Georgetown: Final Examinations for the Bishops

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There is no doubt that the Church in America is being tried and tested.  Not that she hasn’t been through this before, and not that it is a test isolated to the American prelates – but let not this diminish the current reality in which we find ourselves.  Make no mistake: the American Church is at a crossing point, or rather at the point of the Cross.  If the events of the last four years are not evidence enough, the sufficient proof lies in the unprecedented, stalwart response by our Episcopacy to at least two events: the invitation of President Obama to speak at Notre Dame’s general commencement ceremony, and the recent attack on religious liberty by the Department of Health and Human Services led by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Yet those opposed to the Church (in many cases from within the Church herself) will not relent so easily; it would be naive to think otherwise.  The attacks of the last couple years have not been the first, and they most certainly will not be the last.  While Christian hope teaches us that the battle has been won … while we know ahead of time the outcome of the great cosmic struggle between good and evil … we also know that it will be a battle until the end.  And each of us, as a Catholic faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, must decide what part he will play in the inevitable victory.  So too must each Bishop.  He must listen to the call of our Lord present in his consecration as the successor of the Apostles, and he must stand firm in his role to defend and protect the Church from the onslaught of prejudice, injustice, and violence against the human person.  When we stand before the Lord at the end of it all, we will not be judged on the final outcome of the war – that victory belongs to Christ and His Cross – but we will be judged on what part we played, or failed to play, as individuals to bring about the triumph of the Cross.
“The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”  How often have we as Catholics read these words from our Lord?  How often have we rested in the comfort of a promise that speaks to the Church’s indefectibility?  And rightly so, for contained in these words is the assurance that the Church will prevail until the end.  Yet lest we reduce these words to merely a defensive strategy, consider that the Lord did not say, “The gates of the Church shall withstand the attacks of Hell.”  The “gates” of which he speaks are not those that protect the Church from the advance of Hell’s army.  No, the gates in this passage are the gates of Hell, and Christ’s promise is that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church.  These words are words of spiritual warfare, for in them we find more than the Church’s charge to defend herself against evil – we find too a clarion call for the Church to attack the gates of Hell.
The Church finds herself in a time of trial, and the Bishops are to be commended for there defense against evil.  Yet it seems that we are forever being reactive.  Of course, this will always be the case to one degree or another – for the advance of evil will not cease.  Yet perhaps it is time to go on the offensive so we can see the reality of Christ’s promise to Peter, a promise that foretells the crumbling of Hell’s gates.  Perhaps it is time to call a spade a spade, to refer to evil by its proper name, and to stop waiting for events that will eventually require a response.
This is all contextual, of course, for on Friday morning we read that Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, has invited the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to be a commencement speaks at their Public Policy Institute.  (For the sake of clarity, this is not the university’s general commencement.)  Is this better or worse than the Notre Dame scandal from a few years ago in which President Obama was invited to speak at the general commencement?  I leave that to those who want to attempt a more formal analysis of the two situations.  For my own part, there are at least three reasons why this event at Georgetown stands out even from Obama’s infamous “common ground” speech in which he promised to work with the Catholic Church.
First, this event comes after the Notre Dame speech.  For the first time in a recent memory, the United States Episcopacy spoke out vigorously against a University that would invite a speaker who is in public and direct conflict with the teachings of the Church and the message of Jesus Christ.  The impressive thing about the response was its form, not as a generic letter from the USCCB, but as individual letters from over 80 bishops.  The message was clear: those opposed to basic teachings on life and liberty should not be invited to spread their message at a Catholic institution.  Moreover, they should not be bestowed degrees of honor.  In light of this, there is no other way to interpret Georgetown’s invitation to Ms. Sebelius: this is a deliberate statement that the administration at this Catholic university cares not what the American episcopacy thinks or teaches.  They have no intention of listening to their Church, but rather will continue to act as they see fit.  In other words, they are attempting to usurp the bishops and make themselves a separate magisterium.
Second, Secretary Sebelius’ invitation comes in the context of the HHS debacle.  If the response to Obama’s presence at Notre Dame was impressive, consider that 191 bishops representing 100% of dioceses in the United States issued a personal statement agains the HHS mandate.  To make it worse, the invitation was extended to the individual who is largely responsible for the mandate.  Once more, there is no other interpretation: the Georgetown administration is in direct conflict with the entire American episcopacy, saying to them that the staunch rejection of the HHS mandate matters not.  They are an independent university, and they will invite who they will.
Third, Sebelius is Catholic.  While President Obama’s lack of membership in our Church does not give him license to violate the basic principles of natural law in his private opinions or public policies, the Catholicism of the Secretary of Health and Human Services does seem to add a bit more weight to the scandal.  This is an individual that has persisted in grave, public, and manifest sin by supporting policies in contrary to her own Church, and for this reason she has been instructed not to present herself for communion in both her home diocese of Kansas City and the diocese of Washington D.C.  While she has not been formally excommunicated, what does it say that a Catholic institution would invite to speak an individual who has consciously separated herself from full communion with the Catholic Church?  If Kathleen Sebelius is guilty of scandal, how much more is the administration at Georgetown?
I began with a call to battle, a call to not wait until situations such at these present themselves, but rather to attack them at their root.  Instead of defending the gates of Church against the advance of evil, perhaps the Church should beginning realizing her mission to advance on the gates of Hell.  An positive example of this in recent news is the instruction from the Vatican regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  In writing about this document, I mentioned how impressed I was with its specific nature.  In particular was the directive that “LCWR programs for (future) Superiors and Formators will be reformed, Speakers/presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by Delegate [Archbishop Sartain].”
Here’s a suggestion: in light of recent failures on the part of Catholic universities to exercise prudence in selecting candidates for large public speeches and the bestowal of honorary degrees, perhaps the American hierarchy should insist that any university wishing to consider themselves Catholic will have their list of speakers subject to the approval of the local Ordinary.  Perhaps they should take this upon themselves before the Vatican requires it, before “local Ordinary” is replaced by “the Delegate.”  Then again, maybe a Vatican response would be more effective.

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  1. When Cardinal Arinze (Pope Benedict XVI’s special envoy) spoke at Georgetown University, perhaps a year or two ago, two-thirds of the faculty walked off stage while he was speaking in protest and one half of the student body rose and walked out in protest to Cardinal Arinze’s condemnation of homosexual behavior. Their minds at Georgetown are made up, don’t bother them with the truth. When two-thirds of the faculty are insubordinate heretics, what hope is there for the faithful? If the School of Public Policy at Georgetown is so disabused of the truth, as is Sebelius, that they want her to speak, let the students ask sebelius how she can valid herself without acknowledging the existence of God?

  2. Too bad the Archdiocese of Washington has an archbishop whose preferred method of responding to such behavior is to imitate a doormat.

    Very convincingly, I’ll grant.

  3. The time is long overdue for the establishment of an imprimatur to guarantee that institutions that call themselves “Catholic” in some way or other are genuinely Catholic.

    Recent Church scandals grew from bishops looking the other way (or failing to even think to look) as problems grew and grew. This practice must stop. The ongoing lack of the proverbial ounce of prevention has already cost millions of souls – yet no cure is in sight.

  4. This is the opinion of a carpenter: Georgetown is an institution that has sustained catastrophic damage from the storm. It is unfit for human habitation. Repairs are possible but would be prohibitively expensive. The best use of resources would be to TEAR IT DOWN, completely disassociate this ruin from the rest of the Church that is still stable and habitable. The unstable nature of Georgetown is threatening the stability of the rest.

    Personally, I couldn’t give a fig for georgetown, all this hand-wringing over what to do is ridiculous! Disassociate from the institute, disown it and remove it from our common heritage. It’s been over for a long, long time.

  5. Olive branches will be pruned from the Tree – Romans 11:15-24:

    15* For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness * of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20* That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

  6. However it is done that an institution is cast out from the Church, Georgetown University should be. Cut the ties that bind, yank the funding and support, and let ’em be what they want to be. Defrock some priests, excommunicate a few administartion officials and de-list the whole thing.

    Round 1.

  7. Can one expect anything less of a supposedly Catholic institution residing in the fiefdom of the execrable Donald Cardinal Wuerl?

  8. Is this better or worse than the Notre Dame scandal from a few years ago in which President Obama was invited to speak at the general commencement?

    I am with you – i think it is worse for the reasons you give. Also, I am informed by a Notre Shame alumnus that inviting the sitting president to give a speech is some sort of tradition, so I suppose they had that fig leaf re Obama. With Sebelius, it is full monty.

    I don’t know what the Church can do to revoke official Catholicity from universities or other organizations, but it seems it is high time they do what they can.

  9. Is there a college “in the Jesuit tradition” which has not spit in the face of the Church? Bishops have no authority over institutions of religious orders. Thus have Jesuit institutions been able to mock the bishops in whose dioceses they are located.
    The history of the order with respect to political powers is not admirable. There is a reason for the opprobrious term “jesuitical”. It is finding excuses for immoral behavior. Consider that Georgetown [and Fordham] were originally funded from the sale of dark-skinned persons called “slaves”. The much criticised Roger Taney freed such persons as he inherited and gave them each a burse. The Jesuitical fathers sold them, and into the deep South. The current crop will point to the Jesuit martyrs, but they will not act like the Jesuit martyrs. They act instead like the Jesuit sellers of slaves.

  10. The lack of fidelity to the teachings of the Church Magisterium and the consequential promulgation of error throughout the Chuch in the United States, is especially scandalizing to the young and to those who are vulnerable to error because they do not know the faith. Our Lord Jesus was very clear in His admonishion to not lead others astray: Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of thes little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Matthew:18: 5-6: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    To many shepherds in the Catholic Church of the United States, the Lord has this to say: Jeremiah 23: 1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Jeremiah 50: 6 “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray”

    From the “YOUCAT” page 25: “Faith requires the free will and clear understanding of a person when he accepts the divine invitation.” Please notice and emphasize “clear understanding.” Clear understanding often has not been given because the Catholic Church in the United States has not been faithful to the witness of Authentic Truth as taught by the Churches Magistrium.

  11. Georgetown is in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Diocese. This mess is his responsbility since 2006. He has the authority to keep any organization or university from calling themselve’s Catholic. This is very important in saving souls and stopping the mortal sin of Scandal. Heresy and Schism abound with no action from the Cardinal in the Washington, DC area Diocese, because there has been no serious effort to actively encourage the reading of the CCC which all Catholics are required to adhere to.

  12. Code of Canon Law: “Can. 808 Even if it is in fact Catholic, no university is to bear the title or name of Catholic university without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”
    “Can. 810 §2. The conferences of bishops and diocesan bishops concerned have the duty and right of being watchful so that the principles of Catholic doctrine are observed faithfully in these same universities.”
    “Can. 812 Those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

    So what is Cardinal Weurl going to do about Georgetown in his Diocese?

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