Prefrosh Preview: Religion at Georgetown

Georgetown is a Catholic university, and there’s no avoiding that fact. You’re never far from a crucifix here (there’s one in every classroom, with the exception of the ICC)—or a priest (many live on campus in the Jesuit Residence near the Southwest Quad). It can seem like every statement from the university talks about how “our Jesuit values” inform such-and-such controversial decision. And yes, there are a number of students who attend Mass every Sunday.

Students from very Catholic high schools, however, might be surprised by how the administration treats students regarding religion. There’s no mandatory Mass, and the topic of Catholicism rarely is broached in academic discussion outside of Theology classes. Two of those classes are a requirement, but Georgetown’s Theology department offers a wide range of them—there’s “History of Christian Thought,” but also “Jewish Sages and Sinners” and “Hindu Religious Tradition.”

Almost everyone takes “Problem of God” (a Theology survey course) freshman year, though some more scripture-inclined students take “Intro to Biblical Literature” instead.

Georgetown also offers a robust Campus Ministry department, the biggest in America, that includes, in addition to Catholic chaplains, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, and (starting this fall) Hindu ministers.

It’s widely known that the University is respectful, tolerant, and intent on diversity when it comes to religious matters. Georgetown’s LGBT Resource Center was the first of its kind to open at a Catholic university, and the administration allows pro-choice student group H*yas for Choice to hand out condoms in Red Square.

While religion frequently rears its head in conversation at Georgetown, the University is very much a safe space for people of any or no faith, and such conversations are much more likely to involve personal reflection than dogma. Perhaps those sort of attitudes are why Exorcist author and Georgetown alum William Peter Blatty (COl ‘50) submitted a 2,000-signature petition to the Vatican calling for Georgetown to be stripped of its Catholic and Jesuit labels. Here’s a hint, freshmen—that’s not happening anytime soon.

Photo: Georgetown University

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