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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Lucal and Gordon Debate Catholicism at GU in ‘Rematch of the Century’

Lucal and Gordon Debate Catholicism at GU in ‘Rematch of the Century’

By Andreas Andrea Hoya Staff Writer

Dean Richard Alan Gordon and John Lucal, S.J., debated the future of Catholic higher education last Friday. The debate, run by the Georgetown Philodemic Society, was part of the Cardinal Newman Society’s weekend conference on Catholic identity on college campuses.

The debate was titled “Resolved: America’s Catholic Universities Have No Distinctive Future.” Two student provocateurs helped argue the pro and con positions. Gordon and Russell Smith argued for the resolution, while Lucal and Chris Bruckmann argued against it.

The event was dubbed a “Grand Rematch” because Gordon and Lucal, Georgetown Alumni, debated once before – as seniors in the College, Philodemic Society members and Merrick medal winners almost 50 years ago.

In his opening, Gordon described what he perceived as the spiritual sell-out of Catholic university presidents to the federal government for funding, worldly goods and acceptance in the secular educational establishment.

“Our Catholic university presidents took a deep descent into Hell by not taking any pride in their religious beliefs,” Gordon said. “I think the way to Hell can be eased with too much emphasis on the mind and not enough on the spirit.”

Gordon said he supported the proposed program to require all teachers of theology in Catholic institutions to have a mandate from the bishop which says that teachers have to be given a mandate to teach Catholic theology, without the mandate they can only be said to be teaching religious studies. This program is found in Catholic Church canon law as well as in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Church’s apostolic constitution on Catholic education, a document at the forefront of the current debate sponsored by the Catholic Church.

In Gordon’s opinion, university administrations are not supporting the doctrine on the grounds of political correctness and the fear of “departing from our great American principles of fair play and vast diversity and all the rest of it,” Gordon said.

Lucal said in his rebuttal that Georgetown should not attempt to revert to a university that no longer exists anywhere.

“We are not going to reproduce the past,” Lucal said. “We cannot go back to the Georgetown of 1950, and I don’t think I would want to.”

Lucal said that it is unfair “to make the university the culprit” and that the entire Catholic Church is presently going through an identity crisis as it faces the modern world.

Lucal said that if Catholic identity is forced upon a university, it may lead to a lack of discussion on religious issues, and therefore, a stagnant academic environment. Lucal sees the theology professor mandate program as one of the places in which compromise with Ex Corde Ecclesia is necessary.

“A better solution in my view would be to say it should not be up to just one man, the local bishop, who is usually not a theologian, to issue the mandated [the one mentioned above],” he said after the debate. “There should be a committee of theologians who would verify the orthodoxy of the course.”

According to Lucal, a mandate is not just an abstract idea and can, in effect, stop theologians from teaching and perhaps even get them fired.

In order for a professor to teach Catholic theology at Georgetown, the professor must receive a mandate from the bishop without a mandate the religion professor can only be said to teach religious studies.

Both Gordon and Lucal agreed that there is a problem in the university’s “cafeteria-style” education that requires few courses as part of its core curriculum.

On the other side Bruckmann, Lucal’s provocateur, said that “there is not much Catholicism at Georgetown today, and that’s why I enjoy it.”

He further said that a forced Catholic identity at Georgetown will scare away students, destroying the diversity that the university presently has, and that it is not Georgetown’s job to enforce morality.

“Who is going to want to go to a university that only has one view?” Bruckmann asked.

Smith, Gordon’s provocateur, pointed out what he believes is distinct about Catholic universities. He said that it is the university’s job to teach the truth, and the truth about God is found in morality. The teaching of the truth is what allows Georgetown to give a “totality of education” to its students he said.

At the end of the debate, Lucal summed up his argument by comparing the future of the Church and Catholic universities to a web address like “,” indicating a need to embrace the future and integrate it into our beliefs instead of fearing it.

Gordon’s summation spoke out against political correctness and diversity, which in his opinion has created a “total relativistic view of the world.”

“We are so mealy-mouthed we cannot even express ourselves effectively. Endless diversity will create a `mobocracy,'” he said.

Gordon added that “belief and faith bring us into the truth” and “we are not in the business of competing with Yale and Harvard.”

The debate was held at Georgetown Visitation Academy.

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