Reverend Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J.
106 West 56th Street
New York, N.Y., 10019-3803
Dear Father O'Donovan:
In your letter of 18 June 2001, addressed to "Dear Friends," you spoke of your 12 years as President of Georgetown University and your efforts to "strengthen academic excellence, to expand our faculty, to increase financial aid to students, to complete plans for our campus, to address and move through the crisis in health care and academic medicine, to launch and maintain the steady success of the largest fund-raising effort in our University's history, the Third Century Campaign, and through all, to enhance our identity as a Catholic and Jesuit Academy of Learning.
We in The Ignatian Society shall now review those twelve years from the more detached perspective of concerned Catholics who observed Georgetown's steady and unrelenting decline into a secular institute wherein John Carroll's dreams for Georgetown have been all but abandoned. Spare us disingenuous assertions that your authority as her president was limited. By your ordination to the Catholic priesthood, you are required at all times and without limitation to unconditionally defend the teachings of the Catholic Church with courage and conviction. You failed to measure up to this bounden duty, and your record of silence bespoke consent to what you should have abhorred; your term of office was one of essential cooperation with evil; your futile attempts to justify your decisions were exercises in disinformation; and you brought scandal to the Society of Jesus, Georgetown, her students, and yourself.
You supported and refused to stop the University's funding of the student pro-abortion group, "G.U. Choice." Contrary to your misleading the Washington Post when you told its reporter that you were "heartened" that Cardinal Hickey did not agree to act on The Ignatian Society's canonical petition that "[he] remove Georgetown's Catholic identity and seize her chapels and campus ministries," His Eminence stated that, since Georgetown was a pontifical university, "What the Pope giveth, the Pope taketh away."
When The Ignatian Society then directly petitioned His Holiness to bring an end to this disgrace, the Vatican "instructed" the Jesuit Curia to "instruct" you to cease your support of the abomination of legalized abortion and to de-fund "G.U. Choice."
Molly Yard, Patricia Ireland, Kate Michelman, Sarah Weddington and other notorious pro-abortion apparatchiks spoke on Georgetown's campus, yet you refused to speak out against them and their message of contempt for the value and sanctity of all human life.
You allowed Georgetown to integrate a health plan (NCPPO), which provided 80% coverage for abortions. Contrary to your public statements, this coverage was not required by the District of Columbia government.
During your tenure, the Georgetown University hospital conducted fetal tissue research under a $58 mil. grant from the NIH. Aborted fetuses required for this research were found in a freezer in the hospital despite the Papal encyclical Donum Vitae, which expressly forbids in-vitro fertilization, or purely experimental research on human embryos, fetuses and fetal tissue procured from abortions. The hospital has now been sold to MedStar, which also owns the Washington Hospital Center where abortions are performed.
Georgetown received millions of dollars from USAID, a substantial portion of which was for the Natural Family Planning and Breast Feeding program that included research into abortifacient oral contraceptive transfer through placental barriers.
The Washington Archdiocese ceased funding the Pregnancy Aid Center in College Park, Maryland, due to its association with the Georgetown Midwifery Associates, who medicated postpartum patients with Depo-Provera for contraceptive purposes. The G.U. protocol permitted midwives to refer patients to other facilities for sterilization, which is collaboration with moral evil.
In the matter of Fr. Robert Drinan, S.J., you clearly knew of his pro-abortion history since the days when he served in the U.S. Congress, yet you allowed him, as a member of Georgetown's law faculty, to speak out in favor of abortion on many occasions and you did not disavow his article, published in the New York Times, in which he supported Clinton's veto of the ban on partial-birth abortion. Subsequent to The Ignatian Society's petition to Cardinal Ratzinger, that Fr. Drinan's priestly faculties in the Washington Archdiocese be removed, his retraction was forthcoming and he was ordered to give no further support for abortion.
You publicly identified yourself and Georgetown with Bill Clinton's notorious pro-abortion policies. This was the President whose first act after being inaugurated in 1993 was to sign the bill allowing funding for fetal tissue research and rather than publicly trying to persuade him to change his position, you basked in being a "Friend of Bill". Georgetown's alumni list was given to the Clinton Gore Re-Election Campaign '96, and a fund-raiser was held on campus at which you said you were going to vote for Bill Clinton. You flew on Air Force One, were a frequent guest at the White House, invited Clinton to speak at Georgetown, and erected a plaque in his honor on the outside wall of Old North next to the steps where George Washington spoke. Predictably, you refused The Ignatian Society's request that the word "Impeached" be added to the plaque.
The lives of those students who chose to have abortions because of their interpretation of your complicity as a Catholic priest in allowing the University to condone programs that advocated such a procedure, are scarred for life. You will not only forever bear a moral responsibility for the damage done to their souls, you will bear a moral responsibility for the un-baptized souls of their aborted babies.
FREE SPEECH AND EXPRESSION
Georgetown's incoming lay president, Jack DeGioia, was the leader in implementing a "Free speech and expression" policy, and he clearly did so with your permission and encouragement. His statement to The Hoya that, "We will always address speech that we think is inappropriate in a university community," plus the policy's listing under "Limitations" that which is "grossly obscene, or is grossly offensive," have clearl been shunted aside. Under the guise of academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to invite speakers to campus, you oversaw events that were totally antithetical to those standards that would be minimally expected of a president of a Catholic institution of higher learning.
After you were forced to de-fund "GU Choice," where was your outrage when students gathered in Red Square and shouted, "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries," and "Spit out the wafer, condoms are safer"? With authority, dignity and finality, you could have defended the most sacred Sacrament of your Church and publicly denounced them. In your failure to do so, you allowed the University's "free speech" policy to take precedence over this scurrilous attack on the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Pornographer Larry Flynt spoke on campus in spite of your being advised against such by James Cardinal Hickey and Bishop William Lori. To no one's surprise, Flynt told the 900 assembled students that he supported flag-burning, defended bomb-making instructions on the Internet, S&M, bondage, lesbianism, degradation of women, homosexuality, masturbation and fetishes. Given the moral permissiveness on campus, it was also not surprising that students clapped and cheered when he asserted, "The Catholic Church has had its hand on our crotches for 2000 years." The media criticized both you and the University for having allowed Flynt on campus.
In a further scandal to the public and many students at the University, The Women's Center was allowed to mount a production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. Students, staff and faculty attended a conference in conjunction with the national "V-Day College Initiative," which addressed women's sexual pleasure.
Lesbian and homosexual film festivals abounded and plays advocating such behavior had scenes with nude actors. In disdain of John Carroll's intent that there be standards of moral decorum at Georgetown, members of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performed within view of his statue and, as reported in The HOYA, a male trooper lit a cigar, turned away from the onlookers, pulled his pants down, and stuck a cigar between his buttocks. Ramona, the ringleader of the troop, used a whip to slice the cigar into three sections. Yet again, your silence was duly noted.
The conference on Homosexuality and American Public Life met at Georgetown in June 1997. Since the conference was not sponsored by students or faculty, it could not reserve University space and had to reserve space with the Marriott Corporation's conference center on campus. In an unprecedented display of disapproval, the hypocrisy of the "free speech" theory was exposed when Georgetown informed The Washington Post, "We don't endorse the views of the organizers or any views that may be expressed at the conference." Although psychiatrists, psychologists, epidemiologists, lawyers, journalists and priests compassionately and dispassionately addressed the psychiatric, medical, spiritual, epidemiological, political and social aspects of homosexuality, it was their failure to endorse the "gay agenda" that resulted in their failure to get University approval. Homosexuals and lesbians, including a lesbian professor from the Law Center, were allowed to speak at the Q and A sessions and erroneously, but predictably, accused the conference of being homophobic.
The absence of any public welcoming statement from you to the keynote speaker, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, was interpreted as your agreeing with the University's statement to The Washington Post. Commensurate with Georgetown's non-endorsement of the conference, the University closed the hospital's public parking lot outside the meeting area, thereby enabling gay and lesbian Georgetown students, including members of Lesbian Avengers, to demonstrate against the conference. Several lesbian protestors bared their breasts as conference attendees exited the building.
In a glaring example, however, of the "politically correct" selectivity of Georgetown's commitment to "free speech and expression," Georgetown gave student-sponsored space for a New Ways Ministry debate in December 1997 where it was argued that the Church should change its position on homosexuality. A former Jesuit who is now married, a former Jesuit who was, and still is homosexual, and a practicing dissident Jesuit theologian who favors in-vitro fertilization were featured speakers on the panel and argued in favor of that change. Rightly, but to no avail, Cardinal Hickey publicly disavowed the meeting and informed Georgetown that the Vatican was investigating New Ways Ministry for its errant theological and pastoral approach to homosexuality.
RELIGIOUS MATTERS AND ENSUING SCANDAL
During your term as president of the University, violations of liturgical norms and rubrical laws at Masses were commonplace: At the scheduled university Masses, the celebrants were frequently improperly vested, they routinely omitted the Lavabo and the required genuflections, they permitted students to give the homilies, and they allowed the congregation to stand around the altar during the Consecration.
You gave no support to the students' 19-month effort to have crucifixes placed in the classrooms. It is noteworthy that Muslim and Jewish students united with Catholic students in this campaign, while you joined with those who suggested that defining the school's identity by mounting crucifixes on the walls might be "inadequate or a misdirection of energies." For a Catholic institution to even consider the possibility that the teaching of Catholic religious beliefs and the display of Catholic symbols would stifle intellectual growth, is not only hostile to scholarship, but also calls into question the intellectual quality of any scholar who would think the two had to be mutually exclusive, and is an intellectual travesty.
In concurrence with Cardinal Hickey's public statement that he "Écould not imagine why a university run by the Society of Jesus and operating under a pontifical charter would have to debate the issue," The Ignatian Society publicly reminded you that, if it were not for what the crucifix theologically and historically represents, there would be no Catholic Church, no Jesuits, and no Georgetown University. Despite your resistance, John Cardinal O'Connor ultimately blessed the classroom crucifixes in a ceremony in Dahlgren Chapel.
Notwithstanding repeated protests from students, you oversaw the dismissal of orthodox priests and Protestant chaplains from Campus Ministry and faculty.
As a priest, you served as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts. This organization gave $80,000 to the Manhattan Theatre Club to help produce Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi, which portrays Christ as having sex with his disciples.
As a priest, you sat as a member of the board of directors of the Disney Corporation, a business that not only produces violent and sexually explicit films, but is noted for its anti-Catholic message in such productions as Priest, the ABC/Disney television show Nothing Sacred, and Dogma in which the Virgin Mary and Joseph had a sexual relationship and produced a daughter who worked in an abortion clinic. The Dogma cast of characters included a foul-mouthed 13th apostle and a stripper named Serendipity, who compared the Mass to bad sex. In a clear example of your philosophical priorities in supporting and being influenced by the false values of Hollywood, you defended your acceptance of the appointment and said that, "One can't judge a company or person by a single act or production, or we'd never lead lives or have businesses." The Southern Baptist Convention took a different tack and announced a boycott of Disney.
Incoming students were required to take a "safe sex" course in the use of condoms and were charged a $25.00 fine if they did not attend. Free condoms were also distributed to students. Irrespective of the Center for Disease Control's disputing the safety record of condoms against the transferal of HIV, Georgetown announced that this was a health program issue, and by that decision, allowed students to be put at physical risk. Irrespective of the Catholic Church's assertion that non-marital sex, regardless of the permutations, is a sin, the message was clearly read by students that Georgetown and you, as its priest/president, condoned non-marital sex. Pressure from Cardinal Hickey and outraged parents finally forced you to shut down the program. As an additional occasion of sin, co-ed dorms are now the norm.
The Leavey family and the Leavey Foundation were outraged that "Hoyas for Choice" - the un-funded student organization which replaced the de-funded "G.U. Choice" ? attached a "Free condoms" sign to staunchly pro-life Dorothy Leavey's portrait in the lobby of the Leavey Center.
The Director of Sexual Assault Services advises female students on issues of sexual ethics and keeps a wicker basket of condoms on her desk. The director of Student Health holds lunchtime meetings for lesbians and gays, where she encourages the hiring of lesbians and gays at Georgetown.
You allowed the gay and lesbian group (GALSA) to continue to operate on campus after the Armstrong Amendment gave you leeway to de-fund the group. "Safe Zones" were officially established where homosexuals could find "gay friendly" acceptance in campus offices and dorms, and faculty and students were advised to put ribbons on their doors to signify that homosexuals were welcome.
ACADEMIC AND FINANCIAL MATTERS
In a lowering of academic standards and reason during your tenure, and in direct violation of Georgetown's constitution which requires consultation with students before making curriculum changes, the English department announced that the class of 1999 English majors would no longer be required to read Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton, or study three of four literary periods comprising the 16th through 19th centuries. Replacement courses included such academic absurdities as: History/Theories of Sexuality; Women, Revolution and Media; Hard-boiled Detective Fiction; Unspeakable Lives: Gay/Lesbian Narratives; AIDS and Representation; and Hermaphrodite Literature. So much for your commitment to what was formerly a characteristic of traditional Catholic Jesuit education.
While addressing the University's Board of Regents regarding Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, you stated that, as long as you were president, no document from Rome was going to govern Georgetown.
During your term as president, the University suffered numerous financial problems: Georgetown's involvement in Tax Court case [50 ? T.C.N.(CCH)14 4 4] regarding ownership of "Alban Towers"; the loss of NIH and FIDIA moneys; $7 million in taxes owed on the hotel in the Leavey center; in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia [Civ. Action #93-2267 (RCL), bringing suit against Georgetown Cogeneration, L.P., Dominion Cogeneration, Dominion Energy, Inc.; Tristar Georgetown General Corp.; Tristar Georgetown Limited Corp. (collectively in whole or in part, 'the Dominion Group') for "Fraud, unjust enrichment, negligent retention, and conspiracy."
Compounding those losses, numerous donors and outraged alumni have discontinued their contributions to Georgetown as a direct result of the religious, academic and social changes that have taken place during your time as president.
To no avail, The Ignatian Society continued to pray that your efforts for Georgetown would publicly demonstrate a Catholic reasoning in dealing with problems that all universities must face on a daily basis, but you chose otherwise. Although, as you announced in your 18 June letter, books have been dedicated to you, you were awarded an honorary degree by the medical faculty, scholarships have been established in your name and the new dining hall will be named in your honor, it was your deliberate secularization of this once great Catholic university which took precedence in the most crucial moments, and "the enhancement of Georgetown's identity as a Catholic and Jesuit academy of learning," was theologically, administratively and academically forsaken on your Watch. This is not a legacy of which a priest or an educator should be proud, but it is the one for which you will be most remembered. Will Jack DeGioia return Georgetown's Catholic identity? We pray that he will.
With every prayer that you will avail yourself of the Holy Spirit and find some means to expiate the damage you have done to Georgetown, we remain
Yours in Christ, for Georgetown, and for The Innocents
Further commentary by Ann Sheridan concerning GU: