Paul G. Crowley has a look at some future Jesuits. Know what he sees? [Whispers] He sees Episcopal people:
Given the abundance of recent data about the waning of the Christian faith among the young, it might seem foolhardy to suggest that Catholic theology may be on the verge of resurgence. Certainly, many observers warn of theological malaise; some theologians are called to task by ecclesiastical authorities; and the mid-20th-century generation of “great theologians” has passed. Yet theologians can discern the future reflected in today’s students, including those of the North American Jesuit universities, some of whom aspire to become theologians themselves.
Who are we talking about here, Paul?
Over the years I have met a wide variety of students and reflected on the theological education offered them. Without the baggage of ecclesiastical battles and culture wars, students come with whatever they have received from parents and teachers. Increasingly, students reflect not only the cultural and ethnic diversity of society but also some of the wider culture’s positive values, like a strong yearning for a just social order.
Some students claim multiple religious identities and express faith in new ways
Annnnnnnnnd we’re basically done here.
they eschew dogmatism
Actual Christian doctrine, in other words.
and show openness toward people unlike themselves. They are accustomed to immersion in other worlds. Many, even students raised in nonreligious environments, exhibit an ethic of service. Some students pursue a theological vocation not in order to become professional theologians but as part of their search for a theological horizon to inform their lives. A handful will pursue graduate work in theology or ministry, including Protestants who seek a systematic framework for theological reflection. Such students are forcing the current custodians of the flame to imagine with them the future shape of Catholic theology.
American Roman Catholics? If that hellish concept were to actually transpire, the term you’re looking for here is “Eastern Orthodox.”
Who are these students?
You already know so here are just two examples.
As many students see it, religious energy is mushrooming. It is found not only in Catholicism’s ecclesial movements (ranging from Sant’Egidio to Communione e Liberazione) but in the growth of neo-Christian movements and “churches” in developing countries, as well as in the megalopolises (like Los Angeles) of developed countries. Students also see the energy of religion outside Christianity, in Islam and Islamic movements, in Hinduism and even in Buddhism, which is an “institutional religion” with its own texts, rituals and ethical codes. And they witness the muscle-flexing of postcolonial churches in Africa and Asia and the crisscrossing of religious traditions, sometimes within their own families. Many have a mixed religious heritage (Buddhist and Christian, Islamic and Christian, Hindu and Buddhist, Jewish and Christian). Some students even participate in religious practices like Wicca and “paganism.” Within this universe of energy, they are looking for roots. Many hunger for the solid food of theology and a linkage with ancient Christian traditions, even as they also seek to enter non-Christian religious worlds. These students challenge theological views that are too exclusivist or rigid in their understanding of the religious others in their midst. Living within this mix, these students are pioneers.
Actually, these students are Episcopalians but to-may-to, to-mah-to. Then there’s the “spiritous but not religial” crowd.
One should not be too quick to condemn the “I’m spiritual, not religious” mantra of many students, for it may express a desire for more depth than they are being fed in mainstream religious education.
Two dimensions of Christian faith have deep appeal to many of these students. First is their discovery that faith is not the same thing as assent to dogma or adherence to religious duty. Religion in these senses attends faith but does not describe it. Rather, faith is the acceptance of the gift of God’s love in the person of Jesus. It is a relationality “more intimate to me than I am to myself,” to quote St. Augustine. When shared and communicated, that relationality establishes a community of faith. When students see it this way they are freed to focus on the heart of the matter and to appreciate the classical expressions of faith, like the creeds and council teachings.
The second dimension is the notion of God as mystery: God as incomprehensible, ineffable, endlessly knowable and lovable yet not possibly contained or summed up within a single doctrinal formulation. God is not an object alongside others. This too is freeing. It allows students to discover how their search for the spiritual dovetails with the deepest parts of their religious selves. The choice is not between atheism and faith but between simplistic formulations of faith and a journey through life into their own transcendent depths. Many students seek to be religious with spiritual depth.
You get the idea.
Many of you know that Anglicans have religious orders of their own. The oldest of these date back to the 19th century, the great Anglo-Catholic enthusiasm, and have familiar Catholic names like Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.
As far as I know, there is not yet an Anglican Society of Jesus but there probably will be eventually. And when there is, the “real” one will act like there is not and has never been any difference between them.