Re-examining Our Jesuit Values for a Modern World
Take It From A Senior
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 00:09
When I leave the Hilltop, I’ll thank Georgetown for teaching me to examine my values.
I arrived here excited to explore what faith meant to others and how they use it to establish their own values. I wanted to take advantage of the Jesuit tradition Georgetown promotes to help me “wrestle with questions of faith and meaning,” as the Campus Ministry website puts it.
Before I applied, my tour guide told me that Georgetown was home to the first rabbi, imam and LGBTQ Center at a Catholic university. I was excited to attend a university that promised to promote interfaith dialogue. As a freshman, I got involved with Campus Ministry through ESCAPE, where I came to appreciate the Jesuit tradition of reflection. This led me to get further involved with Campus Ministry the following year, which helped me grapple with my own questions of faith.
For a school that professes such a strong commitment to open discourse regarding faith, it is unsettling where Georgetown chooses to draw the line on what is worthy of reflection and what is not. From what I’ve learned, the Catholic Church has clear doctrines on issues regarding the death penalty and divorce. Surprisingly, there are no rules preventing the College Republicans from advocating for the death penalty or the Georgetown Law Center from teaching “Marriage and Divorce,” a class that trains future lawyers to dissolve the institution of marriage.
Why then, are campus groups forbidden from engaging in an open dialogue regarding one of the most polarizing issues of our time: a woman’s right to choose? At Georgetown, I’ve established that one of my core values lies in respecting women’s agency and independence. My education has helped me see that inconsistent enforcement of religious doctrine promotes injustice, particularly when targeted at a historically marginalized group. The difference between women’s health issues and the issues of the death penalty and divorce is irrelevant to balanced discourse.
Members of GU Right to Life see a portion of their tuition go toward a club that engages discussion on an issue that is important to them, and I support their ability to do so. University resources engage only one side of the debate, however, preventing students from fully understanding how their faith might relate to a difficult decision. As a Catholic university, Georgetown must establish criteria for the extent to which issues can fundamentally oppose Catholic teachings before being excluded from campus dialogue. Unfortunately, Georgetown has, seemingly arbitrarily, decided to draw the line at issues that affect women. This is not dialogue; this is dogma.
Georgetown may have every legal right to ban speakers who promote a woman’s right to choose, but it should then reframe its mission statement from promoting “serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs” to one that makes it clear to every applicant that if his tradition conflicts with the university’s stance on women’s health issues, it is unworthy of examination.
I wish that I had considered this as a freshman and had spent more time raising awareness of this issue. Too often, I look back at my time on the Hilltop and see amazing experiences overshadowed by missed opportunities. Georgetown has so much to offer and its opportunities can be daunting, but by finding your passion and examining it deeply, you can make the most of your time here. If I had thought more about what I truly value, I could have spent four years advocating for meaningful changes. But I guess that’s what the rest of my life is for.
Maxwell Wallace is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. TAKE IF FROM A SENIOR appears every other Friday in the guide.