Fr. James V. Schall (1928-2019): Generous heart, towering intellect
Religion & Liberty Online

Fr. James V. Schall (1928-2019): Generous heart, towering intellect

The first time I met Fr. James Schall it was around 1984 when I was a seminarian at the Catholic University of America in search of a spiritual director.  We met and although Fr. Schall never became my spiritual director, he became an intellectual mentor instead, as well as a dear personal friend and longtime collaborator with the Acton Institute. As might be considered a reward for faithful service, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., died during Holy Week. I first met Fr. Schall at Georgetown where he had faithfully taught from 1977 until his retirement in 2012. Prior to that he taught at the Gregorian University in Rome and then at the University of San Francisco. In the early 1990s he made time to lead an early Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conference for the Acton Institute, where I recall the ease of his Socratic approach to taking the participants through a reading of Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Government. He was a man of towering intellect, with a simple, clear and direct approach. He possessed a wide range of interests and indefatigable energy as is evidenced in the more than 30 books and countless essays and academic articles authored.

The Acton Institute was privileged to be one the many venues of publication that were graced with Fr. Schall’s contributions. Fr. Schall’s Acton published monograph, On Christians and Prosperity, is an excellent example of the generous heart and deeply analytical mind he brought to bear on so many issues throughout his long and fruitful life. For a taste of his thinking on these issues please see his interview on the subject in Religion and Liberty as well as two excerpts from the book ‘The moral dimension of work’ and ‘How do we help the poor?’. Fr. Schall was also an early contributor to the Journal of Markets and Morality and I would commend his article ‘Justice: The Most Terrible of the Virtues’. Fr. Schall possessed the rare gift of being able to capably address a wide range of audiences from the academic to the popular.

Fr. Schall was a man of duty who saw his principal duty as his service to the Lord Jesus Christ,

We should see in duty not just something we “must” do but also something worth doing because it is good. The highest human purposes for which all the orders of economics and politics exist still need to be consciously recognized and articulated. The kingdom of God, as Augustine taught us, is the end of our being. Without it, we will spend our lives searching for it everywhere but where it is.

Fr. Schall’s life and work is an inspiration of how to bring one’s own to service of God and neighbor.


Rev. Robert Sirico

Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America, following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently serving on the pastoral staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fr. Sirico's pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institute of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Grand Rapids, Michigan.