As promised, David Gregory’s original response to Sex Positive Week

In the comments section of Vox’s initial coverage of Sex Positive Week, someone asked we post David Gregory’s (COL `10) email to newspapers, students, and faculty members. All yours:

Dear friends,

I know a number of us have been preoccupied by the outrageous  debacle regarding Our Lady of Fatima, but another matter must be brought to our attention.

Subtly painted on opposite ends of Gaston Hall just below the ceiling are two words: “Wisdom” and “Virtue”; as we are all aware, the idea as that students who gathered in Gaston for convocation at the end of their Georgetown careers would have gained in wisdom and virtue.  A lofty goal, yes, but one to which Georgetown remains faithful.  On occassion, this ideal is violated, and once again we find ourselves in the midst of such an occurrence.

I was not really aware what “Sex Positive Week” (sponsored by GU Pride, United Feminists, and Georgetown Solidarity Committee) was all about until flyers began to pop up across campus over the past couple of days.  …

The rest, after the jump.

Monday’s event, “Sex Positive…What’s That?” brought in speakers from two non-profit organizations, one of which (Black Rose) “is a not-for-profit organization which provides a forum for the many different expressions of power in love and play. This can include dominance & submission, bondage & discipline, fetishism, cross-dressing, to name a few.”  The other organization, the Woodhull Foundation, is a non-profit dedicated to protecting the power and freedom of sexual expression.  They “oppose abstinence-only sex ‘education’ and endorse an age-appropriate, comprehensive approach to sex education” and “seek to protect and foster scientific research on sexuality.”

Tuesday’s event, “Torn About Porn,” is about discovering pornography that is not objectifying and degrading, but “rather radical and empowering”.  Enough said.

Wednesday’s event, about celibacy and virginity, discusses the “illumination of other healthy and equally satisfying sexual preferences that don’t necessarily adhere to the generic understanding of sexual intercourse by all of society”.  I suspect all this rather tame language veils an attitude which lies directly in opposition to Georgetown’s fundamental identity and mission.

Finally, perhaps most outrageous, is Saturday’s event, “Relationships Beyond Monogamy,” which advocates the exploration of sexual activitiy outside of committed relationships.  This is a perversion of everything the Catholic Church teaches on human sexuality, twisting the end of human love and sexuality into something horrendous and thoroughly destructive.

My main point is this: Is all this really conducive to forming us as good human beings, people who will be ready to engage the world and our fellow man with respect and genuine love? Is Georgetown honestly living up to its mission when it supports events such as this? Is Georgetown creating more virtuous individuals? The answer, as the tradition of the Church teaches, is very clearly a resounding no. In fact, all of this corrupts and distorts the end for which we are created.  For those few of you who I have copied who might not agree with this claim, it does not matter whether you agree or not; what does matter is that you understand exactly what Georgetown stands for, given that it is first and foremost a Catholic University.  We might as well say CatholicUniversity, treating the two terms as one, for one cannot divorce one from the other without beginning to destroy Georgetown itself.

The fact of the matter is this, quite frankly: given Georgetown’s core mission, the University in no, way, shape, or form, ought to have endorsed Sex Positive Week, and should in no way, shape, or form, continue to support similar eventsAction must be taken.  Complacency is completely and entirely unacceptable. Below I have also quoted an excerpt detailing the University’s  stance toward things of this nature, so that those of you who are unfamiliar with the code can read up.  This is honestly the single most offensive thing I have encoutered at our beloved school.  As one friend put it (regarding the flyers, which read a slew of words, including “FUCK, BDSM, Butthole, Labia, Ejaculate, Cum”), “This is NOT protected under the first amendment. I have a right to walk through the halls of my school and not be assaulted by sexual imagery.”

I am not sure what any next steps might be, or what discussion we can have.  But I am sure of this: something has to happen.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not angry.  I am, however, deeply hurt and upset that Georgetown would support anything like this.  A number of students would love to meet with any or all of you to discuss this, so please let me know when and how you would like to continute this conversation.

Yours for Georgetown and the Greater Glory of God,
Dave Gregory

27 Comments on “As promised, David Gregory’s original response to Sex Positive Week

  1. Georgetown brings in speakers that do not adhere to every position of the Church. Did we not bring in a world-renowned atheist to speak in that same Gaston Hall in the last year or so? Surely Georgetown doesn’t not believe in God? Where was your outrage then?

    It seems as though you have a specific problem with what these groups represent, rather than an equal disregard for all departures from Church teaching. Maybe you need to examine the mote in your own eye first.

    If you want to present your “correct” point of view, then you should set up your own event, or even an entire “No Sex Except Between A Married Man and Woman Week,” where you could bring in speakers who only conform to Catholic teaching. If you want a debate, then set up your own. I’m sure lots of people would want to show up at something like that.

  2. Set up your own event,

    Firstly, I’ll refer you to this post, which contains my argument in more detail:

    Secondly, that atheist (was it Hitchens? I forget, I couldn’t attend) was brought here in the context for a debate. That’s what I’m arguing for, you just proved my point! We have plenty of events here through Catholic student groups and Campus Ministry that no one from opposing points of view ever attend. We need dialogue, not one-sided discussion.

  3. Free speech,

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this fight wouldn’t happen if we were at a secular university, because this would be totally acceptable at such an institution. However, we are a Catholic University, and such events therefore need a counterweight present. There’s nothing to reject or be scared of, as such fear is founded only in ignorance.


  4. To bounce off of “set up your own event,” I’d remind Mr. Gregory that Georgetown has played host to speakers or events involving speakers as radical as Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who, according to a previous Vox post, made a “characterization of Osama bin Laden as ‘reasonable.’ ” I am *sure* the Catholic Church does not agree with him. What makes me proud to attend Georgetown is the fact that while many things David Gregory wrote in his letter are true, we are able to acknowledge the existence of other viewpoints, and we can let people explain why these viewpoints are okay, even when we don’t think they are. I mean, I doubt anyone involved with the Catholic Cuhrch thinks bin Laden is “reasonble,” but we were still able to interact with and learn from Qaddafi.

  5. 1. Events – An individual member or group of members of the academic community may invite any person to address the community. For purposes of this document, an event is any public meeting organized by such an individual or group primarily for the dissemination or exchange of ideas. “Public meeting” shall not be construed to include formal academic convocations, regularly scheduled classes, or regular business meetings of University organizations.

    The individual or group hosting such an event must reserve the place where it will occur, in accordance with registration requirements. However, the area adjacent to the ICC (“Red Square”) and Leavey Lobby (in inclement weather) shall be available, without prior arrangement, for individuals and groups during daylight hours for the purpose of exchanging ideas. Because of the proximity of Red Square to classrooms, sound amplification in conjunction with any presentation in Red Square is prohibited, as is disruption of classes in any other way.

  6. So, you’re against free speech, because this isn’t a secular school? I really don’t get it.

    What if someone brought in a rabbi and an imam to debate each other.. would we still need to bring in a Catholic too, in order to make it kosher?

    I still find it funny that you chose to pick a fight with this group and not any number of other groups and causes that don’t have your requisite Catholic counterweight present.

    And I’m even a Catholic… I have my Catechism book and there’s more in Lauinger, so I can look up my unvarnished, completely correct, unchanging truth whenever I want.

  7. I mean hell, why should JSA be allowed to hold shabbat with university dollars, under your insane policy?

  8. To the Voice: Why did my post disappear? Kind of ironic for a post about free speech to get censored…

    I agree with Set Up Your Own Event.

    Just because Georgetown University, as a private organization, is not required to enforce as broad free speech policies, does not mean it -should- not. As I said above (or rather, Justice Douglas eloquently said), you should have nothing to fear from the free flow of ideas. Just because an idea is abhorrent does not mean it is powerful.

    If I were so confident in the correctness of my beliefs, and the moral bankruptcy of the others’, I would say we should feel free to let as many students as they want attend Sex Positive Week. Exposure to bad speech is its own best medicine. As Justice Douglas said, in defense of allowing the Communist Party to organize and teach its doctrines, “they are miserable merchants of unwanted ideas; their wares remain unsold.”

    If you have such a problem, beyond this, with Sex Positive Week, go and organize your own event. All non-Catholic events should not be required to automatically balance themselves out just because people don’t attend Catholic events.

    Finally, shouldn’t the Catholic Church support the freedom of speech? Isn’t that one of the most important ideals to teach students, to form us “as good human beings, people who will be ready to engage the world and our fellow man with respect and genuine love”

  9. In addition, David, would you also uphold your position in the opposite direction? That is to say, if there is a purely Catholic event, it must always and mandatorily include speakers from the opposite perspective?

    Also, Georgetown has hosted purely one-sided events in the past. We had Michael Newdow, the atheist who filed the lawsuit against the Pledge of Allegiance, come speak. I forget which organization sponsored him. He spoke, perhaps fittingly, in Reiss.

  10. Ali,

    Some more excerts for you to consider:

    “(Preamble) 4. More is better. Discourse is central to the life of the university. To forbid or limit discourse contradicts everything the university stands for. This conviction proceeds from several assumptions. Besides those sketched above, there is the assumption that the exchange of ideas will lead to clarity, mutual understanding, the tempering of harsh and extreme positions, the softening of hardened positions and ultimately the attainment of truth. Some ideas, simply by being expressed, sink without a trace; others cry out for the intervention of reflection, contrary evidence, probing questions. None of that happens when one cuts off discourse. John Henry Newman’s formulation applies here: “flagrant evils cure themselves by being flagrant.” The remedy for silly or extreme or offensive ideas is not less free speech but more.”

    “(General Policy) 2. Moreover, expression that is indecent or is grossly obscene or grossly offensive on matters such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation is inappropriate in a university community and the University will act as it deems appropriate to educate students violating this principle.

    Obviously and in all events, the use of the University forum shall not imply acceptance or endorsement by the University of the views expressed.”

    Furthermore, although this has not been published yet (but has been expressed by Dr. Lord and Dr. Olson to the appropriate groups), it is a requirement at events such as those as Sex Positive Week that a disclaimer be read at the start of the event.

  11. So, you’re against free speech, because this isn’t a secular school? I really don’t get it.

    What if someone brought in a rabbi and an imam to debate each other.. would we still need to bring in a Catholic too, in order to make it kosher?

    I still find it funny that you chose to pick a fight with this group and not any number of other groups and causes that don’t have your requisite Catholic counterweight present.

    And I’m even a Catholic… I have my Catechism book and there’s more in Lauinger, so I can look up my unvarnished, completely correct, unchanging truth whenever I want.

    No, Set up your own event, I am for moderated speech because this is a Catholic university. All voices need to be heard, but those that oppose the Church’s teaching ought to be moderated by a present counterweight. The University cannot fund events such as this. Student groups should bring them in, but when the University gives money to these events, it needs to make the Catholic voice present.

    Having a rabbi and an imam debate one another does not, in any way, contradict Church teaching. Since when is interreligious dialogue antithetical to Roman Catholicism?

    Given that you’re Catholic, I hope it won’t be a far cry to ask that we pray for each other. And, instead of flinging words at each other over a blog, I am more than happy to meet in person. Anonymous written word can quickly become pointlessly hostile.

  12. Crap, I left in the response again without deleting it, my bad.

  13. Once again, with regards to JSA, shabbat isn’t antithetical to Catholic teaching. A multiplicity of religious expression is a wonderful thing. I’m half-Jewish, I attend Passover seder every year.

  14. Maybe if I reiterate myself enough, I’ll get this point across: I’m not advocating censorship, I am advocating reform, such that the University is not funding events like this without the Catholic voice being heard. The University should promote engagement and dialogue, two things which are currently not happening. You’re perfectly right, an idea that is silly or egregious will just fade away, but isn’t it preferable that it not just fade away, but that it is demonstrated why it is ridiculous?

    I’m not saying that because people with opposing views don’t attend non-Catholic events the University should change its approach to controversial events it funds; this change is in fact called for by University regulations. I’m saying that because it is Catholic, the events it funds which contradict Catholic teaching should also represent the voice of Catholic moral teaching. Like I said before, if we were at a non-religiously affiliated school, I would never pick up this fight.

    Isn’t that promotion of free speech? It’s not being restricted, it’s being fostered through real discussion and real conversation. How could anyone be against that?

    You told me to go organize my own event already. There have been a lot of events I’ve been part of, which absolutely no one from GU Pride or United Feminists attends. I co-chaired Jesuit Heritage Week, which had almost thirty events under its wing. Did any dissenting UFers or Priders attend Campus Ministry’s Sex and Dating event? Of course not. My point is this: true dialogue and conversation are not occurring, and thus Georgetown is not being true to its identity as a Catholic University.

  15. Free speech, I do not have a position in the opposite direction. It’s a Catholic school, so an opposing point of view need not be present at an event run by, say, Campus Ministry. If we were attending a school dedicated to BDSM, and someone brought in a priest to talk about the Catholic understanding of sexuality, then I would hope someone would take up a similar fight as well.

    As to your second point (which is a logically far superior one), there is a clear and distinct difference between the Lecture Fund or University paying for a single speaker to come in and talk about his/her beliefs and the University sponsoring a series of speakers and panelists to come in and foster dialogue that is antithetical to Church teaching. I hope you can see that difference.

    As for the “fittingly in Reiss,” statement, you’re making the vastly ignorant assumption that faith and reason contradict one another, that science and religion are completely incompatible. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the Church’s approach to that matter knows that’s not the case whatsoever.

  16. I would rather then that Georgetown be destroyed and remove these cumbersome chains of oppression established by the Catholic Church.

  17. David,

    Please know that you can’t be entirely sure that Pride (or, broadly, LGBT) students aren’t attending your events. Secondly, it’s not enough to simply complain that people aren’t coming to your events — you have to do outreach. I’m not sure if you have or not, but in my time at Georgetown, I don’t ever remember KofC or others coming to a Pride meeting.

    As someone who went through a lot of unnecessary pain to come to the point where I have personally reconciled the gay and Catholic aspects of my identity, I want you to understand how truly frightening it can be for someone like me to even so much as step foot inside the doors of the Church. I wrote a viewpoint in Conversations, a magazine you may be familiar with on Jesuit Higher education:

    We also have been working with Campus Ministry to set up a way in which LGBT catholics at Georgetown can explore and express their faith without being held back by a teaching that claims that we are “intrinsically disordered.” That teaching is a lie because it is a barrier to true and honest love, which is a gift. Now, that teaching has changed over time, and even today we are seeing high level Church officials speaking (very quietly) about homosexuality in terms of a scientifically certified fact of human life, instead of as a deep-seated sickness or illness that requires prayer and chastity to change. That represents a profound change in the Church’s teaching, which has come about in large part because of the ability of groups like Pride to articulate who we are, free from the restrictive and incorrect teachings of the Church on that point. The Spirit is at work in more ways than one, untying the knots of our Church from within and without, through groups as varied as KofC and Pride.

    That being said, my personal version of “sex positive” doesn’t really include BDSM, but it also doesn’t require me to remain celibate. My conscience tells me that first and foremost, we should promote relationships that are healthy (emotionally and physically), honest (and that includes honesty about our sexuality) and ideally, grounded in love. If that includes two people of the same sex, then so be it.

    If I were to give a speech in Gaston on those points, I probably wouldn’t be well-received by the Pope. But I would probably be well received by most Catholics here in the U.S., including perhaps many of our very own Jesuits and (even silently) our Bishop. Would such a speech require the official Catholic viewpoint to be present, or is it good enough for me to speak my conscience, even though it is in direct contradiction to the official (and dynamic) teaching of the Church?


  18. David,

    While I’m not going to enter the debate here on an online forum, I just wanted to respond to your “Did any dissenting UFers or Priders attend Campus Ministry’s Sex and Dating event? Of course not.”
    While I definitely knew Jesuit Heritage Week was happening, I did not know the specific events that were happening as part of it. Had I known of any events that would have been on specific interest to me, I would certainly have attended.
    Just so you know, I have had the “Marriage is Sexy” event marked in my calendar ever since our common friend Katelyn invited me to it. I also told some of my “UFer and Prider” friends about it. I definitely intend to be at the event, not to dissent, but to hopefully present a different perspective.
    As ZP said, it might help if you did more outreach. Besides, you do not know if Pride or UF members are attending your events because you possibly don’t even know who these people are. There is no reason to asume that we would be the dissenting voices even if we were attending.

  19. Hi Zack,

    To be perfectly honest, I’m a pretty orthodox Catholic, but the Church’s teachings on homosexuality are some of the few that I just don’t get. At the Sex and Dating event, I posed this very question to Fr. Steck (who has his PhD in Christian Ethics) and the chaplain, Michelle, who were the moderators. Basically, the Church teaches that marriage has two ends: unitive and procreative, the unitive basically pertaining to the love, and the procreative pertaining to the physical act, which in a heterosexual relationship results in the production of children. My question is this: if the love between two homosexuals is true, and results in a true unity of the two persons, then does that not override the physical inability of two gay (wo)men to produce children independently? If a gay couple get married, is that not essentially the same thing as a barren heterosexual couple getting married? Anyway, that’s a rundown of my basic quandry with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, I basically agree with you.

    The only opposition you’re going to run into as a homosexual Catholic are from those who are ignorant and delusional. Even Catholics who find homosexuality to be an intrinsic disorder (just as alcoholism and addition are disorders) ought to have no problem accepting homosexuals into their parish or community. It’s that classic “love the sinner, hate the sin thing” — we all have our demons and our addictions, and to exclude homosexuals from a Catholic community on the basis that homosexual activity is a sin is atrocious. I’m definitely aware that Campus Ministry is reaching out to homosexual students, it’s absolutely needed. As I’ve expressed before, I wholeheartedly agree that Georgetown ought to have an LGBTQ Center; I think Shiva is an excellent director, as well.

    As I’ve said above, “there is a clear and distinct difference between the Lecture Fund or University paying for a single speaker to come in and talk about his/her beliefs and the University sponsoring a series of speakers and panelists to come in and foster dialogue that is antithetical to Church teaching. I hope you can see that difference.”

    Finally, Zack, yes I have read your piece in Conversations; I had a piece that was published directly opposite yours in the same issue ( I was a bit disappointed that they presented the two as a point-counterpoint, as I wasn’t aware they were going to do so. Overall, I heartily agree with your article, as the Church in many areas does need to do a better job of including its homosexual members. I have a couple of good friends from my Catholic high school who are gay, and I have a few close friends from Georgetown who are gay Catholics. I am glad that you have come to find peace with your faith and your homosexual Identity.


  20. Hi Shruti,

    I just want to make it clear that our respective communities have never engaged or communicated with one another on any substantial basis, and there is a need to change that. I’m glad that some Pride and UF members are attending the “Marriage is Sexy” event; given the conversation on Wednesday, I see no reason why there should be any dissent. And to be perfectly honest, I am aware of the UF and Pride leadership, and I haven’t seen their faces at Campus Ministry events. It’s a good possibility I’ve missed their faces in the crowd, but I get the sinking it’s a good possibility that no one shows up.

    We outreach as much as we can, but I’ll be sure to keep you guys aware of our goings-on, and I hope you’ll do the same for us. Other than that, I’ll see you at tonight’s event (if you’re there).


  21. Hi Destroy Georgetown,

    An intelligent and insightful comment, devoid of ignorance, and one which will not be dismissed as foolish or ungrounded.


  22. My problem with this whole conversation is a lack of dialogue. David, you sent this email before attending any of the events, before asking any of the organizers what they were doing. If you want a balance at these events, they are all discussion based. You should join in. No one is limiting the dialogue from including the catholic perspective. But instead of engaging people and your fellow peers you send an email to administrators. Not even knowing what the organizers are doing, not event knowing what the organizers are saying.

    Pride and UFers may not have come to the Sex and Dating Event, but they also did not go and ignorantly complain to administrators and try to censor the event. Even if they would find it offensive to their identity. I am not saying anything is wrong with that event, I am just saying that the way you went about this was completely disrespecful, lacking dialogue, and generally ignorant of what you were saying. You can argue the catholic viewpoint, but as is obvious from you letter, you do not understand the week. You make assumptions. That is the problem. If anyone from Pride complained about something campus of ministry was doing without any prior inquiry or attending of an event, how can you possibly take them seriously. I doubt they would get a meeting with administrators, but you complain with obvious ignorance of the events and you get a meeting.

    Next time engage in dialogue and share your opinions and attend the event and engage in discussion. Be a part of bringing people together not tearing them apart.

    Communication is key. Talk to your peers and engage. I hope you will be more willing to work with people in the future rather than make blanket assumptions about them. If you don’t want want people to assume things about you, you should do the same for them.

  23. Hi Olivia,

    My issue is that these events aren’t encouraging dialogue! The head of the LGBTQ Center told me that she had invited Jesuits to some of these events, and then the week’s organizers shot them down! If this week was really about discussion and being Sex Positive, wouldn’t you want to represent all points of view equally? You claim there wasn’t any limitation, but that seems pretty limiting to me. Next year, I suggest faith-based student organizations are included in the planning of Sex Positive Week so that true conversation does occur.

    Furthermore, my wording was admittedly harsh in the e-mail; I told it like it was. But I don’t think I was disrespectful; at least I was not told by any administrators I was. Perhaps ignorant of what the events were about, yes; part of the impetus for sending the e-mail was impulsive, and I did not discern properly before sending it. However, I still hold to my point, which was never advocating censorship. The university simply should not be funding events like this without guaranteeing first and foremost that it is a true dialogue. As I’ve said repeatedly, censorship is not the answer, more voices are, voices which are equally represented side-by-side with opposing voices. Are you open to that?

    And I attended two of the week’s events (I would have attended Open Mic night), including tonight’s (even though my parents are in town, and I would have rather been with them…but duty calls) along with a few other friends. I hope that you and a few members of the organizing clubs will attend some of the events which Campus Ministry and its affiliated student groups put on. It’s a challenge, one which we’ll all have to step up to, but one which is doable. Like I told you in person on Wednesday night, it’s time to break down boundaries, prove stereotypes and generalizations wrong. We’re beginning to pick our feet off the ground to take our first baby step, but it’s happening, and I have hope.


  24. Among the sentences quoted by you, DG, in the Preamble and General policy:

    “The remedy for silly or extreme or offensive ideas is not less free speech but more.” I interpret this to mean, if there is an event that doesn’t explicitly prevent people from attending, or prevent those attending from participating in discussion, but simply fails to be representative of all the different sides of the issue, then the proper recourse is for the offended party to respond, as you did, or set up an event that responds and attempts to broaden the picture or continue the conversation.

    “Obviously and in all events, the use of the University forum shall not imply acceptance or endorsement by the University of the views expressed”
    I think this means the University can host events that the University doesn’t agree with. Does it means it can financially support them? I think so. And you don’t. It’s not clear if “use of the University forum” means “use of University funds.”

  25. Pingback: Vox Populi » Phew! Georgetown not the only black sheep in the herd

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