Is Georgetown Still Catholic?

May 2006By Tom Bethell

Tom Bethell is a Contributing Editor of the NOR and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (Regnery, 2005).

One evening in February my wife and I went to hear Patrick Reilly speak at Georgetown University. He is the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that he founded shortly after graduating from Fordham University 15 years ago. The Society is dedicated to the "renewal of Catholic identity" at Catholic colleges, and takes its cue from John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution for higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The general idea behind that document is that the mission of any university identified as Catholic should come from the heart ("ex corde") of the Church.

It came as a surprise to me to learn that as many as 224 colleges and universities in the U.S. are recognized as Catholic by the U.S. bishops. Georgetown is among the best known, perhaps second only to Notre Dame.

Georgetown is a Jesuit university, and in fact the oldest Catholic university in the country -- founded in 1789. It is located on the edge of the most fashionable part of Washington, D.C. The Exorcist was filmed there, and if you saw that scary (and actually pro-Catholic) movie, you saw the campus as it looked in the 1970s. It's not that much different today, at least as seen from the main quad.

Georgetown is highly rated, ranking no. 23 in the annual U.S. News & World Report survey. About one in five of those who apply for admission are accepted, and for the privilege they pay over $43,000 a year in tuition, room and board. As one might expect, the University is rolling in money, with an endowment of perhaps $750 million. Its most famous alumnus is former President Bill Clinton. A little over half the students identify themselves as Catholics.

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Back to May 2006 Issue

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Faithful and assenting Catholics need to understand that the enforcement of the Mandatum for theology instructors is a joke. As in the case of Cardinal McCarrick, it's not just a matter of professors refusing to get certified simply because they're liberal. Ex Corde Ecclesiae states (or at least implies) that theology faculty themselves are to approach the local ordinary to get approved (based on their presentation of orthodoxy). In my home diocese, the former auxiliary bishop (and vicar of education) did it backwards: he approached all theology faculty on his own, and granted them each the mandatum. Including the liberal ones! This bishop then declared to the media that all faculty in the diocese are certifiably "in compliance" with Catholic teaching. Mind you, when the enforcement of Ex Corde was approved by the American bishops, there was an outcry from several of these same faculty. This bishop simply avoided confrontation and controversey by going to them, handing them the approval, and essentially declaring that whatever they taught was authentic. Now, the two Catholic colleges in question were among the few "in compliance" with Ex Corde Ecclesiae. This is yet another pathetic example of Rome abdicating its authority, deferring to the American bishops to enfore Church law according to their individual whim. Then, clericalist right-wing lay groups like CUF, Regnum Christi (and scores of others) are duped into believing that the implementation of the mandate is pure, and will send their kids to these colleges. Perhaps it is some of the professors who openly REFUSE to seek the mandatum who are actually being HONEST here. They are forthright in saying they don't teach real Catholicism. Many others either declare it a private, "personnel" matter (so you don't know where they stand), OR, as in the example of my diocese, obtain it under dubious pretenses. Posted by: jjackson
May 01, 2006 09:49 PM EDT
Is Notre Dame still Catholic? Will someone pose that question to Fr Jenkins and Bishop D'Arcy? Posted by: lyricmac
May 01, 2006 10:31 PM EDT
At least Bishop D'Arcy recently released a nine-page pastoral letter suggesting that some of the goings-on at Notre Dame don't measure up to the Catholic standard -- e.g., staging The Vagina Monologues on campus. Posted by: nortemp
May 02, 2006 06:37 AM EDT
A very well-written and incisive piece that arrives with the added benefit of sticking to its subject and avoiding even one paragraph dedicated to what other people have said or written about NOR. More of that would be most welcome. james dc Posted by:
May 05, 2006 12:22 PM EDT
Change the name of the college to South Bend College and drop any reference to Our Lady. She should not be associated with such an institution. I wonder what Father Patrick Peyton would say as a CSC? He was so devoted to the Blessed Mother and brought us the phrase, "The Family that prays together, stays together." People didn't listen to him and look at the family since Vatican II when the so-called spirit of that 'council' downplayed the Rosary and worst yet, Our Lady. That mentality is long and hard to rectify. The Bishop there should exercise more than a letter of disappointment. Canonically, the CSCs cannot function in his diocese without his permission. He should toss them out. Father Jenkins should be laicized as well, although he'll probably get a promotion given the current practices in the American church especially. The only really Catholic colleges now are such institutions as Christendom under Dr. O'Donnell, Ave Maria, Thomas Aquinas and Franciscan University at Stubenville from which comes a lot of vocations. How many 'vocations' come from Notre Dame? By their fruits (no real pun intended) you shall know them. I am sure Our Lady must be more than disappointed that her name is associated with such a secular-minded institution. More so, I would imagine her Son is taking a very dim view of the spineless leadership in Indiana period. Perhaps in His Divine way, He will manifest His disappointment at smudging his Mother's name by permitting a severe drop in enrollment as Catholic parents and students discover that a real Catholic education loyal to the Magisterium can be had at the aforementioned colleges. Money is the name of the Catholic game and competition is far too keen to waste it on the likes of Notre Dame. As a Professor of Abnormal Psychology, I am well aware of college competition. Quality can be had at at Christendom and the others I mentioned, and quality is what is needed in lay leadership of the future as the Church continues to wrestle with the world. Graduates need to be adequately equipped to meet the challenges facing the church and family in the future. One can only attain such armor within the confines of solid Catholic teaching. Our Lady, seat of wisdom, pray for us. Posted by: Metroform
May 05, 2006 10:00 PM EDT
Yes, that is what he did, AT THE LEAST.

Lots of things going at ND don't measure up to Magisterium teaching, aside from The VM, or the gay film festival. Bishop D'Arcy has, at his discretion, the authority to declare that any institution of learning in the diocese has ceased
to be Catholic, based upon said institution's lack
of adherence to Magisterial teaching. This determination may be either temporary or permanent. His 'sadness' at the lack of orthodoxy by Fr Jenkins and ND is commendable.
However, a stronger response may be called for here, as Notre Dame has been on the slippery slope
for the past two decades(since Fr Hesburgh's day).
Posted by: lyricmac
May 03, 2006 12:42 AM EDT
The things I read about the Jesuits lately make me feel profoundly sad. The Society of Jesus was once an elite corps of the Church's defenders. It's as if the U.S. Marine Corps had been infiltrated and taken over by the Chinese Communist Party. How could this have happened? Posted by: Big Pete
May 17, 2006 10:55 AM EDT
I think its about time the Jesuits be suppressed again. The salt has lost its flavor and is good for nothing except to be trod underfoot.

When will the Vatican and specifically, His Holiness Pope Benedict clean up the filth in the Catholic Church in America?

We have failed our clergy by not praying for them. Satan is attacking us in the clergy and in this war, we are suffering tremendous casualties.

St Jean Vianney, pray for our priests! O Pastors of the Holy Church of God, repent and turn back to God before it is too late for you!
Posted by: acard944
December 20, 2007 11:46 PM EST
As a father with four children on their way to college, may I suggest three good institutions who are pro-Latin Mass and very pro-traditional Catholic:

Wyoming Catholic College

Thomas Aquinas College (near Santa Barbara)

University of Dallas
Posted by: conlee
December 23, 2007 11:23 PM EST
The state of the Jesuits is really sad - worse than sad as they have influenced people in authority negatively e.g. Fr Drinan and the notorius politicians in Wash dc who claim to be Catholic but support abortion and other issues anti-thetical to Church teaching. I do not give to my alma mater because it chooses to keep silent on who, if anyone, has the mandatum. From my viewpoint, a parent has a right, an obligation, to know if the university that their children select for a Catholic education is teaching in accordance with Church teaching. From many recounts of graduates, universities claiming to be Catholic are not teaching true to church teaching - Notre Dame and Georgetown some of the more notable. Instead of supporting my university, I chose to support Ave Maria because it is, so far, teaching in accordance with Church teaching. If the university doesn't want to fulfill it's responsibility, then the Bishops should, by providing, at least on request from the parents, information regarding the mandatum. As for Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, I don't know much about him, but I remember his ridiculous comments about giving communion to people like Senator Kennedy. According to the Archbishop, it was a matter of not politizicing communion as if it was not a priestly duty to deny communion to someone knowingly in serious sin. Patrick Reilly is doing a good job - good for him. If people/institutions want to call themselves Catholic, then they should act accordingly. May God have mercy on our souls. Posted by: wunsch
December 21, 2007 01:45 PM EST
The Jesuits should be once again suppressed to reinstruct them in the art of humility and the art of obedience. Posted by: gespin3549
February 22, 2008 09:01 AM EST
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