It’s a very strange position to be in, as a non-Catholic Marxist feminist scholar. I’m hardly uncritical, but I find myself (perhaps inappropriately) sympathizing with the Jesuit point of view. Then it occured to me just this spring: I don’t just sympathize with the Black Robes, I identify with them. After all, like the Jesuit fathers, I see myself as bringing Truth to the ignorant. I believe in the power of reading, writing, and knowledge to set people free, if not bring them to Paradise. And part of my job is evangelical–selling the notion of college as an intellectual experience as well as offering myself as a guide to that experience. Like the Black Robes, scholars today have to believe in the transcendent importance of our work, because there is little external recognition or material reward for what we do. And like the Jesuits, we usually overlook the complexities and the contexts of our students lives in order to hold onto these beliefs. We need to believe that education can work for everyone in order for us to get out of bed and face our neophytes and catechumens every new semester.
I fully embrace the good as well as the fundamentally clueless and obnoxious realities of being a Black Robe.
Fortunately, my job doesn’t require the kind of physical risks and bodily discomfort that the Jesuits embraced in their world-wide outreach in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When it does, I’m outta here. Sorry, friends: I may play a Jesuit father at my day job, but I’m no martyr, that’s for sure!