PBS' Religion & Ethics Newsweekly recently examined what it means to be an institution of Catholic higher learning by contrasting Ave Maria University and Georgetown University.
The segment, presented by correspondent Bob Faw, opens with a "coming out" event at Georgetown that features members of the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Pride undergraduate student organization. Thomas Lloyd, a Georgetown student and member of Pride, told Faw, "By recognizing Pride, Georgetown has become more true to its Jesuit values."
Lloyd asked rhetorically, "What does it mean to be gay and Catholic? Can those two go together? And my experience at Georgetown with Jesuits, and with other people who are Catholic and identify as queer on campus show me that you can."
The Rev. Kevin O'Brien, vice president for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown, tells the interviewer, "What we did 50 years ago to promote our identity does not suffice today because the world is different, and our students and faculty are different.
"The purpose of the [LGBTQ] center is not to undermine the church's teaching [sic]...We try to teach our students and faculty and our alumni about issues of sexuality, of sexual identity and gender. That's an expression of our Jesuit tradition," Fr. O'Brien said.
Bob Faw also interviewed students critical of Georgetown's Catholic identity. Louis Cona said:
Is it Catholic enough? I would say no. We have the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters...but the university is not promoting this stuff. We have a [M]ass, but are they teaching you about this stuff? Are they promoting this as an ideal, as a good?
Another student, Andrew Schilling, lamented that Georgetown "remains silent about the church's teaching and position with regard to homosexuality, with regard to human sexuality in general."
Turning to Ave Maria, the difference between the two campuses is clear. The segment focuses on the university's high percentage of
Catholic students; the commitment of professors to the Catholic faith;
that Mass is celebrated several times per day on campus; and the fact that chapels exist
in many of the college's dorms.
"This is a university that's founded on biblical truth, on scripture, and on the sacramental richness of the Catholic Church," said James Towey, president of Ave Maria.
He continued, "In an age where modernity has attacked the whole idea of objective truth and the whole relativism that you see that’s pervasive in our culture, I guess this university’s not going to be here to be popular; it’s not here to try to please everyone. It’s here to try to be true to itself and its own Catholic identity."
Faw said that many students at Ave Maria say their faith is strengthened due to the pervasive catholicity at the university.
"What’s needed now is a Catholicism rooted in scripture, sacramental in nature, that’s open to engagement with the world without losing its own identity," Towey said.
Ave Maria University is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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