Students, faculty, and the administration at Georgetown University have missed two opportunities to fully embrace their Catholic identity— and we’re just talking this semester. This institution of higher education has proven that it truly is a school that is Catholic in name only – something sad to say considering it is a school of distinction and happens to be the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States.
On April 26, 2012, Georgetown hosted Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Chairman of the House Budget Committee, as he spoke on “America’s Enduring Promise.” As the man behind the House budget proposal, “The Path to Prosperity,” Ryan has received some criticism for his budget proposal from Catholics. Some bishops in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have come out in opposition to Ryan’s budget because it allegedly cuts food stamps and aid to illegal immigrants.
Ryan has acknowledged their concern but says he must follow the law and not give tax credits to those who are in the United States illegally. Despite this criticism, he has defended himself. Part of that defense enlists the help of his Catholic faith.
Prior to appearing on Georgetown’s campus, 80 of the University’s fellows and professors signed a letter challenging Ryan’s understanding of his faith. This action shouldn’t come as a surprise. These members of Georgetown’s faculty were quick to judge and in so doing, they failed to do their own research. Ryan has consistently argued in favor of his budget and has done so as a man of faith.
National Review gets at the crux of Ryan’s defense. The Budget Committee Chairman explained to the magazine that he wants to “combine the virtues and principles of solidarity, which stress the benefits of the common good, with subsidiarity.” To him, the debt crisis, “demands an effective solution, but that doesn’t directly correlate with enlarging the federal government or raising taxes.” The principle of subsidiarity, long held as a Catholic outlook, means that where government action is required, that level of government that is closest to the problem is the one best suited to address it.
National Review states, “He [Ryan] doesn’t want to cede that argument to liberals, especially those within his own faith community.” Ryan stressed the fact that he does understand the Catholic faith and the social doctrine that comes along with it. He sees the need for solidarity and wants to benefit the common good.
“To me, those two principles are interconnected… I think a lot of folks have been selective in advocating some parts of the teaching,” Ryan explained in his interview.
He even went on to share that he has reflected on Light of the World, a book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI. Ryan said he thinks Catholics can learn from what the Pope says. He thinks it can serve as an example of how the Catholic Church takes the global debt problem seriously.
Ryan told National Review that if we don’t address the problems, what will happen is something the Pope has warned against. We will “live at the expense of future generations.”
But apparently Ryan’s consultation isn’t enough for the Jesuit University or its group of faculty members and students who have aligned with the self-proclaimed atheist-George Soros-funded Catholics United. When Ryan appeared at Georgetown last week nearly 30 students and others in association with Catholics United picketed outside during his speech. They claimed that he is trying to balance a budget “on the backs of the poor.” The Left has been trotting that slogan out since the Reagan years. It wasn’t true then either.
One student said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for Catholics… because in many ways American politics has divided us on every issue, except for this one.” Apparently, to them, 15 trillion dollars in debt at the expense of future generations is a good thing. The student later went on to say that he wasn’t an analyst but he was outside protesting Ryan, “out of obedience to the Catholic Church.”
This student’s “obedience” is interesting considering that this is the same University that gave us Sandra Fluke. We all know how “obedient” she was to the Catholic Church in her call for contraception.
Let’s rewind: In March, Fluke, a law student at the University, grabbed the media’s attention when she testified before Congress in defense of the Health and Human Services individual mandate that would compel private Catholic institutions to disregard something their faith teaches is wrong. Fluke was advocating for birth control and believes Georgetown should comply with the mandate. She was asking for university insurance for personal contraceptive use. After her testimony, Fluke became the poster child not just for Georgetown students but for female Catholic college students around the country. This was Georgetown’s finest – one auguring against a tenet of the Church. Fluke was and is a poor representation of a woman of faith working toward success.
So, as the semester at Georgetown draws to a close, what do they have to be thankful for? Two missed opportunities to let their faith shine and represent themselves as an institution rooted in both faith and reason. This is the goal, after all, of Catholic universities—to prepare men and women and ground them in the tools they need to be successful in the world— especially when it comes to the sharing of faith. Georgetown’s motto is “Utraque Unum” which translates “both into one.” It seems as though the University has failed in this motto to integrate faith and reason healthily.
Instead, this semester Georgetown proved to us that they are committed to an agenda that refuses to see the Catholic faith as it is intended. The University promoted freedom to have contraceptives instead of freedom of conscience. They promoted Catholics United instead of Catholic compassion.
Paul Ryan is far from being a saint, as most of us are. However, we should be thankful that a leader in the public arena is professing his faith and using it as a lay person called to service. This is something Church documents like Christifideles Laici invite and insist Catholics do. Georgetown overlooked that and they have missed the boat one again.
Jocelyn Grecko is an intern at the American Journalism Center,  a training program run by Accuracy in Media  and Accuracy in Academia . Jocelyn has spent the past four years in the nation’s capital as a Media Studies undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America. She will graduate in May 2012.
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