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

Bad Business Deals Mark GU’s History

Colin Campbell (“GU’s Lost Decade and Its Consequences,” The Hoya, Sept. 24, 2002, p.3) assumes that Georgetown’s troubles started with the arrival of former University President Leo O’Donovan, S.J. But whatever mistakes the O’Donovan/DeGioia administrations have made, they pale when compared to the disastrous Henle/Healy and Guthrie/Bunn years.

O’Donovan may have let the Mt. Vernon campus (a mile from here) elude GU, but Fr. Tim Healy, S.J., deliberately blocked GU’s chances of acquiring the Hillandale and Cloisters properties adjacent to GU, and Fr. Henle actually sold off some acres on the southwestern side of the campus. O’Donovan may have instigated a public row with the GU Law Center over its budgetary independence, but Healy forced the world-renowned GU Center for Strategic and International Affairs into severing all ties with GU rather than accept his meddling. Healy sold (for just $1, to another D.C. university) GU’s invaluable FM radio station license, out of pique over his station manager’s refusal to air Healy’s desired programming.

The Medical Center’s finances were alike all through the Healy and O’Donovan years. But O’Donovan never closed the Medical School to make money by renting the school’s floor space to a pharmaceutical corporation, which is exactly what happened when Healy shut down GU’s Dental School in order to lease the school’s quarters to an Italian corporation, Fidia Pharmeceuticals, (only to have that company go bankrupt soon after).

The O’Donovan administration may have named the GU business school after a donor who had promised $30 million for the naming rights, only to find out that the supposedly $30 million of stock donated has, ever since, had but a fraction of that value. But Healy had earlier named the campus Health Care Center building after a donor’s family, only to learn that an even smaller fraction of this promised gift would materialize.

On another note, Campbell’s contention that, under Healy, GU’s endowment grew almost ten-fold, but under Healy almost only three-fold, is misleading. Ten-times-one is much less of an increase, in absolute terms, than is three-times-10 (i.e., an increase of only nine units as compared to an increase of 20 units).

Campbell also contends that GU’s crisis over “Catholic and Jesuit” identity is somehow connected with the low number of Jesuits now teaching here – a number that is inescapably approaching zero.

But maybe GU’s “Catholic-and-Jesuit” identity has been threatened not by the relatively few Jesuits here, but by having the wrong kinds of Jesuits.

There has never been a correlation between the number of Jesuits and the running of excellent Catholic-and-Jesuit schools. For decades GU’s law, medical, dental and foreign service schools had very few Jesuits (and even very few Catholics) in their faculties or administrations, but nonetheless provided excellent Catholic education.

From 1919 to 1949, for example, the Walsh School of Foreign Service had one Jesuit on its staff and for half that time was not even located in Georgetown, but in the commercial district at 6th and E streets. Yet the SFS of those years was infinitely more “Catholic,” even more “Jesuit” than is any part of GU nowadays.

The School of Foreign Service in Fr. Edmund Walsh’s days was a showcase for what’s best with Catholic and Jesuit education (so much so that in 1928 it was thought that the Scottish Rite Freemasons donated to the George Washington University the $1 million-plus needed to create GWU’s “School of Public and International Affairs,” with the intention of stymieing a feared Roman Catholic ascendancy over U.S. diplomacy that the already successful decade-old school portended).

Whether Georgetown can remain Catholic depends entirely on the commitment of administrators to Catholic-and-Jesuit education. Fr. Walsh, S.J., did it alone with the SFS for 30 years. Fr. Francis Lucey, S.J., did it alone with the Law Center even longer.

Campbell argues that GU is heading for disaster because of the reactionary policies of recent hierarchs allegedly opposing the best of Catholicism that developed in the mid-20th century. But the issue instead is really the prohibiting from this campus of anyone defending the kind of authentic Catholicism universally found in all Catholic schools as recently as 40 years ago.

Last year former University Chaplain Fr. Adam Bunnell, O.F.M., Conv., shocked his staff when he announced that, regarding the Protestant ministry, his first priority was to make sure no “fundamentalists” get a foothold here. It’s no accident that the few authentic Jesuits remaining in the Jesuit Community are never assigned scheduled Campus Ministry Masses. And are never hired, even as adjuncts, by the Theology Department. All such appointments go only to those “Catholics” who follow dissident theologians like Rahner, Teilhard, Lonergan and Balthazar.

Campbell imagines Ex Corde Ecclesiae presenting a danger that, once the bishops free themselves from current side issues, they will use mandata to impose a stifling orthodoxy. But the bishops already have 100-percent control over the area’s Roman Catholic high schools and hardly any one of them is anywhere as close to tolerating orthodox Catholicism among its few students wanting it as Georgetown is.

No, Georgetown’s resistance to Ex Corde has to do with worries over who within GU will call the shots. The Jesuit leadership does indeed care about ideology/religion, not because they want to impose any heterodoxy (that’s a done deed), but instead so they can prevent even a token a reappearance of traditional Catholicism. Ecclesiastical Gresham’s Law: bad religion driving out the good, then organizing to resist any reappearance, knowing that bad religion cannot last while the good is still in competition. That is why the Catholicism normative 50 years ago is the only praxis not allowed expression today in GU’s much-vaunted “marketplace of ideas.”

Terrence J. Boyle graduated from both the School of Foreign Service in 1963 and the Georgetown University Law Center in 1972.

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