Some readers in the combox have pointed me to the full text of Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia. Some of the text of DeGioia that was not part of the original Lifesite story upon which I commented show that he did try to draw the distinction between the sin and the sinner in his remarks. In fairness, they should be understood in context.
Apparently, this action by DeGioia comes on the heels of a recent assault upon a self identified homosexual student. This deplorable act is being treated as a homophobic hate crime. I do not know the details but I take it on faith that the student was assaulted because of his sexual identification. It goes without saying that such an act is deplorable and fundamentally unchristian. In that context, DeGioia says the following:
As an administrator, it is my role and responsibility to ensure that the conditions for success are present. As an administrator of a University with a 218-year commitment to a Catholic and Jesuit identity, I need to ask myself two questions as I undertake these responsibilities. What are the resources that the Catholic moral tradition brings to the core work of providing an educational environment in which every individual can flourish? Which ways of working towards this goal are most appropriate and authentic to our Catholic and Jesuit identity, and which are not?
These are complex questions. They bring to the surface areas of uncertainty or disagreement among members of a community. As an administrator I ask myself, how can we be most authentically a university, and most authentically Catholic and Jesuit, as we work to sustain and strengthen this community in all of its complexity? In these matters before us this evening, I rely heavily on the pastoral message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops entitled, Always Our Children. I believe this document captures the very best of the religious tradition that has served as the foundation of this community since our founding at the birth of the republic itself.
Finally, as a parent, I ask myself questions in a deeply personal way. If I were to learn that my son, or some other member of my family, were to be affected by decisions for which I have responsibility, would I feel good about these decisions? Can I square the approaches I take as an educator and an administrator with my own moral commitments as a parent? What parent would not want all of the support that can be provided to enhance the capacity of their sons or daughters to realize their potential? If my son lived in this community, how would I hope this community would respond to his needs? Would I want to know that everything possible was being done to protect him from the threat of verbal or physical assault, and the feelings of insecurity that result?
I bring these three dimensions of my identity to the questions which we are here to discuss tonight. How do we respond to legitimate requests for a more supportive environment? We can continue to do this in a somewhat informal manner that builds on somewhat unpredictable and ad hoc efforts and activities of members of our community. Or we can move forward in a more organized way, through more formal and institutional structures and processes.
Broadly speaking, the students communicated to me their ideas for improvement in four areas:
* — The University’s formal reporting of incidents of bias and hate;
* — The allocation of resources currently organized under the position of the part-time LGBTQ resource coordinator;
* — The use of educational programs to promote the inclusion of, and respect for, the LGBTQ community;
* — and the need for a more visible and effective LGBTQ working group.
In order to do this work, we will need to pay close attention to the nature of the work that will be done. At a Catholic and Jesuit university, a University administrator or Center cannot advocate for policies or practices that are counter to Catholic teaching. All work must be consistent with, and authentic to, our identity as a Catholic and Jesuit university. Part of my responsibility as an administrator, and ours as inheritors of this University, is to ensure that nothing can compromise the integrity of our mission and identity.
At the same time, at the heart of the Catholic tradition we find resources that profoundly support our work for LGBTQ students. I am referring, for example, to the Catholic insistence on the dignity and worth of each and every individual, the emphasis on social justice and multicultural understanding, and the Gospel call that we engage all of our sisters and brothers in a spirit of love. The character of our heritage supports the call to deepen the services and support we provide to LGBTQ students. Indeed, to bring some clarity to the term “advocacy,” at a Catholic and Jesuit university we most certainly can “advocate” for LGBTQ students. We can and must advocate for respect, inclusion, understanding, safety, mentoring, dignity, growth and equal opportunity. We can and must advocate for freedom from prejudice, exclusion, discrimination, and homophobia.
I thought it only fair to post the pertinent parts of the speech so that they could be understood in context. While DeGioia does at least try to draw some distinction between the sin and the sinner, I still think that his comments and actions tend to blur the lines between the two. Further the actions he has taken go beyond protecting these students from fear of physical violence and intimidation to as he describes it ” freedom from prejudice, exclusion, discrimination, and homophobia.”
The simple fact is that a LGBTQ student organization exclude themselves from a Catholic identity when they persist in advocating for and participating in publicly manifest grave sin. One need not fund a group that advocates for sin in order to promote and insure freedom from violence and intimidation. Additionally, while their innate human dignity ought be respected at all times, they are not immune to ‘discrimination’ by virtue of their choices and actions. None of us are immune from such discrimination. A Catholic institution should never blur these lines.
While DeGioia states that “a University administrator or Center cannot advocate for policies or practices that are counter to Catholic teaching.” , I believe that this is willful credulity on his part. He, and certainly the LGBTQ community, understand well that the result will be exactly the opposite. It is the equivalent of passing out the loaded guns while saying that we cannot advocate for violence. The actions speak louder than the words.
While I applaud any and all efforts to insure the safety of all students, the actions of Georgetown in this case cannot be viewed as anything other than abandoning the its Catholic identity and advocating for sin.