Skip to comments.Peace activist priest dismissed from Jesuits ("obstinately disobedient")
Posted on 01/08/2014 5:27:50 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o
A popular U.S. Catholic priest and author known for his peace writings and some 75 arrests for civil disobedience actions across the country has been dismissed from the international Jesuit religious order, which says he was "obstinately disobedient" to its directives.
Removal of Fr. John Dear caps 32 years in the order for the priest, who has been known for protesting a wide range of issues, including U.S. policies on Latin America, nuclear weapons development, and the cooperation of Jesuit educational institutions with American military recruiting programs such as the ROTC.
The dismissal also raises the specter of Pope Francis, the first head of the Catholic church to belong to the Jesuit order, having to confirm the dismissal of one of the order's members.
Dear, a longtime NCR columnist, writes about the dismissal in his weekly column, posted Tuesday. He writes that he is leaving "with a heavy heart ... because the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has changed so much since I entered in 1982 and because my Jesuit superiors have tried so hard over the decades to stop my work for peace."
Dear also made available to NCR copies of letters from both the Jesuit headquarters in Rome and the Vatican congregation responsible for matters concerning religious life, notifying him of his dismissal. The specific charge against Dear listed in the documents is his refusal to live in a Jesuit community in Baltimore.
The decree from the Jesuits, signed by the order's international superior general, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, and dated June 19, says Dear has been "obstinately disobedient to the lawful order of Superiors in a grave matter."
Dear, Nicolás states, "was duly informed ... that his failure to obey the command that he return to the specified house of the Order by a specified date would be cause for his dismissal from the Society of Jesus."
Nicolás says the matter came to the attention of the Jesuit officials in Rome following a request for action from the Maryland province of the order, one of seven provinces the order maintains in the U.S. and the one in which Dear became a Jesuit.
Nicolás says he and five other members of the Jesuits' international council then held a vote on whether to dismiss Dear, which resulted in a unanimous vote for dismissal.
I'm wondering if there's something else, something related to canon law. Anybody know?
It's good to see that the Jesuits can still exercise discipline --- to some extent --- over their own members. It's a good precedent. It's small, but it's a start.
Let's see if Pope Francis confirms the dismissal.
“...So don’t be vain and don’t be whiny
Or else, my brother, I might have to get medieval on your heiny!”
There are peace advocates and peace activists. The problem is that they want peace through surrender, when the only way to get peace is to WIN it!
There's another douchebag at Jesuit HS in Sacramento who needs to focus on his flock instead of leftist activity.
I suspect this came from the very top. Francis’ biography is clear that though he embraced some of the goals of Liberation theology for the poor, he was very dead set against its Marxist component, and deeply distrusted its secular elements.
The activities of John Dear would be known to him, and the Pope likely saw him to be a viper in disguise.
Appreciate your insight. Even as a Catholic I am still not familiar with the Jesuits, beyond my dear Father Pacua on EWTN, whose name I misspell plenty.
This Jesuit J. Dear apparently jumped the shark politically speaking, and then added disobedience, independence and now resentment towards his fathers in the Church and it seems to me you have a case for a political radical who deserves the boot to the netherregion.
Unfortunately, the Church is home to some socialists and worse, particularly in some regions more than others. We are in trouble with the Enemy—always have been, always will be.
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I don’t know anything directly about this, but I imagine that if he was a peace “activist,” he probably annoyed his superiors by spending too much time on it, not free time but time when he was supposed to be doing something else.
Obedience is one of the vows of the order. Probably he disobeyed orders to report to certain places or do certain jobs because he was too busy being a peace activist.
Rather than discipline for his opinions, they clearly decided to discipline for his failure to follow one of his solemn vows. And to make it clear that he was refusing to mend his ways, they ordered him to report to a “specified house” of the order. He failed to do so, even when he would told that failure would mean dismissal.
So, he was dismissed, with no complicated arguments about whether or not his peace protests were justifiable.
I don’t think the Pope has any say in this matter. It’s the purview of the Jesuits, and the Pope is only a member, not the head of the Order.
" The dismissal also raises the specter of Pope Francis, the first head of the Catholic church to belong to the Jesuit order, having to confirm the dismissal of one of the order's members."
But there's no reason for the Pope to get involved, as far as I can see. The SJ's international discipline committee voted unanimously to remove Fr. Dear from the order, and it seem to me that's that.
If he were being laicized, I think that would be another matter.
So, what does Fr. Dear do now? I know he can't just "freelance" as a priest without having faculties from a Bishop. I suppose he has to go Bishop-shopping and try to get incardinated into a Diocese?
If he operates as a priest without a superior, then he'd be in BIGGER trouble, wouldn't he? Wouldn't that be a canonical delict?
Can. 700 A decree of dismissal does not have effect unless it has been confirmed by the Holy See, to which the decree and all the acts must be transmitted; if it concerns an institute of diocesan right, confirmation belongs to the bishop of the diocese where the house to which the religious has been attached is situated. To be valid, however, the decree must indicate the right which the dismissed possesses to make recourse to the competent authority within ten days from receiving notification. The recourse has suspensive effect.
And then, according to the Commentary, the dicastery that deals with it at the Vatican is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the appeal going to the Apostolic Signatura.
The command seems to have been to return to the mother house, which he refused to do.
Many members of religious orders, from Thomas Merton to Daniel Berrigan, have gotten famous for doing things outside of the vocation of the religious order and have simply rejected the order’s control over them. They became celebrities and the order actually didn’t dare to discipline them.
Merton brought a lot of money into his order and therefore was allowed to live a nice “celebrity monk” life in his own space, write, have guests, travel as he wanted, etc.
Berrigan brought a lot of publicity to his order and they obviously thought this excused everything else he did.
But things have changed, and while I’m sure both Francis and the Jesuits probably think Dear’s leftist “peace activism” is just fine, it seems that maybe they want members of the order to remember that they are, in fact, members of the order.
Word on the street is that the Jesuits had found out that he had asked a Franciscan of the Immaculate to teach him how to offer the Traditional Latin Mass ;)
The Jesuits are in need of major housecleaning.
I haven't seen any evidence of Pope Francis supporting the type of 'peace activism' that this priest espoused. He was an opponent of the liberation theology preached by some of the Jesuits, and other Catholic priests in South America.
That's nonsense, isn't it? Pope Francis, since he accepted the position of Bishop of Rome, is neither under the authority of the Society of Jesus nor in authority over its internal matters.
“Here’s hoping they get rid of Father Phlegm of “St.Sabina’s” in Chicago.”
Father Pfleger is a diocesan priest, so it is up to his bishop to lower the well-deserved boom.
“...Merton allowed to live a ‘celebrity monk life’...have guests, etc....”
Excellent insights - thanks.
Merton most likely had a mistress at one point, his nurse when he was having a knee? operation. I read some letters in an archive at St. Bonaventure many many years ago to this effect. (the nurse was in Kentucky later, not at Bonaventure -Merton was briefly at Bonaventure much earlier). Clearly I have little respect for Merton and it appears that this Jesuit is the same disobendient type - even though different orders of course. Merton was refused admission to the Carthusians in Vt. because they were smart enough not to want to have anything to do with his antics.
Thank you, markomalley! Canon Law marches on.
Amen to that!
To his superior's eternal credit, when Dom James Fox found out about it he instantly summoned Merton into is office, and ordered him to write a letter to the young lady telling her that she was never to see him, phone him, send letters to him, or have any further contact with him, and that he was likewise forbidden to have no further contact with her whatsoever.
To Merton's credit, he obeyed; I personally believe that this was a key moment in his ongoing conversion, and very much hope for him a merciful judgment and a shortened time in purgatory. I will say a Hail Mary for him now. And for her, if she's living. She later married, and she'd be about 60 now.
Mark’s post says these guys, not the Pope himself, sign off on the dismissal: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The writer implied that the Pope had something to do with it, perhaps because of his also being a Jesuit. In actuality, it appears that the relevant Congregation reviews dismissal from any religious order under its jurisdiction.
You’re right; and after the Congregation, he can appeal to the Apostolic Signatura. I think anything thereater can be appealed to the Pope, since he is the Church’s top interpreter of Canon Law, outranking even the excellent Burke.I suspect it won’ go that far.
It would seem to me that Fr. Dear would look at his situation and observe that his objectives are not compatible with his continuing membership in the Society of Jesus. “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
On the other hand, one can imagine situations where a person is dismissed from a religious order because of a personal animosity or a leadership conflict. It makes sense to have the process of review by a less-involved authority.