This morning I read what would have to be one of the worst pieces of “analysis” I have come across. Dated Tuesday and found online at The Tablet, it is shoutingly entitled ‘POPE FRANCIS EFFECT’ CAUSES SURGE IN NUMBERS OF JESUIT PRIESTS. In it Rose Gamble tells us that an increase in Jesuit ordinations is due to the “Francis effect”. Really?
Certainly Francis is The Tablet‘s sort of pope, and the Jesuits The Tablet‘s sort of order. This double preference is not clouding its logic, is it?
But did you notice that the number of ordinands this year is almost one-third lower than last year, even after adding in Haiti? It was last year’s crop that was hailed as the largest for 15 years. But this year they are down on that high. So where is this “surge” in “numbers of Jesuit priests” that the headline trumpets and ascribes to a “Pope Francis effect”?
Checking the numbers for this year, we find that only 15 were for the US, 1 was for English Canada and 4 for Haiti. One of the US candidates is actually for Puerto Rico. So for the 6 provinces of the continental United States, there were 14 ordinations.
- 1 joined the Jesuits in 2002
- 1 joined in 2003
- 6 joined in 2004
- 6 joined in 2005
- 4 joined in 2006
- 2 joined in 2007
All of them had entered at least 6 years before Francis became pope. For last year, with the highest ordination crop for 15 years, this would be just as true. A “Francis effect”? Did the ordinands have clairvoyant dreams about him years before he was elected to the Chair of St Peter?
Perhaps the author knows very little about her subject as she seems to confuse ordinations with novitiate entries without batting an eyelid. Look at the extract below, given without any cuts or amendments:
Jesuits.org say that young men in America and Canada are bucking the trend, with 2016’s ordinands showing “a real excitement about being a part of the order and an appreciation for the calling they received from God.”
“They’re excited about the Catholic Church and, because of the example of Pope Francis, they want to learn more about the Jesuits,” wrote Fr Frederico.
Amongst the 20 new Jesuit priests are a former physician, a nurse, Navy officer, fire and explosives investigator, and one who had worked as an assistant to a brewmaster at a local brewery, as well as several teachers and businessmen.
Paragraphs 1 and 3 refer to the ordinands who formally began pursuing their vocation between 2002 and 2007. Paragraph 2 can only refer to the 44 novitiate entrants, for one assumes that by now the ordinands do not need “to learn more about the Jesuits”! There is nothing to distinguish this middle paragraph from the two either side of it, yet clearly they refer to different groups. This is either extreme sloppiness or deliberate obfuscation designed to prop up an already tenuous headline.
To the 20 ordinands of the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Haiti: ad multos annos! To the 44 novices of who knows where exactly (but probably the US, Canada and Haiti), Godspeed!
To the rest of us: let’s be careful about what we read, and take time to distinguish between fact and propaganda.