An old Jesuit advised Francis: “Think clearly, but speak obscurely.”

During a 2017 visit to Bologna, with clergy. HERE

Io ricordo, quando ero studente di filosofia, un vecchio gesuita, furbacchione, buono ma un po’ furbacchione, mi consigliò: “Se tu vuoi sopravvivere nella vita religiosa, pensa chiaro, sempre; ma parla sempre oscuro”. E’ un modo di ipocrisia clericale, diciamo così. “No, la penso così, ma c’è il vescovo, o c’è quel vicario, c’è quell’altro… meglio stare zitti… e poi la “cucino” con i miei amici”. Questo è mancanza di libertà. Se un sacerdote non ha libertà di pan-rein [?], di parresia, non vive bene la diocesanità; non è libero, e per vivere la diocesanità ci vuole libertà. E poi l’altra virtù è sopportare. Sopportare il vescovo, sempre.

I remember when I was a student of philosophy, an old Jesuit, sly, good but pretty sly, advised me: “If you want to survive in religious life, always think clearly; but always speaks obscurely”. It is kind of clerical hypocrisy, so to speak. “No, I think this way, but there’s the bishop, or there’s vicar, there’s is that other one … better to keep quiet … and then I ‘cook’ it with my friends”. This is a lack of freedom. If a priest does not have the freedom of pan-rein [?], of parresia, there’s no living the diocesan life well; it is not free, and to live the diocesan life you need freedom. And then the other virtue is to tolerate. Always tolerate the bishop.

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11 Responses to An old Jesuit advised Francis: “Think clearly, but speak obscurely.”

  1. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    This explains a lot!

  2. Hidden One says:

    My Italian is terrible, but the translation of “sopportare” as “tolerate” in this particular instance brings to mind the classic line that we should never tolerate people, because tolerance is for things that are bad, but people are (ontologically) good. I don’t think we should ever tolerate bishops.

    [What is clearly meant is the concept in the spiritual mercies, bearing annoying people with patience.
    That’s the sense here. “Bear the bishop” in that sense.]

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    It is evident from nearly everything I read or hear about with His Holiness that he learned well and practices consistently the “speak obscurely” part.

    Alas, the obscure speech seems to reveal his intent.

    Pray for the Holy Father!

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    This is not dissimilar advice than what Fr. Z gives to seminarians and new associate priests; to whit, be a submarine, keep it to yourself, respect and obedient to those above you, and move slowly in restoring Tradition.

    So why does the same basic thing from a Jesuit sound like a snake talking? Serious question.

    There exists a serious issue within the Church that the game of clerical subterfuge is alive and well.

    It needs to be pointed out that Pope Francis just said on Sept 10th 2010 “What isn’t acceptable is when one “smiles so much he shows you his teeth,” and then lists criticisms “behind your back.””

    With respect, your Holiness, you cannot have it both ways. You have encouraged and created a vicious atmosphere within the Church where people, friend and foe alike, have to smile to your face as they seek to put a metaphorical dagger in your back. You were elected by a whisper campaign. You talk about cliques and ideologies but foster and promote individuals engaged in such, and those that seek dialogue, as you ask, are left unanswered or are cut down.

    In any organization, if there is an atmosphere where groups of people are encouraged to form and talk behind closed doors, instead of in the open, this creates recalcitrant factions, where the factions do not know who are the other factions or what their agendas are. It leads to mistrust, suspicion, and a paralyzing paranoia within the organization. This is a bad thing, unless it is intentional, for in a paralyzed organization, it is really easy to push through the agenda of those in charge, as not knowing who is who and who is up to what, everyone is all smiles and quick to agree with whichever way the wind, that comes from those in charge, blows.

  5. FrAnt says:

    There is no place of refuge for a person anymore. One used to be able to step into a church to put life into a proper perspective, but no more. Today we are not sure what the church teaches or holds dear. When the Sovereign Pontiff encourages duplicity in speech, one finds no refuge from the world. The Church and the world are the same.

  6. Gaetano says:

    Most seminarians in recent years understand that they must be careful how the speak/act around their superiors. Which topics, prayers, languages, liturgical styles, and even clothing are acceptable and which dare not be spoken.
    It is the orthodox and traditional things that are anathema.
    I’m not so sure that he understands that is the freedom that needs to exist.

  7. Fuerza says:

    It’s probably not the same thing and I’m not making any judgment on anyone, but this immediately called to mind the Franciscan Friar from Dante’s Inferno who got himself condemned to the 8th circle of Hell by advising Pope Boniface VIII that “Long promise and short observance” were the keys to his success.

  8. Unwilling says:

    ipocrisia clericale “clericalism”
    honestum cum virtute convertitur ST ii-ii 145

  9. Hidden One says:

    Early this morning I stepped into a church. I picked out a pew and knelt there. My smartphone, on silent, remained untroubled in my pocket. Kneeling there, in limited light, I had no doubts about the unchanging Faith, and no doubt at all that the space I was in and what I was doing there was utterly foreign to the world.

    Father Ant, please do not let yourself be troubled by all this surface chaos and distraction. There remains one thing necessary.

  10. The Cobbler says:

    There is a fine line between protecting oneself from or defending against abuse, and committing it.

    “I’m not [fill in the blank] you, you’re [fill in the blank] me!”

  11. Fr. Kelly says:

    The Dominicans have a better, healthier version of this advice:
    Seldom Affirm.
    Never Deny.
    Always Distinguish.