In a recent post on Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who brought indictments against “Scooter” Libby yesterday, amba of AmbivaBlog quotes a comment from Andrew Sullivan in which Sullivan refers to Fitzgerald’s Jesuit education.

Fitzgerald, well-known here in Chicago for his involvement in Operation Greylord—an investigation of judicial corruption, is a graduate of Regis High School in New York. Regis, like my own alma mater St. Louis University High School, admits its students by competitive examination. When I went there SLUH had more than ten applicants for each admission—that’s as selective as Harvard.

If Fitzgerald’s experience with Jesuit education was anything like mine, he found the Jesuits tough, just, and inspiring. Every teacher I had whether Jesuit or lay had a doctorate. Many had two. My English teacher and advisor (a Jesuit) had PhD’s in Theology and Comparative Literative. My Russian teacher (lay—extremely so) had PhD’s in Russian and Italian. Every student was expected to excel and academic excellence was a given. We were also expected to excel in athletics and other non-academic activities. My little high school of under 1,000 students routinely nailed down state championships in sports, debate, and dramatics.

Rigor was expected and a kind of ruthlessness. Victory alone was not sufficient: we usually went for the throat and strove to rout our opposition.

We took theology for four years. We attended Mass daily. We had annual Loyolan retreats. If you’ve never experienced a Loyolan retreat, it’s a cross between a primitive initiation rite, 17th century Spanish military training, and scientific brainwashing. The individual is stripped down to the bare essentials of his character and a new individual is built up. It’s grueling, horrifying, and rewarding.

There used to be a Jesuit high school in Baghdad. It was the equivalent number of Regis or SLUH. The Jesuits were expelled in 1969. Both interim Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi and Ahmed* Chalabi attended Baghdad College. I haven’t been able to determine if the Baghdad College attended by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was the same school or not. Judging by their ages they attended while the Jesuits were still in charge.

References on Baghdad College:

The New Republic, Brian Hindo, “Old School”
America, Joseph MacDonnell, “The Jesuits of Baghdad”
Treasure of Baghdad, “A Salute to Baghdad College”

* Corrected per comment.

3 comments… add one
  • FYI: Ahmed, not Achmed. Achmed is not an Arab name.

    With respect to Tareq Aziz, as he is a Catholic one would suspect your answer is yes, leaving aside the issue of Jesuit idolatry.

  • Thanks for the correction, Lounsbury. I suspected that Aziz might have attended this Baghdad College using the same reasoning but I found no specific confirmation.

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