Last December, The Hoya, Georgetown University's student newspaper, printed the following editorial about Washington, D.C.'s new archbishop, Theodore McCarrick. He will be elevated to the rank of cardinal this week, at a consistory in the Vatican.
Last Tuesday, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick became archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes Georgetown University. The role of this figure to Georgetown historically has been an important one, and introductions are in order.
Georgetown University, as a Catholic institution that is part of the Archdiocese of Washington, has a responsibility to uphold established dogma, doctrine and ideals of the Roman Catholic Church. Georgetown students, as a part of this institution and part of that archdiocese, are ultimately under McCarrick's jurisdiction with regards to issues of Catholicism.
As he prepares to step into this authoritative role, certain aspects of McCarrick's background become important to his potential interaction with us at Georgetown. McCarrick has been involved with education. As a former dean of students of Catholic University, the archbishop has dealt with the dayto-day functions of a university and its students. Hopefully, this exposure will translate into a sympathetic understanding of a university's internal and external conflicts. McCarrick's involvement in higher education should serve to bridge the gap between the university and archdiocese and help us find common ground in maintaining a Catholic identity.
As a former chairman of the U.S. bishops' committee on international policy, McCarrick has experience with international matters, an important notch on the belt of the leading Catholic figure in the nation's capital. In this role with the U.S. bishops' committee, McCarrick embodied the Jesuit ideal of men and women for others in his support of debt relief for developing countries and aiding immigrants and refugees. Certainly, Georgetown and McCarrick have parallel goals.
In recent history, Georgetown's interaction with the Archbishop of Washington has come in times of conflict. The archbishop often serves as the voice of authority in a give-and-take relationship between academic freedom and upholding Catholic ideals. In the past, this authority has stepped in to reprimand and advise the university when issues have arisen which draw the university's Catholic identity into question. Battles over Larry Flynt's controversial on-campus speech two years ago and consideration of funding groups like Hoyas for Choice have brought struggles of Georgetown as a marketplace for ideas versus Georgetown as a Catholic stronghold to the fore-front. The archbishop has traditionally had the difficult role of stepping in when the fuzzy line between these two roles has to be drawn.
McCarrick ultimately will be the authority of one aspect of Georgetown University. Georgetown has a dual mission. As Catholic and as a university, Georgetown has to balance the ideas, freedoms and beliefs within the mold of a Catholic institution. While the university president has primary responsibility to maintain Georgetown's Catholic identity and efficiency, the archbishop is a looming authority. The archbishop's role should be to help Georgetown make sure that it can be a great university and a great Catholic university. A little guidance on the way to greatness never hurts.
With similar goals for Georgetown and common Catholic ideals to uphold, the university and McCarrick have every incentive to work together. Georgetown plays a role in the Catholicism of the archbishop and his diocese, and McCarrick plays a role in the university's status as a Catholic institution. We can, and should, work together.