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.