A Church of Passion and Hope
by Gill Goulding
Gill Goulding rightly identifies The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola as one of the most “dynamic, determinative and durable” texts in the Christian tradition. She notes, however, that one short section – the “rules of thinking, judging and feeling with the Church” – has been “consistently overlooked”. This, writes Goulding, is particularly regrettable at present since Loyola’s musings could be very helpful in (often overheated) contemporary debates about ecclesiology.
For Loyola, the Church was “the visible embodiment of Christ himself” and Loyola’s phrase sentire cum ecclesia was about engagement “at a more profound level than mere intellectual adherence to its doctrines”. It was also a work of the emotions and the spirit. Duty and obedience were not alien to this scheme. On the contrary, “effective collaborative communion with the hierarchy”, to use Goulding’s phrase, was crucial. Order and structure in no way jarred with a sense that every baptised Christian was an equal member of the Church. Small wonder that Loyola placed service to the papacy at the centre of the Jesuits’ mission.
Loyola, writes Goulding, “was not a systematic theologian, neither did he make any original theological contribution”, but his ecclesiological vision proved to be influential both inside and beyond his order. Goulding traces its legacy in the deeds and writings of Pierre Favre and Mary Ward, then homes in on two major 20th-century figures: Cardinal Avery Dulles and Henri du Lubac who, we are told, took up the Ignatian baton in his determination to see God in all things and his quest to correct the distortions and misinterpretations of Vatican II. Finally, “clear resonances with the ecclesial disposition of Ignatius” are identified in the thought of the last three popes.
Disputes about the “nature and authority of the Church” show few signs of disappearing and Goulding prescribes a little Ignatian straight talking. In his rules he could be uncompromising: “We ought to keep our minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the hierarchical Church.”
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