Traditions of Eloquence: The Jesuits & Modern Rhetorical Studies, edited by Cinthia Gannett and John C. Brereton

Fordham University Press, 2015

Fordham University Press, 2015

Reviewed by Laurie Ann Britt-Smith 

“Eloquence,” as defined by John O’- Malley, S.J., in the foreword to this collection, is “to mean what you say and to say what you mean – and to say it with grace, accuracy, and force.” Eloquence, or eloquentia perfecta, is a key outcome of Jesuit rhetorical practice, but as noted by editors Cinthia Gannett and John C. Brereton, the influence of this Jesuit twist on classical rhetoric, and by extension its influence on the Western system of education, has been neglected in contemporary scholarship. These essays are a first step toward rectifying this omission. The text is primarily the work of a consortium of rhetoric and composition scholars from across the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. They have created an ambitious exploration of the order’s investment in education in the area of rhetorical theory and practice and of how that history is manifested in the work of contemporary rhetoric and composition programs and classrooms. 

Organized in a loose three-part structure, each contribution can be read as a part of a whole or as an independent piece. Section One features essays linked through the use of history as a lens. Such a large framework allows for conversations that include the specific rhetorical moves made by St. Ignatius in his autobiography and the Spiritual Exercises, the adaptation of classical rhetorical training by the Jesuits, the changing role of liberal education and Jesuit training, the relationship of the “Black Robes” to women’s religious orders in early North American educational institutions, and a comparison between rhetorical training historically and currently offered at the College of the Holy Cross and at Sogang University in South Korea. Although somewhat counterintuitive, that last one is actually the first essay in the collection. Written by Patricia Bizzell, it masterfully sets the tone for the entire text, establishing historical context while also discussing current affairs. Allowing for the largest possible audience, the introduction to each section and at least one essay in it provide a coherent chronological,theoretical, or pedagogical overview for those entering new territory or who need a helpful reminder/map of this intellectual terrain.

The remaining sections are narrower in scope but continue the pattern of establishing the conversation, breaking it into smaller parts and then expanding again into a larger consideration of the theme. Section Two covers the post-suppression era in Jesuit education in the United States, starting with three excellent chapters written by the editors and by Steven Mailloux and Katherine H. Adams respectively, which review the history of rhetoric and writing studies in what has become the AJCU. These are followed by essays which showcase exemplar scholars who are irrevocably tied to the tradition: Walter Ong, Ed Corbett, Bernard Lonergan, and Paulo Freire. The section ends with a forum section of rhetoricians briefly reflecting of the importance of their Jesuit education.

Building on the momentum of those who influenced or were influenced by the tradition, the third section examines the application of Jesuit rhetoric through a discussion of eloquentia perfectia as translated in today’s pedagogies. The voices gathered here include some of the most respected in the field, for example, John Bean, whose Engaging Ideas is canonical in the discipline. Some essays focus on the circumstances found at specific universities that have larger application for other Jesuit institutions. K. J. Peters’s discussion of the core curriculum at Loyola Marymount and others, like Vincent Casaregola’s fascinating reconsideration of what “voice” means in a digital world, have implications for all who teach. The text closes with an Afterword by Joseph Janangelo. Titled “Technology, Diversity, and the Impression of Mission,” it brings the discussion full circle, considering where the tradition, always intertwined with the Jesuit mission, is going as it is increasingly transferred to lay faculty who must accompany 21st-century students into new spaces and places.

 The essays form a wondrous cacophony of ideas and individual styles. The effect is attending a large party with fabulous guests, each talking passionately about the subjects which they most care about. Such a wide-ranging conversation can cause a bit of alienation, even with the built-in moorings for the uninitiated. Those who have never been to this particular party may anticipate that the text will be awfully dry and boring. Fear not. One the advantages in joining these conversations is that they are led by men and women who at their core are teachers, teachers who are experts at making the kind of rhetorical moves that can captivate an audience. It is worth the effort to engage with this work and to consider what the next steps in such scholarship might be. After all, these skilled rhetoricians have cultivated in their own writing, and in their work with their students, eloquence.

Laurie Ann Britt-Smith, a former member of the Conversations seminar, is now the director of the Center for Writing at the College of the Holy Cross.


Democracy, Culture, Catholicism, by Michael Schuck and John Crowley-Buck

New York: Oxford University Press 2015

New York: Oxford University Press 2015

Reviewed by Joy Gordon 

Democracy, Culture, Catholicism:Voices from Four Continents comes at a critical juncture in many regards. It emerged from a project on Catholicism and democracy, coinciding with the Arab Spring. The collection represents a six-year process of dialogue and collaboration among scholars from four countries, each of them in a different region of the world: Lithuania, Indonesia, Peru, and the United States. The collection explores the complex relationship between the Catholic Church and the state in contexts ranging from post-Soviet Lithuania to leftist regimes in Latin America. There are contributions exploring civil discourse, citizenship, and public space in Muslim,
Christian, and secular cultures. Within a cross-cultural and interreligious context, the articles in the collection explore themes of memory, trauma, and restorative justice.

Perhaps what is most strikingabout the book is simply the nature of the project. Cross-national collaborations are never easy and are often fraught with challenges with regard to logistics and language. But this multinational project involves regions that are tremendously diverse, with great differences in scholarly traditions, national experiences, and the history of the church. The topics and approaches of the 23 chapters emerged from a series of three annual meetings, involving extensive discussion among the scholars from the four regions, as they explored areas of commonality and of divergence. The collection represents work from 14 academic disciplines and four different religions. Working collaboratively, the editors and contributors sought to identify the critical issues to be addressed in light of the seismic changes taking place globally in regard to political participation and empowerment, and the role of religion and the Catholic Church in particular. At the same time, the contributors draw on the distinctive qualities and aspects of each culture – ranging from the narrative of the trauma of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States to kethoprak theater in Indonesia.

The questions explored within this collection – or suggested as a direction for further consideration – reflect the multidimensionality of the enterprise. What might be the distinctive role of the Catholic Church in matters of public concern, given the considerable differences in the kind of space it occupies in difference cultures? In Latin America, the church had a formative role in shaping the colonial legacy of the continent. This was in marked contrast with the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which was marginalized and suppressed under the atheist state of the Soviet Union. And it contrasts again with the role of the Church in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. What might Catholic social teachings have to offer the analysis of class divisions, incarceration, and labor in such diverse contexts? How might the Catholic Church contribute to public discourse on the environment and the rights of the indigenous in the Amazon? Certainly many of these questions and themes are not new. But Democracy, Culture, Catholicism makes it possible to consider them through such different and intersecting frameworks that there is a sense of looking through a kaleidoscope: the book offers us so many different lenses to look through that each theme in turn comes to take on a vivid set of new possibilities. In addition, this book suggests a methodology that might fruitfully be employed in other initiatives as well. In convening dialogue among collaborators of such diverse backgrounds and interests, the project of simply working together to understand with clarity the viewpoint of another is fully as important to the process as the particular chapters that were the outcome.

Democracy, Culture, Catholicism is a rich and engaging collection that has much to offer those who might want to explore the role of the Catholic Church in the rapidly changing international landscape of politics and culture. At the same time, it challenges its readers to consider the limitations of their own perspectives, and to seek ways to transcend them.

Joy Gordon is the Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Professor of Social Ethics at Loyola University Chicago.

The Age of Sustainable Development by Jeffrey Sachs

New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 

New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 

Reviewed by Stephen Pitts, S.J. 

Jeffrey Sachs is no stranger to large problems or grand, sweeping claims. His latest work, endorsed by none other than the U.N. Secretary General, seeks to explain the “central concept for our age,” sustainable development. The “age of economic growth” began in 1750; up until then, the entire human race lived at the subsistence level, and inequality did not exist. Thomas Malthus predicted imminent catastrophe: exponential growth in population could not keep up with linear growth in agricultural production. Malthus failed, however, to anticipate the Industrial Revolution, by which technological advances boosted industrial output and increased agricultural production. But they came at a cost that still resonates today: large-scale migration, environmental degradation, and rising inequality.

Sachs’s work reflects recent trends in economics: this year’s Nobel laureate, Angus Deaton, pioneered the use of empirical field research to address questions in development. The first few chapters trace the history of economic development while subsequent chapters summarize the latest research on particular issues: geography, education, health, agriculture, poverty, social inclusion, cities, and climate change. Both The Great Escape (Deaton) and Poor Economics (Banaerjee and Duflo) treat a comparable range of topics, though Sachs alone deals with environmental issues. The work brings together material from an online course; the abundance of color pictures and lack of footnotes give it the feel of lecture notes whose enthusiastic tone aims to inspire the reader to change the world by the end of the semester.

Sachs proposes an “analytic and normative framework” to address sustainable development. On the analytic side, since World War II, a succession of models has aimed to explain the remarkable disparity between growth rates and outcomes in a variety of countries. Initially, the models looked for a key external (exogenous) factor of production that could be added to an economy. Whether from a developed country or an NGO, development aid of this sort meant infrastructure improvements. The limits of this sort of capital infusion soon emerged; factories sat idle without raw materials, schools languished without students, and roads led to nowhere. In response, recent work has acknowledged the necessity of human capital, such as education and women’s rights, and social capital, like functioning legal and financial institutions that people trust. Sachs uses complexity theory to analyze four interconnected systems: global economy, Earth systems, social interactions, and governance.

Sachs’s breadth of experience and command of examples past and present leaps out from every page. Many of the chapters end with specific policy prescriptions; in fact, the book’s final chapter describes a set of Sustainable Development Goals that parallel the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Villages in Africa provide a concrete example of the sort of multipronged intervention that he proposes: ten villages in ten different sub-Saharan African countries in which Sachs and his team implemented programs to address all eight MDG at once over the course of ten years.

The glowing account of the MDV does not mention the tremendous controversy that they have raised among Sachs’s academic peers, who contend that basic errors in his experimental design have invalidated his evidence for the effectiveness of the interventions. As in clinical trials in medicine, the increasing use of randomized controlled trials in development economics necessarily involvesethical questions. On the one hand, can researchers withhold treatment for a disease like malaria from one village but not from an adjacent village in order to establish a control group? On the other hand, can researchers compensate participants, like those in education interventions who would otherwise not send their daughters to school?

The ethical questions that development entails certainly should not dissuade Sachs from pursuing his work. Still, it is surprising that in his 500-page book he devotes merely seven pages to ethics, a cursory survey of six different rationales for the importance of “social inclusion,” into which he subsumes most of Enlightenment political philosophy. The section ends with the laudable remark that “we therefore need to have more discussions, more public awareness, and more debates about these underlying ethical choices, because the goals of sustainable development depend on the ethical positions we adopt.” Unfortunately, the book does not deliver on its claim to offer a “normative framework.” It neither engages colleagues like Deaton who differ on the finer points of aid nor those who question the existence of any obligation of the rich toward the poor at all. Paul VI remarked: “technical expertise is necessary, but it must be accompanied by concrete signs of love.” The technocrat Sachs could learn from his words.

Stephen Pitts, S.J., is beginning his third year of theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University; throughout his Jesuit training he has had a special interest in spirituality and spiritual direction.

American Jesuits and the World How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global by John T. McGreevy

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016

Reviewed by Edward W. Schmidt, S.J.

Jesuit history became a hot scholarly topic roughly two decades ago. Culture, art, dance, scholarship, science, and many other specific fields received scholarly attention and publication. Major conferences were held in 1997 and 2002. The interest has not abated.

Most of this scholarship concentrated on the Society of Jesus before its suppression by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. This was the age of the pioneers, the saints and martyrs, the missionaries, the founders. In these centuries after their founding in 1540, the Jesuits started hundreds of schools, wrote grammars for exotic languages in far-off lands, patronized major artists and architects. All the while they tended to pastoral care of the people they served with retreats, sermons, and spiritual writing. And they left copious records that modern scholars found fertile ground for new research.

The period right after the restoration of the Society in 1814 did not receive so much scholarly attention. This was a time of turmoil America and in Europe. During the period of suppression, both the American and the French revolutions had taken place. The American Revolution didn’t affect the church so much; the French Revolution certainly did. As the Jesuit order grew back in numbers, it faced far different social and cultural realities from those in which it had thrived. During the mid decades of the 19th century, many countries ejected the Jesuits as agents of a foreign power – the pope, no longer a revered spiritual figure even in countries with large

Catholic populations. Jesuits from Switzerland, Belgium, France, or Italy came to the United States as missionaries. Many of them hoped to work with the native peoples but soon found themselves working with the Catholic immigrants who were flooding the country. And many ran afoul of the dominant Protestant culture.

American Jesuits and the World is a careful study of this world. After a thorough look at how Jesuits were received with suspicion and hostility (chapter one), it tells the stories of four regions of the country, beginning with a study of one individual and expanding its narrative from there. In Maine, Fr. John Bapst, originally from Switzerland, provoked some local people who in 1854 captured him and tarred and feathered him. This chapter studies the issues that provoked this violence and how Father Bapst survived. It raises issues of religion in schools and state funding for education.

Chapter three focuses on Fr. Ferdinand Helias, a Belgian Jesuit. Father Helias was one of many exiled European Jesuits who headed to St. Louis, and he taught at St. Louis University before heading out to the center of the state for missionary work. He worked hard to maintain his mission, negotiating local hostilities between supporters of the Union and of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Here too state support for education was a big issue. Hostility towards the Jesuits was rampant, stirred up by writers and orators and a German-language newspaper.

In chapter four a young novice of the Sacred Heart sisters was close to death. Her sisters prayed to Bl. John Berchmans, a 16thcentury Belgian Jesuit who had died very young, and she was cured; everyone was astonished for she had been very close to death. The Jesuits at nearby St. Charles College provided pastoral care for these sisters. Religious sisters were a vital part of Catholic education in the United States. Devotions and politics merge in this chapter.

Chapter five centers on Fr. Burchard Villiger in Philadelphia, another Swiss exile, who built the Gesu Church and St. Joseph’s school, which developed into today’s St. Joseph’s Prep and St. Joseph’s University. This chapter delves deep into issues of education and adaptation to evolving demands of schooling in the United States. It is a fascinating study of what provoked these changes and how traditions adjusted to new circumstances. It wasn’t easy.

The sixth chapter studies U.S. Jesuits becoming missionaries in the Philippines, where they brought their U.S. educational ideals. A concluding chapter is an insightful look at on how all of this history affects who we are today.

The author has a masterful control of the sources, from drawers and files in archives, from printed journals and books old and new; the very last of over a thousand endnotes references three websites. By centering the chapters on a single person or incident, he weaves a narrative that sets the context, examines the issues, and helps the reader to see that whatever problems and issues we face today have been encountered before in some fashion. But the author’s style is very accessible and engaging; for all its scholarship the text does not get bogged down.

This history is wider than just Jesuit history. It includes the social contexts in which Jesuit schools grew up. It considers how education is funded and the tensions between public and private schools. In the wider context it touches on issues with immigration, how mainstream Americans recoiled at the numbers of poor, uneducated immigrants – Catholics! – flooding in from places like Ireland and Italy. Any parallels today? And the reader can see how ideals that we make explicit today such as high quality of instruction and care for the whole person in mind, soul, and body developed from a lot of hard work in very tough circumstances long ago.

This book gives a lot of information but also can set the imagination loose to see that whatever challenges the Jesuit schools face today, we can face them as earlier generations did with our own resources of competence and resolve.

Edward W. Schmidt, S.J., editor of Conversations, works at America Magazine