Written by Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, on May 2010 at the Induction in the College of Fellows
Gil Bailie, husband and father, author and lecturer, student and evangelizer of our culture, loyal son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope….” So St. Peter admonishes the Christian disciple in his first letter, an admonition that you have taken to heart, in the manner that Peter commends it to us: “but do it with gentleness and reverence“(1 Peter 3:15a). Love, not hope, is the greatest of the theological virtues. Yet St. Thomas reminds us that hope is requisite for the sake of love, and ours is an age in which many find it difficult to hope.
Throughout your adult life you have insisted, gently, reverently, that hope is indeed possible, and that it is rooted in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord and in the deposit of the faith through which he is revealed. You have presented the revelation of Christ as the unique event in our human story, and as the only hermeneutic through which that story can be adequately understood.
Your formal education was completed in 1968 with the J.D. degree of the University of Tennessee, but you have never practiced law. You insist that you are not an academic. Yet you have undertaken something that is significantly more difficult: to foster and institutionalize a conversation outside the academy, on a national and international scale. Beginning in Sonoma, you gathered around yourself lay men and women to engage them in a discussion of philosophy, literature, poetry, mythology and religion.
Then, in the early 1980’s you discovered the work of Rene Girard, recognized its usefulness for the work of redeeming our culture, and became his student and close collaborator. You were a founding member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, for the sake of the scholarly exploration of Girard’s mimetic hypothesis. You have come to be acknowledged as one of the most significant exponents of Girard’s work, which you have made accessible outside the academy, particularly in your brilliantly provocative book, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, which you published in 1996. Convinced that our Western culture needs to rediscover its roots in a Christian and Catholic anthropology, you founded, toward that end, the Florilegia Institute which was renamed, in 2002, The Cornerstone Forum. You have acted upon your conviction that “Even an imperfectly sanctified life … can foster a respect for Christianity by exercising the intelligence which faith awakens and by summoning the theological, cultural, moral, and anthropological arguments that render Christian faith intelligible.”
You are sought out as a teacher and lecturer throughout this country, and have participated in international colloquia, centered upon the cultural and spiritual challenges confronting contemporary society. To engage our contemporary culture by means both of its own philosophical tradition, and of the theological tradition of the Catholic Church is the particular mission of this School. We recognize in you a significant partner and ally in that work. We are therefore both honored and gratified that you have consented to collaborate formally with us as a Fellow of the School. Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Members of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, Gil Bailie, the degree Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.