The Dismissal of John Galten & The Demise of the Saint Ignatius Institute

October 2002By Michael Torre

Michael Torre is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, where he has taught since 1984.

I have been asked to tell “the tale of the Saint Ignatius Institute.” It is a tale worth telling. Readers should be alerted, however, that I am very much engaged in this account, having taught in the program for 17 years and having vigorously protested the dismissal of its previous director, John Galten. We are not the best judge where our own interest is concerned.

It is also worth noting that one of the first “outside observers” of the “academic fuss” made over the Institute reminded us of George Santayana’s shrewd quip that university politics were so intense because the stakes were so low.1 Whether or not “larger issues” are legitimately raised by the story I shall tell, I will leave for you, the reader, to judge.

There are two parts to my tale. The first concerns what the Institute was. It is worth telling because it was a great academic program and can be duplicated. The second is what happened to that program last year. This is worth telling for a very different reason: Because it involved the highest personnel in the Catholic Church — the President and Chairman of the Board of the University of San Francisco, the Archbishop of San Francisco, the Congregation for Catholic Education and its Cardinal Prefect, other cardinals, the California Provincial and the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, and the Pope himself. There is a good deal that can be learned from “the Saint Ignatius Institute case” concerning the way the Roman Catholic Church presently governs itself, for good or for ill.

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