Georgetown is my alma mater, and I have many fond memories of the college at which I matriculated almost fifty years ago. I had many fine Jesuit and lay teachers (amongst the latter, not all were Catholic but understood, respected, and celebrated the institution’s mission and identity as a Catholic and Jesuit center of learning) who helped me simultaneously cultivate my mind and soul. I don’t think I would have the same experience today if I were matriculating in the present day.
Why? Was the decision to change the soul of the institution intentional? Probably not. But change has happened through decisions that persons responsible for the nature and soul of Georgetown have made freely over the years. The evidence of the withering of the Catholic soul has grown during the passage of time. I cannot say if there is still time for Georgetown, and other schools pursuing the same path, to self-prune, but I pray for this. Being an optimist, I want to say there may well be a final opportunity, but the time is growing short, very short, for this to happen.
Almost twenty-two years have passed since Blessed John Paul II issued his apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae addressing many important matters concerning Catholic universities, their mission, and their identity. Some of the institutions which claim the modifier “Catholic” have taken the counsel of JPII to heart, but others have not. Georgetown is in the latter category, so it appears, judging from all the currently available evidence. Today I join the appeal of Professor Patrick Deneen and others acknowledging that much will be lost when this, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, takes that final step that severs itself from the Vine of Christ. As I said, there may still be time, and if there is, it is preciously little. The bonfire that may result is not one of vanity but of a soul. With the soul gone, the vanity will remain.