Fr James (Séamus) Murphy SJ joined the Society of Jesus in 1971. He had never met any Jesuits before applying to join, and was instead drawn to the order by reading its history. He found social justice inspiration in the Jesuit Reduciones (Reductions) in Latin America which had created safe quasi-autonomous for native Americans in the 1610-1767 period, cultural inspiration in the Jesuit commitment to science going back to the Jesuit astronomers who developed the Gregorian calendar around 1581 and in the Jesuit adaptation to Chinese culture in the 17th century. In addition, he saw the Jesuit contribution to theology and to political thought as offering interestingly different ways of exercising priesthood.
After ordination in 1983, he asked to be assigned to work in social justice area, but the order directed him primarily to train as a philosopher. Subsequently, the philosophical training provided useful tools to apply to a wide range of public policy issues, such as housing, health care, jobs, abortion, and private property. Some of this work was done when he was at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in the 1980s. From 1987 to 2009, he also taught metaphysics, logic, and epistemology at the Milltown Institute. When Milltown was phased out, he was offered a job in the philosophy department at Loyola University Chicago where he currently works. In 2014, his book on the ethics of war, War’s Ends appeared.
Being a Catholic Christian, living the gospel call to faith and justice, and loving the Church, understanding it as the body of Christ, is the core of Fr Murphy’s identity and work. He sees being a priest as, within the Christian identity, the most important mission he has. Working in philosophy serves the Catholic identity and the priestly mission. It provides an intellectually critical foundation for theology, and the interdisciplinary mediation needed for Catholic theology to engage with the sciences and with contemporary cultures.