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AM[D]G

Catholic secondary education in the U.S. remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization.

Georgetown Preparatory School in a 2004 photo. (Image: Brian Gnatt/Wikipedia)

Last November 11, on the centenary of its relocation to a 93-acre campus in suburban Washington, D.C., Georgetown Preparatory School announced a $60 million capital campaign. In his message for the opening of the campaign, Georgetown Prep’s president, Father James Van Dyke, SJ, said that, in addition to improving the school’s residential facilities, the campaign intended to boost Prep’s endowment to meet increasing demands for financial aid. Like other high-end Catholic secondary schools, Georgetown Prep is rightly concerned about pricing itself out of reach of most families. So Prep’s determination to make itself more affordable through an enhanced endowment capable of funding scholarships and other forms of financial aid for less-than-wealthy students is all to the good.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam [For the greater glory of God], often reduced to the abbreviation, AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns. That was not good news. Nor was I reassured by pondering Father Van Dyke’s campaign-opening message, in which the words “Jesus Christ” did not appear. Neither did Pope Francis’s call for the Church’s institutions to prepare missionary disciples as part of what the Pope has called a “Church permanently in mission.” And neither did the word “God,” save for a closing “Thanks, and God bless.”

Father Van Dyke did mention that “Ignatian values” were one of the “pillars” of Georgetown prep’s “reputation for excellence.” And he did conclude his message with a call for “men who will make a difference in a world that badly needs people who care, people who, in the words Ignatius wrote his best friend Francis Xavier as he sent him on the Society of Jesus’s first mission, will ‘set the world on fire’.” Fine. But ignition to what end?

Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the Indies and on to East Asia to set the world on fire with love of the Lord Jesus Christ, by evangelizing those then known as “heathens” with the warmth of the Gospel and the enlivening flame of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. St. Ignatius was a New Evangelization man half a millennium before Pope St. John Paul II used the term. St. Ignatius’s chief “Ignatian value” was gloria Dei, the glory of God.

Forming young men into spiritually incandescent, intellectually formidable and courageous Christian disciples, radically conformed to Jesus Christ and just as deeply committed to converting the world, was the originating purpose of Jesuit schools in post-Reformation Europe. Those schools were not content to prepare generic “men for others;” they were passionately devoted to forming Catholic men for converting others, the “others” being those who had abandoned Catholicism for Protestantism or secular rationalism. That was why the Jesuits were hated and feared by powerful leaders with other agendas, be they Protestant monarchs like Elizabeth I of England or rationalist politicians like Portugal’s 18th-century prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal.

Religious education in U.S. Catholic elementary schools has been improved in recent decades. And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities. It’s Catholic secondary education in the U.S. that remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization: leaders who will bring others to Christ, heal a deeply wounded culture, and become agents of a sane politics. Jesuit secondary education, beginning with prominent and academically excellent schools like Georgetown Prep, could and should be at the forefront of that reform.

Jesuit secondary education is unlikely to provide that leadership, however, if its self-presentation brackets God and announces itself as committed to “the greater glory” of…whatever.


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About George Weigel 296 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent book is The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), published by Ignatius Press.

14 Comments

  1. As a 50-year alumnus of Georgetown Preparatory School, I can attest that the school’s loss of Catholic identity and character by no means begins with its current Mammon-worshiping capital campaign but rather can be traced back even to my time in the school when, at the start of Vatican II, the Maryland Provincial of the Society of Jesus abandoned the priesthood to marry, followed shortly thereafter by the Jesuit Prefect of Studies at the school who did likewise and then formally apostatized to become an Episcopalian priest, and was finally followed by the departure en masse of virtually every Jesuit Scholastic seminarian at the school. Georgetown Preparatory School today is a flaming dumpster fire that publicly and formally refused to defend alumnus Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, including scurrilous and calumnious repeated attacks by even Jesuit “America” magazine on Mr. Kavanaugh, and is rancid with the left-wing globalist and ecologist cant relentlessly promoted by Jesuit Superior General “Satan-Does-Not-Exist” Sosa and Jesuit Pope “Pachamama” Bergoglio. I am ashamed of what Georgetown Preparatory School has become and condemn its fraudulent “greater glory” campaign of heresy, sodomy, and corruption.

    • You are correct Paul but I’m thinking WHY does George Wiegel not go after the REAL sinners – our Catholic Bishops? No our catholic bishops, I should say, small letters.. Could it be it will make him unpopular and have an adverse effect on his career. Example: A few years ago, at the Napa Conference Mr. Weigel asked Arch Chaput: ” In the light of the long-running Mc Carrick scandal do you not think you should have issued fraternal correction to him before things got totally out of hand?”
      Arch Chaput response; “What could I do about it. That’s up to the local bishop.” NO FOLLOW UP QUESTION FROM George Weigel whatsoever. A sure sign of an establishment man. TWO establishment men in fact, ,Weigel AND Chaput.
      Ay there’s the rub! Two of the most influential men in the American Church willing only to go so far and no further. Of such weak men St John Vianney says ” It is not to love God in being faithful in part of one’s duties and ignore the rest.” But to end on a good note. Check out Fr. James Altman of La Crosse Wi. Collectivly the American Bishops like my Irish bishops are a disgrace to Christ’s Church but one bold pastor like Fr. Altman is worth a thousand Bishops and keeps my hopes alive in these desperate times. —

  2. This piece and the recent news about Loyola College removing Flannery O’Connor’s name from a dorm are but two more nails in the coffin containing The Jesuits’ former good name and reputation.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Weigel. May I suggest that each person who reads this print it out, copy it and send it to a local Catholic high school to whom it would be relevant? If that school is already advocating all, ‘for the Glory of God’, then thank them and encourage them to keep it up. If they are not, point this out to them, ask them to change their mission so that they are glorifying our good God.

  4. The totally unsurprising Georgetown phenomenon. It might be that real discipleship and energized evangelization hinges on multiculturalism [!] if done right. Benedict offers this intriguing and potential breakthrough:

    “Certainly we can and must learn from that which is holy to others, but it is our obligation both in relation to them and to our own selves to nourish our own reverence for the Holy One and to show the face of the God who has appeared [!!!] to us [….] If we fail to do this, we are not only denying the identity of Europe [read the West]; we are also depriving others of a service to which they are entitled. The absolutely profane character that has developed in the West is utterly alien to the cultures of the world, which are convinced that a world without God has no future. Hence, IT IS PRECISELY MULTICULTURALISM THAT SUMMONS US BACK TO OUR OWN SELVES” (Values in a Time of Upheaval, 2006).

    So–as if we too were hearing it for the very first time–what do we REALLY think about the startling mystery of the Incarnation and the corollary Triune Oneness? (And the elevated mystery of SELVES as giftedly human “persons”.) As contrasted with, for example, the monolithic monotheism of Islam? Prestigious Georgetown University features a leading center for Islamic studies, but also has been criticized for remaining silent on key points, funded as it has been by Wahhabi oil money, from Saudi Arabia.

    Too bad, does Benedict’s breakthrough summons fall flat at Land o’ Lakes/Muslim-apologist Georgetown? Where the “profane character” of the West alloys with the “pluralism” model of (merely convergent) global religions and kitchen-blender multiculturalism. A curricula smorgasbord, but no salt?

  5. A-la Joe Biden they could have said, “For the Greater Glory of the Thing.”

    Honestly, I don’t understand why Catholic leftists make a pretense of having faith. It’s clear they don’t believe.

  6. Mr. Weigel seems to be holding out hope that the Jesuit order can still be saved – from itself it seems.

    I don’t share his optimism and from the other comments here not too many do.

  7. “And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities.” Really? Weigel mustn’t be
    thinking of Catholic ones. Tell me more.

  8. There is a consistency between the saintly Jesuits of old and the current Jesuits. AMDG meant that if the world was coming to an end in the next few seconds they would do nothing different than what they were doing before receiving the news. They were acting in accordance with their motto. Makes one wonder.

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