Catholic student groups respond to H*yas for Choice and United Feminists

H*yas for Choice and United Feminists’ announcement that they were undertaking a joint campaign to pressure Georgetown into changing its reproductive rights policies has upset or confounded a number of students.

Now, members of several Catholic groups on campus have responded with a letter to President John DeGioia in support of the University’s current policies, in which they aim to refute the arguments made by HFC and UF that a Jesuit University can and should provide contraceptives, comprehensive sexual education in its medical facilities, and allow for greater dialogue about related topics.

“The students who are currently advocating this ‘Plan A’ campaign fail to understand our identity; they use terms such as ‘Catholic,’ ‘Jesuit,’ and ‘cura personalis’ without a basic understanding of their significance. Although perhaps not grounded in a willful ignorance, their argument nonetheless demonstrates a thorough and pervasive hostility for Georgetown as a Catholic institution rooted in the rich tradition of the Society of Jesus,” the letter states.

Here’s the full letter, which was sent to Vox by Georgetown Academy Editor David Gregory (COL ’10):

Dear President DeGioia,

It has come to our attention that United Feminists and H*yas for Choice have recently submitted an open letter to your office and the University community at large. We are writing in response in order to point out the errors within their campaign and thought process. We do this not to over-dramatize this issue – which has resurfaced on a regular basis over the past two decades – or to belittle the University’s competency with regards to handling this campaign. We simply write to support our beloved University’s ideals and identity, which inhere within every facet of Georgetown’s operations and campus life.

The students who are currently advocating this “Plan A” campaign fail to understand our identity; they use terms such as “Catholic,” “Jesuit,” and “cura personalis” without a basic understanding of their significance. Although perhaps not grounded in a willful ignorance, their argument nonetheless demonstrates a thorough and pervasive hostility for Georgetown as a Catholic institution rooted in the rich tradition of the Society of Jesus. They advocate for “dialogue,” yet fail to engage in true dialogue given their ignorance of Catholic Social Teaching; there can be no dialogue without preliminary understanding, only empty accusations.

United Feminists and H*yas for Choice define our Catholic identity as “narrow,” and believe that the University’s identity “dangerously compromises Georgetown’s commitment to social justice.” In reference to Catholic Social Teaching, their position is clearly problematic, as it blatantly and simplistically dismisses our ideal that every human life is a sacred vessel of God’s creative love. That every human being is a beloved child of God, regardless of developmental stage in the womb, social or economic status, race, gender, or sexual orientation, lies at the root and ground of Catholic Social Teaching. There cannot, as we know and believe, be true justice without this fundamental recognition.

In quoting the Speech and Expression Policy, these students fail to understand the word “freedom” in the positive sense – freedom directed toward the good of the individual – and instead advocate for a negative “freedom” – “freedom” to do whatsoever one pleases. They draw excerpts from official documentation in order to support their ideas, yet ignore the statement contained in Access to Benefits that a student group which “directly and substantially advocates positions inconsistent with Roman Catholic moral tradition” will not be given recognition. United Feminists and H*yas for Choice twist and misrepresent terminology which they not only misunderstand, but hold in disdain.

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addresses this fallacious logic in his most recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate:

“I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility….Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the ‘economy’ of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.”

Given the nature of Georgetown University as an apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church, it is incontrovertible that the fundamental demands of the “Plan A Campaign” are completely unacceptable, namely that H*yas for Choice be made an official student organization and that condoms be provided on campus. United Feminists is acting unilaterally, maintaining a position that is fundamentally unfair to its members who do not support this campaign; not everyone in the feminist movement at Georgetown is pro-choice, and this action is alienating and divisive for the feminist movement on our campus. We do not write on behalf of our organizations as a whole, simply as a small contingent of concerned individuals, though we will bring this issue to the attention of the communities to which we belong.

We propose a call for action as well, a forum for an honest and frank discussion amongst students. We view this dispute as an opportunity to promote true dialogue and true education, an opportunity to foster greater understanding and respect amongst students who adhere to contradicting value and belief systems.

Yours in Christ,

Brigid Bower, COL 2011—Director, 2011 Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

Caitlin Devine, COL 2010—Director, 2010 Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life—Past President, GU Right to Life

Jennifer Dixon, COL 2011—Co-President, Catholic Student Association

Gabriela Maria Fernandez, SFS 2010—Treasurer, GU Catholic Daughters of the Americas

David Gregory, COL 2010—Editor-in-Chief, The Georgetown Academy—Past Grand Knight, GU Knights of Columbus

Gabriella Hook, COL 2011—President, GU Right to Life

Joseph Kapusnick, SFS 2010—Past Grand Knight, GU Knights of Columbus

Kieran Raval, COL 2013—Advocate, GU Knights of Columbus

Steven Ryckbosch, COL 2011—Grand Knight, Knights of Columbus

Photo by Flickr user Reznicek111 used under a Creative Commons license.

56 Comments on “Catholic student groups respond to H*yas for Choice and United Feminists

  1. The Church’s teaching on marriage and thus sexual intercourse (which finds its proper place, true purpose, and fulfillment in marriage) rests on a two-fold understanding:

    1. Unity
    2. Procreation

    Artificial contraceptives (condoms, hormones etc) place a physical or chemical barrier in the way of the marital act, thus not the same as “the rhythm method” (what I would call Natural Family Planning, or NFP). In NFP there exists no artificial, human-imposed barrier in the marital act. Thus while conception is UNLIKELY due to the timing of intercourse, it is not IMPOSSIBLE, as the couple is still open to the gift of life. Artificial contraception shuts down that openness. The philosophical understanding behind the Church’s teaching on contraception goes something like this: Sex is meant to be an expression of the total self-giving of oneself to another (thus why it exists in marriage, the formal relationship that is characterized by the total gift of self to another, witnessed by the community, sealed with vows). When one uses contraception, he is holding back part of himself from his spouse- he is holding back his fertility, the beautiful God-given gift wherein one participates with God and his spouse in the creation of a new life.

    No one, certainly not the Church, is saying that sex can’t and shouldn’t be pleasurable. It was designed by God to be pleasurable, a great gift he has given us. I hope we can have enough of an intellectual conversation wherein you spare us the “I’m sure Jesus would have…” cliches.

    As for the Joy of sex workshop, I’m thinking you are mistaking that for a sex positive week event. The Joy of Sex was a talk (an excellent one if I do say so) given by Dr. Bill Mattison as part of the Office of Mission and Ministry’s ongoing series “the sacred and the sexual”. Again, I think you are mixing up events, as we had two vice presidents at the event, Fr. Boroughs and Dr. Olsen as well as Fr. O’Brien… hardly the “university distancing itself from the event”.

  2. Bottom line is, each and every student who chose to attend this place did so, I’m hoping, with the understanding that it possessed a Catholic identity…and as a Catholic, private institution, Georgetown has a prerogative to craft its policies around Catholic teaching, to say nothing of its obligation to do so. It’s that simple.
    I’m happy there are people of many different faiths and values who attend this school – it helps make our community so vibrant and unique – and it is fitting that the university accommodate this reality to some extent. But just as Georgetown harbors no expectations for them to change their beliefs to conform with its own, so too would it be unreasonable for anyone to demand that Georgetown compromise its own values to match there’s… I realize that there are many compelling arguments on the other side, and many employ words like “justice” and “inclusiveness”; but this issue runs far deeper than ensuring that the doors are handicap accessible or providing vegan/vegetarian options at Leo’s

  3. Hey, remember that time David Gregory stood outside a girls room banging on her door yelling, “BUT ITS AN AGAPE LOVE…AN AGAPE LOVE!”? I do!

    One has to wonder with an issue like this whether or not the idea of a religious university is even possible. The idea that you can actually create an environment of open and unbiased intellectual thought at a “Catholic University” seems pretty silly…

  4. @Kieran:
    “Also, as for the use of contraceptives in places like Africa, the Church is unwavering in her teaching: the ends don’t justify the means. Pope Benedict has reiterated this a number of times. In fact, his assertions/Church teaching have been backed up by science: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825.html

    I was intrigued by that statement, and so read the article. I want to correct something you wrote that might confuse people: the article backs up the Pope’s statement about condoms _not_ scientifically (as in, condoms don’t work because of some chemical or construction principle), but culturally.

    The article states the Pope is right solely in regards to African countries because the men there don’t want to wear condoms. In any society, yes, abstinence and faithfulness work best, since abstinence does have total effectiveness against STDs and pregnancy. But I think they should go hand-in-hand with condoms: be faithful and wait for sex, but wear a condom anyway to ensure against pregnancy, STDs, etc…purely practical. In another society, where men won’t stop having sex, then condoms likely should be promoted more due to that cultural difference. (The article even mentions Thailand, where condoms are what have reduced the STD rate because diseases are passed through commercial sex.)

  5. As a JSA member I want to clear something up.

    @Non-catholic said “I just think it’s funny that GU can fund groups who believe and advocate with their heart of hearts that Jesus was just some dude with delusions of grandeur, but people who believe and advocate that you wrap it up are a terrible affront to the integrity of the University.”

    People are saying that Jews actively advocate the idea that Jesus wasn’t divine and therefor GU should take issue with that if they have issues with HFC.

    Judaism doesn’t address Jesus, his existence or his purported divinity. He died after the Torah was written, and the authors of the Talmud don’t mention him at all. Our religion is based on our own precepts and denying paganism. It is not based on denying Christian theology. The JSA is not a good example to use in this discussion.

    Now Protestant organizations might be a better choice, but I’m not sure about that

  6. Ohm- by “science”, I didn’t mean chemically or physically- perhaps “empirical evidence” would have been a better choice of words. Thanks for the clarifying correction.

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