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11 October 2017 | by Michael Walsh


Jesuits take a special vow of obedience to the Pope, that much is well known.  Except that it is not true, or not exactly true. Some Jesuits do indeed take “The Fourth Vow”: in ecclesiastical parlance, they are called “the professed fathers”. But that does not include all priest members of the society, and it certainly does not include lay brothers. Moreover, as the distinguished historian Fr John O’Malley rightly insists, the vow is not all-embracing: primarily, it is to do with “mission”, not with how Jesuits live, or how they govern themselves. Such niceties have not stopped popes at one time or another from interfering in both.

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