The National Catholic Review
Joseph A. O'Hare

This morning we confirm our commitment to this cause for which the Jesuits of Central American University in El Salvador gave their lives. They were not men of violence; they were men of peace and reason. Yet they died violently. Like the Servant of Yahweh, they did not cry out or shout out aloud or break the crushed reed, but neither did they waver nor were they crushed. They did not leave the country in 1977, when right-wing death squads put them under a penalty of death. Nor did they leave earlier this month when Government-controlled radio stations broadcast warnings against their safety. Nor will they leave now, when the Attorney General of the Government blames the unrest in the country on church leaders. While these six Jesuits have been struck down, others will rise up to take their place. We pledge ourselves to the covenant with the people that cost them their lives. For us to forget them, or to decide that the costs of justice are too high for us to pay, would be to betray not only their memory but our faith that this is God’s world and that He is the Lord of justice....

 

There are those who have said, and who will say in the days and weeks ahead, that the Jesuits in El Salvador were not disinterested academics, that they had deliberately chosen to insert themselves into the political conflict of their nation. If they had remained within the insulated safety of the library or the classroom, their critics will charge, if they had not “meddled in politics,” their lives would not have been threatened.

But such a criticism misunderstands the nature of any university, and most certainly the nature of a Catholic university. No university can be insulated from the agonies of the society in which it lives. No university that identifies itself as Catholic can be indifferent to the call of the church to promote the dignity of the human person....

If Jesuits are men crucified to the world and to whom the world is crucified, it is only because we believe that out of the crucifixion of our Saviour, El Salvador, came life and comes life. With the people of El Salvador we believe in the words of Jesus cited in today’s Gospel: “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest” (Jn. 12:24).

Joseph A. O'Hare, S.J., former editor in chief and now associate editor of America and president of Regis High School, was president of Fordham University when he gave this homily at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola i