Justice at Creighton University
Paul Locatelli, S.J.
Presented at Creighton University
I must begin by thanking Father John Schlegel, Vice President Charlie Dougherty, Father Al Agresti, Roger Bergman and other members of the Justice and Peace Program for this invitation to give the Markoe-DePorres Social Justice Lecture.
Given Omaha is the home of your distinguished photographer Father Don Doll, I'd like to use photography as a way to frame my reflections on justice. Don's reflections and book of photographs, Vision Quest: Men, Women and Sacred Sites of the Sioux Nation will be my touchstone in helping us focus on the challenging questions for the future of Jesuit universities posed by Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Jesuits, in his recent address during the Conference on Justice in Jesuit Higher Education.
In terms of photography, Ignatius of Loyola provides us with a wide angle vision on faith and justice, while Father Kolvenbach provides us with a depth of vision that will make a difference for what we see and should do.
Since 1975, the Society of Jesus worldwide has been convinced that there is an integrating principle behind all its works: namely, the service of faith of which promotion of justice is essential. While that general principle gives us a start, how should we answer it specifically at Creighton or at Santa Clara?
My aim is to help the Creighton University community address its three
recommendations from its own self-study:
To address the first question about why justice should be explicit in the curriculum, Creighton's university community, in cooperation with its Jesuit community, has to perceive the world through the special lens provided by our tradition. So let us begin by focusing on the best of our living tradition, just as Don's Vision Quest of the Sioux people is more about the hopes for a new future rather than their history frozen in photographs. Our vision of Jesuit education - past, present and future, is still shaped by Ignatius' vision.
I. The Ignatian Angle of Vision and Kolvenbach Depth of Vision for Jesuit Education
History gives us some basic principles of Jesuit education that arose from the experience of Ignatius of Loyola. Five hundred years ago, in his own words, Ignatius of Loyola was "given over to the vanities of the world." Over a course of twenty years he moved from courtier and soldier to wandering preacher and temporary prison guest of the Inquisition. At 31, he went back to grammar school to learn Latin so that he could qualify for studies at a university. For his own education and that of his companions he chose Salamanca and Paris, the best universities in Europe. At the University of Paris, he and six fellow students of theology and the humanities founded the Society of Jesus.
Sometimes you will hear Jesuits refer to magis, the Latin word for more. That captures a distinctive kind of excellence. Ignatius chose the best universities because the drive for excellence motivated his character and his spirituality. He was convinced that we should make the most of the gifts God has given to us. Excellence was the standard set by the Ignatian virtue of "magnanimity," literally, "having a great soul." Not content with affirming God's great glory, he insisted on "the greater glory of God," on a spirituality of engagement that had high ambitions. A great soul always strives for more. Never before had a religious order made spiritual ambition so central. Where Benedictines strove for peace, and Franciscans gloried in their poverty, Jesuits stressed magnanimity. Although some would say that Jesuit humility might be well-disguised, excellence and ambition for God's cause are and ought to be paramount in Ignatian spirituality.
Similarly, academic excellence continues to be a sine qua non for a Jesuit educator and Jesuit education. Ignatius of Loyola would not stand for anything less because he was convinced that God was glorified in the search for knowledge and wisdom. We find God by finding truth about life in all its mystery and struggle.
Worldly wise and university educated, Ignatius made a practical connection between spirituality and the world. His most famous writings are eminently practical and experiential: the Spiritual Exercises are about learning to make life choices. They teach people to find God in the thick of things -- in the cities and marketplace and halls of power, not in the retreat of monastic solitude. He believed passionately that God is glorified by integrating the love for learning with a life of faith that seeks to make the world both better and more humane. Ignatius was clear about this, saying "the well-being of the whole world depends on the proper education of youth." 
The early Jesuits expressed Ignatius' own spirit. They found God by combating ignorance and confronting injustice, in preaching God's Word and writing scholarly articles, in visiting the sick and in debating the comparative values of ethnic cultures.
From Ignatius' spirituality we see a demand for a pedagogy of engagement: students should actively participate in the learning process and learn to live their faith in a way that engages the problems and potential of this world.
To this day, Jesuits and their colleagues seek to educate the whole
person because the ideal is to integrate faith and reason, mind and
body, intellect and culture, faith and justice, compassion for the poor
and love. For us, as Ignatius urged, love is seen more in deeds than
in words. In his address at Santa Clara, Father Kolvenbach
raised the bar as he redefined this traditional ideal:
This new standard means that educating the "whole person" cannot be merely the pursuit of individual excellence or well-rounded self-fulfillment. No longer can you educate the "whole person" without being vitally engaged with the full reality of the world.
The link between person and world is forged by the virtue of solidarity, that dynamic combination of justice and love, compassion and action that John Paul II has championed ever since his days in Poland. Solidarity is the quality of mind and heart that engages us actively in "the real world" with all its wonder and suffering, all its promise and frustration. Wholeness comes through "well-educated solidarity" that sees my individual good as integral to the common good of all humanity and nature, and ultimately in solidarity with God who labors in the world to free it for the fullness of life.
So Jesuit pedagogy of engagement today means educating our students for the society and the culture of today. Jesuit education has, at its best, always appreciated the richness of cultures, from the indigenous culture of the Gueranai of Paraguay to the elaborate cultures of China and the Grand Mogul of India. This pedagogy of engagement believes that cultural expressions, just like knowledge and truth and service, can reveal traces of God's own complexity, richness, and beauty.
Our approach to educating for culture means reading the signs of the
times and applying principles of learning that improve society for the
greater glory of God.
II: Why Justice is Central to Jesuit Higher Education
Why is justice central to Jesuit higher education? In all great photos, "heart and soul" are deeply reflected in the image. The photographer exposes us to new depths of beauty and expressions of life. What you see in the face of James Holy Eagle reflects what Gerard Manley Hopkins saw more than a century ago when he penned: "For Christ plays in ten thousand places... through the features of men's faces."
Jesuit education looks for a life much deeper than the expressions on the features of women's and men's faces; its asks the deeper question than does secular higher education. For Creighton then, Why should this university community make the promotion of justice explicit in the curriculum? Or for that matter why should it ask the same of scholarship? When we consider those questions we answer with another. How could it not do so and still be a true Jesuit university?
When a university does not mention poverty and injustice, it sends the message that they are not worth bothering about. Let me make clear that when we speak about "the promotion of justice" we mean that sort of promotion that is appropriate to a university. It is imperative that Creighton incorporate the promotion of justice into the curriculum as a university, not as a social agency, community service organization, or as a parish or retreat house. The recent General Congregation called us to use "imagination and faith" to strengthen our character both as 'university,' the noun, and as 'Jesuit,' the adjective. Both "must always remain fully honored."
This does not mean that the university will consider justice only in the abstract, as a contested philosophical notion. Concern for justice almost always arises from frustration over specific situations of injustice. Education for justice begins from those frustrations, pushes on to analysis, adds insight from theories of justice, and aims at "well-educated solidarity" with those who suffer. The goal of a university education for justice is not to produce social activists, though some may be called to that. Rather, the university should seek to educate for the world we live in, a world which contains beauty and wonder mixed with widespread and persistent injustice.
Jesuit education seeks an awareness of the world as it is. Through Jesuit education, we appreciate and learn from culture, but must also critique and shape it to make it more humane. We must also grasp the problems that impoverish cultures and what sets them against each other. The richness of American culture today is threatened by ethnic, racial, class, gender, and economic divisions. In California's Silicon Valley, the net result of these divisions is summed up in the term the "digital divide." The "have nots" lack access to both decent education and technology, so they fall further behind the "have's" who have the wherewithal to prosper from the new economy.
The Ignatian wide angle vision also sees beyond our own country to the growing gaps of income and wealth around the world where the poor suffer not merely from the digital divide of technology but also from a health and educational gap.
According to the United Nations, fully half of the nations of the world
are worse off than they were a decade ago and the gap between rich and
poor nations is increasing, not narrowing.
Father Kolvenbach asked this very pointed question, "How can a booming
economy, the most prosperous and global ever, still leave over half of
humanity in poverty?" He cited the sober analysis and moral assessment
of the Jesuits at the 1995 General Congregation:
They saw that the world as it is today is a scandal. Can anyone who looks honestly and unflinchingly at the world come to any other conclusion? The impetus to make education for justice central in the university does not come primarily from Jesuit documents or from a theory of pedagogy. It comes primarily from the dire condition of the world itself. Any university that seeks to educate its students for the world as it is, "the real world," must address the scandal that it presents. The killing fields of Rwanda, the camps in the Middle East and other parts of the world, the sweatshops in China, and the AIDS epidemic in southern Africa and the condition of women in so many nations are all part of our world. A university that does not raise questions of justice about these "signs of the times" would be educating its students for some other world than the one in which we live. We must also believe that we can understand the root causes and that we can take action to remedy them.
With this belief let us move to the second question, how should this university community make the promotion of justice explicit in its curriculum? The answer must begin with an understanding of justice for today.
III. What are the Strategies for Advancing Justice in Jesuit Education?
It takes more than having an expensive camera or dark room to capture life in the Sioux Nation. It takes intelligent commitment and professional excellence. It takes asking the right question and having a discerning mind for making the right choices to find the depth of the human spirit seen in a picture.
The traditional Jesuit emphasis on educating for ethics must now become educating for justice. The great issues of life cannot be solved by focusing on personal morality, indispensable though that may be. Life today impels us not to ask questions simply in the abstract. Hence, the perennial question behind Western humanistic education, "How should I live?" explodes into the global question: "How should all of us live together?"
A university driven by the question "How should all of us live together?" is already beginning an education for justice, because justice is the virtue that must guide any authentic answer to that fundamental question.
That question also points us to the programs that will help students become persons of "well-educated solidarity" with the world of today. It does not ask it from the privilege of any specific ideology or theory of justice; it merely asks what has become obvious in an interdependent world.
Jesuits with their colleagues reflecting on the question of justice over the past twenty years have consistently come to two central insights. First, you cannot separate justice from faith. Second, the path to justice comes through serious and inclusive dialogue.
Justice and Faith: The first assertion, that justice cannot be separated from faith, seems to fly in the face of American universities' commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Why not separate justice concerns, which are ostensibly public and rational, from faith convictions, which are sectarian and matters of personal belief, not public rationality?
It is fairly easy to argue that Judeo-Christian faith requires the promotion of justice. As early as 1975, Jesuits at a world-wide meeting in Rome called a General Congregation, saw this integration of faith and justice as the basic principle of every Jesuit work. They declared the comprehensive mission for all the works of the Society of Jesus to be "the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement." The logic of the connection is clear for the basic biblical message: "reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another." Friendship with God means removing the barriers to friendship among peoples, especially those barriers of blindness, inequality, and discrimination. Friendship with God means respecting in an active way the dignity of others by remedying the conditions that attack their dignity.
A generation later, in 1995, Jesuits at the most recent Congregation affirmed and but also enriched, even expanded, the understanding of "the promotion of justice." They cautioned that the vision linking faith with justice "transcends notions of justice derived from ideology, philosophy, or particular political movements." This Congregation endorsed all that had been said 20 years earlier about socio-economic and political structures and it went on to include new dimensions of justice such as ecological concerns, global interdependence, human rights of the marginalized, and a special concern for the social situation of women. They also asserted that Biblical justice has an international human rights dimension, because "respect for the dignity of the human person created in the image of God underlies the growing international consciousness of the full range of human rights."
Father Kolvenbach, nonetheless, reminded us that "the term justice .. remains ambiguous" yet has two indispensable dimensions: socio-economic justice and the justice of the Gospel. The short-hand commitment to faith and justice, then, must be a "social justice, rooted in the Gospel which embodies God's love and saving mercy." For a person of faith, love of God without justice, that is, without the social expression of love for neighbor, is a farce. At least in the traditions of the Bible, faith leads to justice by a fairly direct route.
A tougher question is: does justice really need to involve faith? Can't professors and students have a critical and active concern for justice without adding all the baggage of faith and institutional religion?
Linking justice to faith raises the specter of losing academic credibility and, more seriously for some, the specter of indoctrination and ideology. This is true even among many faculty of good will at Jesuit universities. Any talk about integrating "faith" and "justice" raises the awkward questions, "Whose faith?" and "Whose justice?"
Many faculty fear that behind the humane rhetoric of Jesuit General Congregations and university administrators there is really only one acceptable meaning of faith and only one acceptable notion of justice. They suspect that non-Christian or nonreligious frameworks of meaning will not be taken seriously. Some fear that justice has been narrowed down to a progressive, even socialist, program of radical reform, probably inspired by liberation theologians from Latin America. Little wonder many faculty are reluctant to enter this discussion on faith and justice. Why sit down at the table if you think that the deck is stacked against you?
The usual way that Jesuit universities respond to this reluctance about discussing faith and justice is to bracket the question of faith and try to achieve some consensus on justice. I do not believe that genuine dialogue about justice can occur by bracketing the question of faith. Our views of justice are inevitably shaped by our fundamental convictions about reality, that is, by the various "faiths" that we have. The differences in our approaches to social problems stem from divergent ways of conceiving the world. If we don't bring those world views into the discussion, we may never understand the full meaning of social justice, let along other points of view on justice.
For example, a strict "rational choice" economist may assume that self-interest is the basic human motivations, which is appropriate to a world where freedom aligns best with the most fit surviving and where human flourishing is private and independent of others. With such a world view, it is no surprise that this economist can find little practical agreement with a biologist or an environmentalist who sees humans as parts of a global ecosystem which is thoroughly interdependent and who values the dignity of even non-human parts of nature and responsibility to future generations. Unless their conversations about justice and injustice went deep enough to engage these world views, they are like to be mutually incomprehensible.
For secular persons, these convictions about reality serve the same intellectual function as religious faith does for theists. Whether we call them faith or not, these convictions or beliefs set the framework within which we operate in our lives and academic disciplines. Everyone of us makes basic assumptions about the nature of the world and human beings, about how we can find coherence, about what is worth living for. These assumptions usually stay in the background. We are educated in our disciplines but probably not in the language and symbols that could express these underlying assumptions. We rarely articulate them to ourselves, let alone to others. However, unless our conversations about justice go deep enough to become conversations about faith, we are unlikely to understand each other even about how we ought to live in this world together.
Dialogue to Action. Dialogue, not fiat nor excluding those who don't resonate with the biblically informed, becomes the path to understanding and choices. Dialogue is the best path in the search for truth, and truth emerges from disciplined inquiry and respectful dialogue where all voices are welcome. We must also realize that the pluralism in American Jesuit universities mirrors that of our contemporary culture.
Dialogue works when all parties are assured that their basic assumptions are known and respected -- not necessarily agreed with, but respected. In addition, the parties to genuine dialogue need to admit the limitations of their own positions. This commitment does not confine the dialogue about justice and faith to the philosophy and religious studies departments. Rather, scholars from every discipline will make their unique contribution to the overriding question of how all of us should live, but the conversation can not be limited to scholars. The voices of the poor and those suffering injustice must also be included for a genuine dialogue.
This fact turns us to the final question concerning service-learning, which intersects dialogue with a pedagogy of engagement that educates the whole person in solidarity with the real world.
IV. Should service-learning on behalf of justice be an identifiable mark of a Creighton education?
Don Doll, it seems to me, answers the third question when he said: "Join me in sharing what I learned while photographing for Vision Quest. The years putting together this material were truly a spiritual journey for me.... Anytime you go to another culture, there's a wonderful give-and-take. When you see someone living by other cultural values, it puts your own culture values in relief. It helps you to lead a more reflective life." Don integrated his love for learning, creative instincts, reflective prayer, and professional excellence to conclude: "I could look upon and photograph people with something of the empathy and understanding that God has for them."
It seems obvious Jesuit spirituality and engagement calls us to a vision and depth of experience with the world. This pedagogy paradoxically, brings the margins -- like justice as part of a commitment to faith -- to the center of intellectual inquiry. The metaphor and reality of the Sioux people, with all their beauty and hope, not merely the tragedy, move to center stage.
It took a pedagogy of engagement for Don to see with the empathy and understanding that God has for the Sioux people. It takes a similar pedagogy to open our students to the marketplace of ideas and life as well as to the actual situation of the poor and marginalized. This openness leads alumni of Jesuit education to thoughtful action because they understand both the causes of poverty and how to live lives of integrity.
Service learning, then, becomes a path to "well educated solidarity" for our students. Because service-learning means different things to different people, let me first say what it is not. Service-learning must first be distinguished from volunteerism or community service, from internships or practica, and finally, from research projects that analyze causes of social marginalization or poverty. As important as social research is, it focuses on the underserved community, but only learns about them, not from them.
Service learning is critical reflection -- critical thinking -- on a lived experience with (not of) the poor, which goes beyond mere contact with the poor. Its intended results are an "experience in which students gain an understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility." This reflects the Ignatian principle of integrating learning and living to benefit the common good of the community.
Research now shows that student knowledge, attitudes, and understanding are changed by reflective experience with -- not just on -- persons from different socio-economic classes. This is best accomplished by taking students outside the campus walls in the pursuit of academic excellence.
Studies  found those who participated in service-learning showed significant increases in learning and understanding over the course of a semester in areas like improved communication skills, openness to other points of view, commitment to social justice, increased understanding of other cultural perspectives, and perception that problems are systemic rather than the fault of individuals who need service.
Another study "found that students in the integrated service-learning program increased in international understanding and civic responsibility and decreased in racial prejudice... Comparable changes did not occur in the students who participated in service without reflection or in no service.
At Santa Clara, we found students in community-based learning courses report becoming more intellectually competent and more likely committed to justice as well as simultaneously acquiring leadership skills and an appreciation for diversity.
The philosophical underpinnings for service-learning can be found in thinkers like John Dewey. Although Dewey never talked about service-learning, his principle of "reflective experience" captures the interactive learning process between humans and their environment. Experience is not just the raw material for reflection, rather reflection is a necessary phase within experience that clarifies and deepens it and leads to understanding future experiences.
We come up against a problem; it challenges us to think and act differently, so it becomes the object of our reflection. And further, reflection gives the interaction order and a clearer direction, without which it would be blind and haphazard and frustrating. Reflection is then an indispensable part of engagement; it brings students -- and faculty -- and community together.
This engagement is the point where the problematic of life is both understood and appreciated and where the mind and heart will be moved to search for new potentials and innovative remedies. As one scholar put it, "through service-learning, students can discover the possibility and the importance of simultaneously attending to their needs as individuals and members of a community." In short, service learning leads to learning to live in solidarity with the real world.
We must ask whether faculty need a comparable experience of immersion and reflection in order to bring education for justice into the mainstream of the university. Often faculty are reluctant to change their pedagogy and syllabi to incorporate service learning. I would argue that exploring ways for faculty to have direct contact with the poor and learn the reflective skills on that experience will equip them to understand and guide their students in both service-learning and in courses without service-learning. Immersion trips to impoverished areas in other countries like Haiti can provide this, but then follow up needs to occur so that they can work this new experience into their pedagogy and research. Local or domestic immersion programs could also work here for a number of faculty, whether in urban communities or learning from the Lakota Sioux of Wounded Knee.
In the end, service-learning provides an excellent instance of Ignatian
pedagogy of engagement. Genuine knowledge arises out of experience and
practice, and truth is appreciated by living it out.
Little wonder that Fr. Kolvenbach gave it such an endorsement when speaking
to the AJCU schools:
To conclude, a curriculum based both on interdisciplinary dialogue and
service-learning especially across class and cultural differences are central
strategies for turning our quest for a vision into reality. In Jesuit
universities, educating for justice is the foundation for this quest, especially
when we learn to see the hopes and dreams for a better Sioux nation in
the features of John Holy Eagle's face. Was not Gerard Manley Hopkins
thinking of just such a person, when he wrote: