In Loco Parentis

America’s oldest Catholic university is ready to concede defeat.

An article in Georgetown University’s newspaper The Hoya welcomes the new director of the school’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) Resource Center and does some end-zone celebration for our benefit. Georgetown, you may remember, is a university in the Jesuit Tradition. You’ll be edified by the following details:

Jack Harrison (SFS ’09), co-chair of GU Pride, also said he hopes to work closely with the new director in developing programming for the year. . . . Harrison said GU Pride is looking to launch efforts this year to make the campus more “trans-friendly” by working to provide bathrooms and better housing options for transgender individuals.

It’s futile, as we all know, to point out the conflict between the Catholic view of the human person and Georgetown’s LGBTQ enthusiasms. The university, for its part, views its Catholic heritage as a kind of mascotry, useful in the imagery of alumni loyalty but of no more consequence for its moral decision- making than the colors orange and black are for Princeton’s. The Jesuits, for their part, have swung behind the smile-without-a-cat leadership of their Alice in Wonderland superiors, who insist the Society of Jesus is wholly in conformity to the Catholic Church except in doctrine, worship, and prayer. In sum, few persons in positions of authority are likely to see a transgender bathroom as inconsistent with Mystici Corporis, and fewer still are likely to care.

Yet Georgetown’s trans-baths—like the dental dams at Loyola Chicago— serve as a particularly apt emblem of the university’s own view of its mission. Gender identity is among the most basic elements of human self-awareness, and one of the fundamental tasks of education, beginning with a mother’s first words to her child, is instruction in what it means to be a man or to be a woman. A society that fails to transmit these truths to its young hardly qualifies as a society at all. To announce that one’s gender can remain an open question— as an institution does by providing trans-friendly restrooms—is an act of profound moral and intellectual defeatism. It amounts to saying that nothing important is knowable (whence nothing important is transmittable).

A culture of sterility

Think back to those crew-cut vets who attended Georgetown on the GI Bill in the late 1940s, and imagine that someone approached them with the prophecy that, within 60 years, GU would fund a LGBTQ center on campus and consider adding facilities for transgender students and faculty. Not only would they reject the prediction outright, not only would they be shocked and sickened at the thought, but they would very likely regard the person who made the forecast as having an unwholesome, even demented, imagination. Many would be angered at the malice they would see behind the suggestion that such a capitulation was possible.

But for 40 of those 60 years defeatism has been a distinguishing feature of the academy, and the moral universe of today’s Georgetown undergrad would be largely unrecognizable to his grandfather. Some time ago, in refl ecting on a report of consensual cannibalism (undertaken for erotic purposes), your Uncle Di suggested that a student in the Georgetown class of 2023 might end up eating her roommate, consensually, like a spider concluding her mating ritual. One might object vehemently to this prediction, but in so doing one would simply replicate the outraged incredulity we imputed to our 1940s vets at the prospect of dental dams and transbaths.

Morally, rationally, institutionally, nothing stands in the way of the progress to cannibalism that couldn’t be brushed aside by a change in fashion. Given their indoctrination, the parents of 2023 are most likely to object to their children’s dining on their roomy on the grounds of trans-fat (“I don’t want you stewing Emily until she loses at least three kilos . . .”). Nutrition has been pulled into the vacuum left by metaphysics.

But perhaps you spotted the flaw in my argument. I referred to the “parents” of 2023, and it goes without saying that those who frequent GU’s LGBTQ center are unlikely to figure in this category. A culture of sterility is a contradiction in terms. Those who embrace Georgetown’s enthusiasms most earnestly today can be counted on to provide no students for the future; conversely, those interested in exercising the reproductive right known as reproduction are by and large confident about which bathroom to enter. The future belongs to the fertile, demographers say, and while we can’t predict what relics of a gentler past our children’s children will find when they arrive on campus, a “trans-friendly bath in the Jesuit tradition” is unlikely to be among them.


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