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so what's the big deal?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 01, 2008

A recent issue of the Georgetown Magazine contains an article titled "Out on the Hilltop," which treats of gay students at Georgetown over the years, and advances the University's efforts to make its connection to Catholic teaching totally opaque. We're given a number of brief profiles of gay students and alumni and their triumphs over homophobia and internalized shame. The Catechism's instruction concerning homosexual acts is stated correctly in the article, and thereupon the administration's response is given in the wooly prose that conveys the fact that the administration does not wish to communicate its mind on the matter. 

If you've been paying attention to the way these battles are waged among Catholics, you won't be surprised that the issues are not subjected to a moral or theological assessment, but instead contradictory positions are elicited from a diversity of "Catholic voices," with the implication that no stance is more Catholic than another, but personal and arbitrary inclinations will steer different Catholics to different conclusions. Two Georgetown alumni, both Jesuit priests, are cited as illustrations of this diversity. Here follows a quote from the article:  

In a Feb. 14 editorial in The Hoya, for example, Robert John Araujo, S.J., (C'70, L'73), of Boston College took issue with the university's approach.

"No one should fear any university community regardless of who he or she is," he wrote. "But this does not mean that acceptance of each person must mean acceptance and, therefore, subsequent endorsement of views and activities that are inconsistent and conflict with the teachings of the Church, which must be a part of any Catholic university's mission.

"A Catholic university must exercise its responsibility and its authentic academic freedom to state and argue through reason why the teachings of the Church are meritorious and why conflicting views are wrong," his op-ed stated.

Other alumni see the situation differently.

Tom Brennan, S.J., who graduated from Georgetown College in 1982, has a doctorate in English literature and teaches at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He came out in 1984.

"I do get the question how can you be gay and be Catholic," Brennan says. "I think it is a matter of ongoing negotiations.

"What I've learned in the process of growing up and in the process of being in the Society of Jesus is that there is a tolerance and understanding of who I am. Orientation is not a sin."

Note that the Jesuit Araujo assumes the defined Catholic teaching is true, whence he argues that a Catholic university should advance it, whereas the Jesuit Brennan assumes the defined Catholic teaching is transient, whence gays conduct "ongoing negotiations" with unspecified authorities to arrive at an unspecified institutional compromise.  

The gist of the Georgetown Magazine article is consonant with the position of Fr. Brennan, not Fr. Araujo, and we can be pretty sure it reflects the sympathies of the University administration. Later in the same essay we're introduced to an alumna named Danielle DeCerbo, who took a tutorial on LGBTQ anxieties in 2001, "married Eliyanna Kaiser in Canada in 2006, and is the daughter of David A. DeCerbo (C'71)."

The significance of the puff may easily be overlooked. We've quietly crossed the boundary from homosexual orientation to sodomy. In fact it's the offhand manner in which DeCerbo's same-sex union is mentioned that gives the game away. Objectively, in the eyes of the Church, DeCerbo and Kaiser are in grave spiritual peril (I make no judgment of their subjective culpability). Objectively, regarding their relation to the state of grace, DeCerbo and Kaiser are in the same position as a Georgetown alum who founded a neo-Nazi terrorist cell or who made a fortune kidnapping eleven-year-olds for the international sex market. Yet it's not conceivable that Georgetown would cheerfully mention its neo-Nazi and slave-trading alums and their "ongoing negotiations" with official Church teaching without some reference to the grave moral consequences of their choices -- and this is so because even Georgetown would recognize those choices have morally significant consequences. 

The point is that it would be impossible for a Catholic university to publish this kind of essay if it took seriously Catholic teaching about mortal sin. Even supposing that -- after agonizing months of study, penance, and prayer -- a Catholic came to believe his Church was wrong about the sinfulness of sodomy or slave-pimping, could he be so blithely casual about her error?

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