A History of TGA (8 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.

 

 

SCHILLING V. O'BRIEN

This [2012-2013] academic year TGA renewed its focus on Ex corde Ecclesiae with vigor.  Its September-October 2012 issue, gave proof of the Georgetown administration’s attitude.  The issue features an original article by Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Georgetown University’s Vice President for Ministry and Mission. In an issue entitled “At The Heart of The Church: Reflections on Georgetown’s Catholic Identity,”  Fr. O’Brien addresses “Georgetown as ‘Catholic,’ ‘Jesuit,’ and ‘University’,” but he never mentions Ex corde Ecclesiae or GU’s attempt or success at its implementation.  He also never mentions Jesus Christ.  Masterfully composed, Fr. O’Brien's piece is at best an exhortation or a marketing tool.  At worst, it is a deception.  In any case, it is severely contrasted by the common experience we all have of Georgetown. [79]  

In the very same TGA issue, the reality of Georgetown’s Catholic identity is offered by students, and particularly, by Andrew Schilling who writes in his article “Georgetown University: Adrift from the Truth” a devastating rebuttal to Father O’Brien’s marketing of Georgetown.   The indictment should be read in its entirely.  Schilling begins:    

“Imagine two universities, both claiming “Catholic” affiliation. On the one hand is a university born from the heart of the Church with the purpose of educating students in the knowledge of virtue and love of God. On the other hand is a university that values education only to the extent that it is economically profitable or beneficial to modern society. It is no exaggeration to say that Georgetown, while not completely forfeiting her Catholic identity, is quickly entering the latter category. Her pursuit of secular and political goals has eroded her efforts to serve the Church and to bear witness to the Gospel. Instead of actively reaffirming the cause of truth, the University continues to sever herself from the very institution she is called to serve.
“To understand the nature of this unfortunate state of affairs, one must first look at the vocation of all Catholic universities. Originating in medieval Europe, the university was founded on the conviction, first articulated by St. Augustine, that ‘to love wisdom is to love God.’ . . .  It was an indispensable expression of the Church’s very being as an institution that seeks to understand, defend, and promote the truth of Jesus Christ. A university could not be Catholic merely by name or by history, but only by actively supporting the intellectual mission of Christ and the Church. 
“Today, the state of Catholic higher education looks quite different. Catholic universities are now moving decisively in a secular direction, guided not by the hand of God but by the invisible hand of the market, and even the heavy hand of the state. There is a “growing recognition,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.” 
“For her part, Georgetown University still regards herself as a Catholic university, though the evidence supporting this claim is quickly dwindling.  In both substance and spirit, a Georgetown education fits the taste of the times.  Here it is exceedingly rare to find professors teaching the core tenets of Catholic theology and philosophy.
Perhaps this is due to the trendy disdain for truth that permeates our campus culture.  Faith in the Church and full acceptance of her divine teachings is too commonly regarded as a naïve form of fundamentalism, one that cannot be taken seriously in enlightened circles, even in parts of this university’s theology department. Intellectual experiments in ‘gender studies,’ ‘social theory,’ and other theological aberrations take pride of place over authentic Catholic teaching, not just so that Georgetown can style itself “open-minded,” but rather so that it can outright abandon its mission to serve the truth. 
“Across disciplines and departments moral and religious claims are demoted to the realm of the subjective, with virtually no purchase in political, philosophical, and administrative disputes. Religious individualism is the prevailing dogma, each student anointing himself the sole arbiter of right and wrong in matters of faith. Many students find no reason to view the Church as necessary, the Catholic Tradition as unique, or the Holy Father as a source of religious and intellectual authority. Most Catholic students graduate with no sense of the intellectual richness of their own Church and perhaps just as little appreciation of its beauty, a fault for which Georgetown should assume full responsibility. 
Typically, this crisis would weigh like a sandbag on a university’s conscience. But not for Georgetown; she forges ahead, content with her position among the nation’s most prestigious universities. At every turn, the University is poised to sacrifice her Catholic identity for the sake of a class profile and a campus culture similar to those of her Ivy League peers. Worse yet, she is oblivious to this tendency because of the self-imposed blinders of materialism, power politics, and ambition.” (Emphasis added.)”

Schilling bravely takes on the self-deception of diversity and tolerance:

“Nowhere is this more palpable than in our alma mater’s support for the usual goals of the modern academy—tolerance, dialogue, and diversity. Useful as they are, these political objectives do not constitute ends in themselves, nor do they amount to the Christian virtue of caritas.  Archbishop Charles Chaput adds clarity to the issue when he writes, “Catholics have the duty not to ‘tolerate’ other people but to love them, which is a much more demanding task . . . Real Christian virtues flow from an understanding of truth, unchanging and rooted in God. The pragmatic social truce we call ‘tolerance’ has no such grounding. 
“Georgetown University nevertheless regards herself as a progressive institution. But when one considers the matter more thoughtfully, one begins to wonder how progressive she will really prove to be. Progress necessarily entails openness to transformation, one that brings us closer to the truth. But the form of tolerance espoused by most on this campus—a form that makes no demands on students, faculty members, or administrators—precludes such a transformation, for truth itself becomes the handmaid of tolerance. All positions necessarily begin and end on the same level, without any expectation that the dialogue will indeed bring individuals to the truth. 
“The University’s obsession with dialogue and tolerance, secular and confused as it is, does not even have the merit of healing divisions. In fact it actually creates them. Take as an example the school’s decision to invite Secretary Sebelius to speak at commencement exercises last May. The administration—amid an outcry from Catholics across the nation—justified its decision under the banner of a free exchange of ideas. This of course came at the expense of undermining the Church and honoring the architect of a policy that constitutes the greatest threat to religious liberty in recent memory. Georgetown, to its shame, never explicitly rebuked Secretary Sebelius for her decision to proceed with the HHS mandate, an omission tantamount to a direct challenge to the U.S. bishops’ authority and an insult to faithful Catholics everywhere. 
There can be no doubt that the University has made herself guilty of “kneeling before the world,” in the words of Jacques Maritain. She softens the demands of the Christian message and leaves behind vital Christian truths, such as the reality of God’s judgment, because of the fear that these truths might offend others in a pluralistic society. To gain respect in the secular world, she justifies Catholic social teaching in purely humanitarian terms. She has fallen prey to the kind of false compromise Blessed Pope John Paul II warned against when he said: “The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world a ‘gradual secularization of salvation’ has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension.”  (Emphasis added.)

Schilling bravely takes on the Jesuit self-deception in what Fr. James Schall, S.J., has long called their “theology of service:” 

“One pervasive form of this “secularization of salvation” is Georgetown’s insistence on social justice without any mention of the Christ-centered faith which gives it meaning. Students rank social justice high in what they regard as essential to their faith, yet they fail to grasp the relationship between social justice and the metaphysical and theological premises that underlie the Church’s commitment to the poor and the vulnerable. And when charity becomes detached from truth, as is so often the case here on the Hilltop, it is not surprising that social justice becomes the rallying cry for nearly every position imaginable, including gay marriage, contraception, and abortion. 
“None of this criticism of our alma mater is to suggest that social justice should not be pursued, that tolerance should not be practiced, or that dissenting opinions should not be permitted. These have a place on any college campus, especially on one that follows the message of the Gospels. The intention here is much different: to remind the University where she comes from and the purpose for which she exists. Too often Georgetown, in the name of cooperation, undermines the very institution from which she was born and abandons the cause of her existence.” 

Schilling concludes with a powerful rebuttal of Fr. O’Brien and the DeGioia presidency:

“In his 1998 encyclical letter Fides et ratio, Blessed John Paul II wrote, “Whether we admit it or not, there comes for everyone the moment when personal existence must be anchored to a truth recognized as final, a truth which confers a certitude no longer open to doubt.” It is a curiosity why my school, the oldest and most prominent Catholic university in the nation, is still searching for the fount of that truth.” [80] (Emphasis added.)  
 

 

FOOTNOTES

[79]  Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., “Georgetown as ‘Catholic,’ ‘Jesuit,’ and ‘University’,”  The Georgetown Academy, pp. 9-11, attached at Appendix 30.

[80]  Andrew Schilling, “Georgetown University: Adrift from the Truth,” The Georgetown Academy, pp. 18-20, attached at Appendix 30.   

 

 

This concludes the excerpt we were given of The Father King Society's petition to Rome regarding Georgetown's non-compliance with Ex corde Ecclesiae.  

We're willing to publish rebuttals and other responses.  

Sometime next year we intend to collect this excerpt and other documents on Catholic higher education into a free e-book we'll have available on our website. 

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