Pope Francis: Distinctive Mark of Jesuits Is ‘Harmonizing Contradictions’

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Andrew Medichini / Associated Press

Pope Francis greeted his fellow Jesuits in the Vatican Thursday, urging them to avoid simple formulations and to learn to harmonize contradictions.

“One of the distinguishing marks of the Society’s charism is that of seeking to harmonize contradictions without falling into reductionisms,” the pope told the rector and seminarians of Rome’s Pio Latinoamerican College in a meeting at the Vatican.

“This is what St. Ignatius wanted when he thought of the Jesuits as men of contemplation and action, men of discernment and obedience, committed to daily life and free to leave it,” Francis said.

“The mission that the Church puts in your hands asks for wisdom and dedication,” the pope told seminary formators, “so that the time that the young men are in the house can be nourished by this gift of the Society, learning to harmonize the contradictions that life presents to them and will present to them without falling into reductionisms, growing in the spirit of discernment and freedom.”

In his address, the pope underscored a favorite theme of his: avoiding simplistic recourse to doctrine and embracing paradoxes and contradictions. This, he said, must permeate the wisdom the Jesuits hand on those in their charge.

“Teach them to embrace problems and conflicts without fear,” he said, “to manage dissent and confrontation.”

A “crucial task” for those who accompany their brothers in formation is to teach them to “unveil all kinds of ‘correct’ but reductionist discourse,” he said.

“Help them to discover the art and joy of discernment as a way of acting so as to find, in the midst of difficulties, the ways of the Spirit by internally tasting and feeling the God who is always greater (Deus semper maior).

Critics of Pope Francis have suggested he engages in “studied ambiguity,” never directly challenging traditional Catholic doctrine but offering alternative readings that leave the faithful confused and unsure as to what the Church actually teaches on marriage, the sacraments, or sexual morality.

He has made it a hallmark of his papacy to avoid answering questions directly, preferring to let others answer for him or to vaguely praise interpretations that suggest where he stands on a given issue.

Jesus famously instructed his disciples: “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Francis’ proud insistence on the Jesuitical ability to reconcile “yes” and “no” may be what has many Catholics up in arms.

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