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Top Jesuit: We Have To Rewrite Jesus

Sandro Magister relates content from an interview the Superior General of the Jesuits, a Latin American cleric close to the Jesuit pope, has to say about marriage. [1] Unbelievable. Excerpt:

Q: Cardinal Gerhard L. Műller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, has said with regard to marriage that the words of Jesus are very clear and “no power in heaven and on earth, neither an angel nor the pope, neither a council nor a law of the bishops has the faculty to modify them.”

A: So then, there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said. At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualized, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.

Q: But if all the worlds of Jesus must be examined and brought back to their historical context, they do not have an absolute value.

A: Over the last century in the Church there has been a great blossoming of studies that seek to understand exactly what Jesus meant to say… That is not relativism, but attests that the word is relative, the Gospel is written by human beings, it is accepted by the Church which is made up of human persons… So it is true that no one can change the word of Jesus, but one must know what it was!

Q: Is it also possible to question the statement in Matthew 19:3-6: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”?

A: I go along with what Pope Francis says. One does not bring into doubt, one brings into discernment. . .

Q: But discernment is evaluation, it is choosing among different options. There is no longer an obligation to follow just one interpretation. . .

A: No, the obligation is still there, but to follow the result of discernment.

Q: However, the final decision is based on a judgment relative to different hypotheses. So it also takes into consideration the hypothesis that the phrase “let man not put asunder…” is not exactly as it appears. In short, it brings the word of Jesus into doubt.

A: Not the word of Jesus, but the word of Jesus as we have interpreted it. Discernment does not select among different hypotheses but listens to the Holy Spirit, who – as Jesus has promised – helps us to understand the signs of God’s presence in human history.

Whole thing here. [1]Let those with ears to hear, hear what the second-most powerful Jesuit in the world is saying unto the Catholic Church.

We are living through Big History, for sure.

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85 Comments To "Top Jesuit: We Have To Rewrite Jesus"

#1 Comment By William Tighe On February 23, 2017 @ 7:46 am

An historical comment on one of Anne’s paragraphs:

“Finally, there were bishops in the early centuries, esp. in the East, who took the roughly Protestant view in the 16th century, and allowed husbands to divorce wives who had committed adultery after the marriage and freely marry again. Wives didn’t have the same privilege. (The even more lenient Eastern practice of allowing as many as two church divorces and three marriages by applying the moral principle of ekonomia grew up simultaneously.)”

About the first two sentence, my question would be: how many and how early? I know that there were a few (as there were also in late Merovingian France), but I don’t think that there were many (or any before the Fifth Century). And about the parenthetical third sentence, this Eastern practice seems to go back no earlier than the early Tenth Century, and the controversy over the four marriages of the Emperor Leo IV (b. 866, emp. 886-912) in the first decade of that century: the particular facet of that controversy concerning remarriage after divorce was first hinted at in the “Tome of Reunion” of 920 (which healed the schism occasioned by the emperor’s fourth marriage) and first stated explicitly by a Patriarch of Constantinople in 1043. Compare the rather different course and resolution of the “Moechian Controversy” over the adulterous remarriage of the Emperor Constantine VI (b. 771, emp. 780-797) after he forced his wife, who bore him two daughters but not the son he craved, into a convent in 795, and then married one of her ladies-in-waiting whom he had taken as his mistress (rather on the lines of Henry VIII of England centuries later). The opposition which the “marriage” evoked was one of the causes of the emperor’s overthrow and probably murder two years later; the schism it caused went on for nearly two decades after 797.

#2 Comment By O.L. Johnson On February 23, 2017 @ 7:48 am

For a long time I’ve been struggling to understand what exactly went wrong with the Jesuits. I’m currently reading Malachi Martin’s book on the subject (The Jesuits) and it explains a lot.

#3 Comment By Interguru On February 23, 2017 @ 8:06 am

I am neither Christian nor a theologian, so I am in no position to tell anyone what to do.

I see the basic question for (small-o ) orthodox Christians and Jews is how to respond when large numbers, sometimes large majorities, of your nominal adherents oppose or more likely just ignore the basic tenants of your faith.

Do you accept the large shrinkage or try to accommodate them?

[NFR: Depends. What is religion *for*? — RD]

#4 Comment By CatherineNY On February 23, 2017 @ 8:09 am

@Anne writes: “What’s disengenuous here is Sandro Magister’s continuing attempts to paint the Pope — in this case, by association — as some dangerous innovator or, as I said, destroyer of all things sacred. Ugh.” I second the ugh. Magister’s brand of “gotcha” journalism is inappropriate and misleading in a Church context.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 23, 2017 @ 8:31 am

“large majorities, of your nominal adherents oppose or more likely just ignore the basic tenants of your faith.”

Right, they are “tenants” who are church squatters, rather than those who hold to the tenets of the faith.

#6 Comment By Tom W On February 23, 2017 @ 8:40 am

Faith is largely experienced through a struggle between God’s Will and “one’s own” will ..which one is to be done.

Catholic leadership is urging the flock to follow their own will and to bend God’s Will toward it.

Obviously they are dealing with difficult culturally entrenched issues…but surrender to them is not the “narrow gate”.

Shepherding us through the Holy narrow Gate, which is Christ Himself, is truly the sole purpose of the Church. Such broad personal interpretation of Christ’s words is an open admission of failure that the Church leaders have no idea where to lead the flock.

Arguably they are trying to bring as many people as possible into the fold so as to become aware of the Gate. But by undermining they very path they seek to point us, they are left with nothing.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 23, 2017 @ 8:41 am

“Catholics may start calling into question the clear teachings of the Bible, Jesus, and Paul on a six day creation, a literal Adam, and a 6000 year age of the Earth.”

Fake News Alert: “the Bible, Jesus and Paul” never said that the earth is 6,000 years old. An ignorant medieval named Ussher came up with that all on his own, against clear evidence even in his own time. As for six “days” what makes you so dumb as to think that refers to a length of time (always relative to variations in any case) linked to the rotation period of an earth that didn’t even yet exist? As for Adam not being literal, there’s no reason to have to believe it is not a fact, just unprovable and unsupported speculation.

#8 Comment By Windswept House On February 23, 2017 @ 10:46 am

We live in an age where no one sins, unless of course you get caught and then forgiveness and absolution is given if you go on TV and confess.

Look, God’s first covenant was a marital covenant. The hand of God wrote the sixth commandment: do not commit adultery. Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapters 5 and 19) speaks pointedly and absolutely against adultery. I assume His discernment on this matter should be sufficient for all Catholics.

For those who think this needs a revisit, there are innumerable scholarly things written through the centuries regarding. Or start with something recent like ‘Remaining in the Truth of Christ’. That may help you stop being a reed swaying in the wind. Unless you have a Kasperian agenda, then your intent is more political.

#9 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On February 23, 2017 @ 10:50 am

Fran wrote:

Fake News Alert: “the Bible, Jesus and Paul” never said that the earth is 6,000 years old. An ignorant medieval named Ussher came up with that all on his own, against clear evidence even in his own time. As for six “days” what makes you so dumb as to think that refers to a length of time (always relative to variations in any case) linked to the rotation period of an earth that didn’t even yet exist? As for Adam not being literal, there’s no reason to have to believe it is not a fact, just unprovable and unsupported speculation.

These concerns are not as glibly dismissed as you imply, Fran.

First, Bishop Ussher was neither ignorant (he was one of the premier scholars of his day), nor Midieval (he lived in the 17th century). Now, you may think he was wrong–even foolish–to claim what he did, but rest assured that he was not ignorant when he made his most famous claim. Saying he was an “ignorant Midieval” is mere defamation.

Second, the days of creation in Genesis speak of “day and night” which is indication that the author meant to imply what his readers would understand as a standard 24 hour day.

I understand why careful exegetes believe in young earth creationism. I understand, but disagree. But merely mocking their belief is not helpful.

#10 Comment By Ken On February 23, 2017 @ 10:57 am

Actually, Archbishop James Ussher was neither medieval (1581-1656, therefore early modern) nor ignorant, being an accomplished scholar and church historian. He may reasonably be criticized for employing an erroneous hermeneutic while interpreting the OT chronology. But you are correct on your larger point that the 6,000 year age does not appear anywhere in the text itself (it was included as a marginal note in some editions of the English Bible).

#11 Comment By Just Dropping By On February 23, 2017 @ 11:36 am

@ Fran Macadam: I interpreted TA’s remark to be a sarcastic response to Rod’s concerns, not that TA was ignorant of the Roman Catholic Church’s position on those issues.

#12 Comment By James C On February 23, 2017 @ 11:44 am

So says this Jesuit, in so many words:

“At the heart of the Gospel is the right to discern one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Anathema sit.

#13 Comment By Alan On February 23, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

Why did you write “Unbelievable”? At this point, the only thing about the jesuits that would be unbelievable is if they ever issued a statement that meshed with the Bible and/or historic Christianity.

#14 Comment By Bernie On February 23, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

This is a summation of the early Church Fathers on divorce and remarriage:


The practice of the Catholic Church has, for all intents and purposes, been consistent for 2,000 years. I cannot speak for the Orthodox Church’s practices.

#15 Comment By G Harvey On February 23, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

The Jesuits have been going to the Devil rather steadily for at least the past 75-90 years. Francis is a Jesuit.

The fruits of the Francis pontificate are already bitter and poisonous.

#16 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On February 23, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

Uncle Chuckie wrote:

The words of Jesus were rewritten when they put in that dumb line about Jesus saying Peter would have keys and on him a church would be built. Never mind Jesus could not have said it because the very words and concept did not exist when he was alive. The disciples would have said, “What’s a church?” There is no question but that it was added later. The only question is when.

Maybe he never said anything about marriage either. In the end, do we really know what Jesus really said about, well, anything?

We love you, Uncle Chuckie, we really do…but please refrain from sweeping and firm statements when you don’t have all the facts.

“Church”–or Ekklesia–was a common enough term used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures–don’t try to read into it later ideas of what we think of “Church” as if Jesus was being anachronistic. Likewise, the “binding” and “loosing” to which the “keys” refer was common enough in Jewish circles of Jesus’ day to refer to rule/law making authority.

Now, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I don’t see in Jesus’ statements anything that would make this statement extend to the later office of the bishop of Rome…but I wouldn’t glibly dismiss Jesus’ statements without researching a bit more.

#17 Comment By HP On February 23, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

Ow c’mon! Rod, the Jesuits have been saying stuff like this since… well since Ignatius of Loyola.

This is the most famous example of Jesuit impatience with sterile dogmatism: [3]

#18 Comment By Hound of Ulster On February 23, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

This doctrinal chaos despite the highly centralized structure of the Latin Church…schisms always lead to chaos

#19 Comment By George Marshall On February 23, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

The Jesuit wants the Catholic Church to think about what Jesus meant. Is that so awful? [He did not say, at least in the part quoted above, that he wanted to rewrite Jesus.] Jesus didn’t use the word sacrament. He certainly did not say anything about the Immaculate Conception. Yet, the Catholic Church feels there’s both. In terms of what Jesus “said” about divorce, He “said” there was an exception for “porneia,” at least in Matthew but not in Mark or Luke. There’s a debate about what He meant by that word. He didn’t use that word at all, because He wasn’t speaking Greek. As some of those who have commented here, a translation of the word is “adultery,” but it can also mean “scandal.” Of course, many Protestant Christians and the Orthodox Church have “rewritten” Jesus to allow divorce and remarriage without an annulment, which is another word Jesus did not use let alone say was allowed. He also didn’t say you could divorce and remarry and that would be fine as long as you “lived as brother and sister” by not actually having sex.

#20 Comment By Ben On February 23, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

Protestants, particularly my small sliver of the young, restless, and reformed type, have a lot of problems. But statements like this make me grateful for the high value we put on scripture.

#21 Comment By Brendan from Oz On February 23, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

Ah, yes, Ussher: “The religion of the papists is superstitious and idolatrous; their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their church in respect of both, apostatical; to give them therefore a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine, is a grievous sin.”

Sir Isaac Newton was another engaged in seeking a date for the Creation, yet isn’t mocked even for his Alchemy.

And if a Day to the Lord can be thousand years (2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:4), 6 days and nights has long been regarded as not literal.

#22 Comment By Myles On February 23, 2017 @ 6:07 pm

The “Didache”, produced by the first generation Christians, should have been included in the Canon of Scripture. It is crystal clear on what they, subject to social revilement and martyrdom, thought Jesus “meant”. No wonder the churches and seminaries are empty. The Mass was wrecked and went from a Holy Sacrifice to a picnic meeting. The reality of the immortal soul was thrown out. The common disciplines such as fast and abstinence were all left to individual construction, i.e. eliminated. I am a convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism – a lesser evil voter. Lutheran pastor, then Catholic lay High School Chaplain, D.Min. from Jesuits, seen it all go down and out. I seems there is no Christian community standing that resembles anything like what I was raised in. Mass, Real Presence, Bible, Cathecism, God-centred hymns, beautiful music, pastoral authority, clear moral direction, buildings with distinct sanctuary railed-off spaces…etc., etc. At what point does all the “re-interpreting” end up ceasing to be Christian in anything but the name brand?

#23 Comment By TR On February 23, 2017 @ 6:42 pm

Fran: Bishop Ussher was not a medieval. Stop slurring the middle ages.

#24 Comment By Jack On February 23, 2017 @ 6:44 pm

Clement XIV was right and Pius VII was wrong. The suppression of the Jesuits should have remained in place.

#25 Comment By TA On February 23, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

@Just Dropping By

Yes, I thought I was fairly obvious. The RCC says the face value reading of Genesis, multiple chapters from other books, and callbacks to those events through the New Testament are appropriately read as non-literal. It’s silly to then simultaneiously:

1) Say that it’s beyond the pale to examine if another line in the Bible should maybe be read in a way that isn’t completely literal.

2) Claim that reading things into the Bible that run counter to the literal text is an inevitable opening to a slippery slope leading to complete chaos and rejection of truth.

#26 Comment By pj On February 24, 2017 @ 2:32 am

This is why I laugh when people claim that Protestants, especially of the evangelical variety are the ones who are in danger of fading away quickly. The dispersed nature of evangelicalism with lots of independent churches ensures that a remnant of small-o orthodox believers will always be around no matter how hostile the culture becomes because the progressives simply can’t seize control of every church everywhere. It is the traditional and strongly hierarchical churches that will fall most rapidly in a secular age. We’ve already basically seen that with the mainline Protestants, and we are now seeing hints of it with the Catholics. The reason is that the liberals only have to capture one or a few people at the top who will than dictate to everyone else what the scripture really “meant” all along, and like the Supreme Court dictating to the country, most people within that church will fall in line. All it takes to reverse any orthodox teaching is one wrong person at the wrong time.

#27 Comment By Bernie On February 24, 2017 @ 7:24 am


In spite of all the craziness, God will never abandon His Body on earth, the Church. It has been through worse times and always survived, and always will, as Jesus promised. It hurts to the core to see that which you love so wounded, but thus has it been for 2,000 years. Read early Church history; it was full of heresies…all the time. Saints, martyrs and countless unknown ordinary Christians fought against them in Church councils, Papal writings, books, and indeed in the spilling of their blood. Take Jesus at His word (literally) … “Be not afraid.” All will be well.

#28 Comment By Geoffrey On February 24, 2017 @ 3:03 pm

This interpretation may be welcome to some Catholics and unwelcome to others but anyone who has read a little bit of church history (or reviewed some of the disagreements in this comment chain) understands that believers have gone back and forth about the meanings and intentions of Jesus’ words from the very beginning.

These disagreements/reinterpretations may be difficult and uncomfortable and awkward but I think they are flat-out unavoidable.

#29 Comment By Jack O’Rourke On February 24, 2017 @ 5:45 pm

Jesus of Nazareth could not have been plainer when He said “Love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” when struck by an assailant.
For two thousand years, the Church has been dancing around the Sermon on the Mount.
Why should divorce and remarriage be any different?

#30 Comment By OhhJim On February 24, 2017 @ 6:19 pm

I believe Jesus meant what He said. I also believe He meant it for a specific audience. Who was He speaking to?

#31 Comment By Ron Cade On February 25, 2017 @ 12:23 am

Discern this: In the Bible, who said he would build his church? How difficult is that to understand? How is it not discernible to understand that all Scripture is inspired of God? 2Timothy 3:16.

It seems “the second most powerful” guy can discern what he want to discern. Jesus is the head of the church. What else will “the second most powerful” guy want to change if not already changed. Once you change one thing, the second and subsequent things come easier. Everybody should get into the Scriptures and see what you discern. Cheers!

#32 Comment By TDK On February 25, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

Sandro Alert!

You should include his name in the title so we know not to click next time.

#33 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 27, 2017 @ 8:08 am

I would be interested to know how, or if, the Catholic Church handles historical/critical scholarship. Among H-C scholars, it’s quite commonplace to conclude that certain sayings attributed to Jesus were probably not the words of Jesus, but were later constructions. Perhaps this top Jesuit was following that approach? Such an approach is accepted by some denominations, and rejected by others; how does the Catholic Church regard

As far as I can tell from the outside, the Catholic Church doesn’t have a position on historical criticism in general, except where it contradicts defined dogma. There are Catholic scholars in good standing (Raymond Brown, etc.) who accept historical critical findings, and there are others who reject them. I don’t think the Catholic Church has a position on whether, se, the miracles of the loaves and fishes really happened, though I’d assume most Catholic priests and laypeople believe it did.

I would add though that to the extent the Catholic Church rejects historical criticism, they’re right to do so. Most of what I’ve seen put forward by historical-critical scholars (and that includes some of their own material, as well as criticisms made of them by more conservative scholars) is just really really shoddy, relying on unexamined assumptions, pre-existing biases, logical fallacies, and in many cases arguments from literary criticism (which can be used to ‘prove’ just about, well, anything).

Moreover, as Charles Gore pointed out about a hundred years ago, if you do go the historical-critical route and conclude that some sayings attributed to Jesus weren’t really authentic, then the most logical conclusion is that the stricter of the two teachings on divorce ( = lacking the Matthaean exception) is correct. Paul, Luke and Mark don’t mention it, it doesn’t really fit with the manner of speaking attributed to Jesus elsewhere, and one can make a much more plausible case for why the exception would be added than for why it would be dropped.

I am personally a liberal on sexual ethics, but if you want to make a case for more liberal divorce laws, I think you’re on much firmer ground saying “Jesus said this, but didn’t imply sacramental indissolubility”, or “Jesus said this, but it was hyperbole rather than a legal standard”, or “Jesus said this, but it no longer applies to our circumstances today”, or something like that, rather than casting doubt on whether Jesus really said it or not. It’s one of the best attested historical facts in the New Testament, after all.

#34 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 27, 2017 @ 8:15 am

I believe Jesus meant what He said. I also believe He meant it for a specific audience. Who was He speaking to?

Jews, who were still under the Jewish Covenant. You can certainly argue it doesn’t apply to us, and I’m very much sympathetic to that argument, although the Catholic Church disagrees (based on the Council of Jerusalem).

You can certainly argue that the Council of Jerusalem got it wrong, but at that point you’re questioning a whole lot more of Catholic doctrine than just the divorce bit, you’re questioning Conciliar Infallibility. This is why I think Rod is at least partly correct in that the sexual revolution is extremely corrosive of Christian orthodoxy: you can’t really question Catholic orthodoxy on sexual ethics without questioning the whole concept of orthodoxy in general, because dissent on sexual ethics means essentially saying that you believe that a whole series of councils going back to the mid first century were wrong. I think that conclusion is correct, which is why I can no longer call myself ‘orthodox’ in any real sense, but that naturally leads to questioning other aspects of ‘orthodoxy’ like the accounts of monotheism, creation, and so forth.

#35 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 27, 2017 @ 8:16 am

“Saints, martyrs and countless unknown ordinary Christians fought against them in Church councils, Papal writings, books, and indeed in the spilling of their blood”

The spilling of blood was, of course, not just one one side…..