Irish Jesuit honoured in Rome
Irish Jesuit Patrick Riordan was one of two Jesuit priests awarded the 2021 edition of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation’s prize for writing on Catholic social teaching. He and Jaime Tatay SJ won the ‘Economy and Society’ award and split the prize money of €20,000.
The award is bi-annual and given for works that stand out in terms of their contribution to the understanding of the social teaching of the Catholic Church and its application.
Patrick, a senior fellow in Political Philosophy and Catholic Social Thought at Oxford University, received the prize in recognition for his book Recovering Common Goods, published by Veritas. The book focuses on the application of the principle of the common good in the public sphere.
Jaime Tatay, a Spanish Jesuit, shared the award, for his 600-page book, Integral Ecology: The Catholic reception of the challenge of sustainability from Rerum Novarum 1891 to Laudato Si’ 2015, published in Spanish in 2018. He is a lecturer in Ecology, Ethics, and Catholic Social Doctrine at the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.
The Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation was established by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It is named after the ninth encyclical by St. John Paul II, which addressed the social teaching of the Church, particularly in regard to workers and the economy, and the relationship of the state to society
The award ceremony took place in the Palazzo della Cancelleria, a Renaissance palace in Rome, on 16 December 2021. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, presented the awards. Since Patrick could not travel due to the pandemic, Brian Mac Curta SJ, who works in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, accepted the award on his behalf.
Brian read the acceptance speech from Patrick which you can read in full below. In it, Patrick notes “the growing tendency among Catholic authors, especially in the United States of America, to appropriate ‘the common good’ as a slogan in their criticism of liberalism as the dominant governing system.”
He says that this leads to a polarisation of liberalism and an ad hoc constructed ideology of the common good viewed as an alternative to liberalism. He concludes that it is worrying from a Catholic perspective “that the notion of common good in these debates becomes sectarian. Our Catholic intellectual tradition speaks of realities that apply to all, and so it typically avoids taking sides in specific ideological debates”.
Regarding the prize of €10,000 Patrick says it will be used to part-fund further projects. In consideration are two in particular: The Ethics of Institutions and The Humanum. (For the latter, click here » to read his article on the ‘Crisis of the University’ published in Milltown Studies.) Patrick says that further donations to help finance these projects will be welcome.
In May and June of last year, he delivered the D’Arcy lectures, in which he explores the concept of common good through the three lenses of Aristotle’s philosophy, Catholic teaching, and contemporary political liberalism. They are available to watch here on the Campion Website YouTube channel » and will be published in book form by Georgetown University Press.
Madame Chair, Signora Anna Maria Tarantola, your Eminences, distinguished members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great honour to have my book Recovering Common Goods acknowledged in this manner as deserving an award. I am grateful to the Foundation for the recognition, and particularly grateful to his Eminence Cardinal Marx, as chairman of the jury, for his laudatio.
Mr Eutimio Tiliacos wrote a letter before his retirement from the post of Secretary-General of the Foundation in September this year. Mr Tiliacos shared with us his conviction that the dissemination of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church must be by attraction, primarily.
This is the very spirit in which my writing and teaching have been conducted, presenting the intellectual heritage of the Church in such a manner that it can be attractive as a rich resource for engaging with the world of today. The attempt to do so has led me to appreciate the depth and wisdom of the tradition that is contained in Catholic Social Thought on the common good.
While we find the term common good invoked in many different contexts, whether political speeches, journalism, or academic publications, seldom do we find it analysed or explained in depth. We find it mentioned in the titles or subtitles of books, such as the recent (2020) book by Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, or that by the late chief Rabbi in the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sachs, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times (2020). Such occurrences are typical in assuming the readers will know what is meant because they don’t provide any explanation in the texts. There is plenty for us to do, to make up the deficit.
The challenge now facing us, I believe, is a different one. There is a growing tendency among Catholic authors, especially in the United States of America, to appropriate “the common good” as a slogan in their criticism of liberalism as the dominant governing system. Polarizing liberalism and a politics of the common good they create the double impression that there is an ideology or practical project of the common good on which a political, social, and economic system can be constructed and that it is an alternative to liberalism.
From our Catholic perspective, it is worrying that the notion of common good in these debates becomes sectarian. Our Catholic intellectual tradition speaks of realities that apply to all, and so it typically avoids taking sides in specific ideological debates.
The Second Vatican Council’s approach in Gaudium et Spes is to invite all to a dialogue about the common good as the set of economic, political, legal, and cultural conditions for the flourishing of human beings, whether as individuals or as communities. It remains a challenge to present and explain this intellectual tradition of the common good in the context of contemporary debates, especially when some Catholic voices seem to have forgotten the achievements of the Council.
This award encourages me to continue with the project of making Catholic Social Teaching attractive, and I thank again most sincerely the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation for its recognition and support.
Patrick Riordan SJ