The Storm That Spoke to Father Spitzer
Father Spitzer came to Benedictine College after debating Stephen Hawking on CNN.
At Our Sunday Visitor, I interviewed Father Robert Spitzer. Gregorian readers know him as the Jesuit with the physics-savvy new proofs for the existence of God. The former president of Gonzaga University also holds degrees in accounting, theology and philosophy — and has founded seven national organizations.
The occasion of the interview is his new book: Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues.
The book shares 10 principles (that don’t depend on revelation) which form the basis for civilization. He includes three principles of reason: The principles of complete explanation, noncontradiction and objective evidence. Three principles of ethics: the principle of nonmalfeasance, consistent ends and means, and full human potential. Three principles of Justice: The principle of natural rights, the fundamentality of rights, and the limits to freedom. His tenth principle, the principle of beneficence, allows him to present his excellent discussion of the four levels of happiness and in the appendix, he presents the five transcendentals.
“Look at these 10 principles of civilization,” he said. “If you subscribe to them you have to be against abortion — as much against abortion as you are against slavery. You can’t have it both ways. … We have swept these great principles under the carpet in order to sweep the issue under the carpet. And in the end it will cause a great cultural decadence.”
He described the “conversion” he had in college when he began to understand the importance of the transcendentals
“I had never heard about the transcendentals (the one, the true, the good, the beautiful) before, and I went home at Christmas vacation told my mother all about them. ‘I heard the most interesting theory, about the transcendentals,’ I said. I kept saying, ‘It’s the most interesting theory.’
“She said, ‘It sounds like it’s the most important theory to you.’ “I said, ‘Well, you’re right. I think this is what life is worth living for.'”
He said students share his excitement. “In my life as a teacher, it has been precisely the transcendentals that have really moved kids. They really grab hold of that idea that we in ourselves have an awareness of unconditional and perfect truth, unconditional and perfect love, unconditional and perfect goodness or justice, unconditional and perfect beauty, unconditional and perfect being — or what I call ‘home.’ That’s the one thing that makes life worth living. Why live for anything less?”
He also shared the story of his “call,” which came as he was stuck in the rain under an eave on the way to his accounting work.
“It was a very juvenile sort of thing to do. But I said: ‘OK Lord, I am stuck here. If it keeps raining like this I’m going to be just drenched. I won’t be able to go to work. I’m going to have to go back to campus anyway, but I’ll tell you what …’
“I said, ‘If it stops raining in the next three minutes I will go to Father O’Leary’s office at Gonzaga, and I will apply for the Jesuits. If it keeps on raining, I’ll go back to the house and change my clothes and drive to work.’
“Three minutes later, the rain just stopped. I kid you not.”
He was a delight to talk to, a true Jesuit and a true sign of hope. Go and read for yourself.