Saturday 12 April 2014

International departments as 'central clearinghouses'

These days I have been thinking off and on about Lonergan's 'clearing house' comment in "The Response of the Jesuit as Priest and Apostle in the Modern World," A Second Collection, ed. William F.J. Ryan and Bernard J. Tyrrell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974) 165-214. Since I don't have the text at hand, I quote from an article of mine written some years ago. I find it extremely interesting in the context of the new position I find myself in, and of the 'methodological discussion' that I hear has been going on in my department:
On the other hand, Bernard Lonergan has an article containing a very interesting proposal for the ministry of the Jesuit priest in the modern world.  A principal duty of priests, Lonergan says, is to lead and teach the people of God. But all leadership and teaching takes place in the context of one’s times, and the times – Lonergan is writing some 40 years ago – are marked by modernity, secularism and self-destructiveness. The modern Jesuit, Lonergan goes on, has to (1) overcome vestiges of his classicist upbringing; (2) discerningly accept the gains of modernity; and (3) work out strategies for dealing with secularist views on religion and with concomitant distortions in our notion of human knowledge, our apprehension of human reality, and our organization of human affairs. Just how such strategies are to be worked out is an enormous question, but Lonergan offers the following hints: such a strategy will be a creative project emerging from an understanding of a situation and a grasp of what can be done about it; it will not be a static project set forth once and for all, but an ongoing one, constantly revised in the light of feedback from its implementation; it will be not a single ongoing project but a set of ongoing processes, “constantly reported to some central clearinghouse.” This central clearinghouse will have the twofold function of drawing attention to conflicts between separate parts; and keeping all parts informed both of what has been achieved elsewhere and of what has been tried and found wanting.  
A few offhand reflections.
1. While to 'modernity' we have to now add 'post-modernity,' the challenge of modernity remains. We would have to do some reading and interpretation to pinpoint what Lonergan means by modernity, but certainly 'overcoming vestiges of classicism' is something we might still have to do, as also 'discerningly accept the gains of modernity' - though perhaps we have been better on the latter than on the former.
2. Overcoming vestiges of classicism: some light is shed by the points enumerated by Lonergan: a creative project emerging from understanding of concrete situations; an ongoing project that is constantly being revised; and, in fact, a set of ongoing processes.
3. Constantly reported to some central clearinghouse which has the function of drawing attention to conflicts between parts; and sharing information between parts.

As far as the specific formation of formators is concerned:
1. There is the task of learning from what is already happening, both inside and outside the congregation: collecting 'best practices.'
2. Legitimizing formation not as a uniform process, not even a single but variegated process, but as a set of ongoing processes.
3. Promoting constant sharing, 'verification,' improvement.

14 April 2014: the formation section of the Report of the Rector Major on the State of the Congregation 2008-14 identifies the following three challenges, but only in passing: secularization [sic], globalization, and postmodernity. (p. 39)


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