Pope Francis Announces Holy Year, the Jubilee of Mercy

In a future post I would love to explore the relationship between mercy and leadership, especially in schools.


Pope Francis has announced a Holy Year of Mercy:

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”

This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – and living face of the Father’s mercy….

I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed…

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St. Augustine and the Synod on the Family



This an excellent quote from Augustine so relevant to the current conversations surrounding the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the family. But it occurs to me that there is a great lesson in school leadership here (especially Catholic school leadership) here as well.

I can’t count the number of times both in my classes at USF and in my own experience living and working in Jesuit schools, that this question has come up (and it comes up in secular school contexts as well): What do we do with so-and-so or that group (often identified according to the generation they were born into), who clearly is not an effective teacher (but the students love him and he is totally committed to the mission and lives it out in all sorts of powerful ways) or maybe is an excellent teacher (say in math or science – her students not only love her but love math and science!) but isn’t invested in the mission of the school? What should we do about these “bad apples” among the faculty and staff – these weeds among the wheat?

It seems to me there are RARE instances where the weed(s) must be plucked out for the safety and well-being of the wheat (our students). Sometimes teachers or staff should be fired and fired on the spot. But the vast majority of the time – despite what our basest desires might tell us – this is not the case.

In my experience, young teachers often complain about that one teacher who has been at the school forever, has lots of loyal friends among the older faculty, students, and alumni, and no matter how ineffective they are as a teacher and colleague, how thoroughly they want to spread their institutional cynicism and grouchy demeanor, how often they want to complain about something – anything! – they will never be fired, or forced into early retirement, etc. The frustration of the young teachers over this grumpy misanthrope is often placed on the Principal – the one charged with hiring and firing of staff. But perhaps we, as young teachers/administrators (yes, I still consider myself young), should think about these situations through the lens of Matthew 29:13f –

Let them grow together until the harvest lest you uproot the wheat when you pull out the weeds.

Not only that, but perhaps, even the weed – if left unplucked – can become a bit more like the wheat over time.

Vox Nova

The Synod on the Family has been very much in the news lately, particularly with the release yesterday of the Relatio post disceptationem to the media.  This document deserves careful discussion, as does its reception by various parts of the Church and by the secular media. (Indeed, it made the front page of my local paper today!)  But very much related to the discussions about mercy, justice, gradualism and upholding Church teaching is the following passage from St. Augustine, which I found courtesy of the folks at the Daily Gospel Online:

Our Lord was an example of incomparable patience. He bore with a “devil” among his disciples even to his Passion (Jn 6,70). He said: “Let them grow together until the harvest lest you uproot the wheat when you pull out the weeds” (cf. Mt 13,29f.). As a symbol of the Church he preached that the net would bring…

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The Catholic Case against Libertarianism: Steve Schneck and Mark Shields

I love this list of features of libertarianism—which are each “at odds with traditional Catholic moral and social doctrine to varying degree”:

A negative conception of liberty and rights, egoism (often verging on solipsism), association of authority with regression and repression, antinomianism, suspicion of community and common good, absolute conception of private property, valorization of competition, suspicion of custom and tradition, automatic order or “invisible hands,” anti-institutionalism, suspicion of hierarchical morality, and obviously a negative conception of government and distrust of governmental action.

At odds, indeed.


At the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies conference on libertarianism earlier this month, IPR Director Steve Schneck addressed the topic of libertarianism and politics, moving beyond the more narrow focus on economics and economic justice that was the focus of Cardinal Rodriguez’s keynote (watch here) and the first panel, which included Millennial’s Meghan Clark (watch here). Mark Shields then followed with a response to Schneck’s speech.

Schneck provided some historical context to the case against libertarianism, highlighting libertarianism’s roots, including its connection to the Enlightenment:

Libertarianism is best understood as epitomizing the Enlightenment. It shares in the Enlightenment’s anti-clericalism, suspicion of tradition and custom, and humanistic values. Most importantly it shares in the Enlightenment’s confidence that there is a kind of automatic Reason that can be relied upon for order in human life.

He argued that the central features of libertarianism have not…

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The Catholic Case against Libertarianism (Part II): Cardinal Rodriguez and Bishop Cupich

What an excellent look at (a part of) the Catholic case against libertarianism – beginning with the flawed anthropology that libertarian ideology depends upon. In the context of Catholic school leadership, I am a firm believer that our schools must intentionally disrupt the contemporary power of the libertarian view of the human person with the profound vision of Catholic anthropology in any and every way charity allows.


The centerpiece of the recent Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism conference was Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga’s keynote address, which was followed by an excellent, thoughtful response by Bishop Blase Cupich. The Cardinal was introduced by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who described Pope Francis’ commitment to workers and their families while movingly recounting how the Church served as “a refuge against injustice” and “a flesh-and-blood sanctuary” for those fighting for economic justice, including those in his own family.

The keynote, given by Pope Francis’ closest adviser, has sparked a big reaction in Catholic intellectual circles, which hopefully will reach the average Catholic. Libertarianism is so pervasive in American politics that all Americans would benefit from hearing a critique of this ideology, particularly Catholic Americans, who are not at all immune from its appeal. Here’s a quick recap of the two speeches:

Cardinal Rodriguez

Cardinal Rodriguez started by quoting a…

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Response to Cardinal Dolan

Though leadership is not an explicit theme in this excellent response to Cardinal Dolan’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, it is implied. Cardinal Dolan missed a huge opportunity to lead the Church in the United States by faithfully and FULLY expounding on the rich tradition of Catholic social doctrine as it relates to the economy today.

Thank you Morning’s Minion and Vox Nova for this response.

Vox Nova

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Pope Francis and economics. The op-ed was deeply flawed.

As we know, the American libertarian rear guard has been attacking the pope for a whole now on what they regard as his deficient understanding of economics. This would have been a perfect opportunity to push back, on their home turf no less. But Dolan doesn’t do that. What Dolan does—with the apparent help of notorious libertarian and critic of Pope Francis, Larry Kudlow—is provide support to these arguments. In doing so, he pulls the rug from under the pope—at the same time that Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga came to the United States to give an impassioned call to reject libertarianism and free market zealotry.

Basically, Dolan’s op-ed is a combination of Actonism and Americanism. Since its publication, there have been a number of good…

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Leadership for the long-term


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I think and read and write a lot about leadership.  Earlier this week I listened about it.  I heard a story a couple days ago (and the names and schools shall remain unwritten or changed to protect the innocent!) that illustrates a specific aspect of leadership – hiring – that is often overlooked but can have both specific, personal effects, as well as longer-term institutional effects that can look bad for a school.

Hiring pic

The story begins with a young, enthusiastic, and mission-driven teacher.  Let’s call her Heather.  Heather is preparing to move to the Bay Area in the coming months with her fiance (they’ll be married by the time they move) and a couple weeks ago sent out resumes to multiple Catholic elementary schools in the South Bay and Peninsula here in Northern California.  Considering her great resume, education, and references (her current principal loves her!) I wasn’t surprised to hear she had multiple job offers and requests for interviews within days.  In the end she received three solid offers of employment and discerned (with her fiance) which would be the best option for her and her young family.  There were good aspects to each school and all three clearly wanted her to chose them.  Not a bad place to be as a teacher. Continue reading


Challenges, Community, & Relationships


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The following is a final project for Catholic School Leadership at USF last semester (Fall 2013).  The idea: write a brief speech based on the idea I am a newly hired President of a Jesuit High School somewhere in the U.S.  The circumstances: my first time in front of the faculty, staff, and administration of the school one week before school starts in the Fall.  

Let me begin by telling you all how excited I am to be here as your new President and have the opportunity – the blessing – to serve and be a champion for the students, alumni, parents, teachers, and staff of this school.

As some of you know I grew up in Southern California, the Los Angeles area. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten on. After graduating from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, I continued on to Loyola University Chicago where I earned my BA in English and Theology and MA in Theology, and I am currently completing my Doctorate in Catholic Educational Leadership at USF. I’ve spent 11 years in the classroom as a theology teacher first at Loyola High in LA, then at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, and finally at Saint Ignatius in San Francisco. During my time in Chicago I was also an adjunct professor at DePaul University and University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary.

I’ve spent 20 years in Jesuit schools as a student and teacher – I’ve truly grown up in an Ignatian environment and feel a profound sense of gratitude for the Society. Other than their friendship, the most important thing Jesuits have given me over the years is the gift of discernment – as I hope they have given you. Under the promptings of the two most important women in my life – my wife and my mother – I began a discernment process during my 7th year at St. Ignatius in Chicago.

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Examining Classroom Practices: Reflections on the Ethical and Political Dimensions of Learning and Teaching


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The following text is from a presentation I gave earlier this semester in Philosophical Foundations of Education at USF.

What do you understand by the terms ethical and “political”?

Ethical: I take ethics to mean an examination of human behavior in relation to “the Good.” It doesn’t require a pure or perfect explication of the Good, but rather an assumption of an extrinsic and universal standard, no matter how contested its details, how murky our understanding, or how complex its application.

The ethical does not begin with an apprehension of what the Good is, but of that the Good is.

It seems to me that any attempt to “be a better person,” “improve society and social and economic conditions,” even “progress in my moral awareness and development as a human being,” requires a standard by which to measure/judge/assess/ or even merely intuit what it means to “be better,” “improve,” or “progress.” All of these beg the question: according to what standard?

Without the assumption of such a standard, “better,” “improvement,” “progress,” become meaningless – as if, after hitting a line drive to left field, the batter could decide on a whim to run the bases in either direction (whichever suited him at the moment) or if the first baseman, upon seeing the batter running in his direction, were to pick up the base and run away with it. In either case, it’s not as if these behaviors are merely “off limits” or “breaking the rules,” or “a violation of agreed upon norms.” They are categorically different. In the cases above, the behavior kills the game itself. The condition for the possibility of the game is destroyed.

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