PASSIONATE UNCERTAINTY: Inside the American Jesuits

Peter McDonough, Author, Eugene C. Bianchi, Author, Eugene C. Bianchi, Joint Author . Univ. of California $27.50 (390p) ISBN 978-0-520-23055-2

The authors of this sociological study spent about six years probing the collective and individual psyches of the American Jesuits in an effort to assess the current state of the religious community of men known for missionary and teaching work. McDonough, a political science professor and author of Men Astutely Trained, a history of the Jesuits, and Bianchi, professor emeritus of religion at Emory University, drew their picture from interviews with and essays by current and former Jesuits. Beneath the order's sharply dwindling numbers, which plummeted from a high of 8,393 in 1965 to 3,635 in 2000, they discovered the same forces that have been buffeting Catholicism and its religious communities in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965. The authors point in particular to the increased role of Catholic laity as having affected the morale of ordained clergy. They also found that the Jesuits' formerly strong shared identity has been replaced by a "motley spirituality" and a series of counter-cultural communities for gays, neo-conservatives and those exploring non-Western spiritualities. In analyzing the emergence of the gay subculture within the Jesuit community, the authors depart from the conventional wisdom that celibacy serves as a cover-up for homosexuality, attributing the growth of the gay subculture instead to the decline of celibacy's value as a basis for community. Written in a scholarly style and illustrated with graphs and charts, this sociological study is unlikely to attract a popular audience, but will be of interest to academics and some leaders of religious communities. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/25/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
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