A History of TGA (5 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 been published anywhere, 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 November 1999, TGA published its first “Bishops’ Issue,” which students distributed by hand at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in Washington just as the American Bishops readied to vote for the first draft of the local “Application” of ECE.  A few Bishops read from TGA aloud from their microphones on the floor of the Conference. 

The Bishops’ Issue was as much of a plea from university students to their pastors as one could have.  It was attention-seeking.  The cover featured the profile of a bishop in darkness with the banner  “Do the Bishops Have a Clue.”  On the back cover, to show that they were friendly, TGA featured an Editorial laud of John Paul II. [39]  Editors handed the publication showing the back cover to bishops who seemed more reluctant to receive a distribution, and it worked.  

And we should note, the November 1999 TGA issue was handed directly into the hands of the Most Rev. Donald William Wuerl, then the Bishop of Pittsburgh, as he returned from dinner.    

The Editorial reminded Bishops that it had already been 14 years since John Paul II had commenced dialogue with university presidents on the way to produce Ex corde Ecclesiae, and nine years since its promulgation.  It noted: “The Bishops have been slow.” [40] 

The Editorial snapshot revealed how GU President Leo O’Donovan, S.J., and Georgetown’s faculty had painted Ex corde regarding academic freedom and institutional autonomy:    

“Listening to our self-induced champion of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, Fr. Leo O’Donovan, one would not imagine that these principles are guaranteed in Ex corde. So effective has been the misinformation, no lay Georgetown professor could know that “academic freedom” in Ex corde is more expansive, as Fr. David O’Connell has carefully demonstrated, than the definition of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).” 

The Editorial then itemized a course of action for the Bishops with Catholic colleges and universities in their charge.  And it is still good advice. 

“If the bishops do right, their work will only begin. The challenge is daunting. They must make themselves part of their colleges without loosing the pastoral distance that is required of apostolic successors. They should establish diocesan societies and gatherings for faculty equivalent to Red Masses so that they may interact directly with educators on their own turf. They should engage college trustees, utilizing all the medals, honors, and knighthoods available to compete with academia’s reward industry that so handily seduces trustees and alumni. The recent meeting in Rome of the trustees of Catholic University with the Pope should be a model of reward and engagement. 
“The bishops must understand that they are not alone. There is no greater role for the laity in the life of the Church than in the monitoring of Catholic higher education. In the approaching “century of the laity,” the bishops must continue to encourage, rely on, fund and support loyal organizations, such as the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Cardinal Newman Society, that can develop and apply very American structures and practices for accreditation and scrutiny to which colleges will respond. This will deflect criticism and controversy from themselves. Bishops must take initiative to communicate with students and alumni directly.”

And then, in a final plea, and worth its weight in gold, the Editorial shared an insight that cannot be heard when bishops and college presidents speak only to each other, still obsessing over the Charles Curran scandal, remembered only by them: 

“We offer one criticism. Much time has been spent on issues that, while important, are not the easiest target for improvement of overall Catholic character. Programs and staffing of residential and student life represents the gravest, immediate injury being done to the virtue and souls of the largest number of college students – not dissident theology.  This arena is run by non-tenured staff, easy to replace, and raises no sticky issue of academic freedom. Implementation must focus on this.”

The Editorial then records the bigotry against Catholics at Georgetown and suggests its consequences.  

“Before his Cathedral’s altar in San Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred on March 24, 1980, followed within years by several nuns and Jesuit priests. Their murders were the result of erosion of respect and reverence for the Church among the ruling elite of El Salvador. They joined the thousands of priests and nuns, including bishops, and the millions of Christians martyred in this century alone . . .
Bigotry that causes hate and disrespect of Catholicism is common at Georgetown.  Last Spring when Bishop William Lori, on behalf of Cardinal Hickey, objected to GU hosting pornographer and anti-Catholic bigot Larry Flynt, the university’s attitude was immediately reflected in The Hoya in an offensively anti-Catholic student editorial entitled “Archbishop or Archenemy?”  
“Such effect is not without its causes as the administration, by act or omission, regularly paints the Church as alien and oppressive. Increasingly at Georgetown and other campuses, the word “Catholic” is systematically being replaced by words like “Ignatian” and “Jesuit” because “Catholic” is perceived by the Kumbaya generation in power as being rule-laden, intolerant, and exclusive, a total turn-off.  It would be for us also if the only introduction to the Church we had came from those in charge of Campus Ministries and  Student Affairs.
Nowhere could the bishops make a more immediate impact on American culture than by engaging American academia.  When each bishop next meets with the Pope and is asked what he is doing ‘to change the culture,’ we hope he can say that he began the renewal of Catholic higher education in America and that this, Holy Father, will change American culture.” [41]  (Emphasis added.)

The “Bishops’ Issue” also published “An Open Letter to Cardinal Hickey” (and to the Bishops, the Papal Nuncio, and the Jesuit Superior General) by a first year woman who described her disgust in experiencing Georgetown’s mandatory sex education program. Then Editor-in-Chief Sabine Calle wrote:  

“I find it both insulting and troubling that the administration of a Catholic university allows an obvious anti-Catholic attitude and general amorality to be institutionally presented to all incoming freshmen, under the compulsion of sanctions and punishment  for absence.  I came to Georgetown University because I was under the impression that it abided by the Catholic tradition instituted by John Carroll two hundred years ago.” [42] (Emphasis added.) 

She went on to give the witness that we find in this brief over and over again: 

“I expected to find an atmosphere here of diversity, and a respect for all faiths, but the blatant suppression of the Catholic faith and values shocks me . . . This experience is compounded by my sense that any introduction of oneself as Catholic at GU is met by professors and staff by the attitude that we must not speak of our faith for fear of offending others that do not share our beliefs.  Perhaps most troubling to me is that even our Christian brothers and sisters cannot relate to Catholics here because there is a general feeling on campus of separating all religious creeds in order to be safe.” [43]

The 28 page “Bishops’ Issue” made a powerful case.  It included an eyewitness report of a university-wide Georgetown faculty meeting convened by President Leo J. O’ Donovan on the implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the coming Bishops’ vote [44] so significant that we have highlighted it in Section II. G. above.  

The issue also included a non-believer’s plea for Georgetown’s Catholic identity, which was in itself remarkable. [45]   Former TGA editor Sean Rushton recounted a decade of struggle at Georgetown. He wrote:

“My atheism is not of much relevance here; suffice to say I struggled with my faith.  But in the process of that struggle, I also realized that a philosophy that had survived for 2,000 years through the crucible of history, must be important and compelling.  
“Silly and irrelevant ideas do not survive so long with such success. I saw Catholicism as an ancient and civilizing force, one that resisted the trendiness of the times for timeless wisdom.  And I recognized that in contrast to most of the cynical, post-modern set, my religious friends had a sense of decency and hope about them that I admired.  I realized Georgetown’s Catholicism rooted it in a historical tradition of scholarship and moral development that created a fundamentally different, and, in my opinion, better, conversation than existed at most other schools.
“During these years, I also became aware of what was going on in higher education nationally.  Deconstructionist theory that rendered literature meaningless.  History slanted to portray the Western world as fundamentally corrupt.  Philosophy that taught morality was an arbitrary construct created by the powerful to suppress the masses.  I came to the opinion that Georgetown's intellectual and spiritual heritage was vital to maintaining, at least in our "small platoon," morality, respect for tradition, and a classically liberal education.  Realizing all this, I was disturbed to find on the Hilltop not only the absence of an authentically Catholic world view, but a seeming antipathy towards the Church’s norms and tradition, particularly at the level of the administration.”  (Emphasis added)

TGA also published a letter from former Jesuit Superior General Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. calling Jesuits to obedience. [46]   The extraordinary lecture that had recently been delivered at Visitation School in Washington, D.C. by the famous Ivy League professor of intellectual history, Charles Alan Kors:  “On Why a Secular, Ivy League Educator Would Care About the Future of Catholic Higher Education,” for which he had received three sustained standing ovations. [47]    




[39]  Editorial, “The Man of the Century,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, p. 28, attached at Appendix 15.

[40]  Editorial, “Vote Yes, And Smell The Coffee,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, at 2, attached at Appendix 15.   

[41]  Id.

[42]  Sabine Calle, “An Open Letter to Cardinal Hickey,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, at 5, attached at Appendix 15.  

[43]  Id.

[44]  TGA Editor, “Evading Truth: A Young Man’s Play On Old Men’s Lies,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, pp. 11-12, attached at Appendix 15. 

[45]  Sean Rushton, “In Mysterious Ways: A Non-Believer’s Faith in Georgetown’s Catholic Identity” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, pp. 12-14, attached at Appendix 15. 

[46]  “Fr. Arrupe Speaks to Our Times,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999,  p. 27, attached at Appendix 15.

[47]  Dr. Alan Charles Kors, “On Why a Secular, Ivy League Educator Would Care About the Future of Catholic Higher Education,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999, pp. 12-17, attached at Appendix 15.   TGA also published a call for ECE implementation by Loyola University of Chicago President John J. Piderit, S.J., “Moving Past First Things: Enhancing Catholicity at Catholic Universities,” The Georgetown Academy, November 1999,  pp. 18-22, attached at Appendix 15.



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