Remembering Robert John Araujo, S.J., Scholar and Mentor

A great priest, veteran, mentor and public intellectual died on Oct. 21. The Rev. Robert John Araujo, S.J., passed away at Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 66 years old.

Father Araujo’s career spanned several decades, but I was fortunate to cross paths with Father Araujo during his time in Chicago as a professor at Loyola University.

We met at one of the irregular Tridentine Masses he would celebrate for the students in the Jesuit residence on campus. After a few lunches together, Father Araujo became a spiritual director of sorts, and I was even able to serve Mass for him. The depth of his knowledge and commitment to the faith astounded me.

Prior to joining the Jesuits, Father Araujo served in the Army, worked for the United States Department of the Interior and the Law Department of the Standard Oil Company. In 1986 he joined the Jesuits, and in 1997 he was appointed to the Holy See’s Permanent Observership to the United Nations. He also served as a professor at several Jesuit universities. Father Araujo published two books, contributed numerous chapters to other books and published countless papers on law, natural law and Catholic legal theory.

But Father Araujo’s intellectual prowess didn’t dawn on me while I was student, and I didn’t quite recognize his importance in the Catholic intellectual community until now. He was a member of the Catholic legal blog Mirror of Justice and stood among scholars such as Rick Garnett, Robert George and fellow Loyola professor John Breen. His writings were dense but not incomprehensible. Father Araujo was one of the few scholars who saw clearly — and articulated perfectly — the logical conclusions of Supreme Court cases such as Windsor v. United States, which paved the way for the sweeping gay marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges. To wit, see this excerpt from a 2010 essay — three years prior to the Windsor decision:

“Based on my earlier work in the two previous examinations of equality, I reach the conclusion in this essay that the equality argument cannot sustain the legal justification for same-sex marriage which lawyers and courts, such as the Goodridge majority, offer. In support of my conclusion, I present an argument that the equality of human beings exists at certain fundamental levels — the most basic would be something guaranteed, albeit vaguely, in the essential equality of the multi-faceted right to be born, to live after birth, and to flourish (albeit in a variety of expressions). My approach is based on the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that ‘all men are created equal.’”

Perhaps most importantly, Father Araujo was a kind priest, one who knew the significance of every part of the Mass but also understood the humanity of the people in the pews. He was a joy to converse with and to know. I join others in mourning the loss of a great mind and a great priest.

When I served Mass for him, I stumbled through it in broken Latin and stiff movements, so he gifted me the first edition of the St. Edmund Campion Missal, which contains the texts for a traditional Latin Mass. I still have the Missal today, and I’ve found it to be an invaluable resource for my spiritual growth. In time, I have come to realize that Father Araujo’s gift was his investment in the spiritual growth of his pupils, no matter who they were.

Saint Thomas More once coined a great prayer: “Pray for me as I will for thee that we may merely meet in Heaven.” I ask the same of Father Araujo, now faithfully departed, such that we may meet again.

Dominic Lynch is a recent political science graduate of Loyola University Chicago.

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