American universities used to be a place where difficult ideas were encountered and built in biases challenged. The universities, an inspiration from the Catholic Church, were the home of diverse ideas that were meant to inspire wisdom in students in addition to the learning of practical skills that would help build the economic strength that enabled America to dominate the globe. A fine example of this thinking is ensconced in the motto of DePaul University, Viam sapientiae monstrabo tibi, or I will show you the way to wisdom. Wisdom enlightens the mind and strengthens the individual, which has direct consequences for the broader culture and society. But our universities have turned their backs on promoting wisdom and instead have adopted a mission of promoting a distorted sense of social justice.
Social justice is a concept that originates in Catholic Social Teaching. Indeed, it could be said to be foundational to Catholic Social Teaching. The concept emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in the writings of the Italian Jesuit Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio. Taparelli coined the term to defend the rights of landed nobles during the turbulent mid-nineteenth century nationalization process that led to the founding of the Italian state. Later the term would be invoked and defined broadly in papal writings, most notably in Pope Pius X’s 1904 encyclical Iucunda Sane, which sang the praises of Pope St. Gregory the Great, whom Pope Pius X called a great defender of social justice and the essential foundation of society, the family.
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