Father Angus Ritchie’s Lecture at Rehm Library

Nathan Howard ’25

News Editor

On Thursday, February 9, 2023, the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture hosted Fr. Angus Ritchie to deliver a lecture titled “Beyond Activism: Building Broad-Based Alliances to Tackle the Climate Crisis” in Rehm Library. Fr. Ritchie was introduced by his colleague and friend, Holy Cross President Vincnet Rougeau. President Rougeau commented on the character of Fr. Ritchie, stating that “Angus’s work was really doing transformative things of bringing people together who were viewed often externally as having nothing in common and getting them to understand that they were able to work together…and actually make change happen.”

Fr. Ritchie and President Rougeau recently collaborated to write an article published in America Magazine: The Jesuit Review titled “Pope Francis Has Criticized Both the Left and the Right’s Politics. Community Organizing Offers a Third Way.” Their article championed visions of Pope Francis in relation to current political structures throughout the world and claimed that community organizing is an effective means to address global concerns as it encourages mutual respect and solidarity, specifically writing that “In his words and deeds, Francis is inviting us to build a different kind of politics that requires elected politicians to adopt a humbler and more responsive pose. But it requires that each citizen recognize that we share the responsibility for achieving it. The building of fraternity is a task for us all.” Fr. Ritchie is also well known for his authorship of Inclusive Populism, which was published in the University of Notre Dame Press in 2019 and further analyzes the impact of community organizing on global populations. For this work, Fr. Ritchie earned praise from Pope Francis as the concept of community organizing aligns with his critique of both the liberal status quo and the “fake populism” that dominates the rhetoric of right-wing politicians.

Fr. Ritchie’s lecture in Rehm Library promoted the teachings of Pope Francis and further detailed his advocacy for community organizing, and used the global climate crisis as a means for which to explain his reasoning. Fr. Ritchie argued that campaigns for climate justice are currently controlled by wealthy officials, leading many to associate the fight against climate change with an “elite preoccupation.” This viewpoint is often levied by conservative opponents to the movement as a way to undermine taking the necessary steps to combat that global crisis. Throughout his lecture, Fr. Ritchie argued that community organizing is effective in both changing this perspective as well as bringing together people of different ideological backgrounds to work efficiently towards a common goal. One specific aspect to achieve a more community-oriented coalition to combat the climate crisis is to support the concept of leaders developed through experience. Fr. Ritchie supported this concept by referencing the teachings of Pope Francis, who wrote that “What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason…We have politicians and even religious leaders – who wonder why people do not understand and follow them, since their proposals are so clear and logical. Perhaps it is that they are stuck in the realm of pure ideas and end up reducing politics or faith to rhetoric. Others have left simplicity behind and have imported a rationality foreign to most people.”

At the conclusion of his lecture, Fr. Ritchie held a question and answer session in regards to topics discussed and thanked members of the faculty, staff, and students who attended.

Featured image courtesy of McFarland Center, Holy Cross

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