I noted at the beginning of my series on the “new atheists” (Contra Dennett 1, 2, and 3) that Pope Paul VI entrusted the Society of Jesus with the mission of combating atheism in the modern world. At least one commenter questioned just how effective the Jesuits—and the institutions calling themselves “Jesuit”—have been in answering the Holy Father’s challenge. That’s a fair question, one which might even prompt our least Society to do a bit of soul-searching.
I thought, therefore, it might be useful to reprint Pope Paul’s charge, which came at the outset of the Order’s 31st General Congregation in 1965. The Pope’s exhortation begins by praising the contributions Jesuits have historically made to the Church, mentioning Church Doctors St. Peter Canisius and St. Robert Bellarmine. Pope Paul’s tone is confident, speaking of the Society as the Church’s “most devoted sons.” The laudatory preamble heightens the importance of the substance of the Holy Father’s challenge:
We gladly take this opportunity to lay serious stress, however briefly, on a matter of grave importance: We mean the fearful danger of atheism threatening human society. Read the rest of this entry »