As the New Year approaches, I would like to recommend a specific resolution for Jesuit universities: be more Catholic.
I am a Georgetown University alumna, and the school’s designation as the oldest Jesuit university in the United States was something that always intrigued me. After growing up Catholic and spending time as a peer minister, I hoped that attending Georgetown would encourage me to stay faithful.
While there were plenty of opportunities at Georgetown for the individual to engage in Catholic life, I found that the university as a whole didn’t seem devoted to its identity.
In 2016, Georgetown allowed the student-run Lecture Fund to bring Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards to speak on campus. I was disturbed, to say the least, when students gave Richards a standing ovation at the beginning and end of the event. While Georgetown insisted that the event would be nonpartisan and objective, it was really just a cloaked abortion rally.
Richards compared herself and her organization, which aborts hundreds of thousands of unborn babies a year, to civil rights activists as the event organizers hugged and fawned over their apparent hero. The president of Lecture Fund proudly proclaimed to the audience at one point that God is “pro-choice” and claimed that hosting an abortion provider was “in the spirit of a Jesuit university.”
The university sent emails promoting the event. They did not allow media in the auditorium. There was no live broadcast. Pro-life protesters outside of the event were shouted down and one protester was threatened with removal over an “offensive” sign showing an aborted child. “Vita Saxa,” a student-run pro-life group, was allowed to ask Richards just one question on behalf of their entire group.
Georgetown itself paved the way for “reproductive justice” (read: abortion) on campus in 2014 when it gave additional benefits to “H*yas for Choice.” The pro-choice student group is not recognized by the university and cannot use the university name or logo, but just two years prior to Richards’ visit, Georgetown gave them access to storage space, classroom space, and printing services.
Georgetown’s insistence on making life easier for abortion-minded students to operate on campus indicates that they’re more interested in catering to student demands than they are in advancing Catholic ideals.
Unfortunately, the administration’s floundering has only made students bolder since I graduated in 2016.
When President Donald Trump signed an executive order exempting religious groups from the Obamacare birth control mandate in 2017, Georgetown decided to continue coverage after a student protest. They didn’t announce the decision publicly, presumably because they wanted to appease the students while avoiding ire from the Catholic community.
This past fall, students started a campaign to defund the student group “Love Saxa,” which advocates for traditional marriage. Two students filed a complaint with the Student Activities Commission, claiming that the group’s definition of marriage — one that aligns with the Catholic Church — is intolerant and bigoted.
Luckily, the Student Activities Commission voted 8-4 in favor of “Love Saxa,” but the ruling is only a recommendation to the university’s director of student engagement. One can only pray that Georgetown will use the opportunity to reaffirm their Catholic identity.
However, it would be silly to say the odds are in “Love Saxa’s” favor given the university just approved “Crossroads: Gender and Sexuality,” a new living and learning community for the 2018-19 school year. According to a student who submitted the proposal, students “will now begin to have a unique residential space dedicated to exploring and understanding themselves and others in relation to gender and sexuality.” The LLC will indubitably advance leftist views on transgenderism, gender neutrality, and same-sex marriage.
Free speech is vital to any democratic society, and I am glad that students feel that they can talk about and advocate for their own beliefs, even if they differ from the Catholic Church. But Georgetown’s primary mission as a private Jesuit university is to advance Catholic ideals through education.
I’m not the first person to notice the university’s descent into modern conceptions of social justice over its Catholic identity, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. My friends and I often joked that the school is “Catholic In Name Only.”
In 2018, I hope Georgetown will recommit to promoting Catholic ideals on campus. Otherwise, they will continue to lose respect from Catholic leaders and students who expect them to live up to their Jesuit identity.