Our Jesuitical Government

There is little evidence to suggest that the Jesuits had a huge influence in the formative years of our current cabinet of ministers. Lots of Christian Brothers were involved. The Cistercians trained the mind of our dear leader in Roscrea.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, on the other hand, was once under the wing of the Jesuits in Belvedere College on Dublin's Northside, the Alma Mater not only of James Joyce and Sir Terry Wogan, but also Richard Bruton, Garret Fitzgerald and his own younger brother Conor.

The education provided by the Jesuits is famously idiosyncratic. "Give me the boy until the age of seven and I will give you the man" said co-founder St. Francis Xavier. Such an all-pervasive attitude towards indoctrination not only resulted in Jesuit schools producing well-schooled young men, it also deliberately shaped their way of thinking.

Jesuitism is a name for a casuistic approach to moral questions and problems promoted by some Jesuits of the 17th century. 'Jesuitical' is how Green Party leader John Gormley described the ways in which Fianna Fáil had been conducting themselves over the past week, during which bailout negotiations with the IMF/EU (and possibly Britain) were ongoing, unbeknownst to their Green coalition partners or even some other FF ministers. The term was used in condemnation of Fianna Fáil machinations by Gormley, to explain why his party called for a general election in January. It backfired on the Greens, who are taking flak for making a lame duck of the current administration and spooking our EU/IMF rescuers and those flighty 'markets' once again, who truly dislike uncertainty.

The caustic approach of Jesuitism stresses the importance of a case-by-case approach to personal moral decision. Certain Jesuits of the 17th century developed a casuistry (the study of cases of conscience), whereby at the time of decision, individual inclinations were more important than the moral law itself. Jesuitism has been described as 'an attempt to achieve holy ends by unholy means', or 'the embodiment of the genius of cant, persuading itself to believe that which is not is'.

The Greens claim that Cowen, Lenihan et al are engaging in Jesuitism, particularly in their decisions to withhold information on the bailout. Indeed, the two Brian's, apparently working on their own, have made choices in recent weeks that would seem to go against most Irish people's idea of 'the moral law'.

Despite all experience and evidence to the contrary, Irish people still have an expectation that their government will tell the truth, especially on matters such as a conditional multi-billion euro loan that could forever change the face of the country. That neither Cowen nor Lenihan would tell the truth on the fact that negotiations were underway, leaving everyone in the dark, on the basis of achieving certain ends, shows a case-by-case approach to decisions, disregarding moral norms.

While not claiming that members of the government are overly influenced by religion - although Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív is asking us to pray for Ireland - it is possible to discern the altar at which they worship. The Church of Fianna Fáil is broad and deep, and its adherents have drunk deep of its wine. As the other co-founder of the Jesuits Ignatius Loyola wrote "I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it", Fianna Fáil will declare their silence, their lies and their mis-governance to be for our benefit, to be in the national interest, if there is a possibility of saving some face or Dáil seats. Perhaps the Finance Minister would do better to revisit his old school motto - 'By Straight Paths'.