Sharing the Experience of the Congregation
David Schultenover, S.J.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

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Dave Schultenover, S.J. is a delegate to the Congregation from the Wisconsin Province, in the US Assistancy.

He is a Consultor to the Provincial of the Wisconsin Province and a professor of historical theology at Marquette University.

He is the editor in chief of THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, A Jesuit Sponsored Journal of Theology.


Saint Ignatius wrote in his Constitutions (no. 273): “Diversity, which is commonly the mother of discord and the enemy of union of wills, should be avoided as far as possible.” I wonder what he would make of the diversity that today we not only acknowledge but celebrate.

The context of Ignatius’s words was diversity of doctrine. He was living in the post-Reformation era, and he and his brother Jesuits were asked by the popes to shore up Catholic doctrine and tradition against the contentions of splintering Protestant churches. Today, through the ecumenical dialog enjoined on the Church by the Second Vatican Council, we are finding that the Catholic and Protestant Churches agree in doctrine far more than we disagree. The diversity that we celebrate in countries all over the world populated by immigrants from many diverse origins and cultures is a diversity that embraces not only cultures but religions and religious doctrines as well. What the post-Reformation Wars of Religion and movements like Deism and Enlightenment rationalism have taught us is that at root people are far more alike than they are different, so vive la difference! One of the great values of the Enlightenment was toleration and rule of law, which enables peoples of different cultures and religious doctrines to live peaceably with one another.

So why is General Congregation 35 dragging on? Diversity! Tomorrow will be the beginning of week 7 of the congregation. Were it not for diversity, we would have elected our new general, dusted off and confirmed the documents of our most recent congregations, and returned home. The primary issue that shows itself in virtually every conversation on the floor of the Aula is diversity. On any point of discussion, we will have about as many opinions as there are men in the room. (Try listening to all of them day after very long day!) Recent congregations have produced wonderful documents which we could easily endorse and go home, but would that be enough? The problem is that, since GC 34 (5 January to 22 March 1995), the world has changed so dramatically due primarily to advances in microelectronics that enable instant communication and transfer of massive amounts of information worldwide—for good and for ill, depending on how it’s used. Globalization and the diversity of cultures and religions that come with it and barge into our homes, businesses, schools, and churches is the elephant in the Aula during most sessions. Globalization has altered virtually every equation in our lives. It has done both enormous good and enormous harm, depending. What will this congregation say about globalization and how we ought to respond to it? We are waiting for inspiration from the Holy Spirit. I hope she shows up soon! Our rooms are rented only until March 15. . . . We could always leave and come back another year.

I take comfort in this realization: Despite the diversity of Jesuits from all over the world, we are all formed by Ignatius’s Spiritual Exerises, our Constitutions, and subsequent commentaries on them. Besides that, we’re also—at least most of us—members of the same human race. So we have far more in common than in difference. Through our shared prayer and traditions I experience a profound union of hearts. I’m still waiting for the companion union of minds.

In my meager spare time I am editing articles for a special issue of Theological Studies on—guess what!—theology and globalization. I wish I had had the foresight to schedule this issue early enough so that a copy would be in the hands of every member of this congregation.

Thank you for all your prayers. Believe me, more is wrought by your prayers than by all the interventions in the Aula combined!

David G. Schultenover, S.J.
GC 35 – Rome
First Sunday of Lent, 2008

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