Ignatians: Defenders of the Faith in its Integrity
Ignatians as men who follow in the footsteps of Sts. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ignatius of Loyola will have a special sense of dedication to the magisterium of the Church, the infallible power received from Christ by the Church and exercised by the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in order to be the guardians and authoritative interpreters of the content of the Catholic Faith necessary for eternal salvation.
The deepest meaning of St. Ignatius Loyola’s insistence that his Society would be men of the Papacy lies in his ever so Catholic conviction that the Papacy as the rock on which Christ built His Church is necessary for the faithful transmission and interpretation of the Tradition of Divinely Revealed Truths. In St. Ignatius’s day, due to Protestantism, the Papacy was under attack and needed to be defended explicitly and firmly by Catholics. In our day the Papacy is no longer under attack. Rather, something far deeper, the very foundation of the Papacy is under attack, indeed the very foundations of Catholicism, are being annihilated in the minds of millions. Not however, as in St. Ignatius’s days by violent polemics but rather by an omnipresent fog clouding the contours of Catholicism so that it is indistinguishable from any other “religion” except as a particular expression of religious sentiment.
Just as St. Ignatius and the members of the Compania de Jesus took a special vow of obedience to the Pope, so the Society of Ignatians take the oath, Defensor Fidei, to defend the foundations of the Faith. Thus they live out the deepest sense of St. Ignatius Loyola’s charism, rallying around the papacy in the concrete person of the reigning pontiff, not out of any personality cult, political correctness, or careerism, but from the resolve to defend all that is most vital to the Catholic Faith: to recognize the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ; to hold the pope to be the vicar of the only head of the Church, Jesus Christ, who alone is all holy, sinless, ever infallible, and who confers authority on men in order to act for Him, with Him and in utter loyalty to Him as treasurers of His Truth. In this way Ignatians, as all Catholics, including those called to be popes, follow in the footsteps of the first pope who declared unto death:”We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Obedience is obedience to the Truth.
St. Ignatius of Antioch declared “the see of Peter presides over the assembly of love” but “love” for the martyr-bishop meant no mere emotion as principle of unity but rather the truth of Christ. Truth! Truth is the reason for the Church; it is the reason for the magisterium; it is the reason for the papacy and loyalty to the papacy. Ignatians, in fidelity to the charism of St. ignatius loyola and in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch understand loyalty to the magisterium and the papacy as the Church understands it. By divine mission, the Pope has the power of jurisdiction as successor of Peter who himself received it immediately from the Lord Jesus Christ, a power conferring upon him the sacred role of guardian of the integrity of the Catholic Faith as held by the unbroken tradition of the Church. As Cardinal Ratzinger once expressed it:
“The pope is not the supreme master– since the time of Gregory the Great, he has been known as “Servant of the servants of God” but (as I like saying) he ought to be the guarantor of obedience, of the conformity of the Church to the will of God, excluding any arbitrary act of his own. The pope cannot say: I am the Church, or I am tradition, but on the contrary, he has precise restrictions and incarnates the obligation of the Church to conform to the word of God. If temptations arise in the Church to do things differently, to choose a softer more comfortable way, he has to ask himself if it is licit. The pope is therefore not an authority that can give life to another Church, rather he is a barricade against arbitrary acts.”
Elsewhere Cardinal Ratzinger illustrated the connection between Tradition, the role of the papacy, and the exercise of the papacy:
“From my own personal point of view I should like to give further particular emphasis to some of the criteria for liturgical renewal thus briefly indicated. I will begin with those last two main criteria. It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law; rather, he is the guardian of the authentic Tradition and, thereby, the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and he is thereby able to oppose those people who, for their part, want to do whatever comes into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The “rite”, that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living Tradition in which the sphere using that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit that is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis, the handing-on of Tradition.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Preface to The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Alcuin Reid)
In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote:
“After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition…”.