On January 20, the Cardinal Newman Society released a 124-page dossier of allegations against Georgetown University concerning its Catholic identity. The news comes one week after the death of William Peter Blatty, writer and founder of the Father King Society.
The recent controversy surrounding Georgetown University’s commitment to Catholic doctrine began in 2013, when concerned alumni filed a formal complaint with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington. By October 2013, Cardinal Wuerl passed the petition to Rome.
Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, responded to the petition and described it as a “well-founded complaint.” Though the Vatican denied the petitioners’ request for “hierarchic recourse,” which could suspend an administrative decree, the Archbishop’s letter emphasized the gravity of the situation at Georgetown.
No major actions have been taken by the Vatican in response to the petition.
The recent complaint is not without precedent. In 1991, Georgetown was reprimanded by Cardinal James Hickey for former Dean of Student Affairs John DeGioia’s authorization to fund “a pro-abortion student organization.” In this case, complaints were again sent to Pope John Paul II, but no action was taken because the university reversed its actions.
Although the Cardinal Newman Society has been critical of several other Catholic universities in the U.S., Georgetown University is the only one to face such canon law issues.
The recently released dossier, titled “Catholic Identity Concerns at Georgetown University,” lists university abuses on a range of subjects including Mission and Identity, Leadership, Academics, Campus Life, Homosexuality, and Lectures and Honors.
According to the report, its purpose is not to “make judgement as to Georgetown University’s conformity to Ex corde Ecclesiae,” rather it aims to document the “concerns that we have observed.”
In the Academics section, twenty four profiles describe faculty members that have serious conflicts with Catholic teaching including Madeline Albright, Donna Brazile, Maggie Little and Edward Ingebretsen–all of whom advocate for same-sex marriage or abortion rights.
John Podesta, who allegedly joked about a “Catholic Spring” earlier this year, was another member listed in the dossier. Podesta has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Georgetown Law since 1995.
Hunter Estes, the Grand Knight of Georgetown’s Knights of Columbus, agreed in part with the complaints against Georgetown. In an email to The Georgetown Review, he said that Georgetown often presents a “surface-level version of Catholicism.”
Estes noted the commitment Georgetown has to preaching love and kindness but maintained that they “ignore much of what lies below the surface, the deeper, and often more difficult, moral teachings of the church.”
“They proudly promote the values that many students want to hear, but not the ones they need to hear,” he said.
The university responded to the dossier in a statement released by Ryan King, Media Relations Manager for Georgetown University.
“Our Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger,” the statement read. “Georgetown remains firmly committed to the sanctity and human dignity of every life at every stage.”
The university pointed to numerous opportunities for student to “deepen their understanding and commitment to their Catholic faith” including theology requirements, campus ministry programs, liturgical services, retreats and social justice programs.
The administration did not comment on how Georgetown plans to respond, should the Vatican demand any reforms.