QUI TACET CONSENTIRE VIDETUR
THE FALLACY OF FREE SPEECH AT GEORGETOWN
In its continuing descent down the secular slope, Georgetown University added more grease to the slide by firing several chaplains two days before Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, spoke on campus. Both events were seen by many to be a further de-Christianizing of Georgetown and as his "Silence bespeaks consent," the University president Fr. Leo O'Donovan, S.J., was held directly responsible by many students, faculty, alumni, clergy in Washington and on other Jesuit campuses.
In the Wednesday April 28th statement, the Director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Adam Bunnell, OFM, ended the contracts of a popular Jesuit chaplain, Fr. John Kelly, S.J., who had been at Georgetown for 9 years; the University's senior Protestant Chaplain Rev. Bruce Epperly, who had been at Georgetown for 17 years; Rev. Cynthia Woods, a Protestant African American female chaplain; and Minister of Music, Jeremy Young. According to the University, the firings were the result of "financial constraints' and part of the plan to henceforth, have all chaplains assigned as "permanent part-time" employees.
Fr. Kelly served as Prefect of Chapels, Chaplain to the Business School, official liaison to the Knights of Columbus and The Catholic Living Project. He worked with the Catholic Hispanic community and was an active volunteer on the retreat programs. He avidly strove to improve the spiritual life of students, was available to any and all who sought his counsel.
"The "Chaplain Massacre" now totals 6 in 12 months and comes on the heels of last year's ousting of another popular Jesuit, Fr. William Watson, who restructured and enlarged the retreat program and supported the students' efforts to have crucifixes placed in Georgetown's classrooms. Other orthodox Jesuits have been threatened that they could have their student Masses taken away.
Fr. Bunnell suggested last year that the pitcher and bowl representing Jesus' washing of His apostles' feet would be a suitable alternative to the Crucifix, although he didn't clarify whether the two items should be hung on the walls of the classrooms or placed by the water fountains.
The Campus Ministries office also supported the establishment of "Safe Zones" where homosexuals would find "gay friendly" acceptance in campus offices and dorms. Fr. Bunnell did not return phone calls.
During a protest staged by the statue of Georgetown's founder Bishop John Carroll and directly below the windows of Fr. O'Donovan's office in Healy building, 300 Catholic and Protestant students carried signs that left no doubt about their theological dissatisfaction with Georgetown's chaplain decision: "If liturgy can be part-time, can salvation be part time, too?"; "Kelly Yes, Leo No"; "Due to financial difficulties in Heaven, God will only answer your prayers on a part-time basis, effective immediately. We apologize for any inconvenience"; Damnation without representation"; and "Heaven no, they won't go." One rally organizer, a former Resident Assistant of the Catholic Living Floor, said "We're not going to take this anymore." He had worked with others last year to force Georgetown to revamp a freshman "safe sex" (or "safe sin" as one disgusted Jesuit described it) orientation program involving courses in how to use condoms.
The former R.A. added that "The University's administration has shown time and again its bias against devotion and religious practice and hostility to devout Christians, in particular. It's time to stand up against those who would secularize our university."
Martha Van Hoy (COL '99) asked the question on everybody's mind at the protest: "What are the values of this university when it will put budgetary concern over Chaplain Epperly's 17 years of faithful service to troubled souls?" Penny Rue, associate Dean of Student Affairs, was booed off the Healy steps when she tried to defend Fr. Bunnell. Rue has been supportive of "Hoya's for Choice," the un-funded student pro-abortion group that was formed after the Vatican forced Fr. O'Donovan back in l992 to stop funding its predecessor "GU Choice".
Protestant students, who will no longer have any full time chaplains on campus, are particularly outraged and went to the heart of the matter following a packed meeting with Fr. Bunnell in the St. William Chapel the night after the firings. The meeting was attended by students of many faiths and several of the Protestants said they now understood what Catholics meant when they spoke of "wishy-washy priests".
One was very specific: "I want someone of my own religion I can talk to: I don't want someone running Campus Ministry who thinks my beliefs aren't worth a full-time chaplain." Another summed up the feeling of many at the meeting: "I shouldn't say this in a Chapel, but what in the hell has happened to honoring God on this campus?"
As though in direct response to the question, Larry Flynt told 900 laughing and clapping students the next afternoon in McDonough Arena that "The Church has had its hand on our crotch for 2,000 years." Flynt is confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed from the waist down as a result of being shot twenty years ago and is additionally afflicted with slurred speech. Although he wasn't paid for his appearance, the Lecture Fund, which invited him and is financed through tuition moneys, had to pay the University for the use of McDonough gym.
In his l5 minute talk and during the short Q and A afterwards, Flynt agreed with the ACLU in their support of flag burning; defended the right to publish instructions on the Internet on how to make bombs; and feels that video stores that sell pornographic tapes are the "poor man's art museums". Specific examples of his sexual philosophy were too descriptive for this article and also for what appeared in The Washington Times, The Washington Post and the Catholic News Service.
In a curious denial of the 'free speech' argument Flynt was trying to justify, the moderator chose not to ask him a question posed by a psychiatrist in attendance relative to Flynt's daughter, Tonya Flynt-Vega, who told The American Enterprise magazine in an interview that her father threatened "to wring my neck and have me killed" if she published a book about her upbringing, which reportedly included sexual abuse.
While Flynt was holding forth in McDonough, five members of the committee of "Students to Save the Chaplains" met with Fr. O'Donovan and Fr. Bunnell which one described as a "slap in the face" . They left offended both by the Director's resistance to changing his position and the support given to him by the University's President who seemed 'irritated' that he had been forced to cancel two obviously more important appointments.
Earlier in the week, The Georgetown Ignatian Society had sent a letter to Fr. O'Donovan in which he was reminded of the gravity of the moment: "Larry Flynt is an established purveyor of pornography and you, as Georgetown's chief executive officer, are answerable for the damage his association with the University will cause to its reputation as a Catholic institution. Of far greater import, however, is the responsibility you bear for the damage done to the souls of students in this dismissal of your priestly obligations to condemn, either by action or public statement, this man's known advocacy of behavior the Catholic Church has dogmatically declared to be sinful.
"Larry Flynt is yet one more example of your ongoing moral ineffectiveness as Georgetown's president and please, spare us the argument that this falls under students' First Amendment right of access to opinions. Your long history of putting 'free speech' ahead of religion imperatives aligns you with Larry Flynt: you aided and abetted abortion by funding "GU Choice"; and in "What I've learned," an interview by John H. Richardson in the March issue of Esquire, Flynt stated that "Religion has caused more harm than any other idea since the beginning of time. There's nothing good I can say about it. People use it as a crutch," adding that "These born-again experiences that you hear about all the time, they're nothing more than a chemical imbalance in the brain. These people need a little lithium and they'll be fine."
"We continue to pray, particularly on this the feast of St. Peter Canisus, S.J., called the "Hammer of heretics," that you will accept the responsibility you bear as Georgetown's president and in that process, avail yourself of the Holy Spirit and find the wisdom to understand His counsel; show fortitude and a pious reliance on the knowledge He makes available to all of us; and acknowledge the reality that a denial of Fear of the Lord carries a much heavier sentence than fear of not being popular." The letter was sent to Fr. O'Donovan's University FAX no. 687-6660.
In an effort to distance itself from Flynt, Georgetown issued a statement the day of his appearance: "Although Larry Flynt is speaking on campus at the request of students, Georgetown does not in any way endorse Mr. Flynt or this event. Further, we believe that Mr. Flynt's active attempt to profit by the humiliation and exploitation of women is shameful and wrong. Nevertheless, as a Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown stands by academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to invite speakers to campus - - even speakers who are controversial or potentially offensive. In a university and in a democratic society, the best response to controversial or offensive speech is more speech, not censorship."
A Georgetown-trained lawyer familiar with the "Speech and Expression at Georgetown University" policy said "It appears someone isn't paying attention to either the words or their meaning." He pointed out that the section on "Limitations" lists as unacceptable that which is "grossly obscene, or is grossly offensive..." and under "Expression at Catholic Universities" it states "The University's belief is that through this process of dialogue, the teachings of the Catholic Church will flourish and the commitment of the University and its members to these teachings will be strengthened."
He asserted that neither Georgetown nor Fr. O'Donovan could claim ignorance of what Flynt is all about. "If he (O'Donovan) didn't want to go out and buy the magazine, he could have saved what's left of his and Georgetown's Catholic reputation by pulling up the site on the Internet and see Hustler's glorification of S&M, bondage, lesbianism, homosexuality, masturbation, urination, fetishes, phone sex, chat rooms and on-line sex games. The teachings of the Catholic Church will be strengthened by students listening to some pervert like Flynt? I don't think so."
A student who attended the Flynt show and supports all forms of speech, thought the University should allow everybody to say everything. When asked if he thought a Satanists should be allowed to speak about the Freedom of Religion and hold a Black Mass on campus, he said he didn't know what a Black Mass was. After having it explained, he thought that should also be allowed but he drew the line on the American Nazi Party even though they had secured a permit some years back to march in Skokie, Illinois. The KKK? No. That was hate speech. Was degrading women in Hustler hate speech? He wasn't sure.
A copy of the Ignatian Society's letter to Fr. O'Donovan had also been sent to James Cardinal Hickey and as His Eminence was in Europe, Bishop William Lori, Auxiliary 'Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, issued a press release. "It is unbelievable that Georgetown University would allow our nation's premier purveyor of pornography, Larry Flynt, to speak on campus. Mr. Flynt's appearance has nothing to do with free speech, as some may claim. No Catholic university should provide a platform which furthers the degradation of women, immoral behavior and the anti-religious opinions Mr. Flynt represents. This is utterly contrary to the Catholic identity of Georgetown University. The University's actions are indefensible."
Obviously lost on Georgetown and Fr. O'Donovan, the United States Catholic Bishops had issued a statement in June l998: "Renewing the Mind of the Media: A statement on Overcoming the Exploitation of Sex and Violence in Communications," which read: "Pornography offends against the divine plan for the body and for the intimacy of sexual union...Isolating sexuality from a moral context and using it to titillate or degrade others for one's own profit or pleasure is always wrong."
Susan Gibbs, head of media relations for the archdiocese, pointed out the inconsistencies in Georgetown's ban on speech condoning violence: "Pornography is violence against women and causes men to become sexually obsessive and sexual offenders." She added that Bishop Lori, to no avail, had spoken twice with Fr. O'Donovan on the phone in an attempt to convince him to cancel Flynt's appearance and added it wasn't the first time the archdiocese had tried to intervene in events on the campus, citing the "GU Choice" matter - which was funded by the "Free Speech and Expression" policy; the question of homosexual groups; and the crucifix issue.
Manuel Miranda, lawyer, Georgetown graduate and president of the Cardinal Newman Society called Georgetown's press release "Total hypocrisy. Freedom of association is a sub-part of freedom of speech and Georgetown won't fund the Knights of Columbus because the Knights won't allow the University to control their membership which is open only to male Catholics."
Inconsistencies in the definition of what Georgetown will 'allow' students to do and say have multiplied in the last ten years to the point of near satire: While campus newspapers may not take ads for abortion services or the sale of condoms, they may editorially support the numerous pro-abortion speakers invited on campus and the free distribution of condoms by various student groups. When The Voice, a campus newspaper, ran a $1,000 ad by a group that questioned the authenticity of the Holocaust, the administration required the entire staff to visit the Holocaust museum yet The Georgetown Academy was forced to remove its Jesuit moderator Fr. James Schall from the masthead after an issue was published that was uncomplimentary to Fr. O'Donovan.
Last year the Academy was critical of the "Safe Zones" policy and almost the entire run of 3,500 was stolen from campus. When the administration made no effort to find the culprits, syndicated columnist John Leo bestowed "The Sheldon Award - The trophy that goes to the college president who did the most during l998 to look the other way while students stole or burned whole stacks of campus newspapers - to Rev. Leo O'Dononvan."
Still maintaining its open-minded acquiescence to expression of all views, students, staff and faculty attended "The Vagina Monologues" conference earlier this year in conjunction with the national "V-Day College Initiative". A male law school advisor at the University was quoted in The Washington Times: "We know what the 'V' stands for. You can imagine the reaction if a group of male students proposed a 'P' day."
Lesbian and homosexual film festivals abound and earlier in the month, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performed on campus. As reported in The Hoya Ramona, the ringleader of the troop, ate live crickets and worms and a male trooper lit a cigar, turned away from the audience, pulled his pants down and stuck the cigar between his buttocks. Ramona used a whip to slice the cigar into three sections. No comment from Fr. O'Donovan's office.
Not all Jesuit schools embrace Georgetown's rationale. Seton Hall, which also has a free speech policy, forced their Lecture Fund organizers to rescind its invitation to New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman because of her support of abortion. A Jesuit observer remarked that it was too bad the consistently pro-abortion Robert F. Drinan, S.J. wasn't stationed there instead of Georgetown as he was sure Seton Hall would shut him up fast.
A Jesuit in another part of the country connected the administration's support of Flynt with O'Donovan's sitting on the Disney Board of Directors. "No priest should have anything to do with Disney but hey, maybe he's trying to get on Hustler's board, too."
Increasingly Disney is being boycotted not only because of the violence and sexually explicit content of its films, but because of the anti-Catholic message of such productions as Priest and the ABC/Disney television show Nothing Sacred. The latest flap involves the movie Dogma in which the Virgin Mary and Joseph have a sexual relationship and produce a daughter who works in an abortion clinic. The cast of characters includes a foul-mouthed l3th apostle and a stripper named Serendipity who compares the Mass to bad sex. The Disney subsidiary Miramax was originally scheduled to release Dogma but a third party is being sought for the process because of complaints from the Catholic League. No complaints by Fr. O'Donovan have been reported.
Another Georgetown/O'Donovan/Flynt connection was noted by a faculty member and, as so often happens in Washington, it was to Clinton. Georgetown's president has dined with the current American President at the White House, flown on Air Force One, and given Clinton repeated opportunities to speak at the University in what many feel was an attempt to establish an aura of respectability for Bill. Flynt, who offered a million dollars to anyone who could come up with dirt on those who voted against Clinton in the House and Senate, attended the White House Correspondents' dinner on Saturday night after his Georgetown gig and Susan McDougal, who went to prison rather than rat on the President, sat on Flynt's lap and told the pornographer "You are my hero."
Appropriately, Fr. Bunnell presented a plaque on Sunday morning to Chaplain Epperly in commemoration of his 17 years of ministering to the Georgetown University community. In an equally appropriate gesture, 100 students boycotted the Mass usually said by Fr. Bunnell in Dahlgren Chapel and instead, assembled for an outdoor evening mass on Healy Lawn and a candlelight prayer vigil at 9:00 on the Healy Steps. Efforts to find out what plans have been made for the inappropriately fired Fr. Kelly were unsuccessful.
In the 'wages of sin' wrap up that historically follows scandal, an alumnus notified Georgetown on Monday that due to its having had Larry Flynt on campus, he was canceling his pledge of money and asked that his name be removed from the Annual Fund rolls. Unconfirmed reports are surfacing that he's not alone in that decision. A Marine Corps officer e-mailed "You know, it's hard to believe that a priest/Catholic administrator could be that damn stupid," and Alan Keyes devoted his early morning Catholic Family Radio show to the "Larry Flynt at Georgetown obscenity."
A Georgetown old timer summed it up succinctly: "If Leo doesn't want to sell the product he was hired to sell - the teachings of the Catholic Church - he should pack up his collar, go sell somebody else's product and leave the good Jesuits alone so they can do their jobs as priests...and he can take Drinan with him."
All news reports, statements and correspondence covering both the chaplain firings and Larry Flynt's appearance on campus are being forwarded to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and to the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. - 30 -