March 20, 2001
volume 12, no. 79

Jesuits battle Jesuits over Institute

By Uwe Siemon-Netto UPI religion correspondent

    WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI from www.diocesereport.com) -- Prominent Protestant and Jewish scholars have joined a conservative Jesuit minority in its dispute with their order's liberal majority in San Francisco.

    The Vatican has been asked to get involved as well.

    This weekend, the conflict will come to a head with a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle. It will bear the signatures of 19 renowned thinkers worried about the future of St. Ignatius Institute, a celebrated center of Catholic liberal arts education.

    The 25-year old institute, famous for its award-winning Great Books Program, belongs to the much more liberal University of San Francisco that was founded by the Jesuits in 1855.

    The university's new president, the Rev.Steven A. Privett, is a Jesuit with a long history for left-wing activism. No sooner was he installed, than he fired the small institute's conservative director, John Galten, and his deputy John Hamlon without consulting the institute's board.

    A scholar with views closer to Privett's is now the institute's interim director.

    As a result, six members of the institute's core faculty of 10 have announced their resignation.

    According to members of the faculty, the institute's future is now in doubt.

    "This is an intolerant and ill-liberal act," philosophy professor Michael Torre told United Press International Friday.

    "Behind this firing is the long-standing anger on the part of liberal Jesuits against the institute, which they find too conservative.

    This quarrel has been going on for a long time," he said.

    "What seems to irk Privett and his colleagues is that the institute is in line with the Vatican's teaching."

    In a commentary titled "Ignatius of Dis-Loyola," the Wall Street Journal pointed to the irony in this conflict on February 9:

    "Those who remember the debate leading up to the U.S. bishops' ratification of Ex Corde Ecclesiae -- the document requiring Catholic theologians to be responsive to their bishops -- will recall the great fear that it would usher in a witch hunt on Catholic campuses against dissenters.

    "As it happens, we now have our first public casualties in the wake of that document. But it turns out that the victims are not liberals, but conservatives."

    On Sunday, an appeal to "Save Liberal Education, save St. Ignatius Institute" will appear as full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Among its signatories will be former Secretary of Education William Bennett, Jean Bethke Elshtain, a Lutheran and one of America's leading ethicists, Princeton law professor Robert George and Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things, and Stanley Kurtz of the Hudson Institute, who is Jewish.

    Sources at the institute voiced doubt Friday that the university's board of governors would eventually reverse Privett's decision without a prodding from Rome. "That's why we have appealed to the highest authority of the church."

March 20, 2001
volume 12, no. 79
USA News
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