Published November 18, 2021
Another week, another deathwork from a Catholic institution. This time it is Georgetown University. Last week, the university honored military servicemen and women by “queering” Veterans Day. Though the day traditionally commemorates those who have dedicated their lives—often at great, even ultimate, cost—to the service of their country, this event was a “celebration” of queerness. The immediate reason was the tenth anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the opening of the military to transgender people. According to the website of the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association, the ceremony involved reflection “on our Jesuit value of cura personalis, care for the whole person, and celebrate our queer sisters, brothers, and siblings.”
That even Veterans Day must be queered is a sign of our times. Pride Month is not enough, at least for the Q in the LGBTQ+ movement. To allow some space, physical or chronological, to remain free of queering would be to grant certain individuals—biological men and women, for example—a legitimacy and stability that queer theory rejects.
This capitulation to the spirit of the age is predictable (I wish I could say “shocking,” but Georgetown is a Jesuit institution, after all). But it is especially sad to see a nominally Christian university positively reveling in this spirit. Of course, this is the same Georgetown that has a community space for students to explore gender and sexuality, something that even the vice president for student affairs has admitted is rather difficult to square with Georgetown’s Catholic mission. That has not kept the president and provost’s offices from officially observing OUTober.
In fact, as any honest reading of the Christian faith would indicate, the notion that human beings can invent their own identities, detach their selves from their bodies, and indulge whatever fantasies they may have about who they are, is simply incompatible with the Bible and the church’s teaching. Georgetown’s mission statement may claim that the school is Catholic, but it seems its Catholicism must comport with the latest trendy ideas about identity touted by the left’s lobby groups. Far less is all of this to the “glory of God.” Rather, to quote Swinburne, it is a case of “glory to man [or however one cares to identify] in the highest.” Indeed, God is surely an authoritative figure whose existence might impose some demands upon those who bear his image, according to the Christian faith. I fear his presence on the Georgetown campus might make quite a few of the current students feel unsafe.
In light of such elementary catechetical truths, the claim that queering Veterans Day is part of the “Jesuit value of cura personalis, care for the whole person” is a brazen and oxymoronic piece of propaganda. Care for the whole person in the Jesuit tradition did not originally mean allowing that person to be whoever he imagined himself to be; it meant helping that person conform to the image of God. Affirming today’s progressive pieties of personhood is the antithesis of such care. To quote John Paul II on the idea of a Catholic university:
One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the University to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies. Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the University, while the University in turn respects their religious liberty.
In short, students at Catholic universities do not need to be faithful Catholics. But the institution needs to be faithfully Catholic. Aping liberal Protestantism or (even worse) vacuous progressivism is simply not an acceptable option. And to do so while marketing yourself as Catholic and glorifying God is dishonest.
The next five years are likely to prove a watershed for Christian educational institutions. Some institutions are attempting to reach a peaceful compromise with progressivism. This naivete is touching but tragic, for good intentions will not save them when the storm truly breaks. But some institutions, like Georgetown, have already enthusiastically mortgaged their souls to the spirit of the age. They do the devil’s work for him, and they do it with glee. Yes, the interest payments will leave them morally bankrupt, if they are not so already; but such bankruptcy is no more than they deserve.
Some might wonder what business I have in commenting on Georgetown. I am the father of a Georgetown alumnus. While my son was there, I used to joke that I was paying the university vast sums of money to try to make him despise everything I considered sacred. I meant my Protestantism. Sadly, it seems the same is true for Catholic parents who believe the false marketing and think that Georgetown is actually caring for the whole person in accordance with the Catholic faith.
Carl Trueman is a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.