Georgetown University, the foremost Jesuit institution in the United States, one that was called the “alma mater of Catholic colleges in America” by Pope Pius IX, and a university that boasts of a renowned Bioethics Institute, has recently allowed an abortion-rights group, GU Choice, access to the benefits extended to all student groups. These include such relatively mundane matters as computer and mailing privileges, but they also include more substantial benefits such as hosting events and speakers funded with university funds.

In a letter sent to every member of the Georgetown community, Dean of Student Affairs Jack DeGoia defended the decision, claiming that it balanced both a commitment to free speech and the “moral tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.” He was one of the few, either in or out of the university, who was convinced by this logic. Archbishop of Washington James Cardinal Hickey denounced the decision, many alumni have withdrawn funds, and four canon lawsuits are pending—one each by students, faculty, alumni, and concerned laypersons—in order to dissolve the university’s relationship with the Catholic Church formally, as it has already been done informally.

The dean of student affairs, however, is only the front man for the university’s president, Fr. Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., who made the final decision. Fr. O’Donovan has defended his action in terms of preserving “academic freedom” and as a logical outgrowth of the “dynamic tradition of Jesuit education.” He argues that the university is not “recognizing” the proabortion group (terminology that was discarded after the debacle with the homosexual-rights group a few years ago) but is merely providing a forum to discuss the “choice” debate, including (as Dean DeGoia put it) “the moral and legal status and rights of the fetus.” Apparently, it is naive to suppose that a university led by a theologian of a Church that has condemned abortion for two millennia would be clear as to what those rights are.

With this decision, made during the quincentennial of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s birth, as well as the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Jesuits, the elite of the Society have demonstrated how little they care for the ideas of its founder and how little they respect the Catholic students and parents who pay thousands of dollars to be educated by these “soldiers of Christ.” Georgetown has paid for lectures by Molly Yard and presentations by two men who wish to have the first legally recognized homosexual marriage in the District of Columbia. (Their case, incidentally, is being handled in part by faculty from the Georgetown University law school.)

The circumlocutions and obfuscations of Dean DeGoia and his superior would be humorous if the stakes were not so high. So while the abortion-rights activists exult, and as the press and the pundits hail this decision as a victory, not for free speech or academic freedom, but for NARAL and its allies (who in recent years have targeted Catholic colleges), DeGoia and Fr. O’Donovan appear to be the only ones fooled by their reasoning.