VIEWPOINT Politics, Not Jesuit Identity Real Basis in Policymaking By Bryan Stockton

It’s been politics as usual at Georgetown this year. Both sides on a variety of issues have thrown around vague concepts of “Catholic identity” and “Jesuit tradition.” I’ve come to believe that any side can use the Catholic, Jesuit heritage argument to support anything. I’m tired of seeing the Catholic, Jesuit tradition used as a means to justify political ends.

I disagree with many areas of Catholic teaching, but I am mature enough to respect it as it is and to respond to those who try to twist the teaching into something it is not. I understand that Catholic tradition is not on my side when I argue that priests need not be celibate. I don’t use Catholic tradition to justify why contraception should be used to curb rampant population growth.

While I disagree with the Church’s position that all contraception is immoral, I was amused by Prisca Milliance’s piece last week [“Contraceptives Needed at On-Campus Venues,” March 15, 2002, The Hoya, p. 3], which erroneously twists history and bends logic. Her references to “Jesuit tradition” or “John Carroll” are horribly out of context. She writes that John Carroll would not want “a sizeable portion of this university’s population to be at risk to various sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned parenthood as a result of the lack of contraceptives available on campus.” Milliance is both right and wrong. John Carroll would have been horrified by STDs or unplanned parenthoods on campus, but as an 18th century Jesuit, he wouldn’t have advocated birth control either. His realistic response would probably have been, “Keep your pants on.”

In another interesting development, Vice President for Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez explained that he would hire a staff member to support and coordinate for LGBT students. He based his decision on the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis – care for the whole person. Ironically, proponents used the same language to support the creation of the center. However, Gonzalez rejected the proposed center and its proposed staff member a few weeks ago because he said it could not avoid advocating positions that ran contrary to Catholic identity.

Thus, Catholic identity was used to support the center, to oppose it and finally to hire a staff coordinator for LGBT affairs. If hiring a staff member tasked to LGBT issues, arguably the most controversial part of the proposed center, did not violate Catholic identity, then why did he skirt making a decision for months? Proponents of the center had to lobby for him to make a decision even after his self-imposed deadline had passed. There should be no reason that this decision – and I think it is a fair compromise – should have taken so long.

Unfortunately, the reason is politics. Most administrative decisions are based not on any kind of Catholic, Jesuit heritage but on politics, plain and simple. The university toes the line between embarrassment from litigation and the national media on the left and the influence of conservative donors on the right. Gonzalez probably hired the LGBT staff coordinator just as much out of a concern about the development of the “whole person” as out of embarrassment from continuing LGBT/GAAP weekend protests.

Georgetown needs to more clearly define what its values are. As regard to contentious groups, the university should clarify how it distinguishes between recognition and funding. This policy would help prevent muddled decision-making. While I understand that many issues need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, I want the university to be less reactive and more proactive in deciding matters.

But if the university is not, and the ideas of Catholic identity are stretched further and further by either side, eventually the threads will unravel. In that case, Georgetown will find itself holding nothing.

Bryan Stockton is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of The Hoya editorial board.

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