Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington
His Eminence Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
(on the occasion of the installation of President Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.)
September 17, 1998

      Let me begin with a word of congratulation to your incoming president for having selected this date for his inauguration. Today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine who is, or ought to be, his patron, since his first name is Robert. Since my confirmation as a Catholic I have always regarded Bellarmine as my personal patron, and I eagerly accept invitations to events that occur on his feast day including in a special way this occasion.

      Father Spitzer kindly sent me your mission statement, which describes Gonzaga University as belonging "to a long and distinguished tradition of humanistic, Catholic, and Jesuit education." The tradition is indeed long and distinguished. first universities in the world were erected in the Middle Ages under the-patronage of the Catholic Church. Jesuits became involved in the apostolate of education from the time of St. Ignatius, who lived in Italy at the height of the Renaissance. humanistic spirit is therefore part of our Catholic and Jesuit heritage.

      After a successful history of many centuries, Catholic and Jesuit higher education now finds itself confronted by enormous challenges. The growing pluralism of the American scene, the prevalence of philosophical and cultural relativism, the increase of specialization and professionalism, and the diminishing number of priests and Jesuits are only a few of the factors that cause some to question whether this or any university so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. Personally I am convinced that humanism, Catholicism, and the Jesuit tradition are as valid today as ever, that they are crucially important for our time and capable of surmounting the challenges. To succeed, the members of this university community must not simply follow the crowd but be true to the self-definition of their institution.

      Gonzaga's orientation is, in the first place, humanist. In other words, it is person-centered rather than subject-centered. The primary aim is to develop the whole person--mind and body, memory and imagination, will and character, powers of reasoning and powers of expression. Poetry and rhetoric, dramatics and debate, philosophy and theology are staples of Jesuit humanism, both past and present.

      In this connection, I would say that the emphasis in the curriculum should be on truth rather than mere opinion, on quality rather than quantity. St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises laid down the principle that "it is not much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and relish of the truth" (Sp. Ex. 2). Humanistic education seeks to impart a broad culture and taste for truth through study of selected examples thoroughly analyzed, assimilated, and evaluated. In our day, we suffer not so much from lack of communication as from an overload of communication. We are distracted from the quest for truth by the sheer mass of undigested data. In a humanistic framework, ample room is left for evaluation and personal reflection.

      Secondly, Gonzaga's education seeks to be Catholic. The word "Catholic," in its root meaning, means "according to the whole." The problem of fragmentation was already acute when Newman wrote his The Idea of a University nearly a century and a half ago. Each discipline, he pointed out, tends to absolutize itself and reduce the truth to what can be handled by its own particular method--that of physics, chemistry, economics, sociology, or whatever. To be Catholic a university must respect the proper method of each discipline within its own sphere of competence, and promote interdisciplinary dialogue as a remedy against departmental separatism or imperialism. A universal humanism can assure respect for the varieties of human culture without allowing the differences to become divisive.

      Educational integration is achieved, in great part, thanks to disciplines such as philosophy and theology which deal with ultimate and universal principles. No student ought to graduate from a Catholic university without a more than superficial exposure to these disciplines, which throw light on the meaning and purposes of human life.

      Although natural theology, as a rational discipline, has a rightful place in the Catholic curriculum, the university could not be said to teach universal knowledge if it excluded or ignored divine revelation. One of the great assets of a Catholic university is its capacity to draw on revelation as a path to wisdom. Truth, for the Christian, is not an impersonal abstraction but a divine person who comes to us in the flesh. In Jesus Christ, said St. Paul, "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3). As the center of human and cosmic history, the divine Logos can guide the work of the university in many of its aspects (John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae 16). Without the added light of divine revelation we would fall far short in our grasp of the purposes of creation, the goals of human life, and the sources of human dignity and freedom.

      Recognizing the freedom of the act of faith, the Catholic university does not seek to impose truth by any kind of threats or coercion. While leaving each person free to seek and embrace the truth, such a university cherishes its privileged situation as the place of encounter between faith and reason, between revealed truth and secular culture. By comparison, a merely secular university is severely limited insofar as it fails to take account of divinely communicated religious knowledge.

      The third characteristic, that of being Jesuit, is an intensification, so to speak, of the first two. St. Ignatius, as a man of the Renaissance, concentrated on the human. The first word of his Spiritual Exercises is "man." He wants to activate all the human powers, including the memory, the intellect, and the will. He makes allowance for the different abilities, temperaments, and circumstances of each individual. He insists on the importance of freedom and on the personal character of decisions.

      Connected with Ignatius's respect for freedom is his encouragement of personal initiative. In his Spiritual Exercises he invites individual retreatants to decide what grace they desire and how they will go about their meditations. Instead of telling them what they ought to think, he asks them to imagine the biblical scenes--for example, to consider whether the road to Bethlehem is level or steep and what are the dimensions and arrangement of the cave (Sp. Ex. 112) As a good pedagogue Ignatius knows that what we discover for ourselves produces greater fruit and relish than what we accept because someone else has found it out and told us (Sp. Ex. 2) Authentic Jesuit education should stimulate the students to engage in a personal quest for truth.

      Jesuit education has always placed strong emphasis on the personal care of each student. Tutors, counselors, and chaplains should be readily available. The faculty should cultivate personal friendship with students individually. The atmosphere of our institutions should resemble that of the family or the home rather than that of an impersonal institution, a factory.

      Equally important is the moral tone of the university. As a community of learning, it requires that its members be honest, upright, and cooperative. The humanism of Ignatius, which inspires the Jesuit educational tradition, is not one of narrow self-interest. On the contrary, Ignatius knows well that human persons do not rise to their full dignity unless they are motivated by love and generosity. In the Jesuit tradition, we try to form persons who live for others, and who achieve themselves by giving themselves away. Community service programs are a normal part of the educational program.

      Ignatius stretched his own vision by recalling how God looks down upon "the whole expanse or circuit of all the earth, filled with human beings" (Sp. Ex. 102). He speaks in the book of the Exercises of the diversity of peoples, "some white, some black; some at peace, and some at war; some weeping, some laughing; some well, some sick," etc. (Sp. Ex. 106) The Jesuit tradition follows Ignatius by maintaining broad horizons while attending closely to individual and cultural differences.

      In his rules for the choice of Jesuit ministries Ignatius lays down as the first norm that "one should keep the greater service of God and the more universal good before one's eyes as the norm to hold oneself on the right course" (Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, 622). For the sake of such universal service Ignatius wanted to place the Society of Jesus at the disposal of the pope as the person best situated to see the needs and opportunities for the entire Church. This universalism is closely linked with what we may call the Catholic spirit of Ignatius.

      Jesuit universities all over the world are part of a Catholic system of education, which is held in unity by the direction of the Holy See. The network of Jesuit universities permits exchanges of professors and students and joint programs of research far beyond anything currently in existence. Within the university, Jesuits are expected to work collegially with one another and with the rest of the faculty and administration. Today this means working in partnership with lay professionals, who share in the goals and traditions of the university. Jesuits have the responsibility of imparting the Ignatian vision to these fellow-workers. Such partnership provides us Jesuits with a welcome opportunity to accomplish far more than we could accomplish by ourselves.

      As I said in opening these remarks, Catholic and Jesuit humanistic education is severely challenged today. The strongest challenge, I believe, comes not from outside but from within. Do we want to be authentically Christian and Catholic or only to be academically respectable? In our recruiting of students, faculty, and staff, do we take any account of religious commitment and moral probity or only of scholarly potential and technical skills? Are we concerned for the total formation of our students as persons or only for their future financial success? Will the drives for increased enrollment and funding erode the distinctiveness of our traditions? I have every expectation that under the leadership of your new president you will be true to your humanist, Catholic, and Jesuit vocation.