Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content at the RNS Archives website.

(RNS) The Rev. John Dear has long been known as something of a Lone Ranger type in an order that is known for its powerful communal ethos and its strict vows of obedience.


  1. When one takes a vow of obedience, one says that one is willing to discern in the context of community WITH the community. It may be that John Dear is called to a life outside of the Jesuit community at this time. That does not mean that the Jesuits are in the wrong, however. Asking him to live in the Baltimore community is not necessarily a problematic request, or a sign of heavy-handed institutional action. It seems that it is not his personal preference at this time, though it may at the same time be a legitimate need of the Maryland Province that he do so. His choice is to go in another direction. As a vowed religious, that is always an option, though one’s personal preferences must always be balanced with the needs and discernment of the community. Unless there is a really compelling reason not to follow the discerned request of the community, one ought to do so. It’s what the vow of obedience entails, I believe. It’s not about capricious authoritarianism usually. If it is, as does occasionally happen, then that is something to take into the discernment process. It seems to me that the Maryland Province and John Dear have discerned that their paths must part. This is a hard thing, but not necessarily a sign of a problem, in other words.
    I think it’s necessary, really necessary, to understand that there are many more facets to this story than what is presented here, beginning with the fact that despite what Dear says in his disappointment, the Jesuits have most certainly not abandoned their commitment to the poor.

  2. samuel Johnston

    “Dear, who has been arrested dozens of times while engaging in civil disobedience for various causes,.”
    This man has an ego problem. Civil disobedience is an extreme tactic which can rarely be justified. When one acts out physically he/she puts the lives of the pubic, the civil servants, and the participants at risk. It’s heady stuff for an irresponsible, would be hero. In this case, the Jesuits appear to have shown excessive tolerance.

  3. These “arrests” are street theater; they’re as much liturgical acts as anything else and, like liturgy and all ceremony, they’re just as pointless.
    If this is “Progressive” Catholicism, it’s no wonder that the second largest religious group in North America is “ex-Catholic”. Why bother with this twit and his antics? Who cares?