Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Saving Notre Dame

Here is a letter I sent out this morning after working on it over the Labor Day weekend. Feel free to act on it.

Dear Tom:

The delay in getting back to you was due to the fact that I have a couple of other demands on my time, such as saving the world, etc. As you will come to understand, however, saving academia is high on the list of tasks that (taken as an integrated whole) will result in the restructuring of the social order, the goal of Pope Pius XI, as expressed in Quadragesimo Anno (issued the same year that Knute Rockne died), and implied in almost every single encyclical, allocution, and letter he composed.

1.

Dr. Norman G. Kurland, president of the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice ("CESJ"), www.cesj.org (with whom I have worked for many years) is an expert in the fundamentals of restructuring institutions to conform them more closely to the demands of the common good, that is, to the principles of the natural law. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s, but it was not until he discovered the work of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler that he was able to formulate a specific goal that would correct the root causes of injustice in our society. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the first book that Kelso and Adler co-authored, the misnamed, Capitalist Manifesto.

In consequence, Norm was able to participate in what many people regard as his greatest accomplishment, assisting in persuading the late Senator Russell Long of Louisiana (son of Huey Long) to champion the passage of the enabling legislation for the Employee Stock Ownership Plan ("ESOP"), barely a year after Senator Long had been identified as the ESOP's chief opponent.

In 1984 Norm was introduced to the late Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., then Chairman of the University of Dayton, and acknowledged expert in the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI. On his death in 1985, Father Ferree was referred to as "America's greatest social philosopher" by no less an authority than Father Andrew F. Morlion, O.P., Ph.D., founder of the International University of Social Studies in Rome, and special envoy of Pope John XXIII. Both Father Ferree and Father Morlion were on CESJ's board of directors.

Along with others, such as Dr. Geoff Gneuhs, a professor at Fordham and editor with the Catholic Worker, William Schirra (who introduced Norm and Father Ferree), and Col. Vincent J. McGrath, U.S.A. (Ret.), Norm and Father Ferree founded the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice in 1984.

One of CESJ's first major projects was the Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice under President Ronald Reagan (who, as everyone knows, played George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American). Norm served as Deputy Chairman of the Task Force. The report of the Task Force was circulated throughout the United States Agency for International Development, and was the inspiration for the Alexandria Tire Company in Egypt, the first ESOP in a developing country.

CESJ had two audiences with His Holiness John Paul II, during the first of which in his private library, he encouraged CESJ in its work, thereby providing the inspiration for CESJ's first major publication for popular consumption, Curing World Poverty: The New Role of Property (1994), shepherded through the long process of development and editing by the late Father John Miller, C.S.C., S.T.D., then head of the Central Bureau, Catholic Central Union of America in St. Louis, and Father Matthew Habiger, O.S.B., Ph.D., at that time head of Human Life International in Front Royal, Virginia. The principles articulated in Curing World Poverty, described by The Wanderer as "the most succinct Catholic economic program ever formulated - period," have most recently been embodied in a more ecumenical and interfaith fashion in Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen: A Just Free Market Solution for Saving Social Security (2004).

CESJ promotes a free enterprise approach to global economic justice through expanded capital ownership. CESJ is a non-profit, non-partisan, interfaith, all-volunteer organization with an educational and research mission. CESJ's global membership shares a common set of moral values — the natural law — and works together toward a common purpose, transforming good ideas into effective action.

Building upon the ideals of the American Revolution, especially as articulated by George Mason of Gunston Hall in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, CESJ focuses on extending economic empowerment to all. Going beyond the mere rhetoric of empowerment, CESJ has developed a commonsense, comprehensive plan — the Capital Homestead Act — to liberate every person economically. To build equity with efficiency at the workplace, CESJ has developed a management system for corporations of the 21st Century known as "Justice-Based Management."

CESJ's macro- and micro-economic concepts and applications are derived from the economic theories and principles of economic justice developed by the late lawyer-economist Louis Kelso and the Aristotelian philosopher Mortimer Adler. Combined with the ideas of Social Justice developed by Pius XI and refined by one of CESJ's founders, the late Thomist philosopher Rev. William Ferree, these ideas offer a new paradigm for the world of the 21st Century. We call this new paradigm — which transcends the power- and ownership-concentrating wage systems of traditional capitalism and traditional socialism — "the Just Third Way."

2.

After that "brief" introduction, the question then becomes, "What has this got to do with saving Notre Dame?"

The answer is — everything.

As His Holiness Benedict XVI has pointed out on more than one occasion, the most serious problem in the world today is bad ideas. Bad ideas are the cause of the plague of moral relativism that has infected all levels of all societies, domestic, religious, and civil. Nowhere is this moral relativism more evident — and more damaging — than in academia. Nowhere is the damage more serious than in Catholic academia.

As Dr. Ralph McInerny has pointed out, the whole idea of the university was to reinforce and support the Catholic culture of Europe. The question as to whether a Catholic university can be a "real" university is a non-issue, an accusation invented by secularists and anti-Catholics who for centuries spread the lie that a Catholic could not be a good citizen, a lie once applied to Jews, and before that to all Christians, and now to Muslims. "Catholic university" is not an oxymoron; it is redundant.

Other faiths and sects have used the idea of the university to good and beneficial effect within their own respective cultures, as has the secular culture itself, but the Catholic university is the exemplar and guide for what it means for something to be a "university." When the Catholic university loses its identity as something specifically Catholic, the country and the world lose something that not only confers great advantages on society and individuals, but (in a sense) part of its soul as well. The natural law is based on God's Intellect — reason — and when Catholic academia abandons its special character in an attempt to acquire wealth and popular fame, it gains the world — and loses its soul as well as its reason.

For this reason CESJ has made academia a special object of concern. Norm, while not a Christian, is an expert in Catholic social doctrine and sees Catholic academia as not only the most important part of the academic monolith, but the root source of the infection of the plague of relativism. The secular establishment, especially secular academia, has been at great pains to inculcate a sense of inferiority in Catholic academia, possibly out of guilt, but more likely out of envy.

If Catholic academia can be brought down to the level of the surrounding culture (as exemplified by secular academia), there will no longer be any objective standard against which the failings of secular academia can be measured. The damage they have inflicted — and continue to inflict — on western civilization will, within the mushy framework of moral relativism, be transformed by the downfall of the Catholic university into unquestioned benefits, and their relativism turned into the only absolutes. The irony in all this is the enthusiasm and active participation of Catholic academia in its own suicide.

3.

What can be done to correct this situation? First, while such things as the "Vagina Monologues" and the effort to reduce or remove the Catholicity of the faculty are serious, even extremely dangerous, we have to realize that they are "only" symptoms. The real problem is with the underlying institution. The equivocations handed out by the university administration whenever a specific symptom is protested are a sure sign of a badly-structured institution. The university has, whether through inertia, delusion, or intent, transformed itself into what Pope John Paul II called a "structure of sin."

Thus, while the university cannot be said to be sinful (any more than anything else that is not a natural person), the whole milieu of Notre Dame is such that deviations from the natural law are not only acceptable, they become the norm. Rather than being unfortunate exceptions that manage to circumvent the institutional structure and essential Catholicity of the university (as the administration attempts to characterize them), these deviations are protected and encouraged by the very institutional structure that (were it in conformity with the natural law and thus the demands of the common good) is designed and intended to prevent them. It thereby violates the essential human dignity of every student, faculty member, administrator, alumnus, and contributor, to say nothing of the effect that Notre Dame by its special character and position has on the whole of the common good. The common good of the University of Notre Dame has become flawed. It must be brought back into conformity with the natural law.

4.

How can this be done? The simple (and correct) answer is, through acts of social justice inspired and guided by acts of social charity.

Social charity is the virtue or moral habit (analogous to individual charity) that guides us in how we behave toward our institutions. It is the "soul" of social justice. Social charity inspires us to "love our institutions as we love ourselves," acknowledging their faults but seeking to help in their perfection and transformation rather than in their destruction. Social charity is the preliminary step of properly orienting and educating ourselves in order to organize with others in acts of social justice to restructure unjust or ineffective laws and institutions. Social charity is different from organized charity, which is a form of individual charity (i.e., directed at human persons rather than social institutions).

Social justice is the particular virtue whose object is the common good of all human society, rather than, as with individual justice, the individual good of any member or group. It is one of the basic social virtues in the field of social morality. Social justice guides humans as social beings in creating and perfecting organized human interactions, or institutions. It is the principle for restoring moral balance and harmony in the social order.

Social justice imposes on each member of society a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development. To the extent an institution violates the human dignity of any person or group, organized acts of social justice are required to correct the defects in that institution. Actions such as "social justice tithing," for example, recognize a personal responsibility to devote a certain amount of time toward working with others to improve the organizations and institutions in which we live and work.

It is particularly appropriate that such an effort be made to save Notre Dame. Evidence suggests that Knute Rockne somehow had an inherent understanding of the principles of social charity and social justice, even before Pius XI articulated them. In his book on coaching, even in his 1925 juvenile novel, The Four Winners, as well as in hints contained in Harry Stuhldreyer's memoir, there are glimpses of Rockne's theories on football that he tried to extend to the whole of life, and which sound very much like the laws and characteristics of social justice as described by Father Ferree in his 1948 pamphlet, Introduction to Social Justice.

5.

What can be done specifically to start the process?

First, circulate this memorandum among any and all groups who are concerned with the current state of the University of Notre Dame. This includes students, faculty, administration, alumni, contributors, even "subway alumni" and individuals of all faiths and ethical traditions who are concerned with the state of society, of which Notre Dame might serve as an exemplar. Most especially, this memo should be gotten to groups such as yours and the Sycamore Project that have been organized with the express intent of bringing the university back into conformity with its special traditions and Catholic orientation, a true "return to glory."

As the people in the Sycamore Project seem to be one of the better organized efforts with the most resources, they might be able to spearhead the effort. The principal characteristic of the act of social justice is organized activity toward the common good. An examination of the web site of the Sycamore Project appears to demonstrate the necessary degree of social charity and the will to engage in acts of social justice to preserve Notre Dame's special character and identity. They should thus be a special "target" in the opening stages of this initiative.

Second, anyone concerned with saving Notre Dame should read and study the basic documents, starting with Father Ferree's Introduction to Social Justice, available as a free download on the CESJ web site. Other useful documents will be Norm's "How to Win a Revolution," which contains specific applications of the principles of social change, albeit directed at the expanded capital ownership movement, but easily adapted to any movement for institutional restructuring. At one time, I believe, Norm met Saul Alinsky, and was impressed with the power that properly directed social activism could have. Alinsky's efforts have petered out, in large measure because the force was misdirected to ephemeral ends such as job creation and wealth redistribution instead of institutional change.

Third — get organized. Since it's better not wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel, the maximum effect can be achieved by slightly reorienting an existing organization. Project Sycamore seems the logical choice at this point, but another one may surface if they are unwilling or uninterested.

Fourth, locate "prime movers." That is, individuals who have high visibility in the community (in this case, the Notre Dame family), and who have the ability and power to influence the grassroots — the immensely powerful, if unorganized ordinary members of the Notre Dame family. As isolated voices, the administration can easily ignore them; a lone individual or small group can always be written off as a malcontent or aggregation of disgruntled and unimportant loonies. As an organized movement behind one or more prime movers, however, the administration must pay attention, or lose its cherished position.

At any time CESJ is available in the person of Norman Kurland to provide advice and guidance. CESJ at present lacks the resources to commit itself to providing anything other than that, as our people and resources are already fully committed (and in some cases, over-committed) to existing projects. The most efficient way to proceed, then, is first to locate a prime mover, and have him or her have a talk with Norm. If guidance or advice is needed in the effort of locating a prime mover (without expecting anyone in CESJ to be able to surface the prime mover), Norm will also be available. As an old hand at fomenting peaceful revolution, Norm often has the knack of picking out the key individual who must be swung around or convinced before an institution can be restructured.

6.

What methods are to be used?

Initially, the internet should prove extremely useful. If something starts happening, for example, I could report progress on our blog, "The Just Third Way," as an example of applied social justice in action. Until a prime mover and an organization can be located to provide logistical support, however, communications and the effort will have to remain somewhat informal. I prefer e-mail, as it leaves a written record, while Norm prefers the telephone or a face-to-face meeting.

Once there are resources, actual meetings become possible. For this reason, locating an existing organization becomes critical. CESJ cannot do this, as all our resources are, as I noted above, already fully committed. At this point, again, Project Sycamore might be the best bet. They're already working toward the same general goal, and should be open to gaining more committed people under their banner.

While the ultimate objective is the restructuring of the institution to bring it back into conformity with the natural law, the symptoms cannot be ignored. Every instance of the university deviating from the natural law and from its nature as a Catholic institution should be (respectfully) protested — and both specific and long-term ameliorative measures suggested. That is, the immediate solution is to cease the offending act, while the long range solution is to reorient the university along more socially just lines so that similar offenses become not only less frequent, but unthinkable within the context of a Catholic university. This is a combination of individual and social justice: individual justice deals with the specific offenses, while social justice deals with restructuring the institution so that similar offenses are no longer an optimal choice for those within the milieu of that institution.

Once the effort is organized, with a prime mover or movers committed, along with logistical support, the media must be kept informed, and allies continually sought. A definite coup would be to get other denominational educational institutions to endorse the effort, as well as prominent individuals of other faith traditions. A statement supporting Notre Dame's return and adherence to its Catholic traditions and identity from Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, or Protestant institutions or spokesmen would be extremely powerful - and undercut the claim that there is something "second rate" about being a religiously affiliated institution, or that Catholics (or members of any other religion) are somehow not as good citizens as anybody else. I believe that CESJ could use its connections to get some endorsements of this sort.

For example, Dr. Ahmed Mansour, an Islamic religious leader in exile from Egypt, is a strong advocate of the natural law (he commented favorably on Pope Benedict's speech at Regensburg), and is a friend of CESJ. He might be willing to make a statement on an effort to reorient Notre Dame in accordance with the natural law.

I am reasonably certain that Social Justice Review, the official journal of the Central Bureau, Catholic Central Union of America, would publish articles on the effort. The editor is friendly, and the CCUA has a connection to Notre Dame, being run by the same order. We are currently in discussions with the president of the American Chesterton Society, Dale Ahlquist, who, in addition to being the publisher of Gilbert magazine, has an "in" at EWTN. I probably don't need to tell you that getting EWTN involved would do much to publicize the effort, as well as move it along.

7.

The ultimate goal is to save Notre Dame as a Catholic university. To that end, it might be extremely useful to consider bringing the effort, once organized (and, ultimately, Notre Dame itself), under the auspices of the in-formation "Abraham Federation," the groundwork for which was laid during the "First Social Justice Collaborative" held recently in St. Louis. The idea of the Abraham Federation is to bring together organizations (especially institutions of higher learning) under a single umbrella, but without losing in any way their autonomy, independence, or special character or identity, to forward the restructuring of the social order into a justice-based society in conformity with the natural law.

As expressed in St. Louis, the Abraham Federation is "a coalition of organizations that hold in common the idea that access to property ownership is the key to justice, and justice is the key to peace. We are a think tank and catalyst for social change comprised of Muslims, Christians, Jews and all who uphold the principles of natural law. We advocate limited economic power of the State, free and open markets, and the full rights of private property." CESJ is helping to get the effort organized (similar to the way it could assist the effort to save Notre Dame), and has located some potential funding sources.

* * * *

It may be providential that this opportunity presents itself at the beginning of the new academic year. The students haven't had time yet to sink into the pre-midterm panic, and since it is the Fall, the seniors haven't yet become obsessed with finding jobs. We might even get some support from the Observer, although Notre Dame Magazine might not have too much to offer. In any event "well begun is half done," as they say.

Donations to CESJ are tax deductible in the United States under IRC § 501(c)(3):





1 comment:

Brian said...

Hi Michael, I want to thank you for your email Re: this post. I have read your letter and agree with you wholeheartedly when you said "When the Catholic university loses its identity as something specifically Catholic, the country and the world lose something that not only confers great advantages on society and individuals, but (in a sense) part of its soul as well" There is a Serious decline in morals throughout the world and indeed within The Catholic eduction system, more emphasis is placed on sex eduction and safe sex rather than the teachings of the Catholic Church which advocates abstaining from sexual intercourse outside of Christian marriage. Catholic institutions, schools, Collages and universities are the future of Catholic culture and if the so-called 'Vagina Monologues' is the best we have to offer our children and teenagers then what sort of culture will we be promoting for future generations. I have put your link on my site http://the-irish-catholic.blogspot.com/ and added an extra link to this post. I wish you every success in your efforts to highlight the plight of not only, Catholic culture, but the decline in moral culture everywhere.
Brian