Jesuits dismiss peace activist John Dear from Society

Divorces are rarely amicable, and never cause for celebration, especially when the partners never seem to have reached an agreeable parting of the ways. John Dear's dismissal from the Society of Jesus looks like one of latter, with Dear giving his side of things at the National Catholic Reporter, with the Society's take also at NCR through the reporting of Joshua McElwee. You can read U.S. Catholic's most recent contribution from Dear here.

As Dear tells it, his Maryland provincial has said that Society in the U.S. can no longer support works of justice and peace, but has to focus instead on its 25 high schools and 25 universities; Dear's work as a peace activist doesn't fit anywhere into that plan–though I don't see how it could harm the Society, really. It's not like they were going to turn him loose teaching high school. (Although if I was the Jesuit provincial, I'd send him to SJ institutions to inspire students to activism for peace.)

If Dear's account is accurate–and I have no reason to doubt him–it reflects a general contraction in U.S. religious life that focuses more on a congregation's institutional ministries than on the individual ministries of members. Numbers are too few, and many communities are counting on the fact that their institutional ministries will funnel new members into their ranks. That was my experience in my own brief time in religious life back in the mid-1990s.

But it is too bad that at least a "tithe" of a community's members can't be free to be the prophets the church so desperately needs. Dear's no-compromise attitude to miltary service is a necessary voice in the wildnerness in our culture of military glorification, especially in a country that dumps hundreds of billions each year into the military. Sure, Dear is irritating and alienating sometimes, especially to Catholics who make their livings in the military–and so was Isaiah and Jeremiah and John the Baptist–and for that matter, Jesus himself.

So here's praying that Dear finds a new perch from which to make us all uncomfortable in the name of the gospel.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.