A History of TGA (2 of 8)

Exclusive to TGA, we are republishing in eight parts a portion of the petition memorandum sent to Rome by Georgetown alumnus William Peter Blatty.  This is the first time any portion of the petition has seen publication and it chronicles 23 years of students’ calls for Catholic identity, as reflected in the pages of The Georgetown Academy since 1990.  

We encourage you to read our introduction to the series and learn more about the petition by visiting the website of The Father King Society.




In August 1996, TGA would publish an odd article that took the University to task for allowing Crucifixes to disappear from 90% of its classrooms.  The opinion piece would launch a student movement, and after the Scandal of GU’s refusal and delay, Georgetown would relent. [11]  

In December 1996, TGA’s former editor Joseph J. Flahive (now a professor in Ireland) wrote another elegant defense of Catholic higher education and took a snapshot of Georgetown scandals:  

“…There is hypocrisy. The University holds mandatory “peer education” sessions and mails flyers before spring break which promote the use of contraceptives…The most threatening trend is the marginalization of Catholicism within a Catholic university…The few [Catholic] groups which are able to gain general acceptance are not embraced by the University as a fundamental part of her mission…” [12]      

In February 1997, TGA surprised the Georgetown community by publishing several responses from outside-Georgetown scholars to one of Fr. O’Donovan’s several efforts to eclipse Ex corde Ecclesiae.  Just a few months earlier in the Fall of 1996, a faculty task force commissioned by President O’Donovan had issued a magnum opus called “Centered Pluralism,” widely understood to be Georgetown’s response to the Holy Father. [13]  Their response barely mentioned the Apostolic Constitution. 

Over the Christmas break, TGA editors had contacted national scholars to review Georgetown’s effort.  The response and result was striking.  Leading among the respondents, Dr. Damien Fedoryka, Christendom College’s former president, gave the matter the seriousness it was due.  While noting an undertaking “to renew Catholic and Jesuit tradition in the contemporary cultural and academic environment is objectively a bold and courageous initiative…the document as a whole, “ he wrote, “has a basic flaw…”  He continued: 

“The flaw comes into relief when [Centered Pluralism] is compared to Ex corde Ecclesiae, the opening section of which has fourteen explicit terminological references to truth.  Centered Pluralism (sometimes hereinafter “CP”) by contrast does not once use the term “truth” and, it could be argued, does not even imply the concept of truth.” [14]      

Dr. Fedoryka’s brilliantly soft rebuke of Centered Pluralism includes this posited question:

“…the question of a “pluralism” that allowed workers or managers in a Coca Cola factory [to] substitute and market Dr. Pepper in the place of Cokes would naturally lead to the meaning of the corporate identity of Coca Cola.” [15]  

In April 1997, TGA continued to publish the responses, this time by Kenneth Whitehead, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, and Dr. James Hitchcock of St. Louis University, and later a president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.  Whitehead concludes that the idea that Georgetown could actually be “faithful to its own historic identity” (quoting from Centered Pluralism) on the terms of [Centered Pluralism] recalls a famous line from a poem of Ernest Dowson: “I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion…” [16]   Hitchcock warns: “to be authentically Catholic a university must accept that the academic community is merely one part of the larger Church and cannot define Catholic identity itself.” [17]         

In October 1997, TGA published the response to Centered Pluralism by Dr. Warren Carroll, the founding president of Christendom College.  In his thoughtful rebuke, Dr. Carroll concluded that Georgetown would not be Catholic by merely declaring that it will respect Catholic beliefs while student editor Cain Pence defended the Catholic educational in its care for both mind and soul, suggesting where Georgetown was lacking. [19]        

In January 1998, TGA published an open letter to University President Rev. Leo J. O’Donovan by archdiocesan pastor, Fr. Peter J. Daly.  In his letter, Fr. Daly records the litany of Georgetown’s Scandals to the faithful.  He ends: “This is the death of a thousand cuts.” [20]   In the same issue, student editor Cain Pence illustrates the leadership of students in defending Georgetown’s Catholic identity against a faculty caught in a time warp.  He writes:

[I]t has been the students who have tried to prevent Georgetown from losing its Catholic heritage, while it has been the faculty and the administration who are content to let Georgetown’s Catholic tradition turn into little more than an advertising gimmick for promotional literature.” [21] (Emphasis added.)           

A month later, in February 1998, TGA published “The Crucifix” issue in time for the meeting of Georgetown’s Alumni Board of Governors.  Two years earlier, in August 1996, TGA had sparked a movement when it first published an article questioning why Georgetown classrooms no longer had Crucifixes. [22]   Almost two years later, a student and alumni movement still waited for a response from President Leo J. O’Donovan.  The cover asked, “Well, Father, yes or no?”  

TGA published excerpts from letters received by Georgetown illustrating the Scandal of Georgetown’s obtuse delay. [23]  In this context, a TGA editor put the issue plainly: 

“[I]n an age of secularism, will Georgetown reaffirm the wonder and depth of her religious heritage – or will she follow the mistaken lead of the Ivy League schools and betray the Lord for the silver of academic prestige.” [24]               

In April 1998, TGA continued to publish outside scholars responding to “Centered Pluralism.” This time the response came from a distinguished research scholar who had spent years at Georgetown.  Responding to the Georgetown faculty’s offensive suggestion that Catholic identity could represent a “silencing,” Dr. Dianne Irving gives a personal witness to the hostility of the anti-Catholic culture at Georgetown: 

“In 16 years of Catholic education, I never once experienced the “silencing” by Catholicism to which the Centered Pluralists refer, which is more than I can say for my experience at Georgetown by those unfriendly to Catholic thoughts   To me it is clear that it is the “Catholic” voice which has been silenced on campus – that of both Catholic students and Catholic professors….Instead there is at Georgetown a shocking dearth of authentic Catholic teaching. Leaving students awash in confusion, and intimidated by the sophistic logic of the other “isms….Their portrayal of Catholicism in the University’s life bears no resemblance to that in Ex corde Ecclesiae…” [25]   



[11]  Elizabeth Fiore, “Georgetown Joins Dante in the Inferno: On Not Having Crosses in Classroom,” The Georgetown Academy, August 1996, p. 10, attached at Appendix 3.

[12]  Joseph J. Flahive, “Both are One, ” The Georgetown Academy, December 1996,  p.15, attached at Appendix 3.  

[13]  Bruce Douglass, et al., Centered Pluralism: A Report of a Faculty Seminar on the Jesuit and Catholic Identity of Georgetown University,” in John Wilcox and Irene King, eds., Enhancing Religious Identity: Best Practices from Catholic Campuses (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2000). 

[14]  Dr. Damien P. Fedoryka, “Centered on Pluralism or on Truth,” The Georgetown Academy, February 1997, pp.8-11, attached at Appendix 4. 

[15]  Id. at 11.

[16]  Kenneth Whitehead, “Restoring ‘Catholic Identity”?,” The Georgetown Academy, April 1997, pp 12-13, attached at Appendix 5.  

[17]  James Hitchcock, Ph.D, “Defining Catholicism by Consensus,” The Georgetown Academy, April 1997,  pp. 15-16, attached at Appendix 5. 

[18]  Warren Carroll, Ph.D, “They Respect Catholic Thought in Other Places Too…,” The Georgetown Academy, October 1997, p. 10 , attached at Appendix 6.

[19]  Cain Pence, “Georgetown Mind and Soul,” The Georgetown Academy, October 1995, p. 8-9, attached at Appendix 6.

[20]  Rev. Peter J Daly, “A Question of Identity: An Open Letter to Georgetown,”  The Georgetown Academy, January 1998,  p. 5, attached at Appendix 6.

[21]  Cain Pence, “The New Game on Campus,” The Georgetown Academy, January 1998,  p. 6, attached at Appendix 6.   

[22]  Elizabeth Fiore, “Georgetown Joins Dante in the Inferno: On Not Having Crosses in Classrooms,” The Georgetown Academy, February 1998,  p. 6, attached at Appendix 7.  

[23]  The Georgetown Academy, February 1998, pp. 12-13, attached at Appendix 7. 

[24]  Cain Pence, “Letter from the Editor-in-Chief,” The Georgetown Academy, February 1998, p. 2, attached at Appendix 7.  

[25]  Dr. Dianne N. Irving, “Pluribus Sed Unum: Many But the One,” The Georgetown Academy, April 1998, p. 6, attached at Appendix 8. 



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