Jesuit Father Norbert J. Rigali, retired professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of San Diego and other Catholic universities, died on Oct. 4, 2017 at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California, after a long illness. He was 88 and had been a member of the Society of Jesus for 70 years, 58 of them as a priest.
Fr. Rigali was born Dec. 29, 1928, in Glendale, California, the sixth of seven children of Henry A. Rigali and Frances White. He graduated from Loyola High School, Los Angeles, briefly attended Loyola University, and entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Los Gatos on Feb. 10, 1947. Studies in classics and philosophy were made at Los Gatos and Spokane (Gonzaga BA, 1952, MA, 1953), theology in Innsbruck, Austria (Jesuitenkolleg, STL, 1960) and the University of Munich (PhD, philosophy, 1964). He was ordained a priest in Innsbruck July 26, 1959.
Fr. Rigali taught Latin at St. Ignatius High School, San Francisco (1953-54), and was an instructor in philosophy at Loyola University, Los Angeles (1954-56). Upon completion of his studies, he taught philosophy at Mount St. Michael’s, Spokane, (assistant professor, 1964-65) and Loyola Marymount University (assistant professor, 1965-68). He then spent a year as a research associate at the Cambridge Center for Social Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1968-69) before returning to the classroom.
He was visiting assistant professor of moral theology and religious studies at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1970-71, and then taught at the University of San Diego, where he spent 37 years as professor of moral theology and religious studies (1972-2009). He was theologian in residence at Loyola Marymount University, 2010-11 and retired to a ministry of prayer at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos in 2011.
Fr. Rigali published widely in the fields of philosophy and moral theology. His works include a study (in German) on the thought of the German-Swiss philosopher and psychiatrist Karl Jaspers and many articles on Christian ethics in Theological Studies and in other professional journals and popular religious publications.
His colleagues esteemed his scholarly work in an ongoing methodical reconstruction of Catholic moral thinking in the post-Vatican II era, where he brought the tools and insights of philosophy to what he termed its “transformation from moral theology to theological ethics.”
He is survived by his brother, Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, of Knoxville, Tennessee.