Matt Malone, S.J.January 13, 2008
On Meet the Press this morning, Senator Hillary Clinton accused her host, Tim Russert, of being ’Jesuitical’ in his argumentation. The Jesuit-educated Russert (Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y. and John Carroll University in Cleveland) was pressing Senator Clinton on her 2002 vote to authorize war in Iraq. Here’s the transcript:
MR. RUSSERT: Did he (Obama) have better judgment in October of 2002? SEN. CLINTON: You know, look, judgment is not a single snapshot. Judgment is what you do across the course of your life and your career. MR. RUSSERT: A vote for war is a very important vote. SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, Tim, we can have this Jesuitical argument about what exactly was meant.
Now according to the Oxford American Dictionary, "Jesuitical" has two meanings. The first is the more benign: "of or concerning the Jesuits." Okay, that’s straightforward. But the word has a second meaning, which is almost always pejorative and was born of the old anti-Jesuit canard that we can be a little slick with our reasoning. Here the word means, "Dissembling or equivocating, in the manner associated with Jesuits." It’s highly unlikely of course that any Jesuit will take offense. Mrs. Clinton is no Pascal and did not intend to be. But one does wonder where she picked up the word. Perhaps it came from her Georgetown-educated husband. Matt Malone, S.J.
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13 years 10 months ago
I'll be disappointed if Jesuits do not take some offense and point out Senator Clinton's use of this term in a divisive and insulting way. That a person who wishes to be elected our president shows so little respect for or sensitivity to the religious backgrounds of others is deeply disturbing. This is just another of several recent examples of her lashing out at others in a demeaning way in order to attempt to elevate herself. Surely Jesuits will not want to condone or ignore such a demeaning reference to such an honorable tradition.
13 years 10 months ago
I think the Clinton's are well-acquainted with the word Jesuitical. If one reviews the Op/Ed commentary from the Clinton administration era, it pops up a great deal; mostly to describe Bill's various rationales. Remember it was Bill Clinton who argued; "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." I must admit, however, that when I heard her say it on MTP, this Jesuit educated lawyer leaped up to give her a piece of my mind through the television.
13 years 10 months ago
I'm appalled that no other media outlets have picked up this story. If another religious group/order was slandered like this, would there be the same tepid response? Kudos to Matt Malone for putting it up on the site.
13 years 10 months ago
"But one does wonder where she picked up the word. Perhaps it came from her Georgetown-educated husband" Her husband's use of Jesuitical logic may have had something to do with it but I'd like to think that any well-read or reasonably educated person would be familiar with the word. I remember using it in high school debating so I don't think it's exclusive to those who have Jesuit educations.
13 years 10 months ago
But what did the Jesuit-educated Russert say in response? I hope that he came to the defense of the Society of Jesus, or, at the very least, reminded his viewers that the most important election this week was the one at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. And did he handicap anyone?
13 years 10 months ago
Russert didn't respond to Clinton's 'Jesuitical' reference - I checked the transcript at MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22634967/page/3/

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