't be free to be the prophets the church so desperately needs. Dear's no-compromise attitude to miltary service is a necessary voice in the wildnerness in our culture of military glorification, especially in a country that dumps hundreds of billions each year into the military. Sure, Dear is irritating and alienating sometimes, especially to Catholics who make their livings in the military--and so was Isaiah and Jeremiah and John the Baptist--and for that matter, Jesus himself ...
It's strange that Fr. Dear could be a Jesuit for over thirty years and that few of his fellow Jesuits have made any comment on his leaving the order .... I've seen nothing from either James Martin SJ or Thomas Reese SJ, who usually tackle Jesuit issues in the news. America Magazine does have a news bite
on this from the Catholic News Service but it contains no commentary or new information. But two Jesuits, George Murphy SJ
and Edward Glynn SJ
, *did* comment on the situation in the above mentioned NCR article
[...] Jesuit Fr. George Murphy, who as the rector of the order's community in Berkeley, Calif., from 1985 to 1991 oversaw Dear while he attended the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, said he thought Dear was "a fine man."
"I think he was a little impulsive and I suspect he's still got a bit of that of him -- but he's just got a keen sense of justice and a desire for peace in the world," said Murphy, who recalled attending a protest with Dear in San Francisco in 1989 following the killing of several Jesuits by U.S.-trained soldiers at the order's Central American University in El Salvador.
"I know he's had trouble with superiors at different points in his life," said Murphy, the director of spiritual formation at Jesuit-run Santa Clara University. "And I suspect he always will. He's the kind of guy that I would like to give leeway to."
Jesuit Fr. Edward Glynn, who oversaw Dear as provincial of the Maryland province from 1990 to 1996, said while he was not privy to the conversations leading to the priest's dismissal by his successor as provincial, he had the "highest respect" for Dear.
Glynn recalled a visit from Dear when Dear was considering joining a protest at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., in 1993.
Called a Plowshares action, one of a series against nuclear weapons taken by Catholic activists in the last three decades in reference to the biblical exhortation found to turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, the action saw Dear and three others symbolically hammer on a U.S. fighter jet before being arrested.
"He came to see me, and I went through the whole thing with him -- he has to live with the consequences, is he willing to spend time in jail, and what could happen to you in jail -- and he was willing, so I gave him permission to do it," Glynn said.
"Of course, I was thinking in the back of my head that after we have our first nuclear war, we're going to say, 'Where were we when John Dear and all these people were objecting to nuclear weapons?' " he said. "But John did what Jesuits should do -- he got permission, approval from me -- and then I visited him in jail." ...
I like Fr. Dear - I've mentioned articles by him on the blog before (John Dear SJ on being a vegetarian
) and I've read a couple of his books: Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action
and The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life's Great Answers
. I have to wonder if he's getting a fair shake.
Here's one of his talks - - he tells some good jokes ;) ....
And here's a bit from his book, The Questions of Jesus
, on "Who touched my clothes?" (Luke 8:45 / Mark 5:30). It's a little long, but I think it's worth the read ...
* * * * * *
Who Touched Me?
There was a woman who had been hemorrhaging for a dozen years. Doctors had been no help; in fact, they had made her condition worse. She had spent all her money on remedies, to no avail. As a result, the woman was declared unclean by society. When Jesus passed by on some important business with a wealthy synagogue official, and the crowd presses in on him, the woman comes up behind him and touches the tassel hanging from his cloak. "If I just touch him," she thinks, "I will be cured."
Instantly, the woman knows she has been cured. But she does not expect what happens next. Jesus stops in his tracks, turns around, and asks, "Who touched me? Who has touched my clothes?"
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you," his disciples point out, "yet you ask 'Who touched me?' Everyone's touching you!" But Jesus feels the power go out from him. "Who touched me?" he asks, looking around.
The woman is caught. She hoped to be healed anonymously, without interrupting Jesus, without causing a scene, without anyone finding out. She knows she is an "unclean woman", ostracized by righteous holy men. If Jesus knows she has touched him, he might yell at her, like every other man, for making him unclean too.
But it's too late. The woman has broken the law and must face the consequences. So she approaches Jesus "in fear and trembling, falls down before him, and tells the whole truth."
What happens next is as astonishing as the miraculous cure. Jesus looks at the woman and, rather than scolding her, he affirms her, loves her, and gives her back her dignity. "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
Jesus feels the power go out of him, but he does not want to be a magician. Rather, he desires a personal relationship with each one of us, with every human being who ever lived. He is not some magic impersonal god, a healing machine. He is a human being who wants to look us in the eye, love us, and be loved by us. He wants to know us as his daughters and sons. He wants to save each one of us individually, with his own personal touch, so that we might live with him intimately in peace forever.
Jesus practiced what Dorothy Day called gospel personalism. In light of his radical personalism, his question makes sense. In asking "Who touched me?" he wants to know who is close to him, who wants him, who is being healed by him. Over time, Jesus turns away from the crowds and moves closer toward each one of us individually, calling each of us by name, announcing that we are his friends. He is learning the hard lesson that crowds can quickly turn into mobs, and mobs can cause riots. Here, in this moment, Jesus sees that the crowd will eventually turn on him and shout out "Crucify him, crucify him!" So, aware of his own impending death, he looks for the touch of faith, hope, and love from us. He looks for our individual response, and he intends to heal and save us, one person at a time.
Jesus' question leads us to ask some of our own: Have I ever touched Jesus? Do I want to touch him with the same determination as the woman with the hemorrhage? Dare I touch Jesus, risk having him find out, and turn toward me in my brokenness and weakness? Do I want Jesus to know that I touched him? Am I willing to enter that intimate relationship with him that he desires with me?
At some point, each one of us has touched Jesus. Mother Teresa says we touch Jesus in the poor and the homeless. Martin Luther King Jr. says we touch Jesus in the struggle for justice and racial equality. Philip Berrigan says we touch Jesus in the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Don Helder Camara says we touch Jesus in every act of compassion. Mahatma Gandhi says we touch Jesus in the life of nonviolence. Thomas Merton says we touch Jesus in our contemplative prayer and solitude. Dorothy Day says we touch Jesus when we welcome and house the homeless. Oscar Romero says we touch Jesus when we liberate the oppressed. Henri Nouwen says we touch Jesus in one another whenever we recognize each other as a beloved daughter or son of God.
When we touch Jesus, he turns around and asks us to identify ourselves, tell him our stories, and get to know him. He heals us - but he wants more. He needs our companionship, our presence, our love. He wants to be our brother, our companion, our friend.
The gospel invites us to tell him, as did the heroic woman, when we touch him, how he is healing us, and who we are. If we dare, we will not be disappointed.
* * * * * * *