Delivered by Michael Sweeney, OP, in May 2019 at the Induction into the DSPT College of Fellows
J.D. Flynn, canonist and journalist, husband and father, loyal son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
In his Message for World Communications Day in 2018, Pope Francis spoke of the truth that must be the hallmark of responsible journalism:
To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful.
The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news. In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission.
In your numerous articles in both the Catholic and secular press, you have undertaken that mission at a critical moment in the history of the Church and of society. You have not hesitated to treat of difficult subjects, but you have done so in the spirit of dialog and responsibility that the Holy Father has called for.
Having completed your undergraduate study and then the Master's degree in theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, you went on to pursue the Licentiate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America. You have served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver and Director of Communications for the Diocese of Lincoln. In August 2017 you were appointed editor-in-chief of the Catholic News Agency with bureaus in the United States, Europe, and South America.
You have characterized journalism in the light of the prophetic vocation of the church and insisted upon the responsibility of the Christian journalist to bear witness to the truth:
The prophetic vocation of Christians requires us to bear witness to the truth, not to maintain our good standing in society. A Christian cannot choose not to speak on behalf of the poor, the immigrants, the elderly, the disabled, and the family. A Christian cannot be silent when our society presumes to redefine marriage at children’s expense. A Christian is obliged to decry the slaughter of the unborn child, and the parceling of his body parts for profit. Some may judge our plain testimony “mean-spirited” and “divisive.” But Scripture forewarned us that no prophet would be loved in his own country.
You have also reminded us that, in this age of the so-called “culture wars,” our witness to the truth must be truly Christian both its content and in its manner:
Very often, Christians engage the culture with truth on their side but lack the inspirational transcendental of beauty, and the disposition of charity. Very often, we appear headstrong, arrogant, and intransigent. …Would that all Christians were known first for their charity, their humility, and the integrity of their lives!
You have insisted that we never lose hope or forget our fundamental commitment to Christ:
This is not a time for believers to be discouraged. This is not a time for despair. This is an exciting time to be a Catholic. And this is a great time to become a saint.
One of the fundamental concerns of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology is to understand and to engage the necessary dialogue that pertains between faith and culture. We deeply appreciate your willingness to participate in that dialogue with us.
Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon on you, J.D. Flynn, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the School.