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Land, Philip S.


Jesuit priest, professor, social activist; b. Montreal, Canada, June 13, 1911; d. Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 1994. Land was born the fifth of seven children. The family eventually settled in Tacoma, Washington, where Land attended the Jesuit high school Bellarmine Prep before entering the Society of Jesus in August 1929. During philosophy studies in Spokane, Washington, he was exposed to New Deal social programs and to Catholic social teaching. While teaching high school in Tacoma from 1936 to 1939, he became a popular speaker on social justice topics. Following his theology studies and ordination to the priesthood, he pursued a Ph.D. in economics, studying at St. Louis University and Columbia.

In 1950, Land joined the staff of the Institute of Social Order in St. Louis, doing social research, writing and teaching. He helped to create the review Social Order. From 1953 to 1954 he served on the editorial staff of America magazine in New York.

In January 1956, Land was called to Rome to teach economics at the Gregorian University, where he served in full-or part-time capacity for twenty years. In 1967 he joined the staff of the newly-founded Pontifical Commission Justice and Peace, working there under the leadership of Joseph Gremillion. Land left Rome in 1976 after his opposition to humanae vitae led to his dismissal from the Vatican delegation to the United Nations (UN) Population Conference in Bucharest [1974] and ended his effectiveness at the Commission Justice and Peace. He joined the staff of the Center of Concern in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a senior researcher and writer until his death.

Intellectual Journey. The life work of Land reflects a singular commitment to social justice that can be traced to his encounters with victims of the 1929 stock market crash who came to the doors of the Jesuit novitiate in Los Gatos, California, hungry and homeless. Land's intellectual journey saw him break free from the early strong influence of the German Catholic social thinkers Heinrich Pesch and Gustav gundlach. He opened himself to more biblically based, theological approaches to social teaching and gradually came to embrace the insights of praxis-based liberation theology, the Rahnerian shift to the subject, ecotheology, and feminist theology. He argued forcefully that this intellectual evolution constituted an authentic retrieval of Thomas Aquinas' vision of prudence and practical wisdom.

During his years at the Commission Justice and Peace, Land made several important contributions to the Church's work for justice. He played a key role in the foundation of sodepax, a joint commission of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to address issues of society, development and peace. He helped to conceptualize and organize the commission, securing George Dunne, SJ, to be its first director.

In 1970 Land served as the principal staff person for the synod Justice in the World and the major drafter of its document. In that capacity, he fought single-handedly to save the passage insisting that the Church should not speak about injustice unless it is willing to recognize its own injustice. In addition he was instrumental in preparing and distributing a study guide and background materials for the synod document, including highlights of the medellÍn Conference of bishops held in 1968 in Colombia. Thus, under Land's leadership, foundational liberation themes were made available to the whole Church for the first time.

As part of the Vatican delegation to the UN, Land was also responsible for getting language about the "obligation of the nation or nations toward the international common good under the guidance of international social justice" into the UN charter.

During his eighteen years at the Center of Concern, Land's activities ranged from marching in demonstrations to teaching and lecturing to scholarly research and publication. His major writings include a reflective and careful defense of the US bishops' pastoral letter on the economy entitled Shaping Welfare Consensus and his semi-autobiographical reflections on the evolution of Catholic social thinking in the thirty years after Vatican II, Catholic Social Thought: As I Have Lived It, Loathed It and Loved It.

Bibliography: p. land, Catholic Social Teaching: As I Have Lived It, Loathed It and Loved It (Chicago 1995); Eco-Theology (Washington, D.C. 1991); "Toward a New Methodology in Catholic Social Teaching," in The Logic of Solidarity: Commentaries on Pope John Paul II's Encyclical on Social Concern, g. baum and r. ellsberg, eds. (New York 1989); Shaping Welfare Consensus: U.S. Catholic Bishops' Contribution (Washington, DC 1988); "The Lordship of Christ and Economic Structures," in Above Every Name: The Lordship of Christ and Social Systems, t. clark, ed. (New York 1980).

[j. e. hug]

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