Recently Father Arthur Sosa, a Venezuelan Jesuit and the order’s Superior General since 2016, held a year-end briefing for journalists. As was predictable, conversation was dominated by the case of Father Marko Rupnik, a Slovenian Jesuit artist now facing abuse allegations who, it turns out, had been temporarily excommunicated in 2019.
However, Sosa actually briefed journalists on several matters of Jesuit business, including the progress of a commission to study the role of women in the Society of Jesus created in March 2021. He didn’t offer much detail, except to say that the commission, in collaboration with the Jesuit-sponsored Atheneum of Manila in the Philippines, is preparing a major survey about the contributions of women in the society for 2023, with an eye towards submitting recommendations in 2024.
As the commission carries out its work, perhaps they’ll ponder the most intriguing precedent on record vis-à-vis the Jesuits and women, which dates back almost 500 years to the very foundations of the order: The case of history’s first, and, to date, only female Jesuit.
To recap, the Society of Jesus was founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola and six companions with the approval of Pope Paul III. At the time, Pope Paul also pressured Ignatius to launch a female branch; in 1545, Ignatius received the vows of three women, though without any mention of entering the Jesuits.As order ponders the role of women, recalling history’s lone female Jesuit | Crux