I wish to speak here of the process of leaving the Community of Jesus, what their own Rule says about this subject, and what I experienced in my own leaving. It is my purpose to point out the hypocrisy between what they profess, which sounds like it is based in love and reasonable logic, and what they practice, which seems arbitrary and cruel.
In the Community of Jesus’ Rule, it states on pg. 30-31 that the leadership cares for “…the welfare of the one who is leaving as well as for that of the whole Community”. I did not experience this. To give credit where it is due, they did care for me by giving me $1,000 when I left. At the time that seemed generous, but once I got out into the world I soon realized how little that was and how fast it disappeared. I did not receive any offers of counseling help. No one sat down with me and asked what could be done to help me with my inner turmoil and conflicts. My repeated requests for a leave of absence were denied and I was told to leave for good. From the frame of mind I was in at the time, I was looking for help to resolve my conflicts, and was still trying to find a way to live within the Community. For them to so cruelly and blatantly kick me out after 40 years of hard labor and full-given-ness service to the place was beyond imagination. It was the shock I needed to wake me up, to help me realize the full hypocrisy of the leadership.
Also on pg. 31 it states “The request for a leave of absence by the member is normally submitted to the Superior in writing, stating the reasons for the request, and such a request may be granted by the Superior with the consent of the Council.” I did hand in a written request 3 times. However the Superior flatly denied my request each time. The 3rd time she did not consult the Council, as she gave me a blunt reply in person the moment I made the request. The other 2 times I suspect she did not consult the Council, but cannot say for sure.
On pg. 33 it states “Separation from the Community by any Solemn Professed member is a matter of great seriousness. It is expected that such a decision will normally occur only after a significant period of serious prayer and consideration.” I had been in my own inner turmoil for several years, but had never spoken of it to others. When I finally did admit that I was struggling with wanting to leave, I said it in great conflict and anguish. Once I made this confession, it only took a few months for the leadership to boot me out. Again I have to point out that this was a surprise to me, and happened without talks or counseling or investigation into why I felt this way or if there was any avenue we could take together to resolve my issues.
Also on pg. 33 it talks about “Dispensation from Solemn Profession” initiated by the member. I did not initiate a request for Dispensation. I asked for a Leave of Absence. On pg. 34 it talks about “Initiation by the Superior.” This was the case with me. The Rule says “After consultation with the Council, a warning may be given by the Superior that a dismissal is being considered, including the reasons. Such a warning is to be given in writing or in the presence of two members of the Council.” This was not done in my case. I received no warning, either verbally or in writing.
“A solemnly professed member may be dismissed for grave reasons including the habitual neglect of the obligations of one’s profession, illegitimate absence, obdurate disobedience, or grave scandal.” None of these reasons were applicable to me. I met all of my profession’s obligations, I was never absent, I was obedient to a fault, and was never involved in a scandal. The Superior did issue a “Dispensation from Vows” to me, and it was told to me that I had to sign it in order to leave. At first I said I would not sign it, that I had asked for a Leave of Absence, not a Dispensation. I was then told I would not be driven to the bus if I didn’t sign it. After many hours of inner turmoil passed, I gave in and signed the Dispensation. This was all done through an atmosphere of coercion, not through a mutual agreement.
It states on pg. 35 that “…arrangements may be made at the time of separation to provide financial assistance. Such arrangements, if made, would be based upon the values of charity, equity, and justice.” I contend that after 40 years of sacrificial, unpaid service to The Community of Jesus, $1,000 was not a charitable, equal or just compensation to start me off on a new life that I was unprepared to face. I also received no help in finding a place to live or employment. I received that help from family, friends and strangers after I had left.
Following are 2 quotes from people who wish to remain anonymous. They are from 2006 but what they say is still pertinent.
Posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by Laetamini
“I would like to chime in about the leave-of-absence, since it was my post that was being quoted. You’re darn right it’s loosey-goosey. And while that sounds great, all that means is that there’s loads of wiggle room for leadership and a very unstable foundation for the membership on which to stand. Leave-of-absence is like many other aspects of life at the community, whether stated in the rule or merely understood in daily life. The allowance made for some and not at all for others are arbitrary, and in my case were not open for discussion.”
Posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by Exmonk
“Your explanation of the “rule” and specifically, “leave of absence” only confirms the stated opinion (if not actually factual) that the individual in leadership uses that loose translation at his/her discretion. So in fact, the rule is manipulated as that individual leader so chooses to serve his/her designs and members requesting some time/space away are given varied responses.
So it potentially is at great risk for a member to request leave of absence since some who have were given the choice to permanently leave the organization under unfavorable circumstances or be denied temporary leave and receive disciplinary action and disgrace.
No one person should have that much power over one person much less a large group of people. God has given man free will to live and choose. This is a violation of that gift and is high demand cult oppression. And for the group to put complete trust in the free will of one person elected through proper or improper means, as the case may be, should not assume, under the mantle of Christianity, that such practice and control without other checks and balances in place…”