Pedro Arrupe delivered the following remarks to the 1971 Episcopal Synod with Pope Paul VI in attendance. The Jesuits’ superior general—speaking more in his role as president of the Union of Superiors General—uses the occasion to speak on the need for better collaboration between religious orders and diocesan priests. Acknowledging the fraught history of relations between to the two groups, Arrupe declares: “We must call an end to the time when there was separation, even a latent opposition, between the two clergies.” The need for action is clear for Arrupe, as the religious orders, such as the Society of Jesus, “now find ourselves at grips with the enormously difficult task of searching for a purer evangelical witness proper of our charism to make it intelligible to the world of today and tomorrow.” Of particular importance going forward, Arrupe argues, are the roles to be assumed by the women religious.
For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.
I am not going to speak on the law of celibacy, though this topic can deeply affect many religious of today and future candidates to the religious life.
I shall refer rather to the relationship between the Hierarchy and the diocesan clergy on the one hand and the religious on the other.
This problem has much deeper and far reaching dimensions than meet the eye, not only because of the sheer numbers of the religious, men and women (a million and a half persons consecrated body and soul to God) and because of the great diversity of the apostolic activities they carry out, but also because religious life manifests a fundamental dimension of the Church.
After Vatican II, which pointed out the meaning and place of religious life in the Church, we cannot think of the Church and its future without thinking also of the religious life and its future.
Now then, this potential is not actually put to use for pastoral action in all its rich possibilities. This is so not only because of our own personal deficiencies or failures but because we do not deepen as we should, or have perhaps forgotten, a theological reality of unquestionable richness.
1. In the light of Vatican II
Vatican II has defined the Church as the People of God, enriched by the Spirit with multiple graces and charisms, as is amply shown in ch. 20 of Lumen Gentium, n. 12, which also recalls those words of St Paul: “The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all.”
The history of the Church shows how much the sanctification of God’s People owes to the charisms of the Founders of religious institutes.
All of us, then, have our own place in the Church; and we cannot forget that every charism is true in as much as it helps to the building up of the Church and leads to mutual union. Yet, what should foster union does at times, owing to our human limitations, lead to division.
It is true that each Institute has its characteristic apostolate, its own peculiar works, its definite orientation. It is also true that this has some times been the cause of certain tensions within the Church. Nevertheless this specific peculiarity is the result of a charism received for the good of the whole Church and must therefore be placed at the service of the People of God in a diversity that is destined to enrich the Church and foster union.
It is true again that some religious Institutes are exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocesan Bishops; but this has a pastoral reason: to ensure, even at the institutional level, the service of the universal Church and of the poorer particular Churches. Vatican II so specified: “to provide more adequately for the needs of the entire flock of the Lord … “; “ … order that the Supreme Pontiff may make use of them for the good of the universal Church.”
We do admit that what has been disposed for the service of all has been abusively utilized by some to selfishly defend their own interests and so side-track participation in an over-all pastoral action. Then they become a kind of foreign body, an unhealthy cyst, creating undue tensions. While lamenting such untimely occurrences, we have also to acknowledge that abuse in the exercise of a right should not obscure the need of that right or its advantages for the good of the Church.
2. Union of Hearts
However clear the theological explanations and juridical precisions may be, since we are men and live among men, we must think of what we ought to do, at the practical level with which we now deal, for a closer union of the Hierarchy and the diocesan clergy with the religious.
We must call an end to the time when there was separation, even a latent opposition, between the two clergies.
We are only too aware of our great limitations, of our past and present mistakes. It is indispensable today to look to the future.
We must strive to achieve sincere and effective collaboration. More still: union of hearts is an indispensable condition for the Lord to be really in our midst.
1) To achieve this unity, all of us have something to offer, and in this hour of tension, complexity, change of today’s world, all of us have much to learn, too. This will be helped by frequent exchange of views and experiences, sharing in joint meetings and renewal courses, etc.
2) Unity is the effect of love, and love requires mutual knowledge, and mutual knowledge requires frank and sincere communication at the institutional as well as at the more personal and human level. Knowledge will be achieved at the institutional level if periodic meetings of the Episcopal Conferences with the Unions of Major Superiors are fostered or if the religious take part in Priests’ Councils, etc. Knowledge at the personal level will be fostered through meetings, colloquia, and even common days of rest and holidays, shared with friendly joy. Some times mutual union is served better by a domino or bridge game than by endless discussions in an impersonal atmosphere.
3) This unity will be possible only in the measure in which a change of mentality is effected in all of us, burying the past, the resentments, the old anecdotes, and judging our own selves, not others.
4) It will also help this unity that each one remains what he is. Let us not try to make a religious out of a secular priest, or a secular priest out of a religious, nor should we try to make a social activist out of a contemplative nun. Let us not pretend that everything be done by everybody: a steam-roller uniformity is as harmful as an exclusivist specialization.
5) Let the only rivalry or dispute among us be for each one to volunteer for what is most difficult and arduous in the apostolic and missionary field of the Church: “bearing one another’s burdens.”
Though I have no mandate to do so, I think I voice the desires of all 221 men Superiors General and also, I believe, of the President and Vice President of the International Union of women Superiors General (comprising more than 2,000 Superiors), when I state that we now find ourselves at grips with the enormously difficult task of searching for a purer evangelical witness proper of our charism to make it intelligible to the world of today and tomorrow.
We have miles to walk, but walk them we must, no matter the work and the difficulty, counting on your understanding and help.
I would add also that all of us wish to place at the disposal of the others, in as much as we can, all our work, collaboration, hospitality, etc.
I want to refer very specially to the great possibilities and values of the women religious: they are themselves convinced that they can do much more still, in the measure in which they be trusted, given opportunities to serve according to their diverse charisms, and integrated more fully in the pastoral action and in the planning process itself, ex. gr. Pastoral Councils, Commissions, etc.
I should like to conclude re-iterating our sincere and effective desire to live in constant collaboration in the service of the Church, the Roman Pontiff, the Bishops, the clergy and all the members of the People of God.
Rome, 14th October, 1971
Challenge to Religious Life Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—I, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1979, “Relationship Between the Diocesan Clergy and the Religious,” pg. 51–54.