By William Po
In 2013, Francis, the first Jesuit pope, canonized the Jesuit Peter Faber (1506-1546) who, with founder St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) and four others, vowed poverty, chastity and obedience on Montmartre in 1534 in forming the Compañía de Jesús (which was Latinized into Societas Jesu) – the Jesuit order. Others among the 53 Jesuit saints are Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), theologian, cardinal and one of 36 Doctors of the Church; Edmund Campion (1540-1581), one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), the first Catholic priest on Manhattan Island and one of the North American Martyrs; Francis Borgia (1510-1572), third Superior General of the Society of Jesus, a great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo de Borja, 1431-1503) and a white sheep of the Borgia family; and Robert Southwell (1561-1595), another of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, hymnist and writer who, according to John Klause’s Shakespeare, the Earl and the Jesuit, deeply influenced his “cosen” William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
The Society of Jesus was not founded to combat Protestantism. Yet Jesuits are teased with lines that go like “the Dominicans were founded to combat Albigensianism whereas the Jesuits were founded to combat Protestantism, and when was the last time you saw an Albigensian?” Rather, the Society was founded at Montmartre, then just north of Paris, in 1534 and received Pope Paul III’s formal approval in 1540, but the Counter-Reformation, the beginning of which is usually dated to the start of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), very quickly became part of its mission.
Noted for their evangelization, missions, and retreats, all often involving the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Jesuits are perhaps best known for their work in education and have founded myriad schools. In India alone, more than five-dozen Jesuit colleges operate. The Society educates and trains future Church leaders in Rome at institutions including the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute: graduates of these three institutions include one fourth of the world’s current bishops and half of the cardinals who voted in the most recent papal conclave. Jesuits have been noted for their erudition and formidable formation: Peter McDonough’s history of the Jesuits, for example, first published in 1991, was titled Men Astutely Trained: A History of the Jesuits in the American Century.
In science, as in many fields, Jesuits have made great contributions. Currently 35 lunar craters commemorate Jesuit scientists including:
- Christoph Clavius (1538-1612), the German Jesuit mathematician, astronomer, and one of the two architects of the Gregorian calendar. The 231-km (143-mile) diameter crater Clavius is the second largest on the Moon’s near side.
- Christoph Scheiner (1573 or 1575–1650), the German Jesuit physicist and astronomer noted for his solar observations is the eponym of a 110-km (68-mile) diameter lunar crater.
- Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618-1663) drew lunar maps based on the work of other astronomers and his fellow Italian Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671) provided names for features on one of Grimaldi’s maps. Grimaldi is a 173-km (108-mile) diameter crater to the southeast of the nearby 146-km (91-mile) diameter Riccioli.
- Niccolò Zucchi (1586-1670) with fellow Italian Jesuit Daniello Bartoli (1608-1685) may have been the first to observe Jupiter’s cloud belts (1630). Zucchius is a 64-km (40-mile) diameter crater honoring Zucchi.
I have been Catholic since my baptism as an infant several decades ago. I never attended any Catholic school, let alone a Jesuit one. I have been grateful for the many excellent publications from Ignatius Press which Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. (a former pupil of Joseph Ratzinger – later Pope Benedict XVI), founded in 1978. I even subscribed long ago to Ignatius Press’ Homiletic & Pastoral Review for a year or two. But until about 2016 when I began attending Sunday Mass and making confessions at the Church of St. Francis Xavier at 46 West 16th Street in Manhattan just west of Xavier High School, a Catholic, Jesuit, college preparatory school for young men, I had very little experience with Jesuits.
My experiences with them have disappointed me terribly.
The “Nicene Creed” in the Xavier Mass program has for years appeared as and became human rather than and became man. Among the many ministries at the Church of St. Francis Xavier are an Environment Ministry, a group for Catholic Gay Men and another for Catholic Lesbians. Announcements in the parish bulletin for the Catholic Lesbians frequently include the neologisms herstory, often referring to the Stonewall uprising, and womyn, often referring to Catholic saints. The Catholic Lesbians even announced that “Christianity vs. Love” is a battle in Uganda (13 and 20 October 2019 bulletins). Eucharistic Ministers and other Mass servers often wear rainbow ribbons or rainbow suspenders, presumably to express support for LGBTQ+ Pride, if not exclusively for supporting pants. Xavier is woke.
Fr. Daniel Corrou, S.J., was appointed Acting Pastor in 2018 following the removal of Fr. Robert Fr. VerEecke, S.J., after Fr. VerEecke acknowledged committing “boundary violations” against an adult parishioner. The initial announcement of Fr. VerEecke’s removal in a letter dated 15 September 2018 from Jesuit Provincial Fr. John J. Cecero did not state that the adult parishioner was male, but Fr. Corrou did make that clarification. Fr. VerEecke had been a pastor at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Boston, another Jesuit community. Catholic publications there lodged complaints against St. Francis Xavier in Boston similar to mine about the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan.
At the 11:30 am Mass on Sunday, 17 March 2019 (St. Patrick’s Day), at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, the homily was given by a layperson, a woman who described herself as an “atheist Roman Catholic,” who mentioned that she had some problems with the Creed (if she meant the gender-neutered one used at Xavier, we at least had that in common). During her homily she gestured to a woman she identified as her wife. Fr. Corrou celebrated that Mass. Near its end, Fr. Corrou proclaimed that forty is a big number and had another lesbian couple come to the front of the altar to acknowledge and applaud their partnership of forty years. I left the pew and stood just outside the opened inner entrance doors. After Mass ended, Fr. Corrou spotted me and detoured slightly to shake my hand. “Is this a Roman Catholic Church?” I asked pointedly as a porcupine. “Yes” he replied. “Shouldn’t traditional Catholicism have primacy if not exclusivity of place?” I then asked. “I think it does” he responded. “I don’t think so” said I.
During Fr. Corrou’s pastorship, the Church of St. Francis Xavier has promoted the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., via announcements following Communion at Mass despite that the Women’s March is pro-LGBTQ+ rights, pro-artificial birth control, has excluded women’s pro-life groups and advocates the exclusion, via homicide, of living unborn human beings from earthly life itself. Why is the Church of St. Francis Xavier cooperating with that? The inclusivity at Xavier sometimes has narrower limits than are trumpeted in its mission statement and in ways violently contrary to Catholicism.
During one homily, Fr. Corrou told of his lesbian friend who started a new relationship and with it a big reform in her life… she lost weight. Well, for decades obesity has been increasing around our orb, gluttony is a sin and sometimes contributes to obesity, and I fondly recall that great big fat writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) (whose name was given to a 37-km (23-mile) diameter crater on Mercury in 2012) commenting that perhaps thin monks were holy, but I am sure it was the fat monks who were humble. Losing excess weight is great, but in Fr. Corrou’s pastoral care, losing a sexual appetite that is disordered with respect to the unitive and procreative functions of sex is not encouraged. Fr. Corrou wrote in the 31 March 2019 Xavier bulletin: If being Catholic, or Jewish, or religious of any kind, meant to be confined to a ritually pure box, or to an unhealthy obsession with sexual ethics, then it loses any touch with reality. What is, according to Fr. Corrou, a box of purity, must be squashed.
In the bulletin of 23 June 2019, the Feast of Corpus Christi, Fr. Corrou unboxed more of his thoughts:
I am always amazed that the Christian tradition has been so warped as to allow for shame at the physical world. Many Christians, in particular North American Christians, have allowed a bizarre puritanical neo-Platonism to distract from Christianity. This has allowed for a separation between science and religion that fuels much of the misdirected arguments about secularism in the United States today.
Much of what passes for popular religious thought seems to depend on shame around sex and the body. However, scripture and natural law understand both to be gifts from God.
Fr. Corrou did not identify any specific sexual or bodily shame; his claim about science and religion is similarly nebulous. Today shame about or disrespect for the body exists among “transgender” activists, encouraging an onslaught of opposite sex hormones and sometimes the destruction of healthy reproductive systems in persons with gender dysphoria (formerly gender identity disorder). It exists among those complaining about “cisgender privilege” while acknowledging that they consider hiding body parts by binding or tucking. It exists among those with another condition, body identity integrity disorder (formerly apotemnophilia), an overwhelming desire to have a healthy limb amputated. Its sufferers sometimes call themselves “transabled.” If not shame, at least antagonism toward the human body exists among advocates of artificial birth control drugs, devices, and interventions, including those in the pharmaceutical and health care industries, promoting the poisoning of human physiology and monkeywrenching of human anatomy. (Please note that I am not criticizing the intent of using some of these measures for true illnesses such as endometriosis.) Yet Fr. Corrou tells us it is “many Christians,” “in particular North American Christians,” who possess shame about sex and the body.
Christians of various communities have long appreciated the goodness of the body and even the etymological connection between health and salvation. Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini (1927-2012), S.J., the Archbishop of Milan (1980-2002), for example, in On the Body, observed that “in Latin, salus means both health and salvation.” Cardinal Martini was said to be papabile, but a Catholic priest whose orthodoxy I trust called Cardinal Martini a controversialist. I think that is too easy on the Jesuit Cardinal whose list of grievances [with the Catholic Church] and suggestions echoed those of the 1960’s, which “no longer have any meaning, after half a century of failures.”)
I recall Joachim Neander’s (1650-1680) Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation being sung in the suburban New York City Catholic Parish of my youth in the 1970s, though Neander was a German Reformed (Calvinist) Church teacher, theologian and hymnist. It begins:
Praise to the Lord,
The almighty the King of creation
O my soul praise him
For he is thy health and salvation
Fr. Corrou’s mere assertion of Christian shame about sex and the body reminds me of Hugh Hefner’s ironic disdain for those Hefner (1926-2017) called sexually “repressed.” Playboy, Inc., was an amicus curiae (friend of the court) for Roe v. Wade, supporting direct abortion. In the USA in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unmarried women procured 85.9% of all abortions. Of the remaining 14.1% of abortions (those procured by married women), a significant percentage may have been procured by women impregnated by men to whom they were not married: abortion in the USA in 2016 was overwhelmingly a consequence of sex between people unmarried to each other and playboy is metonymic for many of the male participants in such relations. Yet direct abortion is a deadly repression of the most natural (nature derives from the Latin natura, from natus, past participle of nasci – to be born) fruit of sex – a newborn human being.
In Contraception and Chastity, G.E.M. (Elizabeth) Anscombe (1919-2001) related that in ancient times, in addition to prohibitions against Baal-worship and sacrifice to idols, sexual mores were a colossal strain between heathen morality and Christian morality, whether they regarded fornication, prostitution, infanticide, sodomy, adultery, divorce, or marriage. Baal-worshippers and sacrifice to idols now may be even rarer than Albigensians, but, according to a Catholic understanding, sexual immorality is commonplace. At the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, however, there has been not only the presumption that the Catholic Church is bashing people over their heads with its sexual doctrines, but also resistance to explaining these teachings and even promotion of views contrary to them. Fr. Corrou, for three examples from the weekly bulletin, wrote: The Gospel, and therefore, the writings of the Catholic Church, say much more about economic justice, and care for the stranger than sexual morality (31 March 2019); I am struck by the fact that no one joined the early Church because of rules or rubrics… (5 May 2019); No one joined the [early Christian] community because they preached rules or restrictions… (26 May 2019). Perhaps few joined the early Church because of rules, rubrics, or restrictions, but if converts did not abandon heathen morality for Christian morality, why would sexual mores be a colossal strain as Anscombe related?
I asked Fr. Corrou after an 11:30 am Sunday Mass why people should be proud of what the Catholic Church teaches is a disorder. He replied that they have the Catechism to tell them (about homosexuality as a disorder). That was a non sequitur. And the Catechism informs us about racism (e.g., CCC 1935), too, but Fr. Corrou frequently decried the sins of racism, white supremacy and hate. I also asked Fr. Thomas Feely, S.J., another priest at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, after the 11:30 am Sunday Mass the day of the Pride March in 2019, the same question about why people should be proud, as he said during his homily, of what the Catholic Church teaches is a disorder. He replied that not everyone believes that same-sex attraction is a disorder. He, like Fr. Corrou, gave a non sequitur and failed to answer the question.
During a homily on 28 July 2019, Fr. Corrou announced the death of a “transwoman of color” from the Xavier community. According to a recent publication of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, however, Fr. Corrou’s oh-so-intersectional description embodies a fictitious construct (the link from “intersex” is my addition):
The process of identifying sexual identity is made more difficult by the fictitious construct known as “gender neuter” or “third gender”, which has the effect of obscuring the fact that a person’s sex is a structural determinant of male or female identity. Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender”, lead to a masculinity or femininity that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), [sic] these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede. This oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’, and one which, in fact, ignores the suffering of those who have to live situations of sexual indeterminacy (Male and female he created them. For a path of dialogue on the issue of gender in education, Congregation for Catholic Education, 10 June 2019, Section 25).
After noting the founding of Gay Catholics (1993) and Catholic Lesbians (1995) at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Fr. Corrou described (9 June 2019 bulletin) the long history of the Church’s participation in the Pride March:
Xavier first participated in the New York City Pride March in June 1994. It was the only parish to take such a bold step, marching under its name and letting the thousands of people on the sidelines know there is a Roman Catholic church that truly welcomes LGBTQ+ people. Other parishes, aware of Xavier’s long example, started their own LGBT ministries and asked for our guidance. They now participate in the march, though Xavier is still unique in that it participates under its name.
Fr. Corrou reported during a homily that his favorite message from the Pride March 2019 clanged: “God cares less about who I love, and more about children in cages” (as printed in the bulletin for 14 July 2019). How different are those words from those of Jesus (Do not sin again) to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and St. John the Baptist’s condemnation of Herod’s marriage (Matthew 14:4 and Mark 6:18)? Both responses were set against a backdrop of human rights abuses in the Roman Empire including slavery and the terribly cruel punishment of crucifixion.
In an email dated 27 March 2019 (without my full name to avoid the possibility of doxing should it come into the wrong hands), I notified Cardinal Dolan of the multitude of problems and abuses at the Church of St. Francis Xavier and asked him to have them corrected. On 1 April 2019, I received a reply from his assistant requesting permission to share my complaints with the pastor of Xavier. The next day I assented. Several weeks passed. I was not copied on any message to anyone at Xavier. I emailed Cardinal Dolan and his assistant requesting an update twice in 2019, once in late May and once in late June. I received no reply to those requests for an update. Regarding the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Dolan is non far niente.
As far as disciplining the Jesuits at Xavier, which is distinct from replying to my messages, Cardinal Dolan should not bear all the blame. Cardinal Dolan allows the Jesuit order to operate within his archdiocese and should insist on behavior concordant with Catholic teaching in exchange for that permission. Jesuit superiors in particular should be disciplining the misbehavior of their subordinate Jesuits and dispelling the dissident ethos at St. Francis Xavier. Fr. Corrou’s role as Acting Pastor ended in 2019 and he has since been sent to Beirut. But problems run to the order’s highest ranks. Fr. Arturo Sosa (1948-), who was installed as Superior General of the Society of Jesus in 2016, is a Marxist who, in 1989 ahead of Fidel Castro’s visit to Venezuela, was one of over 1,000 signatories to a “manifesto” welcoming the Communist who as head of state was widely believed guilty of myriad human rights abuses, including oppression of the Catholic Church. In 1992 Fr. Sosa also initially supported the two coups d’état of Hugo Chavez. And Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has had a papacy characterized by a doctrinal fuzziness or worse that, for example, in 2016 elicited dubia (Latin for “doubts”) from four cardinals, a formal request for clarification of “grave disorientation and great confusion” in Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”).
According to a Nature article (5 June 2019),Venus was once a water-rich Eden, but is now Earth’s hellish evil twin. In 1994, the International Astronomical Union named an 83-km (52-mile) diameter crater on Venus to honor Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), the birth control activist who founded the American Birth Control League (which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America) and feminist heroine who, because of her respect and concern for other women and their children, may have limited her affairs with married men to no fewer than four. Sanger only very belatedly has fallen out somewhat with the woke folks for her support of eugenics, banning disabled immigrants, the forced sterilization of people with untreatable disabilities, and her remarks such as the following:
It is said a fish as large as a man has a brain no larger than the kernel of an almond. In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.
Planned Parenthood, according to its own reporting, killed 345,672 innocent human beings in the US in a recent year (1 October 2017 – 30 September 2018) via abortion (“safe” abortion in Planned Parenthood parlance). Adding insult to deliberately fatal injury, US taxpayers are forced by law to fund Planned Parenthood. So much for “choice,” whether that of the taxpayers or the unborn.
Until her name is withdrawn from her namesake crater, that former Eden, Venus, devolved into a hellish planet with its Sanger, and not the Moon with its 35 craters honoring Jesuit scientists, remains a far more fitting place for craters to commemorate Jesuit priests notable for subordinating Catholic teaching to their own political preferences, for their dissent from Catholic teaching especially on sexuality and even for their promotion of gender lunacy.
What are you going to do about it, Jesuit superiors and Cardinal Dolan?
William Po is a nom de plume. The author lives and works in Manhattan. This is his first article for OnePeterFive.
William Po is a nom de plume. The author lives and works in Manhattan.