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Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church and the World Hardcover – May 23, 2014
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As a journalist and author of 16 previous books, Kaiser has a long-standing interest in church affairs, honed when he was a New York Times bureau chief in Rome. More significantly, he was himself a Jesuit-in-training for 10 years. . . .This is a book written, not by a disinterested outsider, but by one of the club. Throughout, Kaiser is keen to emphasize not only that Pope Francis is different to his predecessors and will lead the church in a new way, but that the nature of his difference lies precisely in the fact that he is a Jesuit. The thrust of the argument is summed up in a quote from another member: 'Jesuits are never content with the status quo.' (Irish Independent)
Robert Blair Kaiser's analysis of what makes Pope Francis tick is a wonderful read and to be promoted. . . . The book is an excellent read. . . . I highly recommend this book. It is insightful and well worth the effort of a read. Good on Kaiser for bringing it to us. (The Catholic Register)
Throughout the book, Kaiser’s contentions and observations are rarely dull and often intriguing. (America: The National Catholic Review)
Inside the Jesuits offers an introduction to the Jesuits and the things that seem to make them providentially unique to some and regrettably controversial to others. Either way, it is an engaging read. (ThinkJESUIT)
Pope Francis has been boldly changing the world through his everyday encounters, impromptu interviews, and down-to-earth attitude. Robert Blair Kaiser argues in Inside the Jesuits (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014) that these actions are caused by the pope having 'Jesuit DNA.' Once a Jesuit-in-training himself before leaving to pursue a career in journalism, Kaiser shows how Pope Francis’ personality has been shaped by the basic elements in Jesuit formation. (U.S. Catholic Book Club)
[Inside the Jesuits is a] very positive book. (The Jersey Journal)
Inside the Jesuits gives the reader a new, sharper lens with which to look at Pope Francis’ activities. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with Robert Kaiser’s conclusions, this insightful book is worthy of consideration and study. (Contemporary Christian Readings)
One of the most interesting aspects of Kaiser's book, and perhaps one of its key contributions, is its expert quick survey of the kind of thinking-on-the-frontiers that Jesuit theologians (many of them hounded and attacked by the two popes prior to Francis) have been doing for some time now — thinking that has clearly influenced the current pope, and will now begin to permeate the entire church through his new opening to theological discussion, and, in particular, liberation theology. (Bilgrimage)
Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church by noted journalist and former Jesuit Robert Blair Kaiser, offers insights on the pope’s 'Jesuit DNA.'. . . .My Rating: Read this book if you are the type of person who likes to know the 'why' behind people and events. (Nihil Obstat)
This lively book argues that the now mostly liberal Jesuit Order has shaped Pope Francis and has laid the groundwork for a reforming papacy. . . .The outside world is hoping for changes in church-state relations and in policies that affect the rest of humanity. (Voice of Reason)
The late Robert Blair Kaiser has written one of the first treatments of Pope Francis, and has done so in a journalistic style which integrates memoir with some new insights. . . .Kaiser’s book does help highlight some aspects of the North American Jesuit experience that historians no doubt will find of great interest in years to come. This book can be used as a resource for piecing together America’s modern Jesuit history. For example, future historians will find value in the published discussions between Kaiser and the embattled ex-Jesuit peace activist John Dear. Kaiser also wistfully, yet with great detail, recalls the engagement of Alinskyite Jesuits in California and their founding of pico, the Pacific Institute for Community, which lobbied leftward for housing and labor goals during the 1970s. (Journal of Jesuit Studies)
Robert Blair Kaiser provides a poignant and informed account of the notably wide appeal of Pope Francis. Kaiser opens up the mystery. (James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History)
Kaiser writes with the enthusiasm and insight of one Jesuit for another Jesuit, Pope Francis. A brilliant journalist with immense experience, he explores Jesuit DNA to predict change in the papacy and Church. It excites with surprising revelations and perceptions. This is a must read for changing times. (Jane Anderson, University of Western Australia; author of Priests in Love)
I have known Robert Kaiser since we both covered Vatican Two back in the sixties. He had an inside track, having been ten years a Jesuit, and he has now made an eloquent case for the hope that Pope Francis will transform the sclerotic Catholic Church. I hope that he is right. (Ted Morgan, biographer of Winston Churchill and Somerset Maugham; Pulitzer prizewinner)
Kaiser, like Pope Francis, is 'a Jesuit at heart' and he knows what makes Jesuits tick. He is remarkably well-informed and connected, and is thus very well placed to tell us why Francis is turning the modern papacy upside-down. It is because of the pope's Jesuit DNA: the daring to think and act outside the box, to be free to innovate, to remain flexible, to adapt constantly, to set ambitious goals, to think globally, to move quickly, to take risks, to make mistakes—all to find the presence of God in the world. (Simon Bryden-Brook, Catholics for a Changing Church UK)
Not for the first time, Robert Kaiser has got it absolutely right. Things really are different under this new Pope, and Kaiser's gift is to explain why, in terms of the 'Jesuit DNA' that are in the very fiber of Pope Francis' being. This is a remarkable insight into a Papacy that is strikingly new and that bids fair to bring to fulfillment the unfinished business of the Second Vatican Council (and here, of course, Kaiser's 'inside track' is enormously illuminating). There is a rollicking ride through the centuries of Jesuit history, at times inspiring, and at times uncomfortable reading for contemporary Jesuits. Kaiser shows how we are today living in an irreversibly new world: God is at work. (Nicholas King, S.J., Oxford University)
Opening Inside the Jesuits is like tearing the wrappings off a gift you thought lost in the snowdrifts of the stern winters that settled on the Church during the long papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Once opened, Robert Blair Kaiser's book brims with the rising light and warmth of spring in his seamlessly interwoven stories of Pope Francis and the Jesuit tradition he fulfills as, with the humility of Saint Francis and the spiritual depth of Saint Ignatius, he sets the table of the Church and invites the world to take the first places at the feast that Vatican II prepared for it. Nobody does this with the insight or art of Robert Blair Kaiser who was prepared for this challenge by his own interwoven years as a Jesuit seminarian and as a journalist who covered Vatican II for TIME magazine. Kaiser finds the Jesuit tradition with its deep discipline and its commitment ever to seek out the little explored margins of human knowledge and experience exemplified in Pope Francis who, because he is not defensive makes the world comfortable enough to lower its own defenses toward the Church. This is an engrossing and, yes, a thrilling book to read by anyone drawn toward this deeply spiritual and yet profoundly human Pope. In short, Kaiser tells us, just what you would expect from a Jesuit Pope. (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, emeritus professor of psychology, Loyola University of Chicago)
Among the few living journalists to have reported the Second Vatican Council, Robert Kaiser offers a unique and rich perspective as he connects the Catholic story over five decades. So anchored, his Jesuit credentials add yet another special vantage. The Pope Francis story remains larger than most can yet imagine. This book helps explain why. (Tom Fox, editor, National Catholic Reporter)
It is rare that you can get to know a pope from the ‘inside’. Yet that is precisely what Robert Kaiser has done. He has got ‘inside’ Pope Francis by highlighting how the pope’s spirituality and training has made being a Jesuit part of his DNA. Francis is a Jesuit to the core of his being and Kaiser spells out with lucidity and style what this will mean for his papacy. With an insider’s eye for detail, Kaiser introduces us to the spirituality and creativity that characterizes the best men in the Jesuit tradition, men who are always out ‘on the edge’. He sees Francis as being the first pope for centuries who will challenge the church to move outside its comfort zone, as well as being precisely the style of church leader that Vatican Council II wanted. Inside the Jesuits is both provocative and reassuring: ‘provocative’ when Kaiser outlines just how challenging Francis’ approach to being bishop of Rome will be. And ‘reassuring’ in that Francis is the most Christ-like pope Catholicism has had for centuries. (Paul Collins, author of The Birth of the West)
A compelling read if only to hear Robert Kaiser wax rhapsodic about a pope! But there's more, for Kaiser writes from that peculiar 21st century space where a "former" Jesuit can yet profess his enduring affection for the order and the church. (Tom Roberts, editor at large, National Catholic Reporter)
Only Robert Blair Kaiser could have pulled this off. Inside the Jesuits, an admiring analysis of what makes the Jesuits such extraordinary achievers in the life of the Post-Reformation Church, is woven seamlessly into a penetrating, astute, and thoroughly engaging reflection on the promise of the first Jesuit Pope. An extraordinary achievement! (Donald Cozzens, John Carroll University, author of Notes from the Underground: The Spiritual Journal of a Secular Priest)
At once chatty, insightful, and profound, this part-memoir, part study of Pope Francis as a Jesuit by the doyen of American Catholic religious journalists will delight and inform a wide audience. Written in an engaging style, it is deeply informative of how and why Cardinal Bergoglio was elected, and what we may and may not expect from his papacy. Robert Kaiser places Pope Francis wisely and well amid his Jesuit peers and the Order’s history and charism, puts both Kaiser himself and the pope into conversation with major events and movements in the last fifty years of the Catholic Church’s history, and conveys so well the sense of constructive excitement that Francis’s election has brought to the Church. (Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University)
Robert Kaiser has written a spirited defense of the social gospel, with special attention to Pope Francis and his "Jesuit DNA." As an ex-Jesuit I found this enlightening and indeed persuasive at important points. His hopes for a curing of the papal curia and his stories of Jesuit theologians' trail-blazing in matters of faith were of special interest. (Jim Bowman, author of Company Man: My Jesuit Life, 1950-1968)
About the Author
Robert Blair Kaiser was a Jesuit-in-training for ten years before leaving to pursue a career in journalism. He served as an award-winning religion reporter for The New York Times, CBS News, Newsweek, and Time. He is the author of sixteen other books, including A Church in Search of Itself and he is an internationally recognized commentator on Vatican II.
Top customer reviews
And some of it is. But a great part of it focuses on the author's
years as a Jesuit, on and on. And there is no telling what made
the author a "onetime" Jesuit are the same things that make
Pope Francis the man he is. There are also stories about other
fine Jesuits who have been courageous, but, again, they are not
Pope Francis. I thought it very wordy.,
Of course, even in his references to Jesuit history, past and present, it is altogether too obvious that many prominent Jesuits might not make the cut in any decision about who have best demonstrated the traits that this DNA would produce while it is some of those that left the Society who purportedly do so. This already undercuts something of his case, especially when he has to look back at the career of Jorge Bergoglio as the young and admittedly inadequate Jesuit provincial in the darkest days of recent Argentinian history.
Kaiser, who was four years ahead of me as a Jesuit novice in the California province, reprises his own training up to the time, after two years teaching at the Jesuit high school in San Francisco that was one of the steps to ordination, he angrily signs the papers releasing him from his vows. I also taught at that school as a Jesuit and then left before moving on to theology, although my own reasons were markedly different. Kaiser, who describes his experiences as a novice going whole-heartedly through what we called the Long Retreat, came to argue that the Society did not in fact allow him what he needed to realize his calling to serve God as he believed he should. For myself, who had entered the Jesuits with the misguided logic that it was better to be a priest than a layman and a Jesuit rather than just a diocesan priest, I never did get much out of the Exercises and came at last to see that, much as I had come to love Jesuit life, I really had no business becoming a priest.
In the years since we have both been active in the West Coast Companions, the group of former Jesuits Kaiser describes in his book. We have also often been adversaries, but I have always respected Kaiser's dedication to both the Catholic Church and to the Jesuits. The strongest part of his book is the way in which that dedication comes through, and it is what makes the book interesting and a useful resource for anyone interested in the political maneuvering that defines the Vatican. Whether Francis will in fact have changed the church, at least in the ways that Kaiser hopes, remains to be seen.
He makes the point that, like US Marines, there are only Jesuits… there is no such thing as a “former” Jesuit.
While the work tells a positive story, Kaiser is not afraid to mention problems that have occurred, such as a few in the provinces of Oregon and Chicago. Overall, though, the goal is to show the Jesuits at their best. Similarly, he interprets some historical details about Bergoglio’s earlier career which suggest that Bergoglio had personal issues which led to close supervision by the order; Kaiser carefully speculates on what these might have been.
Kaiser’s style is personal and familiar; and his background puts him in a unique position to interpret “the signs of the times”.
This is a “must read” for Catholics and others who want to be aware of the unique Jesuit “DNA” that Pope Francis bears.