Ignatian Intellectuals: Fire in the Minds of Men

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“Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (James Hadley Billington, Librarian of Congress Emeritus)

Born in an Age that Requires Combatants for Truth

“May priests be attentive to [the Blessed Virgin’s] appeal and have the courage to preach the great truths of salvation fearlessly. The only lasting renewal, in fact, will be one based on the changeless principles of faith, and it is the duty of priests to form the consciences of Christian people. (Pope Pius XII)

The Society of Ignatians comes to birth in a society that has become the Shadowlands of the “Dictatorship of Relativism” which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described as follows:

“We should speak of the “measure of the fullness of Christ” that we are called to attain if we are to be true adults in the faith. We must not remain children in faith, in the condition of minors. And what does it mean to be children in faith? St Paul answers: it means being “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely!

“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires”. (Cardinal Ratzinger,  pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005)

Ignatians are men who are convinced that the greatest thing they can do with their lives is to dauntlessly stand for the Truth of Christ no matter the danger, even unto death, following in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Just as the Society founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola was born during the second great challenge to the Church, Protestantism, which undermined the authority of the Church’s magisterium and specifically of the Papacy, the Society of Ignatians is born in the third great challenge to the Church, one far deeper and more threatening because it attacks the very foundations of the papacy, the core truths of Catholicism, her dogmas and the very reality of truth.

However, the “Dictatorship of Relativism” seeks to destroy Catholicism in a far more radical, subtle and dangerous way than any previous assault.  For just as a neutron bomb destroys life while leaving buildings intact, so relativism by denying truth, reduces all religions to equally vague personal opinions that are essentially irrational and therefore empties the Faith’s core doctrines, sacraments and liturgy of all importance, leaving only an empty shell. As Benedict XVI stated:

“Today many, in effect, are of the opinion that the religions must respect each other and, in dialogue among themselves, become a common force for peace. In this way of thinking, most of the time there is a presupposition that the different religions are variations of a single and identical reality; that “religion” is a common genre that takes on different forms according to the different cultures but nonetheless expresses the same reality. The question of truth, which in the beginning moved Christians more than all the rest, is here put in parentheses. It is presupposed that the authentic truth about God, in the final analysis, is unattainable and that at most the ineffable can be made present with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of the truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world. And nonetheless this is lethal to faith.” ( Benedict XVI, Address to the Urbaniana, 10 October 2014)

Ignatians, true to our Catholic identity, affirm that we are possessed by the truth of Christ who is Himself the Truth, the only Truth about man’s eternal salvation, and who has entrusted the truths necessary to reach eternal life to His Church. Hence it is necessary now as never before in the history of the Church to defend these core doctrines. Ignatians make their own the words of John Henry Newman: “From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery.”

Relativism in its effort to infiltrate the Church seeks to destroy the nature of Catholicism as the compass given to man for journeying to eternal salvation ‒ man must act as the compass marks to avoid damnation . As Cardinal Gerard Müller wrote in The Hope of the Family:

“Jesus did not become flesh in order to expound a few simple theories that would tranquilize the conscience and ultimately leave things the way they are. The message of Jesus is a new life. If anyone were to think and live by separating life from doctrine, not only would he deform the doctrine of the Church by turning it into a sort of idealistic pseudo-philosophy, but he would also be fooling himself. Living as a Christian means living on the basis of faith in God. Adulterating this arrangement means realizing the dreaded compromise between God and the devil.”