The 2011 Matteo Ricci Award

In case you missed it, Daniel and Sidney Callahan were honored last week at America House with the first Matteo Ricci, S.J., Award: 

The editors of America are pleased to honor Daniel Callahan and Sidney de Shazo Callahan with the Matteo Ricci, S.J., Award for their distinguished contribution to culture. They have contributed to the world of ideas, to letters, bioethics, moral philosophy and theology, psychology, spirituality and journalism. For a half-century they have lived a creative partnership rich in ideas and in values. Through their writing, research and lectures, they have taught both church and society how to think deeply about public problems, to explore our humanity and cultivate its deepest gifts in a potentially disorienting time of technological change. They have gathered round them in conversation circles of scholars and friends who with them cultivate the high form of friendship in which ideas and values are exchanged for the sake of the common good.

Their gift for civic friendship is one they share with Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), the Italian Jesuit polymath after whom this award is named. His most famous essay, “On Friendship,” is still regarded today as a classic of Chinese culture. Ricci and his companions bridged European and Chinese culture in a way no one has since. They shared with China the advances of Western science. They taught astronomy to mandarins, and Ricci himself designed an enormous map of the world that recorded the most recent geographic knowledge of the day. They also employed painting and music to communicate the Gospel to their friends. At the same time, they explained China’s Confucian culture to Christian Europeans, helping both to find commonality in difference. Ricci, his companions and successors were pioneers of a global culture.

In creating this award, the editors have been mindful of the standard Ricci set for multi-disciplinary learning with broad cultural influence. Daniel and Sidney Callahan have demonstrated equal breadth of learning and a passion for stirring dialogue over the issues of the day. The passions of their minds have inspired men and women to undertake research, join conversations and build communities of ideas where the future of our society and of our world continue to be debated. For the ways in which they have made the world of the mind live in the global public square, we are most pleased to present the 2011 Ricci Award for contributions to world culture to Daniel and Sidney Callahan.


You can read a selection of Dan and Sidney's contributions to Americahere.

Tim Reidy


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
7 years 11 months ago

I do not think this has anything to do with money.  Ideology maybe but not money.  The Callahans had 7 children in quick succession after they married in the 1950's and lived essentially on an academic's salary.  It must have been very rough for them, especially Sidney.  Can you imagine what it was like for her dealing with 7 kids (one died at 4 months of SIDS) while he was a writing machine.  He was getting his masters and Ph.D. while Sidney was having all those kids.  A typical Catholic of the 1950's and 1960's but academic salaries then were meager.  I have more inherent admiration for her than him but obviously know almost nothing about either of them personally except what I have briefly read.  I wonder if his abortion attitudes stem from watching his personal situation which must have been rough.

His books are not best sellers and while I am sure they are not poverty stricken now they must have had some very thin years.  And they are probably not a source of money directly but may have associations with those that do.  But it is ideology that seems to drive them both and possibly cloud their judgments.  There were several small points that added up when I read their essays on America but that is all I know except what I listed.  Here is the link to his biography. 
7 years 11 months ago
A rischly deserved award!
Before comenting, maybe Mr. Cosgrove should inquire further.
7 years 11 months ago
''Before comenting, maybe Mr. Cosgrove should inquire further.''

I really didn't comment.  I posted an observation from an article not listed in the America article.  In the America article I read two previous articles In America by each recipient that was listed in the main article. 

But in response to the commenters suggestion I inquired further and found that Dr. Callahan was one of the leaders in the country in getting abortion accepted and that he apparently ceased being a Catholic a long time ago.   Probably an appropriate choice for the Jesuits since the Jesuits along with the Kennedy's were way ahead of getting abortion accepted for Catholics especially Catholic politicians when they met in Hyannis in the mid 1960's.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 11 months ago
JR and David,

I suppose the kindest way to characterize your remarks is that they are not generous.  Talk about placing the emphasis on the negative. 
7 years 11 months ago

I knew nothing about Daniel Callahan.  So I read a couple of the essays he wrote in America that were listed on the main page about him.  I read two by his wife.  From his two essays I had an inkling about him and then found the People article from 25 years ago.  Then when challenged I found a biography about him on the internet.  He is obviously an incredibly accomplished writer and researcher as his cv indicates.

The one uncharitable thing may be my comment about him being appropriate for a Jesuit reward.  The rest is apparently true as there are biographies about him on the internet which indicate he gave up religion almost 40 years ago and was an early advocate for legalizing abortion.  Before that he was a Catholic writer.  Also several years before Roe vs. Wade some Jesuits and other Catholic theologians met with the Kennedy's in 1965 to discuss how to make abortion acceptable for Catholic politicians.  If any of this is not correct I will gladly be proven wrong.

Now haven said that, I looked further into Daniel Callahan as best you can without reading his thouand papers and I find some things I definitely like and some I dislike.  As best as I could determine his views on stem cell research is the same as mine though I am sure his knowledge of it is far superior and I only read a couple short pieces.  I also tend to agree with him about the use of medical treatments for the elderly though I haven't read his actual books but only the reviews on Amazon.  From the comments on Amazon, he seems to be best known for his positions on care for the elderly.

I disagree with him on health care reform which is one of the essays linked to on the main article.  There is no way you can prevent new technology or want to and if you can't then it must have access to patients some how.  The main problem is equality in health care not that we have too many new technical advances.  
7 years 11 months ago

I as sorry this is a long quote but it is relevant to the discussion and my comments,  From Philip Lawler's Faithful Departed.
''In July 1964, several liberal theologians received invitations to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, for a discussion of how a Catholic politician should handle the abortion issue. Notice now that abortion was not a major political issue in 1964. Ostensibly the meeting had been called to provide advice for Robert Kennedy, who was running for a New York Senate seat. But a candidate was not likely to face questions about abortion in 1964; the Kennedy planners had the more distant future in mind.''
The participants in that Hyannisport meeting composed a Who’s Who of liberal theologians, most of them Jesuits. Father Robert Drinan was there, as was Father Charles Curran (the leader in the dissent against Humanae Vitae; his writings on moral issues were later condemned by the Vatican). Father Joseph Fuchs, a Jesuit professor at Rome’s Gregorian University, was on hand; so were the Jesuits Richard McCormick, Albert Jonsen, and Giles Milhaven. (Milhaven was later instrumental in the early public work of “Catholics for a Free Choice;” McCormick would become the Rose Kennedy professor of the Kennedy Institute for Bioethics at Georgetown University, and spend years teaching theology at Notre Dame
''For two days the theologians huddled in the Cape Cod resort town as guests of the Kennedys. Eventually they reached a consensus, which they passed along to their political patrons. Abortion, they agreed, could sometimes be morally acceptable as the lesser of two evils. Lawmakers should certainly not encourage abortion, but a blanket prohibition might be more harmful to the common good than a law allowing abortion in some cases. And a danger to the common good would very likely arise if political leaders sought to impose their own private views on public policy.''
And we saw the origin of the famous phrase, ''I am personally opposed but...''  And a few years after, Daniel Callahan ceased being a Catholic and took up the abortion issue.  As an editor at Commonweal he must have known of the event.  But the typical Catholic and Jesuit student probably knew nothing.
As to my attitude towards the Jesuits, they have certainly done a lot of wonderful things over the centuries and I appreciate my educational experiences with them immensely and find myself lucky for the association.  But I find the tone and tenor of many of the articles on America disturbing.  And some I love very much. 


The latest from america

Even in our relationships with family and friends, forgiveness can be hard to come by.
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile, the Vatican announced on March 23.
Gerard O’ConnellMarch 23, 2019
Sister Bibiana Emenaha
A combination of a rapidly growing population, extreme poverty, unemployment and armed conflict push people to cross Nigeria’s porous borders in search of a better life.
Linus UnahMarch 22, 2019
As we come to grips with a national history of violence, greed and racialized privilege, this fable of noblesse oblige rings hollow.
Brandon SanchezMarch 22, 2019