Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Jesuits

One of those pleasures involving a tinge of schadenfreude that some intellectuals indulge in is Blaise Pascal's Provincial Letters, a polemic work in which he takes the Jesuits to task for their real faults and adds quite a few more for good measure.  Actually, the Company of Loyola is perhaps guilty as charged for casuistry -- the splitting of moral hairs so as to allow extra latitude to humans.  However Pascal might have been angelic in his Pense├ęs, the fact was that he was a member of a group of religious cranks that demanded a very harsh moral accounting: the Jansenists.  It was a damned good thing that their cause did not win out in 17th century France.  The Jesuits, with their comparatively easygoing approach to morality was more in line with human psychology.

The Jesuits provided some room for exceptional circumstances that would mollify what would otherwise be overstrictness.  Indeed, St. Ignatius himself was a saint who warned against scrupulosity -- the condition of having an overrefined conscience: being disposed to interprt innocuous actions as being sinful.  By providing a lower moral judgment bar, and offering the prospect of tolerance for individual differences, the Jesuits deserve our thanks.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!   

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