In both articles, Ong argues that Catholics have a responsibility to engage whatever intellectual activity exists in their particular fields and contribute to that activity. In this article, he supports this assertion by citing three reasons for doing so: 1) because the work of Jesuits in the United States is distinctly different from the work of Jesuits during other historical periods and during contemporary times outside the U.S. (specifically, Jesuits in the U.S. work with college-level students while Jesuits from other historical periods and contemporary times outside of the U.S. did not/do not work with such mature students); 2) the overall involvement of American Jesuits in the educational system is much higher than that of past Jesuits and contemporary non-American Jesuits; and 3) the contemporary world is much more aware of "a growing knowledge," which moves through a progression rather than simply standing still or operating in a cyclical fashion.
Ong's discussion of this third point, which he sees as the most important of the three he makes, might be connected to his article "Renaissance Ideas and the Catholic Mind," in which he clearly states that he believes in an evolutionary, progressive view of history (rather than a cyclical one), which is supported by an emphasis on the Second Coming in Christian theology.
In this article, when Ong discusses specifically how members of the Jesuit Educational Association can contribute to their particular fields, he spends time on each of four disciplines (theology, philosophy, literature, and the social sciences), which he believes are in particular need of new ideas. In theology, for example, Ong believes that the need for new ideas is especially acute, for students are asking questions that current theological thought cannot answer, and some of the students asking those questions (particularly women) are cut off entirely from theological courses that might provide some answers. In philosophy, Ong asserts, the need for an infusion of new ideas is also needed, particularly on the subject of cosmology. Likewise, in literary studies, there is the tendency to ignore connections between the past and present; Ong believes that literature of the past cannot be taught without awareness of contemporary literature, and vice versa. Finally, in the social sciences, the need for new research is obvious, given the "disasters" that have resulted from a lack of scholarship in the past. Ong cites the Catholic Church's lack of involvement in the social sciences during the nineteenth century, when the work of Robert Owen, J.S. Mill, and others led to the rise of socialism in the twentieth century. Had the Catholic Church been more involved in this intellectual front, its members might have had more influence on people migrating to the cities to work in factories. Instead, the Church missed out on the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship with the working class.
Like Ong's argument in "The Catholic
Church's Interest in Knowledge and Research," this article concludes
with Ong's recognition that administrative issue often prevent people from
engaging in as much research as they would like; nevertheless, he asserts,
research and publication is an important part of the knowledge gaining
and sharing process, and Jesuits must do everything they can to participate
in this process.