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Letter:In reponse to Wildes’ letter

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 12:02


Dear Editors,  

To accuse Block of being pro-slavery is like accusing Ignatius of Loyola of being anti-papacy or Lenin of being anti-Communist. It is so ridiculous as to be refuted by its very assertion.

I write to you as one of Father Wildes’s fellow cleric, one of his “separated brethren” in New Orleans.

I’m a Lutheran pastor who had the blessings of a Jesuit high school education.  I also belong to a Lutheran religious society, the Society of St. Polycarp, that shares its motto, “ad majorem Dei gloriam”, with the Society of Jesus. 

In my own observation, most Jesuits are somewhat leftist in their political orientation, but I realize that is a generalization. It is also my observation that Jesuits are intelligent, erudite, dedicated to academic excellence and devoted to our Lord and his Church. Again, although this is my observation, I firmly believe it to be the norm among men who put “S.J.” after their names. 

I’m appealing to you as a Jesuit, a priest, an academician and a Christian gentleman.

As Block has made it very clear in his explanation and response to the Jan. 25 New York Times piece, he does not believe slavery was, or is, “not so bad.”  Jesuits and Ph.D.’s obviously understand context as well as hyperbole and irony. 

Block’s tongue-in-cheek remarks about slavery being “not so bad” are obviously irony and hyperbole based on two observations that anyone with basic reading skills and even a modicum of academic fairness could pick up on.

The quote included the statement about being “fed nice gruel.”  Gruel is not “nice.” That is irony on its face.  Block is a libertarian dedicated to the non-aggression principle. This philosophy is antithetical to slavery to the point where any violation of the non-aggression principle or property rights — including onscription and taxation — is condemned as slavery. 

Block’s point is clear that what made slavery abominable was not the work itself. Indeed, manual labor is not dehumanizing or dishonorable. Rather the issue with slavery is the involuntary nature of it. This ought to be axiomatic and self-evident to anyone in a university environment.  

Moreover, the argument concerning segregated lunch counters as framed by Block has nothing to do with racism. It is about the libertarian principle of the non-aggression principle, of private property rights and the role of the state. Catholics routinely, for example, expel protesters from their sanctuaries.  Such actions are grounded in the legal theory of private property rights. 

Block, who is Jewish and atheist, is not merely tolerant of my wife and son and me; of Christians of other denominations; Jewish and others, who attend his seminars — he is kind, encouraging, delightful to be around, open, welcoming and loving in a way that reflects the Christian, Jesuit and academic ideals for which Loyola stands. At his entirely voluntary seminars, you will see people wearing crucifixes, yarmulkes and even shirts expressing atheistic beliefs. I believe Block is being treated scandalously and shamefully by you and by others on the campus. This lack of respect for diversity is not uncommon on the college campus, and I believe that is the real issue here.

To be sure, Block’s remarks, and their misuse, are problematic for you as an administrator. You have a choice: to defend a man who has been defamed by means of emotional and misleading rhetoric, or instead to feed the lynch mob —which stands opposed to the Christian and Jesuit ideals of academic freedom and fairness to the individuals made in God’s image for whom our Lord died.

I am asking you to rise above the easy and expedient path. I am asking you to be the man to visit Block in his office, shake his hand and ask for his forgiveness. I am asking you to be the man, to be the priest, to stand up to the mob and defend the honor of a man who has been wronged. I am asking you to be the peacemaker, by writing a public response clarifying what Block truly believes, and does not believe, and encouraging spirited, but fair, debate and discussion.

People of good will can be found all throughout the political spectrum and that is why we have academic freedom. It speaks volumes that no one is challenging Block on the non-aggression principle or libertarian property rights theory, but are instead seeking to “win” the debate through appeals to emotion and based on a mischaracterization of his position, followed up by political pressure.  

That is truly unbecoming the people of God. 

You can demonstrate your integrity and Loyola’s dedication to that which is right and just — even when it is unpopular — by defending Block. Or you could take the easy, broad road of political expediency by washing your hands.

But I do have good news for you, Father Wildes! I have the gospel to proclaim to you! The Lord is merciful and forgives the sins of those who repent and ask for forgiveness. Your baptism covers you, and the blood of the Lord was shed for all people — even for the “lynch mob,” for Block, for you, and for me.

I am calling upon you to do something surprising and bold for an administrator: to take a chance and stand up to the crowd by doing what is right — even if it isn’t expedient. It is something Pilate had the opportunity to do, but failed. You have the opportunity to do what that is morally and academically right, that which our Lord would have you do. You have the opportunity to be a shepherd and to demonstrate to your faculty, staff and students that debate and discussion are to be honest and based on reason rather than hysteria and misrepresentation.

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