Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Dialogue Comes at Cost of Catholic Identity

There are certain events that I am sad to say make me ashamed of my fellow Hoyas.

In December, the menorah was moved from Red Square to Harbin Patio, undergoing damage in the process.

I do not condone the actions of this vandal or of others. Anyone who desecrates any religious symbol must be reprimanded for such disrespectful behavior.

There is, however, a deeper issue raised by these actions.

Georgetown – its students, faculty, administration and at times even its Office of Campus Ministry – is confused about its religious identity.

In a broadcast e-mail to the university community, Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, and the Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, signed a statement declaring, “As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we want to reaffirm our identity and commitment as an inter-religious community.”

Being Catholic does not mean that discussion with other faiths is impossible, yet Olson and Boroughs make a somewhat contradictory declaration that a community with a specific religious identity is also “inter-religious.”

Georgetown is a leader in its support of non-Catholic faiths at a university that identifies itself as within one religious sect. Chaplains from all faiths populate the campus. Georgetown provides St. William’s Chapel for Protestant services, a Muslim prayer room in Copley basement and the Copley Multipurpose Room for Buddhist meditations. Activities are offered to foster inter-religious dialogue.

With all this emphasis on inter-religious exchange, where did our Catholic identity go?

In recent years, Georgetown has not been a leader in defending Catholicism. By encouraging inter-religious discourse, deep elements of our Catholic identity have been lost.

Religious insensitivity and intolerance has been directed at Catholics, although they supposedly represent the majority of the Georgetown population.

A month ago, The Georgetown Independent ran a political cartoon featuring Jesus Christ surfing on his crucifix. In classes, Catholic professors and Jesuits have called for allowing women priests and married priests, asserted that God is not really present in the Eucharist and supported homosexual relationships.

Ironically, I have also heard non-religious students refer to Georgetown as “overtly Catholic.”

Perception is far from fact.

The stripping of Georgetown’s Catholic identity did not occur overnight. Dahlgren Chapel was refurbished in the 1970s to more closely resemble a Protestant gathering place than a Catholic chapel.

Georgetown money has gone to organizations which advocate positions contrary to the Catholic catechism. GU Choice, the predecessor of H*yas for Choice, used to receive university funding. Georgetown now funds GU Pride, an organization whose position is not consistent with Catholic teaching.

In the 1990s when the Georgetown Knights of Columbus fought to allow crucifixes in the classrooms of the Intercultural Center, they were offered a compromise that permitted “cultural” symbols of faiths in the rooms.

Yet students repeatedly move to secularize Georgetown, and much of this attempted secularization takes place in this newspaper.

Viewpoints appear in THE HOYA asking for “Messianic warning” labels and asking Georgetown to separate its Catholic heritage from many of its activities. A year and a half ago, HOYA editorial board members were outraged that Cardinal Arinze would express Catholic beliefs on homosexuality at the College commencement ceremony.

Elements of Catholicism are few and far between.

Georgetown students can graduate today without ever studying a Catholic theologian. The Catholic Studies Department is only a minor, because there is not enough interest from students to offer a full major in the field.

A more thorough understanding and study of Catholicism may actually lead to an openness to the expression of religious identity, Catholic and otherwise. People who have a strong sense of faith are usually not offended by the display of other religions, but benefited by exposure to them.

Finding a balance between religious identity and inter-religious dialogue, however, is not always easy. Yale, Duke, Northwestern and Princeton all dropped their religious identity in order to compete with other institutions of higher learning. Steubenville, Notre Dame and Catholic University are still considered Catholic, but may lose applicants because of their religious stature.

Where does Georgetown stand now? Jesuit, yes. Competitive, yes.

But, Catholic? Probably not.

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