Love, hate, and my critique of the Jesuit society

Photo courtesy of Good Free Photos

I love the Jesuits. I love everything that they stand for: cura personalis, magis and being women and men for and with others. Jesuits stand with the voiceless, they advocate for the marginalized and fight oppression. They are educators and reformers. I am in my seventh year of Jesuit education and I could never repay them for all they have given me. I have grown significantly under their tutelage and for that I will always be grateful to the Society of Jesus.

But I also hate the Jesuits. The Jesuits have been complicit in and covered up decades of sexual abuse by priests. Recently, Jesuit provinces around the country began to release the names of priests who had been accused of sexual assault.

You may have read the Newswire coverage last week about the release and the names of priests who had been associated with Xavier. There were members of Xavier University, St. Xavier High School, St. Francis Xavier Church and the Milford Jesuit Center, all within the Cincinnati Jesuit community. These men were members of our communities. They were mentors, educators and abusers. They have been accused of abusing their power to not only groom, but also silence survivors. The number of men on this list is appalling, but, if I’m being honest, I was expecting it to be worse. I was expecting there to be dozens of Cincinnati connections. This just goes to show how bad the problem is.

We know that there have to be countless other victims who have been traumatized and are unable to come forward. St. Xavier High School President Tim Reiley said in an interview that he knows there are people out there who were assaulted, who have not come forward, who were praying to see the name of their abuser in the release in order to validate what happened to them. This is sickening. In a Church of love, how have we allowed this to happen? Why has the Church’s response to these issues been one of hiding the sin rather than punishing the crime?

The debate on sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church has been going on around the world for many years. Why did the Jesuits only decide to release the names now? They hoped to do so in the name of transparency and healing. They hoped that by being open about the past — while it wouldn’t fix the issues — would help repair some of the horrendous damage done.

I believe that we should all call on other orders of priests and the hundreds of dioceses around the country to release the names of the priests when they have covered up. We cannot move forward justly until we recognize the injustices of our past.

This is why I love the Jesuits. They have taught me one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. When you love something like an institution, a group or even an idea, you have to critique it. The Jesuits were able to openly critique their past by exposing their corruption in the cover-ups and trying to provide some healing.

We cannot allow our strongest ideas and convictions to go untested. Often times, our biggest critics are the ones who love us the most. By opening themselves to critique and critiquing themselves, the Jesuits have allowed us to make them better. This is a lesson that I believe carries over to all aspects of our lives. When we don’t like something on campus, we do something about it. We don’t do it because we hate Xavier, we do it because Xavier is our home.

During my first year I was a part of a research fellowship that aimed to study Xavier’s history at the intersection of slavery and our founder, Bishop Edward Fenwick. We learned that without slaveholding families in the South paying high tuition, Xavier would not have made it out of infancy. Our founder,  the namesake of our largest building on campus, did own and sell his fellow human beings. We do this research not because it is fun or fills us with pride for Xavier, but because it makes us uncomfortable and forces us to reflect about what it means to be a part of this specific community. We have to continue this sort of reflection as a community not because it is easy, but because it is hard. It is who we must strive to be and who our Ignatian heritage demands we be. The apathetic do nothing, the hateful seek to destroy, but those who love critique to clarify and grow.

By: Miles Tiemeyer | Guest Writer