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Tom Langan, who helped found the Catholic Civil Rights League, passed away May 25. Register file photo

Professor Tom Langan had a ‘great love for the Catholic tradition’

  • May 30, 2012

Early in his philosophy career, Professor Tom Langan was fired for being too left wing. Years later he helped found the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League, an organization often called reactionary.

Langan died May 25 at Bridgepoint Hospital. For the last five months of his life at Bridgepoint, Langan was surrounded by family, friends and former students.

He was fired in the 1950s by his Jesuit-founded alma mater, St. Louis University. But Langan wasn’t unemployed long. Indiana University took him on and he eventually rose to chair of the philosophy department.

After a period of study in Europe, Langan came to the University of Toronto in 1967 and taught at St. Michael’s College from 1978 to 1994.

He was a noted expert in the 20th-century philosophy of Martin Heidegger and a collaborator with Fr. Etienne Gilson on a two-volume history of philosophy.

“Professor Tom had a great love for the Catholic tradition, as evidenced by his study and teaching of patristic and medieval philosophy,” said King’s University College philosophy professor and former Langan student and collaborator Antonio Calcagno. “He saw the urgent need to make and keep the Catholic philosophical tradition alive.”

Keeping it alive meant applying Catholic insight to the world around him. His dedication to applying philosophy to the world around him led Langan to his role in founding the Catholic Civil rights league in 1985 and serving as its president for many years. Deeply moved by the Second Vatican Council, Langan helped found the organization to counter media defamation of the Church and the Catholic position on abortion.

“He took seriously the counsels of Vatican II,” wrote Calcagno in an email to The Catholic Register. “In fact, his last five works all are attempts to think through the legacy of the Catholic philosophical tradition in light of contemporary social, philosophical and scientific developments.”

Calcagno worked with Langan on his last book, the 2009 University of Missouri Press publication of Human Being: A Philosphical Anthropology.

Langan served the Catholic community in Toronto as chair of the spiritual development committee of Catholic Charities from 1981 to 1983. He chaired the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Commission on the Family. He was a member of the board of regents for Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask.

Family was the foundation of his life.

He and his wife, Professor Janine Langan, became Knight and Lady of the Order of St. Sylvester, a papal honour, together at St. Michael’s Cathedral in 2006.

The Langan family had five children – Marc, Claire, Marie Noelle, Brigitte and Anne Marie. They in turn produced 11 grandchildren.

His many philosophical books include The Catholic Tradition, Surviving the Age of Virtual Reality, The Meaning of Heidegger: A Critical Study of an Existentialist Phenomenology, Tradition and Authenticity in the Search for Ecumenic Wisdom, Being and Truth and Self Discovery.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. June 4 at Corpus Christi Church on Queen Street East in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood. The family asks that gifts should go to the Bruce Trail Conservancy to help save the trail he loved from developers.

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