Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A 'brief' on Matthews, St. Joe's, and Jesuit identity

"Because we are Jesuit, our education and formation are rooted in Ignatian spirituality. Because we are Jesuit, our work is characterized by loyalty to the Church, availability for service, and a high-hearted love of Christ.

Because we are Jesuit, the education we provide is marked by “cura personalis,” which means attention to the individual student and respect for the individual’s potential and pace in learning. Jesuit education is characterized by adaptability to individual differences and needs, as well as to wider needs determined by a reading of the “signs of the times.”

Because we are Jesuit, we routinely engage in the practice of discernment, an effort to choose wisely in worldly matters by striving to align personal and institutional choice with the will of God. We share this practice with our students, helping them to choose wisely and well as they mature into men for and with others."

excerpt from "Our Mission" - St. Joseph's Preparatory School

Agere sequitur essere -- Activity emanates from identity.

Is our identity still the same on Hawk Hill? Has our raison d'être at St. Joseph's University changed?

My good friend John Lammers, aka Novaboy, told me years ago when we were at Lucent Technologies to never write, then send, a letter out of anger. To shelve it, and wait until a cooler mind may prevail. So I've waited a month. I was disappointed with my alma mater's decision to honor Chris Matthews at this year's commencement -- and I remain so. It was an extremely poor decision made by the faculty, and approved by the SJU Board of Trustees and Fr. Timothy Lannon, SJ -- a man whom I greatly admire. Mr. Matthews had the following to say about the United States Bishops who feel that the teachings the Roman Catholic Church should apply to all Roman Catholics, including politicians:

"Today you have the Roman Catholic Church through its bishops challenging the rights of Catholic office-holders to take positions for abortion rights. They basically say you have to be for imprisonment of people involved with abortion or else you're not a Catholic and you'll be excommunicated. It seems to be an era, not just because of Islam, to keep religion out of politics . Why are they foisting themselves, why are the religious leaders jumping into the political marketplace and saying to politically-elected people, who are duly elected, "you cannot take that position and be in our church, or we will
excommunicate you"? That seems to be what's going on."
Mr. Matthews also uses his Nielsen challenged MS-NBC television show as a bully pulpit to voice his pro-abortion stance and to promote pro-abortion candidates. Is this really the person we want to give the last life lesson to our graduates? To a captive audience forced to listen?

I realize that "we cannot possibly please everyone when we choose our commencement speakers and
honorees." As Matt Archbald reasoned "No. You can't please everyone. How about just God, then?" All issues are not equal in importance. It's not as if Mr. Matthews is on record as hating the colors of crimson and gray. We are talking about the sanctity of life. The Church's respect for life, that "Seamless Garment" from conception to natural death, is inviolate. Again I ask... why are we honoring him on Hawk Hill? In 2004 the US Bishops issued the following guidelines: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. “

The newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Catholic Standard and Times, had the following to say to St. Joseph's: “A person’s public support for abortion does not mean that the Church and its members should have nothing to do with him or her. It does mean that such a person should expect no honors from the church. Effecting such a change in hearts and in public policy must begin with a reliance on God’s grace, the witness of the Church’s principled stand against giving honors to those who oppose its teaching on the sanctity of human life and constant engagement with all people in consistent, respectful dialogue.” So my question remains... if the Cardinal of Philadelphia and the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church tell us NOT to honor those who act in defiance of the Church's moral principles...why is St. Joseph's University honoring Chris Matthews?

In her letter this week explaining why she is unable to accept Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal, Harvard professor and former Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon quotes those same Bishop's guidelines: "This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions 'should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles' and that such persons 'should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."'

Dr. Glendon further questions the decisions of Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame: "That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it."

I am at a loss as well with regards to St. Joseph's decision. Invite him to speak someday at the school, where students, alumni, faculty, parents, and friends, if they choose, can listen to him. Heck, have him debate then mud wrestle Sean Hannity at the opening of the Hagan arena -- but don't honor him. This isn't about dialogue -- which is a conversation between two people -- it's about conferring honors. I was further dismayed by the "Pravda-like" article that appeared in The Hawk three days after the announcement; "We are first and foremost an academic institution," said Dr. Marty Meloche, who, on behalf of the committee, gives recommendations for speakers to University President Timothy Lannon, SJ, who makes the final decision. "Chris Matthews has a strong left-center position politically, and his show is called 'Hardball' for a reason. He has some positions that we agree with, but mostly he's just a good speaker." The article went on to dismiss alumni upset by the decision, who hold to the teachings of the Church, as a handful; "The University has heard from a handful of alumni who raised some concerns, but the response from the university community has been largely positive because of Matthews' stature as a national political commentator," said Harriet Goodheart, assistant vice president for University Communications, who also noted Matthews' extensive service record and numerous recognitions from other Catholic universities.

16 years of Catholic education and I am unsure what "a handful" constitutes. Not many, I guess, which I assume was an intentional way to belittle those alumni who still follow the teachings of the Church. Those who have roamed Barbelin Hall in decades past, and care enough about our future to write. Of course the "handful" had approximately three days to voice their concerns before The Hawk went to print - so that was hardly fair, was it? Neither Ms. Goodheart nor Dr. Meloche mentioned WHY there might be alumni upset with the decision, so we are also missing the intellectual honesty (conveniently missing in the article was Mr. Matthews calling Pro-Life Catholics terrorists) in the article by not presenting both points of view., particularly the Catholic point of view. Shouldn't Jesuit schools be defending the rights of the unborn, not ignoring them? Shouldn't Jesuit schools be honoring those who champion that which the Church stands for... not those who oppose our mores?

"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put
other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and
peace is abortion."

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I am not interested in Matthews' service 40 years ago, although I thought it cool that he took his family to visit Fr. Angelo D'Agostino, SJ, MD at Nyumbani Orphanage. I care little that eight other Jesuits colleges and Villanova defied the Bishop's guidelines as well. To use this as an excuse is similar to the teenage rationale that "everyone else is doing it?" I was also surprised that a professor at St. Joe's would boast that "we are first and foremost an academic institution." Who gave him permission to remove the adjectives "Catholic" and "Jesuit" from my alma mater? Be careful what you wish for Doctor. In our attempt to become the pre-eminent Catholic university in the Northeast we are in jeopardy of losing our Catholic nature, as evidenced when you conveniently removed the modifiers. Beware that many alumni I talk to are having trouble cost justifying tuition at St. Joseph's for their children, when many of Hawk Hill's professors wish the school to be identical to a secular public university or an agnostic Ivy League college. State supported colleges do it much cheaper and the Ivies are more prestigious. Catholic and Jesuit gives us our distinctive nature. Continue to remove those labels, and what they represent, and you may find it difficult to attract students who no longer wish to matriculate at what is seemingly an over-priced public school with a Neumann Center or a less prestigious Ivy wanna-be with a chapel.

Of course sometimes (often times) I fee like old Don Quixote (but older). Perhaps I am wrong, and am just tilting at windmills. Fighting the inevitable. Times change, people change, and if the majority of professors just want an academic institution sans the Ignatian Spirituality -- I should just let it be and fondly remember our glorious past. But that's not the vision Fr. Lannon has for his faculty, many whom he inherited...

"I have long been of the opinion that our educational mission needs to be more firmly tied to the logic and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises... But how do we bring faculty to the same point as that to which we want to bring our students? Surely, if we do not succeed with faculty, we shall not succeed with students. Today, even with hiring for mission working at its best, we will assemble a faculty distinguished by cultural, religious and political pluralism. Many of our best faculty are not Catholic, and may not be Christian. It seems to me that we need to develop a method through which the experience of the Exercises, obviously in some kind of humanistic reduction, can be available to those who do not share its spiritual vision or religious tradition. I am in total agreement with Father Provincial that the Exercises need to be offered to faculty in our institutions, but we also need a less specifically Christian expression of their genius to inform our formation programs for faculty. Without such a process, I fear, the Ignatian spirit will be progressively diluted precisely because it must in the future largely be promoted by non-Jesuits, who may very well be neither Catholic nor Christian."

Paideia and Empathy: Mission and Identity in a PluralisticWorld
Which brings us to another question. How can we retain our Catholic and Jesuit identity, especially with the evaporating Jesuit presence on campus? During our growth in the 1980's and 1990's it is a fact that as Jesuits and their Jesuit educated colleagues retired they were being replaced by both Catholics and non-Catholics who not only didn't understand nor share the Jesuit charism, but didn't even know who Ignatius Loyola was (although one applicant said she could probably "bone up" on the knowledge). In an effort to quickly fill the open positions we seemed to have hired a few who even had an antipathy towards Catholicism. You might also be surprised that our theology chairperson, of this Catholic, Jesuit college, isn't a Jesuit priest, and isn't even a Catholic. I don't think this is what Vatican II's Degree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio had in mind, at least that's not how Fr. Martin Tripole, SJ explained it, although I am no Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ. I would wager that Luther and Calvin are cracking a smile though, wherever they are.

Yet this is a concern shared by all 28 Jesuit colleges in the United States. Fr. Charles L. Currie, SJ, former professor at St. Joseph's, former rector of the Jesuit Community here, and now president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), gave a speech at Santa Clara University last May in which he "lauded Santa Clara for being at the center of all that is good about contemporary Jesuit higher education,” which he called "the holistic pursuit of excellence in all that you are doing, and a vibrant, engaged Jesuit, Catholic institutional identity.” As for the question, “‘Are we still Jesuit and Catholic?’,” Currie said, “we can respond that we are engaged in an ongoing quest to realize the promise of being Jesuit and Catholic—no easy task, but a magnanimous venture. With the strengths we have built in our schools, we have opportunities (and responsibilities) to participate in the transformation of our Church, nation, and world.” While optimistic Fr. Currie was also realistic:

"The reality is clear. At least in the short term, we are running out of Jesuits. That may or may not change in 15-20 years, but we already know the number of Jesuits in the pipeline and it is not enough to come near to replacing Jesuits who are or will be retiring. The ten Jesuit provinces are in the process of contracting to five. One obvious consequence of this: we are
losing those who have embodied the stories and traditions of our colleges and universities. Are we replacing them with women and men who can keep those stories and traditions alive and well? ... Of course, in the pluralistic world
in which we live, there will always be some on campus who are disinterested or even opposed to the fostering of Jesuit, Catholic identity as inappropriate for the main work of the university."

I have always been proud that Fr. Lannon has been at our helm of our school. I may have been one of the first to congratulate him when he accepted the office, writing and sending a Hawk t-shirt to him at Marquette. He was kind enough to invite my friends to break bread with him at Regis Hall after the Hogan / Ignatius Awards and we have corresponded on quite a few issues which affect the University. I do however disagree with his decision conferring honors on Mr. Matthews, but we are lucky to have him. He shares these concerns as well, and in a piece for Conversations in Jesuit Higher Education, echoed Fr. Currie's fears:
"More recently when I think about mission, I think about our Catholic and Jesuit identity in 2025 and beyond. During the ensuing years, we will continue to have fewer Jesuits on our campuses, we will face increasing specialization of the disciplines at our universities, and we may find ourselves living ion a culture even more unsupportive of our values."

Catholic Courses Are The Heart of Our Mission

Although expected, I was disappointed as when I heard that the University was again trying to revamp the GER, as I knew this meant reducing the number of philosophy and theology requirements, perhaps the last blow to the Jesuits' ancient Ratio Studiorum. As a compromise it was my understanding that Fr. Lannon requested (insisted:-) that one of the mandatory courses be on Ignatian/Jesuit Spirituality. While explaining the changes the Provost of the University also mentioned that the inclusion was "controversial" amongst the faculty. Although an explanation was rendered, I remain confused as to why a course on Jesuit Spirituality at a Jesuit college would be controversial (That course, taught by Fr. Willie Walsh, SJ, was my favorite -- surprise, surprise). I don't think this would be the case if there was still a Long Black Line at St. Joseph's and our other institutions. Of course when you've hired so many professors who don't share the Jesuits' mission and identity -- it shouldn't be a surprise. We now reap what we sowed, deleterious as it is to the spiritual welfare of our undergraduates.

Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ, one time professor at St. Joseph's (and should still be a professor at St. Joseph's), told me once of the 80/20 rule at SJU... that only about 20% of the students get "it", as in Hand-in-Hand, immersion programs, retreats based on the Exercises/Kairos, weekly mass attendance et al. While Williams, Yastrzemski, DiMaggio and Clemente never batted a 1.000 -- we must have a better batting average. In reading online comments about conferring honors on Matthews (
The Hawk - commencement comments) I chose three nuggets of ignorance for obvious reasons. I am aware that the Jesuits educated Voltaire, Goebbels, and Castro -- but it would be a shame if these three didn't see the light before they left Hawk Hill, and if not, let them be discreet about where they received their undergraduate education:

For the three blind mice below, who may not have seen
this banner, and others, waving at them in front of the
Michael J. Smith, SJ Memorial - Chapel of St. Joseph.

"If you wanted a school that is very strict about the religious backgrounds of applying students, you should have gone to Bob Jones University. SJU is not Bob Jones. SJU does not take into consideration things like race or creed, in the JESUIT spirit of Men And Women For Others and Cura Personalis. So stop trying to say that this school has some kind of responsibility to the Catholic Church."

"I chose to join the Saint Joseph's community because I have respect for the ideals of the Jesuit order, regardless of the fact that I don't think their religion has any basis in truth, and that their faith is a myth. Saint Joseph's, and the Jesuit Order, are above the pettiness of the Catholic Church. I may not believe in the theology side of the Jesuits, but I certainly respect their courage for standing up for what is right. Instead of considering the comparatively minor issues 'compromised' by having Chris Matthews speak on campus, how about we take a look at the values that are being compromised by strictly following Catholic Church teaching?"

"While you may wish to believe that SJU continues to be "first and foremost a CATHOLIC Academic institution" this '06 grad disagrees. All of my courses, including my theology GERs had a distinctively humanistic slant. Unless you are a recent graduate like myself you have no means to evaluate the true nature of the university. The times they have been a-changin' indeed!"
When you receive your diplomas, please notice the following:

"Greetings in the Lord" and " ad maiorem Dei gloriam" should make you understand this a bit more ;-)

FYI: The Archdiocese raised a million so
the Jesuits could separate the College
from the Prep and move to Overbrook. Here
Cardinal Dougherty blesses the cornerstone
of Barbelin - Lonergan Hall.

In the last month I've gone from wanting to withdrawal from St. Joseph's -- to wanting to fight for it. Tenui nec dimittam! One or two sad episodes will not douse the fire. Hawk Hill, or my vision of Hawk Hill, is worth fighting for. I have always tried, in various small ways, to support every Jesuit mission I could; my buddies the Jamshedpur Jesuits, St. Joseph's Preparatory School, Old St. Joseph's Church, the Gesu School in North Philadelphia, St. Luke's Catholic Medical Services - JUST in Camden, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and the JRS, (Subtlety I included the links for you so you may click and maybe send them some $) I do not want the secular humanists, the atheists, the agnostics... whomever we made the mistake of inviting in... to destroy my Catholic, Jesuit alma mater by turning her into just Joseph's University (sans saint), Penn State - City Line Campus, or Harvard Community College. I don't think this is what St. Ignatius would have wanted for our Jesuit university...
This was in keeping with one of Ignatius' first principles in choosing apostolates: all other things being equal, choose those apostolates that will influence those who have the most influence on others. Maybe the best expression of this idea was in a letter he wrote about the founding of colleges in December of 1551: "From among those who are now merely students, in time some will depart to play diverse roles - one to preach and carry on the care of souls, another to government of the land and the administration of justice, and others to other callings. Finally, since young boys become grown men, their good
education in life and doctrine will be beneficial to many others, with the fruit expanding more widely every day." From then on, Ignatius helped establish Jesuit schools and universities all over Europe and the world.
In omnibus quaerant Deum -- "in all things seek God." I know Dr. Meloche or Ms. Goodheart would be familiar with that Ignatian phrase, although it isn't evident from their quotes. Perhaps it's 'controversial' these days. Yet St. Ignatius and his companions, before they even started the first college in Messina, were all about saving souls, so much so that in his 500 year old training manual, a classic in Christian mysticism, he had the foresight to know that not just Jesuits would be "taking the Exercises", thus the 19th Annotation for those of us "taken up with public affairs or suitable business", who couldn't devote 30 straight days to meditation. The following from Louis J. Puhl, SJ, from his translation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
"By the term Spiritual Exercises is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities that will be mentioned later. For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call the Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul."
Seeking and finding the will of God, and the salvation of souls. It still seems important. Important enough to pass on to the next generation. Are we still doing that? If so it must, like love, "manifest itself more by deeds than by words." I express my disappointment here because the Jesuits have always been heroes to me, since I was a young boy in Catholic grade school. I was impressed then, and I remain impressed with their imitation(s) of Christ. Fr. Ignatius said that if the Society of Jesus were to be disbanded, it would take him just a half-hour of prayer to get over it. So I guess I should now get over this. If any of you are still awake I'll leave you with the words of the former Father General:

“You are called by the Society of Jesus to be men and women who reflect upon the reality of the world around you, with all its ambiguities, opportunities, and challenges in order to discern what is really happening in your life and in the lives of others. To find God there, and to discover where God is calling you, to employ criteria for significant choices that reflect Godly values rather than elusive self interest. To decide in the light what is truly for the greater glory of God and the service of those in need, and then to act accordingly.

Fr-General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach,SJ (pictured with Fr-General Pedro Arrupe, SJ), St.Joseph's University address
May it always be.



PS -- responses from "the handful" that care about St. Joseph's and Catholic higer education are in the comments section, all anonymous. You'll have to take my word that I didn't write them.

PPS -- Think I need an editor?


  1. For the first time since we have known this fine University, we are so disappointed and so saddened – even embarrassed. I cannot begin to understand the thought process which resulted in the selection of Chris Matthews to receive an honorary degree and to address our graduates.

    As you know, our Laura graduates next month. What a stark contrast we will have versus the expressions of Catholic Christian values by Sr. Helen Prejean and Sen. Rick Santorum, who spoke during previous commencements. While Mr. Matthews has been careful to avoid direct confrontation with Catholic Church doctrine, his description of us as “terrorists” is more than we can bear silently.

    From the University’s mission statement: “Saint Joseph's University is a Catholic and Jesuit university that instills in each member of its academic community: a love of learning and of the highest intellectual and professional achievement; moral discernment reflecting Christian values; and a transforming commitment to social justice.” Eloquent, but seemingly hollow words when it comes to this year’s commencement speaker selection. In the face of this culture of death, which Mr. Matthews so vocally supports, who speaks for the social justice for the unborn? Is it magis for Saint Joseph’s to provide a platform for the expression of death? Are we not trying to send off our graduates with a summary expression of our Catholic values? How can we justify this mixed message on the day of their graduation? Has Saint Joseph’s succumbed to secular popularity at the cost of Christian morality?

    The right to life is not just one among a series of equal rights. It is very central to our Catholic Christian faith, and a basic right upon which our great country was founded. We have been encouraged by actions taken by so many of our bishops in the expression of their outrage towards the University of Notre Dame. (At least Arizona State University – a secular institution – has gained the courage to back away from granting their honorary degree to Obama – only because “his body of work is yet to come.”) We are experiencing the same kind of outcry against Saint Joseph’s commencement now. No words can explain or defend the choice of Mr. Matthews. He may have been educated in the Catholic faith, but he missed a few points along the way. No Catholic with a well-formed conscience can support this culture of death nor its proponents.

    Accordingly, we should not walk out during Chris Matthews’ address. (That display prior to Sen. Santorum’s address was cowardly, at best.) As Matthews is called forward to receive his honor, we should simply rise in place, turn our backs to him while he receives his award (the part against which we are encouraged to take a “principled stand”), then be seated again while we try to understand his side of the “respectful dialogue”. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.

    What do you think? Are these thoughts worth spreading to our community? The Hawk may never die, but by honoring Chris Matthews as currently proposed, he has taken a direct shot to the gut.


  2. Lannon's response is beyond weak. Let Matthews speak, but do not "honor" him. Any fool could see the difference and frankly, Fr. Lannon's response to that is dismissive and condescending.
    BTW, Matthews is NOT a respected journalist; at least not any more. Ever since his "chill up my leg" remark he has been a laughing stock. A respected journalist makes at least a token effort to be objective.

  3. Agree 100%, the issue is that SJU will honor Matthews. Very weak argument from a man I admire -- to suggest that abortion, or more appropriately, life, is just another "single issue" is a disservice to the Church's pro-life teaching and gives support to pro-abortionists. Furthermore, Matthews will not be at SJU for a "full exchange of ideas" -- he will be at SJU to speak and to be honored. Abortion may be a "single issue" in our political reality as we are too often forced to make a choice with our vote in support of a pro-abortion candidate however it would be good to find pro-life commitment, solidarity and leadership from important institutions that market their Catholic values when it is useful.

  4. I see that Fr. Lannon has seen fit to invite Chris Matthews to be the commencement speaker and to present him with an honorary degree, just as Villanova did last year. He gives the usual rationale.

    Rationalization is a method used to find excuses. Reason is the method used to find the truth. You can quote me.

    Villanova, ND, BC, Georgetown; Catholic higher education is in the toilet and these arrogant priests are about to flush.

  5. It doesn’t shock me as much to see that we have a PRO-DEATH U.S. President speaking at Notre Dame, because of his background, but Chris Matthews being PRO-DEATH and speaking on our campus? This is outrageous. If there are protests or disruption at the commencement you can blame those at Saint Joseph’s that are responsible. Obviously, Fr. Lannon via his letter to Ms. Hill is expecting this.

    We will be flying 1500 miles to participate in our granddaughter’s graduation at Saint Joseph’s next month. To be a part of a commencement at my alma mater and watching a hypocritical Jesuit educated baby killer supporter speak will be very difficult for me. All I will be able to think about is his comment that I am an “anti-abortion terrorist”. I’m saddened and disappointed that the administration has condoned a PRO-DEATH speaker.

  6. I was deeply concerned and disappointed to learn that St Joseph's University had invited MSNBC talk show host, Chris Matthews, to speak at commencement this year. Mr Matthews is known for his strong pro-abortion views and has compared those fighting for pro-life issues as terrorists. Surely he should not be a candidate for a commencement speaker at a Catholic university, let alone receive an honorary degree. I respectfully ask you to reconsider your choice.

    We are in a time as a Catholic community where we need to stand strong in support of life issues, all life issues. Having someone who speaks out against those fighting for the unborn babies is not supportive of our community of life. I believe having Mr Matthews speak at commencement will be a divisive choice for the St Joseph's community as well. Instead, we should be promoting life together as one body in the Catholic faith.

    I appreciate your consideration of my feelings as a St Joseph's graduate. I have always been proud to be a Hawk and a member of the St Joseph's community. Thank you and I will be praying for you and your efforts as the leader of our great school.

  7. If Marty Meloche's views are shared by Fr. Lannon and the rest of the SJU administration, namely, "We are first and foremost an academic institution," then I would agree that we are not heading in the right direction. Our educational goal for our children was that each one receive at least 4 years of Jesuit, Catholic education. If this does not apply, then I would appreciate it if SJU would formally state as much. This would allow and me to find another Jesuit, Catholic university for my children . There are many excellent Catholic "academic institutions" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and America. I personally do not believe this to be true but reassurance by actions, not words, would be more revealing and comforting.

    Also, to be factually correct, Chris Matthews is not a journalist but rather a TV talk show host with liberal opinions - not "progressive" or left-center. I don't begrudge his opinions, since all of us should have intelligent, informed opinions. However, to publicly state his active practice of his RC Catholic faith and publicly disagree and actively promote his support for abortion on demand is not being honest. Integrity demands that he can't have it both ways on fundamental issues. Public adoration (TV ratings) by liberal audiences who favor abortion is not a good reason to abandon the fundamental issue of protection of all human life.

    Would Chris Matthews support slavery in pre-Civil War America since it was the law of the land or would he oppose it? Based on his current abortion position, it appears that he would follow the legal law at the time and ignore his moral conscience. This is NOT leadership but rather following the horrible mores of the time. He should simply ask himself what, in fact, is the constantly developing HUMAN life in the womb. If it is not plant or animal life, then he should state exactly what form of life is it. If it is indeed human life, then our constitution guarantees all Americans, regardless of their individual stage of life, "...LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I believe that this is a pretty simple concept to understand. I will ask our 10 year old daughter if she understands this point.

  8. Thanks again for your good dope on the ND fiasco!!! What are the Philly SJU folks doing about the above subject? Where is the outrage? Fr. Lannon should know much better!!! He had to be taught by one of the greatest Jebbies of all time FR. CARL REINERT SJ at CREIGHTON U . The idea of honoring CM at a real & true Jesuit school is abhorrent to those of us who have known CM in Washington. He has over the years falsely advertised his background to become a celebrity in that phony city which thinks GU is still a Catholic school!!!! CM has a great personality just like Bidden, Kennedy et al But these guys are the worst hypocrites in the world. Please let me know what is going on at SJU? Were is Fr. Bill Byron on all of this? He should know how hypocritical it is for SJU to honor one these guys from the cafeteria Catholic group at Trinity.

  9. Keep up the good fight. Maybe we should change our allegiance to Ave Maria University, Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, University of Dallas, St. Thomas Aquinas College or St. Thomas More. Colleges that aren't afraid of their Catholic identity and back it up with their words and actions.

  10. Why and when did a baby's life become an inconvenience and source of dread rather than a blessing and cause for joy? And why are so many CATHOLICS blind to what is happening around them? Possibly because there are not any "Catholic" universities that actually teach the reasons why we Catholics believe as we do, while also insuring an "understanding" of other views that go against ours. All I ask is equal time for a truly "educated" education. It seems that in the attempt to be an "academic institution", we have literally "thrown the baby out with the bath water". In voicing my discouragement in this "fight for life" recently to a priest, he replied that it is said that 'evil will only prevail if all the warriors give up the fight for good'. So I guess we shall just keep fighting!

  11. An abortion apologist masquerading as a Catholic and a blatant racist with a background of limited academic achievement. Wow, what an afternoon that is going to be.

    Might be time to help Ms. Goodheart understand exactly how many are in a "handful". Mr. and Mrs McGuigan must be so proud of this insightful comment made by their daughter..."The College Democrats are thrilled that Chris Matthews has been selected to be the commencement speaker at St. Joe's this year," said Bryce McGuigan, '11, president of the St. Joe's College Democrats. "He represents the very best that Pennsylvania has to offer."

  12. These universities engage in activities that contradict Catholic values because they're having an identity crisis. They do not know if they're a Catholic University or a University of Catholics. Are they a generic institute of learning that is patronized by Catholics or are they an institution that is essentially an educational arm of the Catholic Church? They need to step back first and find out who they are.

    A model of clarity and unity of vision and mission are the Catholic hospitals. The bishops have decided to close these the moment when conscience protection gets rescinded and the doctors get forced to perform abortions.
    That is how the Catholic identity is extended into the Catholic hospital work.

  13. Well, of course, I could only see half your email today (Comcast.) But I got the gist of it. Bottom line is, you’re right, it’s disappointing – disappointing and, frankly, demoralizing. Abortion just is not that big of a deal to most people, leaders of our CATHOLIC institutions obviously included, one way or the other. Sad but true. That’s the message that I take from all of this. Take it easy, . It’s just abortion, you crazy moral absolutist you! It’s frustrating to try to continue the good fight when you are looked upon as an overzealous extremist on the issue. I don’t know, I guess I am crazy. Baby killing just seems like a really big deal to me.

  14. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my concerns over the plan to give Chris Matthews an honorary degree at your upcoming Commencement.

    Let me say that I understand that Chris Matthews may have done some good things in his life - as Barack Obama probably has. Having stipulated to these points, I should try to focus again on the points I had raised, which targeted Mathews' offensive advocacy of abortion, stem cell research, and homosexual marriage - to name a few deal killers. My concern over Matthews was not over any of the good things he may have done, but over his antipathy toward the Sanctity of Life, and the Integrity of Marriage.

    St. Joseph's - as a Catholic institution - has a responsibility to Truth, including Moral Truth. Since it is an Educational institution, it has a responsibility to TEACH this Truth. The inescapable lesson that arises from awarding honorary degrees to an abortion advocate is that such advocacy of immorality, and such attacks on the sanctity of Human Life, are acceptable to Catholics. I learned better than that at St. Joseph's.

    The Catholic Bishops have spoken clearly and specifically on this topic. No Catholic institutions are to honor public advocates for abortion. How does St. Joseph's respond to this mandate? The only response that came through your message was that Chris Matthews has done some good things too. Under this principle, no one could be excluded from receiving an honorary degree at St. Joseph's.

    When you indicate that some disagreement may be inevitable, I would agree that it may be. However, understanding that everyone may not agree, a Catholic institution should not intentionally offend Moral Truth, as it does when it bestows honorary degrees on abortion advocates. When you assert that "The Catholic, Jesuit identity of Saint Joseph's University is paramount, reflected daily in our classrooms, campus life and residence halls", what can you possibly mean by 'Catholic' - if you reject the Culture of Life, which is a foundational element to our faith? The phrases sound very nice, but are completely empty and misleading when coupled with a willingness to not simply look the other way as the sanctity of life is ridiculed, and its defenders are called "anti-abortion terrorists", but award an honorary degree to the miscreant.

    Can Catholic identity be paramount and reflected in the daily activities of SJU simultaneously with a casual antipathy toward the Sanctity of Human Life?

    Honoring Chris Matthews at Commencement says "Yes".

    I am not comforted by this response, and would reiterate my earlier request that Chris Matthews be disinvited, and a suitable replacement be named.

  15. Keep up the good work. This is completely inappropriate! I'll be calling Fr. Lannon's office today.

  16. My spin is that there is no spin. It's a terrible decision. Especially in a year when he so blatantly embarrassed himself with his thrill running up his leg comment. I'm tired of the left taking over the Catholic institutions. I'm tired of Jesuits supporting pro-choice candidates and rationalizing it with comments about how Dems are better on social issues and fairness issues (As much as I may like people like Fr. Malloy personally). It's all bs. Matthews is another "Catholic" who isn't one and of all the years for them to choose him, this is perhaps the worst possible year. It shows where the University stands and I think it's a disgrace, for the record. Gotta go.

  17. Ok, I have to respond/ comment on this from the middle of the road. Call me liberal, call me conservative, just don't call me late for prayers. My feeling is that once a woman CHOOSES to have unprotected sex (ya know it happens) she is accepting the child that is being formed should the time be right. If a woman does not want the child there are options other than abortion. With that said should there be situations where there is a threat to life either to the mother or the child then the mother should have the option to save her life or further complications in pregnancy.

    friend to the IHM's of Immaculata

    P.S. I'll gladly argue my viewpoint with anyone so bring it on.

  18. I don't think we need to say that universities should be Catholic first and academic second. To be Catholic is to be academic. Christ is the divine logos--the author of all reason, logic and academic truth. If universities are Catholic first, they will not be able to be anything other than academic.

  19. They were set up as a parallel education system because Catholics once upon a time were precluded from the Ivy League. They needed to produce kids as good as Harvard/Yale/Brown (all of which started as Protestant Seminaries; see the delicious irony ?!?).

    To that extent they have succeed. In the quest to be “as good as” or “just like” the Ivy’s, they have become indistinguishable from them (sectarian religious schools that have devolved into secular institutions).

    So now that the barriers have been broken, and Catholics can now go to the Ivy’s (or any higher ed), are they not now redundant/superfluous?

    I’d be curious how the enrollments are for schools like Ave Maria, Magdaline, Thomas More, Stubenville, etc. Colleges that are Catholic first, and colleges second (or at least they take their Catholic ID as inviolate.

    Certainly the formerly Catholic colleges are not suffering from applicant decline.

  20. What are they thinking? Better yet, what are they drinking up there on Hawk Hill?
    As a life long (70 + Years) Catholic, who has no real connection with St. Joe's, other than you and now once again, Anita, and my long time love of St. Joe Basketball ( I was a fan long before you were even born!), I'm not sure I have the right to file an official complaint, but I'll tell you that it pains me big time, to see that they are sticking by the decision to honor Chris Tingle!
    I'll keep them in my prayers, and can only hope they come to use the sense God gave them.
    God Bless,

  21. I just have a hard time understanding why a religious affiliated institution would invite someone who contradicts it's religion's espoused values as a commencement speaker.

    Bring him in as a speaker at a forum or symposium or to address a class? Fine. But this is different, and has nothing to do with academic freedom in scholarship or classroom teaching. You can't find someone who is in alignment with your values for a commencement speech, which is a sign off on your four years of education? You wouldn't expect a member of the American Nazi Party to be a graduation speaker at Yeshiva, would you?

    This is kind of like the prof at BC who is complaining that a Catholic school is hanging crucifixes in the classrooms. Excuse me, its a CATHOLIC School!

    If being a Catholic affiliated school doesn't mean anything substantively, then the Jebbies should leave SJU and turn the place over to the Lower Merion School District and appoint Irene Glickman as Provost.

    And this idea that we should keep religion out of politcal and legal life doesn't wash. If there is not a moral or natural law basis [which always arises from a religious underpinning] to secular law , then secular law is nothing more than an exercise in the raw power of the state.

    So, does SJU agree with a Matthews that religious views should not control your views on public policy and public law, and that you can and should ignore your religious tenets in the political martketplace? If so, that's a sad position.

  22. It's golden. There's nothing I'd add or subtract. You've put thought into Matthews' visit to SJU than anyone - unfortunately including the decision-makers that decided to invite him in the first place. Your entry below doesn't attack. It criticizes constructively. And most of all, it's fair. There are no cheap shots in there. There is no intellectual dishonesty. Just pure 44, straight from the heart. Go with it.

  23. to the posters who used sister prejean or rick santorum as examples of a appropriate speaker, you clearly have not done your homework. Sister is pro life clearly, but for all that pro-life means: no abortion, no death penalty, no TORTURE, no un just WAR, and the ethical treatment of the poor and needy. Santorum is PRO WAR, PRO TORTURE, and clearly not interested in helping the poor.

    Be consistent all you pro life tough guys: i have no concern with you blocking matthews, but i doubt any of you were protesting Santoreum when he spoke here. your selectivity on picking and choosing thru the various pro-life issues erodes your credibility.

  24. SJ has long since drifted from its mission, but most posters above dont recognize it and have in effect, embraced this change. What is AMDG about a school that is almost 50k a year per student? what is AMDG about sending a note to students offering them access to 100k in debt over their 4 years? if SJU was truly interested in glorifying God in everything it does, it would not have over expanded to increase revenues, it would not have overpaid for the EA campus that it can barely access, it would not have spent $35M on a new basketball gym for kids who would not qualify to be at SJU otherwise.

    If it was truly catholic, it would focus on providing an affordable education for all students; it would not need designer dorms, state of the art workout and recreations facilities, it would not need trendy dining options and plans. None of these things are needed if your goal is to educate in a solidly christian and catholic setting. SJU would shrink, lose national prestige and probably lose the financial support and focus of most of its alums. The irony is most here would be aghast at the changes above to pursue a truly catholic mission here. Its easier to complain about Matthews.

  25. Tom,
    The first of these posts contained a great suggestion for those of us who feel that Mr. Matthews should not be honored, and who are fortunate enough to be among the attendees at the commencement ceremony.
    I've copied and pasted it here:
    "Accordingly, we should not walk out during Chris Matthews’ address. (That display prior to Sen. Santorum’s address was cowardly, at best.) As Matthews is called forward to receive his honor, we should simply rise in place, turn our backs to him while he receives his award (the part against which we are encouraged to take a “principled stand”), then be seated again while we try to understand his side of the “respectful dialogue”. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.
    I hope the word spreads and that others follow this suggestion, it's an excellent one.

  26. I merely wanted you to know that I was one of the “handful” of people who wrote to Fr. Lannon objecting to Matthews being honored despite his stance on abortion and other Catholic teachings It hurts me because I cannot understand how the Church can urge thousands of people to march in Washington to demonstrate against abortion, preach anti-abortion on Sunday mornings, and then honor someone who supports the opposite viewpoint.

    I would like very much to hear Fr. Lannon explain his stance at a public forum made up of students and alumni. That Saint Joseph’s would defy the Church’s teachings is perplexing and damaging.


  27. Excellent analysis of the controversy with Chris Matthews, 44. Your "brief" was incredibly detailed and persuasive. I'm going to save it for future arguments on the preservation of Jesuit ideals. We (SJU and its alumni) are lucky to have such an advocate on our side. Keep up the good fight - it's worthwhile.



  28. Well said. Well done. If I had 20-30 more IQ points I would've said the same thing.

  29. Tom, great writing!! I can tell you that you have more than a handful of supporters among the alumni.

    A little bit off topic perhaps, but I saw Matthews appear on the Morning Joe show on MSNBC right after the election. He and his cohorts had openly supported Obama in the election. But he floored me that day by stating the he saw it as his "duty" to do everything he could to help Obama be successful and agreed that he would only discuss the positives of the new administration. Even the other panelists were taken aback that a so-called journalist would openly state that. As far as I am concerned he does not any longer have any journalistic credentials. So why does our beloved University insist on honoring him??


  30. Great, the Ayatollahs have a new target.

    Stop the witch hunting.

  31. Jesuit Ayatollahs? LOL ;-) You've changed my mind in just two short lines. There should be no litmus test for commencement speakers at Catholic schools -- honor them all!

    Next year we'll raise the ante and invite another great supporter of the Church -- Ian Paisley. Then maybe your boy Ahmadinejad after that, followed by a someone who denied the Holocaust, then the Grand Wizard of the KKK, then maybe Hermione Granger? Make you happy?

  32. 44,

    We may disagree on some things on the hard court but I am in full agreement with you here.

    One of my biggest concerns is that many of the leaders of our institutions such as these universities and even the Church itself are afraid today to tell us that we are wrong and headed down the wrong path for fear that they will drive people away. It is my belief that people both young and old are yearning for leadership to guide them to a truth. Instead we many of our leaders either water down the truth or imply that there is many truths which is another way of saying that there is no truth at all. It is a disconcerting world we live in today.

  33. i wonder everyone's thoughts when rick santorum spoke a few years back(openly in favor of war and the death penalty)

    pro-life when it's convienent-disgusting