By Michael P. Riccards
Once the great Jesuit order placed major emphasis on the education of Catholic men and women to be leaders in that church. Their schools were among the best in Europe and in America, and they became a significant landmark for those of us interested in higher education. The current pope is the first Jesuit to hold that office in history, a history that saw ambitious popes do away with the Jesuits in order to satisfy the Catholic princes. Oddly enough it was Empress Catherine the Great, and Emperor Frederick the Great who kept the order going in their Protestant lands.
West Virginia is a poor state and for years it was Father Thomas Acker and Senator Robert Byrd who kept it alive and going. But it is hard to believe the criticism directed at that great president and that great senator. As money ran out, the order simply pulled the plug on the institution. It is hard to believe that a well-connected order could not reach out and continue to float. It is said that, when the church wants to mobilize its resources, it is suddenly able to gather centralized monies, but when it has problems, suddenly it is a decentralized church. The Jesuits have always been noted in history as a cynical bunch, but its behavior in destroying one of it own 38 institutions in the USA is a new low for what was once a proud order. Such a move to disenfranchise a Jesuit College is unprecedented in the history of the U.S. Jesuit community.
The college spokesman has indicated that there will still be Catholic Mass and campus ministry — for whom is unclear. Somehow he justified that of Ignatian ideals of service and social justice and will continue the Appalachian Institute — for how long.
It is obvious that the Catholic Church is in serious decline. But since when did the Jesuits make themselves an agent of that decline?