News Column

N.M. Peace Priest Dismissed for Disobedience

January 8, 2014

Anne Constable, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 08--John Dear, a peace activist and Jesuit priest who led peaceful protests at Los Alamos commemorating the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, for many years and served as pastor at a number of Northern New Mexico parishes in the early 2000s, was dismissed from the religious order last month for being "obstinately disobedient."

In his National Catholic Reporter column, posted to his website Tuesday, Dear wrote, "This week, with a heavy heart, I am officially leaving the Jesuits after 32 years. After three years of discernment, I'm leaving because the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has changed so much since I entered in 1982 and because my Jesuit superiors have tried so hard over the decades to stop my work for peace."

Dear, who is the author of numerous books on nonviolence, wrote that he is still a Catholic priest but no longer has "priestly faculties," meaning he can no longer officially act in a priestly role unless he can find a bishop willing to receive him into his diocese.

"I doubt any U.S. bishop will give me faculties because most also object to my work against war and injustice, so I'm not sure I will remain a priest," he wrote.

In an email Tuesday, Dear, who lives in New Mexico, said he is leaving in a few days on a visit to South Africa to meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who nominated him for the Nobel Prize. When he returns, he said, he will start a 40-city national speaking tour on his new book, The Nonviolent Life. He will be at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Santa Fe on May 7 as part of that tour.

Dear also is leading a weekend retreat at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe from Feb. 28 to March 2 on peace and nonviolence with Roshi Joan Halifax.

According to a story in the National Catholic Reporter, for which Dear has been a longtime columnist, the grave matter for which he was dismissed was his refusal to live in a Jesuit community in Baltimore.

The vote to dismiss Dear by the Jesuits' international council in Rome was unanimous, the story said. A separate letter calls for Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, to confirm the decree.

In his column, Dear said he decided to stop living at the community in Baltimore and return to New Mexico because he was not given an assignment by his provincial, James Shea. He said he felt he was being urged to stop his work for justice and peace and leave the society, and that Shea told him that nothing he has done "over the last 10 years has had anything to do with the Society of Jesus."

If he had stayed, Dear said, he would have had to work in a Jesuit high school.

Dear said his decision to leave was sparked three years ago, when Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael J. Sheehan objected to the prayer vigils for peace and against nuclear weapons development that he was leading in Los Alamos. According to Dear, Sheehan said he had received many complaints about Dear's activities from the local pastor and other Catholics.

After that, Shea ordered him to leave New Mexico and return to Baltimore, where Dear said he remained for five months before taking a leave of absence from the Jesuits and returning to New Mexico.

But Dear apparently had run into problems earlier in the state.

The Very Rev. John D. Cannon, chancellor of Archdiocese of Santa Fe, wrote in an email Tuesday, "Fr. John Dear has not had an assignment in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe since June 4, 2004, at which time his faculties were removed for disobedience to the Archbishop."

Dear said he has joined the staff of Pace e Bebe, a group that works to promote nonviolence, and also is helping organize demonstrations against war, poverty and environmental destruction across the country before the 2014 elections.

He is the co-founder of Pax Christi New Mexico.

The full letter is online at or

Contact Anne Constable at 986-3022 or


(c)2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Jesuits dismiss peace activist known for demonstrating at LANL

Source: (c)2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

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