A Jesuit pope? To some, that's a contradiction in terms

The Jesuits are distinguished by their vow to obey the pope and to serve where he commands. The Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit journal in Rome, said in an interview that before the papal conclave, journalists were asking him whether Cardinal Bergoglio could be pope.

“And I said, ‘Not at all, because he’s a Jesuit,’ ” Father Spadaro said in an interview in his office on Friday. “We are used to serving a pope, not to be a pope.”

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who serves as the Vatican spokesman, said that when he saw Cardinal Bergoglio emerge on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as the new pope, “I was dumbfounded.”

The selection has thrilled many Jesuits, but dismayed others. Shaped by their experiences with the poor and powerless, many Jesuits lean liberal, politically and theologically, and are more concerned with social and economic justice than with matters of doctrinal purity. Jesuits were in the forefront of the movement known as liberation theology, which encouraged the oppressed to unite along class lines and seek change.

However, Francis, when he was head of the Jesuits in Argentina in the 1970s, was opposed to liberation theology, seeing it as too influenced by Marxist politics.