The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop Barry Knestout forwarded the following editorial from the Catholic Standard, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese. He asked the we priests share it in any way we deem appropriate with the people of the Archdiocese. In this matter.
Many of you write me and ask when and if the Archdiocese will speak out on this or that matter. In this matter, I am able to report that it has. And frankly the editorial pull no punches, as you will see. The original text is below in bold black italics. My comments are in plain red text. The original article is here: Cathstan.org and a PDF of it is here: Disappointed but Not Surprised
Late last Friday, Georgetown University announced that U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is the featured speaker for an awards ceremony at the University’s Public Policy Institute. This news is a disappointment but not a surprise.
As is well known, Secretary Sebelius is the architect of the “HHS mandate”, now federal law, which requires all employers — including religious institutions — to provide health insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives for its employees and redefines religious ministry to exclude Catholic social services, hospitals and universities if they serve or employ non-Catholics. Given her position, it is disappointing that she would be the person that Georgetown University would choose to honor.
Founded in 1789 by John Carroll, a Jesuit priest, Georgetown University has, historically speaking, religious roots. So, too, do Harvard, Princeton and Brown. Over time, though, as has happened with these Ivy League institutions, Georgetown has undergone a secularization, due in no small part to the fact that much of its leadership and faculty find their inspiration in sources other than the Gospel and Catholic teaching. Many are quite clear that they reflect the values of the secular culture of our age. Thus the selection of Secretary Sebelius for special recognition, while disappointing, is not surprising.
Pay close attention to this paragraph. The editorial, while not using canonical language, in effect sets forth the view that Georgetown has largely become a secular University, along the line of Harvard, Yale et al. It goes even further, stating that the primary source of inspiration at Georgetown is not the Gospel or Catholic teaching, but instead, is other unnamed sources.
To be clear, there are surely some very fine teachers and students on campus. I know at least several who are striving to maintain some semblance of Catholic identity there. It remains true that Mass is still offered on campus, but that is true of Secular universities as well.
So, what is Catholic about Georgetown? Very little, it would seem by the editorial’s assessment. This assessment, I know, many of you will share, in the wake of one discouragement after another emanating from the campus of Georgetown.
Blessed John Paul II, in his 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, invites Catholic universities into a relationship of faith and excellence. He calls them to share in the Church’s task of bringing the Gospel and Christian values into the culture of our day.
He reminds us that a Catholic university is “a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism… Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic University are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church,” among them, “dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood” (ECE I: B.4.49).
Basic Catholic Mission stuff here. Sadly Georgetown and many other Catholic Universities are not clear on “Job 1.”
One can only wonder how the selection of Secretary Sebelius for such a prominent role as a featured speaker can be reconciled with the stated Catholic mission and identity of Georgetown University. Secretary Sebelius’ vision on what constitutes faith-based institutions presents the most direct challenge to religious freedom in recent history.
Yes, I wonder if Georgetown and others who think like this, have any idea where intrusive government will end? It does not take a prophet to see that if the Federal Government can intrude on a matter like this (Catholic sexual and life teachings) which many at Georgetown sniff at, that the same Government will be back with more demands.
And these demands, the faculty and administration at Georgetown may be less sanguine about. Who is to say and more conservative administration could not demand that Georgetown teach, facilitate, and fund abstinence based programs as part of a healthcare mandate, or perhaps that they require all students and employees to contribute to and pay for a pro-life crisis pregnancy center to help bring babies to term, and that they fund an adoption agency on campus to encourage single moms to adopt their children to intact families. What if all this was in a future health care mandate that sought to preserve and foster the lives of infants and Georgetown was required to pay for all this?
I doubt Georgetown faculty and staff would be so sanguine about this, and say, “Well of course Government knows best, and if Government calls this women, infant and children’s healthcare, who are we to say no?” No, I rather doubt Georgetown would be inviting the HHS Secretary from a conservative administration proposing this. If they did, the protests would be so thick, that he or she couldn’t even get on campus.
But wake up Georgetown! You celebrate a woman who is helping to gut religious liberty. But your religious liberty is just as much on the line as any one else’s. Uncle Sam will be back, and you might not be so pleased the next time. Time for sobriety Georgetown.
On the same weekend that the Georgetown announcement was made, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of Catholic education and the intellectual and cultural challenges of the New Evangelization in the context of contemporary American society. The Holy Father recalled that during his pastoral visit to America in April 2008, in his homily at the Mass at Nationals Stadium, he called on the Church in America to cultivate “a mindset, an intellectual culture which
is genuinely Catholic”. Last weekend he reiterated the need for American Catholic institutions of higher learning to commit to “building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America’s civic and cultural heritage”.
With all of the people struggling so hard to preserve freedom of religion, and with all that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has said in defense of this important value, Georgetown’s choice of the architect of the radical challenge of such freedom for special recognition can only be seen as a statement of where the university stands – certainly not with the Catholic bishops. Clear and unambiguous
Georgetown University’s response to the commencement speaker decision is disappointing, but not surprising. When the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching, there are, of course, disappointing results.
In other words, the fruit does not fall far from the tree. And the editorial could not be more clear, the vision at Georgetown is not the Gospel and it is not Catholic teaching.
So who wrote this? The editorial is unsigned. But the Catholic Standard is the official paper of the Archdiocese of Washington. As such it is a recognized voice of the Archdiocese and editorials like this are not published without review by the Cardinal’s senior staff.
I hope you will agree that the editorial lays out a very serious need for soul searching at Georgetown. And, while some of you may wish that universities like Georgetown would have long ago been censured and/or had their Catholic identity officially removed, that involves extensive and careful canonical procedures. I have no knowledge that any such actions are underway or have ever been tried in the past. And such matters are wholly left to the pastoral discretion of the bishops. I think we ought to allow the bishops their rightful prudential judgements in these sorts of matters and not be too hypercritical of them. They know a lot more than we ever will, and they have a bigger picture in mind as well, as they try to hold everyone as close to Christ as possible.
In your comments please consider charity, and remain prayerful about this matter, as I know most of you do.
This video is from the Cardinal Newman Society