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The Jesuit Who Didn’t Fit In

November 24, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

The late Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, grew up in the 1960s a couple of miles from Notre Dame’s campus. He worked his way through the University of Chicago working in Gary’s steel mills, and joined the Jesuit order shortly after graduation. When I finally met him personally in Boston thirty years later, he was already a classically trained Scripture scholar (an expert on pre-Semitic languages with copious publications on philology). His random ruminations about the state of the clergy, the Church, and the secular world were a virtual fountain of precision in critique and hilarity.
Fr. Mankowski died suddenly last fall — young, too young, in the somber view of his bereaving friends and admirers.
Fr. Mankowski’s intellectual forays ranged far and wide. He taught biblical languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He wrote both under his own name and using pseudonyms, the most popular being “Diogenes,” a byline of CatholicCulture.org. This book represents a selection of these items; its delicious morsels stoke the thirst for more like dewdrops falling on the parched tongue of an Andalusian peasant.
Fortunately, we have a welcome collection of his essays from Ignatius Press (Jesuit at Large, $17.95 on Amazon; it can also be ordered at Ignatius.com). They range the field and rove the flood, in the spirit of Robert Service’s The Men Who Don’t Fit In. Mankowski the philologist considers Mussolini’s use and abuse of the Italian language for ideological ends. “The Prayer Of Lady Macbeth” introduces a riveting discussion of the impact of the contraceptive mentality on religious life (“asceticism of renunciation really involves those hardships that are not inevitable but are undertaken either in conformity to moral principle or as a wholly gratuitous means of discipline aimed at holiness…before the availability of reliable contraception Catholic couples could plausibly be urged to accept the various disciplines of married love as a part as part of an asceticism of patience. With the pill, the ground changed almost overnight. Now couples were required to make the asceticism of renunciation a part of their married lives, because the twin hardships of sexual abstinence and provision for large families became easily, eminently avoidable.”)
One of the author’s most timeless contributions comes in “What Went Wrong,” the text of an address delivered to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in 2003. In the years since, little has changed, so we quote it at length:
“The Crisis is chiefly surprising in how unsurprising it is. No one who has been fighting the culture wars within the Church over the past twenty years can fail to recognize his own struggles with a hostile bureaucracy and conflicted hierarchy in the struggles of those pleading for relief from sexual abuse…the single important difference in the Church’s failure regarding abusive clergy and the failures regarding liturgy, catechesis, pro-life politics, doctrinal dissent and biblical translation is this: that in the case of the sex abuse scandal we’ve been allowed a look over the bishops’ shoulders at their own memos. Deviant sexual assault has accomplished what liturgical abuse never could: It has generated secular media pressure and secular legal constraints so overwhelming that the apparat was forced to make its files public.”
Interesting, isn’t it, how many bishops since spent over $5 billion of the faithful’s donations striving to keep those files out of our hands?
Mankowski then provides some startling analysis which, he wryly notes, are unencumbered by any psychology courses:
“First, being an honorable station in society, the clerical life provided high grass in which many villains and disturbed individuals could seek cover. I would estimate that between 50 and 60 percent of the men who entered religious life with me in the mid-70s were homosexuals who had no particular interest in the Church, but who were using the celibacy requirement of the priesthood as a way of camouflaging the real reason for the fact that they would never marry.”
Remember, this talk was delivered 18 years ago.
In an attempt to explain further the personality traits of the clergy a generation ago, Mankowski — a linguist by trade and training — coined a telling term: Tames. Here we learn the painful lesson of the “Secret Santa.”
“In one-on-one situations, tames in positions of authority will rarely flatly deny the validity of a complaint of corruption lodged by a subordinate. More often they will admit the reality and seriousness of the problem raised, and then pretend to take the appellant into their confidence, assuring him that those in charge are fully aware of the crisis and that steps are being taken, quietly, behind the scenes, to remedy it. Thus the burden of discretion is shifted onto the subordinate in the name of concern for the good of the institution and personal loyalty to the administrator: he must not go public with his evidence of malfeasance lest he disrupt the process — invariably hidden from view — by which it is being put right.
“This ruse has been called the Secret Santa maneuver: ‘There are no presents underneath the tree for you, but that’s because Daddy is down in the basement making you something special. It’s supposed to be a surprise, so don’t breathe a word or you’ll spoil everything.’ And, of course, Christmas never comes.
“Tames have the sort of managerial affability that attracts favorable notice in any bureaucracy,” he observes. “They are relatively unlikely to leave the priesthood; thus, if teams make up only 30 percent of a seminary entrance class, they may well compose 70 percent of those still working as priests 10 years after ordination.”
The gift just keeps on giving, with a hilarious romp, through eighty scintillating hours of “academic religion” meetings, an arm’s-length view of Fr. Ted Hesburgh, CSC, and an action-packed account of the Sandinista revolution as seen through the eyes of the Amanecida Collective, “a group of 13 persons of advanced ideas from Harvard Divinity School and the Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, Massachusetts” on their fact-finding tour of Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega.
Mankowski offers many a discouraging word, but not a single unnecessary one. Every page is worth reading twice. But he was indeed “a man who won’t fit in.” He constantly — and always obediently — struggled under jealous — dare we say envious? — superiors. He earned it, not only with his brilliance but his honesty. The author’s appendix constitutes an important record of a travesty.
Here Mankowski records at length his discovery of the records surrounding the candidacy of Fr. Robert Drinan, a Jesuit from the New England province who served several terms representing Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. The entire episode constitutes a scandal in the Jesuits, the Church, and the country, and the details smell like a fish on the beach. Here Mankowski confronts Santa’s secrets and empties his bag of tricks for all to see.
The ugly truth? Drinan’s provincial, Fr. William Guindon, SJ, flat out lied repeatedly about his role in Drinan’s candidacy and term of service in the House.
“I should declare up front that — while I never met the man — my attitude towards Drinan was not neutral. Pro-lifers (of whom I am one) regarded Drinan as one of their most formidable and injurious opponents in the United States, despite his insistence that he accepted Church teaching on abortion.”
Once the author had received “firsthand testimony that Drinan was complicit in a ruse from which he launched his career as a pro-abortion legislator, I was fully disposed to challenge his moral authority by making the knowledge public.” That knowledge: “the Drinan candidacy was stage-managed from the U.S. in such a way that (Jesuit Father General Fr. Pedro) Arrupe was deprived of the information he needed to make a prudent and just decision.”
Father General Arrupe opposed Drinan’s candidacy and told Guindon to tell Drinan to withdraw. Guindon apparently did not. Warriors and canonists alike will appreciate the author’s careful treatment, and Catholics today should read the record as a model for research that should be done on each and every one of the approximately 100 Catholics on Capitol Hill who are pro-abortion, and their relationship with their bishops, if any.

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