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Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits Hardcover – March 5, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 390 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (March 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520230558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520230552
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,288,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The authors of this sociological study spent about six years probing the collective and individual psyches of the American Jesuits in an effort to assess the current state of the religious community of men known for missionary and teaching work. McDonough, a political science professor and author of Men Astutely Trained, a history of the Jesuits, and Bianchi, professor emeritus of religion at Emory University, drew their picture from interviews with and essays by current and former Jesuits. Beneath the order's sharply dwindling numbers, which plummeted from a high of 8,393 in 1965 to 3,635 in 2000, they discovered the same forces that have been buffeting Catholicism and its religious communities in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965. The authors point in particular to the increased role of Catholic laity as having affected the morale of ordained clergy. They also found that the Jesuits' formerly strong shared identity has been replaced by a "motley spirituality" and a series of counter-cultural communities for gays, neo-conservatives and those exploring non-Western spiritualities. In analyzing the emergence of the gay subculture within the Jesuit community, the authors depart from the conventional wisdom that celibacy serves as a cover-up for homosexuality, attributing the growth of the gay subculture instead to the decline of celibacy's value as a basis for community. Written in a scholarly style and illustrated with graphs and charts, this sociological study is unlikely to attract a popular audience, but will be of interest to academics and some leaders of religious communities.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Using interviews with over 400 Jesuits and former Jesuits, McDonough (political science, Arizona State Univ.; Men Astutely Trained: A History of the Jesuits in the American Century) and Bianchi (religion emeritus, Emory Univ.) explore this controversial religious society and the changes it has undergone from Vatican II to the present. While letting their interviewees speak for themselves, they also provide well-balanced and insightful interpretations of the material they have gathered. The first six chapters concentrate on individual Jesuits and their reasons for joining or leaving the society. The next five chapters deal with community relationships within the order, explore the Jesuits' corporate work and ministry, and examine their political activities. The book deals frankly with such issues as declining numbers, conflicting agendas, and political tensions, as well as homosexuality, celibacy, and women's ordination. This readable but scholarly work is recommended primarily for academic libraries and public libraries with reader interest. C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, IN
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The book is interesting, at times fascinating, and the authors have wisely backed up every assertion with quotes from Jesuits and non-Jesuits alike. The honesty of the written responses is astonishing--for an order of men so famous for nuance and "jesuitical" language, the Jesuits quoted here speak frankly about sensitive and complicated issues.
On the other hand, the book relies so heavily on the testimony and study of former Jesuits that the title and marketing efforts are misleading--it is not always a view of the situation "Inside the American Jesuits." For example, the authors draw extensively from the testimony of Jesuits who left the order between 1963 and 1975 for their analyses of issues like priestly formation and doctrinal variation. The equivalent would be asking someone who left the Catholic Church forty years ago to describe a current parish. The former Jesuits are describing their experience (as they remember it, through the distorting lens of decades of lay life), rather than the practice of the current Society.
It is worth noting that one of the authors, Bianchi, is himself a former Jesuit, and may have felt a resonance with those who left for the same reasons or at the same time. Nevertheless, this focus on a specific generation results in a book about what happened to the Society of Jesus between 1963 and 1975, rather than the advertised look "Inside the American Jesuits."
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While Bianchi and McDonough offer some constructive and provocative thoughts on the past, present and future of the Society of Jesus, their book contains serious flaws which make it more of a pulp polemic than a serious academic study. The authors make no pretense of objectivity and little attempt to conceal their biases: often, the book seems to be an argument for ending clerical celibacy and an all-male priesthood, using the Jesuits merely as a case study in support of the authors' thesis. As the previous reviewer notes, Bianchi and McDonough rely disproportionately on the comments of ex-Jesuits who left the Society years ago to make generalizations about Jesuit life today. The comments the authors quote are often very repetitive and seem to highlight views with which Bianchi and McDonough agree rather than give a well-rounded perspective on how current and former Jesuits feel about the issues discussed. More troubling is the methodology the authors used to collect the data that forms the backbone of their study. Eschewing any attempt at random sampling, the authors sent out surveys with an invitation to participants to choose other individuals who should be surveyed, allowing participants to shape the results by deciding who else should be given the opportunity to participate. Unsurprisingly, then, the results are skewed toward certain perspectives and probably do not represent the full panoply of opinions held by the target groups. As stated above, Bianchi and McDonough do make some worthwhile points in "Passionate Uncertainty," but their ill-concealed biases and sloppy methodology cast doubt on the value of their conclusions.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Bordiu Ximenez Embun on January 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The authors are well documented in anecdotes- too many to be dismissed. Know a lot about jesuits, but havent't got the faintest idea about catholic church per se.
Their approach is interesting, sociological, but no christian.

The content induces to think ( may be true ), that the jesuit mainstream, is no longer fully christian, not to say catholic, but a cocktail of budhisdm, psicoanalysis,good will and great desorentation. In a word: Good people completely lost.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Terrence Carden on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Presuming that the methodology is sound, this report is an eye-opening account of what really is going on the minds of religious as they see the church crumbling about them. It also explains why there does not seem to be an outcry from the religious or laity to bring about reform: it is just not worth it to them. I am amazed that this work has not received greater notice among those interested in reform of the Roman Catholic Church.
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