As an alumnus of Georgetown, I extend my sincerest, prayerful congratulations to John DeGioia as he assumes the Presidency of Georgetown. If I may borrow from Charles Dickens, he takes office at the best of times and the worst. The exciting challenges in Catholic higher education that greet him may be a part of the best. ay he and the university confront these challenges with Christ at their side – Christ who is at the center of our university’s raison d’être. As the president noted in his inaugural address, there are evils in this world that signal the worst of times. May it be God Incarnate who fortifies Georgetown’s president as he wisely exercises his office on behalf of Georgetown, the Society of Jesus, the world and the church.

My intention of writing is to complement – with occasional counterpoint – the principal themes presented by DeGioia at his inauguration. Although he mentioned Jesus in the context of the love commandment (which I shall momentarily address), he did not refer to Christ or God. But I am sure they were in his intentions as he spoke of Georgetown as a Catholic university. One cannot make this claim if Christ, Father and Holy Spirit are not accepted as the animating force that founded, sustain and direct theu niversity and its mission. And what is it to be a Jesuit university? His Eminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles once stated that for an institution to be Jesuit requires an intensification of its being Catholic.

DeGioia noted that Georgetown’s mission is at the core of its identity and existence. To explicate this, he addressed three issues concerning: (1) the work of “the House of Intellect;” (2) the role of the Catholic university as the border where Church and world meet; and (3) the moral imperative of justice in the Catholic institution.

In answering the first question, he argued that the university is an “interpretive community” – a community of communities. Implicit in this assertion is the belief that we live in a diverse environment of dissimilar or conflicting cultures and understandings about the meaning of human existence. He noted that it is duality that drives human creativity and critique; however, these in turn generate tension and conflict. For him, tension and conflict are good because they sustain the university and its role. But, as a Catholic university, it must also have the task of searching for wisdom and truth, God’s rather than man’s. It is only with God’s assistance that human ingenuity can reconcile the conflicts that rob humanity of its hope, its spirit, and its ability to flourish.

In addressing the second question posed, he noted that the Catholic university must relate faith and reason, nature and grace, reason and revelation. He properly noted the role of Ignatian spirituality in this confounding task. For those unfamiliar with Ignatian spirituality, DeGioia’s response may be misunderstood. The deep truth of which he speaks is God Himself. Although a mystery, God, as Ignatian spirituality teaches, can be encountered. It is the Spirit of God and God incarnate who lead the inquiring mind away from the falsehoods of human whim and to the truth. And, this truth is the transcendent and objective moral order of God who frees us from the human-made fetters of this world. It is God’s illuminating truth that dispels the darkness separating the church and the world. It is acceptance of God’s gift of wisdom that inspires human reason and directs the inquiry of each person’s mind.

The third issue presented concerns the moral imperative of justice. But what kind of justice and who is to be its judge? The President talked about Jesus and the love commandment: love one another, both neighbor and enemy. But what about love of God? Surely this is crucial to what Jesus taught. A lawyer once asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded: “Love God and love the neighbor; there is no greater commandment than these.” Jesus took two commands regarding love and made them into one. This conflation was no accident. Jesus demonstrated the inextricable nature of what God asks each of us. We cannot love our neighbor without loving God, and we cannot love God without loving our neighbor. To do otherwise is to avoid what God asks. In a Jesuit university, we must be clear that justice cannot be the kind defined by human caprice. Rather, it must be the justice of God as taught by Christ.

DeGioia concluded his moving address by noting that from his 26 years of experience, he has observed the increasing strength of Georgetown’s great mission and bold destiny. He identified the animation of this robust progress as the “beating heart of this extraordinary community.” But what makes the shared heart of Georgetown beat? St. Paul provides an answer in his letter to the Ephesians: “May Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, and may his charity be the root and foundation of our lives and all that we do.”

With St. Paul’s advice as a driving force of Georgetown, we can be confident in proclaiming, as I am sure DeGioia intended, that the heart which beats in this extraordinary community is sturdy and resilient because it is the heart of Christ.

Robert John Araujo is a professor of law at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and an advisor to the Holy See. He recieved his bachelor’s degree and J.D. from Georgetown University.

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