Monday, March 15, 2010

The Society of Jesus: A Look at the University of San Francisco

The recent look I've been taking at The Society of Jesus was inspired by one particular school: The University of San Francisco. The fall copy of USF Magazine shows a sky blue cover with the words "Being Catholic" centered across the middle. After flipping through the pages I found the article "By Spirit & Deed" by Kimberly Winston that specifically addresses USF's claim to it's "Catholic" identity.

Father Privett would have the world believe that USF is, in fact, a premier Catholic institute of higher learning and the article very carefully paints that picture. Read superficially, one might even be inclined to agree. However any actual experience with the University and it's promotion of "Catholic" values quickly gives away the lie.

Again, responding to all of the points made in this somewhat lengthy article may take more than one post, but it's worth it to compare the "Catholic" image that Fr. Privett would paint of his school and contrast it with the reality.

The article starts by painting a picture of students helping out in a tough part of San Francisco and it's followed by a quote:
“The fundamental desire of Jesus was to create a world that was fair and balanced and a help to those with the least ability to help themselves,” said Seth Wachtel, an assistant professor of architecture... “To train students professionally and emotionally to use their skills to develop a fair planet is very much in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition and very much the mission of the university.”

Social justice is very important. But if you believe that social justice and creating a "fair and balanced" world was the main purpose of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, you're missing the point. Jesus wasn't talking about building a utopian society when he spoke of the Kingdom of God (Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth has some great explanations about the Kingdom of God). Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 10 about this point. Should we help others? Absolutely! Was bringing physical comfort into this world Jesus' purpose? Absolutely not!

And I find it very hard to believe that a school is promoting social justice when they all constantly promote a "woman's right to choose." As I've said time and again, you cannot have social justice as long as the unborn are unprotected. And USF will not be promoting social justice as long as they continue to cooperate with this intrinsically evil act.
USF, too, has requirements that help stamp it as Jesuit and Catholic. Students must study theology and engage in service learning—courses requiring hands-on work among San Francisco’s poor. There is also a wealth of Catholic-themed courses, including ones on Catholic social thought, celebration of the sacraments, and exploration of bio-medical issues through a Catholic lens. But students and faculty seldom cite these courses when asked how the school is Catholic and Jesuit. Rather, they name the school’s dedication to justice, central to the teachings of Jesus and a primary concern of the Roman Catholic Church. Faculty, staff, and students at USF say the main place they seek and find the school’s Catholic and Jesuit identity is not always in the most Catholic of things—Mass in St. Ignatius Church, the Catholic studies program, the Jesuit-led retreats and workshops—but just as often in its adherence to the direction of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, to “see God in all things.”
Students at USF are required to take only one religion course. It can focus on any religion. And USF has recently announced that at the end of next year the Master's of Theology program will close (despite the fact that it was heavily subsidized with grants).

As for the wealth of opportunities to learn about theology, Fr. Privett has made certain that it is only a certain type of theology. Fr. Privett began an attack on the University's conservative St. Ignatius Institute as soon as he took over at USF. He fired the conservative priests in charge of the institute (a poll at the time showed that 96% of students were "very upset at Privett's actions) and caused quite a stir.

But don't worry, the Lane Center has stepped up to fill the void (although the St. Ignatius institute, minus it's leadership, still exists). And here's what they've offered recently:
March 9, 2009: The Lane Center hosted ex-priest (and, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, same-sex "married) Professor James Nickoloff: “'Intrinsically Disordered': The Role of the Despised in Establishing the Holiness of the Church. A community conversation exploring gay marriage and Catholic identity in light of Proposition 8. Sponsored with the USF LGBTQ Caucus.”

June 15, 2008: The Lane Center (in conjunction with "Voice of the Faithful Northern California) hosted ex-priest Paul Lakeland at a seminar entitled "How the Laity Can save the Church? Lakeland is best known for his support of Connecticut's recent attempt to have lay persons take over the governance of the Catholic Church.

June 13, 2008: The Lane Center hosts Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, depite Archbishop George Niederauer's orders that he not speak at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese.

October 30, 2008: On October 30, USF's Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought hosted professor and abortion advocate Sylvia Marcos. Marcos believes in working to make abortion legal in countries where it is illegal.

March 10, 2008: The Lane Center sponsors a screening of "For the Bible Tells Me So"--film challenging church teaching on homosexuality.

October 20, 2007: Julia Dowd, Associate Director of the Lane Center (and other USF Faculty) attends "OutThere" conference at De Paul University

May 23, 2007: The Lane Center hosts "Religion and Sexuality: What's the Connection" activists planning session. Guest speakers included the Rev. Ignacio Castuera, President of the Clergy Network of Planned Parenthood and the Rev. Lisa Sargeant, Chaplain of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

March 29, 2006: The Lane Center sponsors the "Alienated Catholics: Establishing the Groundwork for Dialog" seminar at S. Agnes parish.

February 12, 2006: The Lane Center sponsors the "Is it Ethical to Be Catholic? Queer Perspectives." seminar at Most Holy Redeemer parish.
Yes, Father Privett is giving his students a chance to take a look at theology. And he has made sure that they see it from his view, and not from any other. USF only promotes diversity when it's the right kind of diversity: that is far left, heterodox, neo-marxist philosophy.
“When people ask about the Catholic character of the university, I think it is important to understand you cannot find it in any single place,” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. “You can’t find it only in Jesuits who wear collars. That’s not what makes us Catholic. Is that a part of it? Yes. But no one piece by itself is the key. There is no cornerstone without which you don’t have a Catholic university.”
There is a cornerstone to any truly Catholic University and it's quite simple: God is the cornerstone, and below him, the Church that he founded to guide us through life. The fact that Father Privett can't see that explains one of the big problems that USF is having with its current leadership.

(AP photo)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting how much Privett has in common with Msgr. Milam Joseph, who was president while I went to UD. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, he was not successful in his attempts to liberalize the school, but many good professors left as a result. Here is an article about UD that might be interesting and give some hope: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/columnists/rdreher/stories/042008dnedidreher.81aa626a.html

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