Trinity: the Catholic School Pat McGuire Killed
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
In February, the Washington Post Magazine (WPM) carried a puff piece on Trinity University in Washington, D.C. praising its president, Patricia McGuire, as “The Devoted” with a subheading describing her thus: “She spent her life transforming Trinity. So where does Pat McGuire – and the university she rebuilt – go from here?”1 In general the article described McGuire’s commitment to Trinity and her role in empowering women (pro-abortion feminist women like Trinity graduates Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas and currently the Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Maggie Williams, former chief of staff for first lady Hillary Clinton. Trinity has lionized these women as they advanced liberalism and the democrat party.) The author called McGuire “the soul” of Trinity, and he apparently meant it as high praise. But, in fact, McGuire has presided over the demise of a once great Catholic institution that has lost her soul. Trinity once inspired women to be defenders and champions of the Catholic faith. No more.
I know. My mother graduated from Trinity in 1939 with a warrior’s heart. She raised ten children, six of them girls, passing on a strong sense of personal responsibility for practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. And her education at Trinity, along with her upbringing, played an important part in developing her moral conscience. She loved the doctrines of the Church that valued life from its first beginnings. She embraced the Church’s exhortation to a life of virtue and resistance to the seven deadly sins that lead one on the path to hell. She had a strong social conscience rooted in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum. Sadly, the Trinity that fostered that holy devotion to the truth in my mom is long gone and McGuire helped destroy her.
WPM, however, viewing Trinity through worldly eyes, sees McGuire not as a hard-hatted, one woman wrecking crew, but a savior. McGuire is credited with resurrecting Trinity from near extinction by creative methods of increasing enrollment at both undergraduate and graduate levels. She built a sports center that pays for itself by engaging the local community in yoga and exercise classes, she brings in buckets of federal money through minority scholarships and student loans. What the article fails to mention, however, is that, while McGuire may have saved Trinity financially, she hastened the process, already begun, of killing the school’s Catholic identity.
The author, Daniel De Vise implies that alumnae opposition to McGuire was primarily racist. He claimed the women who revolted against McGuire’s actions feared the school becoming an inner city black institution with lower standards that would make a Trinity diploma less valuable. That may be true for some. But what the article almost completely overlooked was opposition from alumna like me who wanted to see Trinity return to her Catholic roots and stop scandalizing students whatever their color. De Vise included only one paragraph in the extensive article about religious concerns mentioning a 1995 alumnae revolt covered by The Post. “The group [The Alumnae Action Committee] alleged [McGuire] had diluted the school’s Catholicism…. In a Post account at the time an alumna lamented that the school was ‘adapting to contemporary society.’”
Choosing that particular quote was the equivalent of calling the protesting alumnae dinosaurs living in the past who objected to change. In reality, I suspect the woman was talking about the danger of Trinity conforming to the world, a problem St. Paul, in his letters, frequently warned against. But. like his predecessor, who used the quote to deride, De Vise merely repeated the defamation. It allowed him to dismiss legitimate faith concerns without addressing them.
Could McGuire have accomplished her financial wizardry while restoring and nurturing Trinity’s Catholic identity? It would have been exciting to see her try. But we will never know because she did not even attempt to maintain Trinity’s integrity, perhaps because she herself is a cafeteria Catholic. Certainly the liberal feminist orientation at Trinity implies such.
To be fair, however, McGuire is not singularly responsible for Trinity’s moral collapse as I can testify since I was there from 1964 – 1968, graduating two years before the future president entered as a freshman. The disintegration of the faith was already well underway. Moral Theology was in a shambles as the letter (See The Post Office) from Olivia McFadden, another Trinity grad several years ahead of me, indicates. While I missed the scandal of Gerard Sloyan which she describes, the layman who taught my moral theology class was no better.
Mr. Reilly presided over our indoctrination in situation ethics and moral relativism. We didn’t read Aquinas or the fathers of the Church. No, our moral theologians were Joseph Fletcher2 whose work provided a rationale to kill for a “good” reasons and Harvey Cox3 whose ideas undergird the church-condemned beliefs of liberation theology.
The philosophy department was also a mess and Trinity’s idea of a “retreat” was to bring in a dissenting priest who favored women’s ordination and contraception. So Trinity’s decline wasn’t only because female institutions were out of fashion. Alumna like me who retained the faith or returned to it (no thanks to Trinity) hated the scandals being perpetrated on young women in an institution that claimed to be Catholic. Those of us who recognized what Trinity had become did all we could to discourage students looking for a real Catholic education from considering our alma mater.
Unfortunately, McGuire, attending Trinity during those tumultuous and dissident years after Vatican II, apparently never embraced the fullness of Catholic truth. She took the helm in 1989 and during her tenure has conformed the school even further to the world – the feminist and LGBT world. Trinity now sports a women’s study minor and features radical speakers like Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Fund as well as having a gay pride club. In 2007 I wrote about the Trinity Mass honoring Nancy Pelosi4 celebrated by pro-abortion Jesuit Fr. Robert Drinan. The event was used to praise homosexual Barney Frank and castigate those who call for pro-abortion Catholics to be refused Communion. Enabling and honoring pro-abortion Catholics has become a staple at Trinity illustrating how far she has fallen.
On her blog, on the other hand, McGuire castigates the orthodox. She engaged in a tirade against those who objected and protested Notre Dame’s award to President Obama. Her extended rant also misrepresented the events. She lamented, “the spectacle of ostensibly Catholic mobs camping out at Notre Dame for the specific purpose of disrupting the commencement address of the nation’s first African American president.” She called it an “ugly spectacle” and “an embarrassment to all Catholics” showing the new president a face “distorted in the snarl of hatred.”5 I can’t even begin to do justice to McGuire’s tantrum. Anyone who took the trouble to watch the videos of what happened at Notre Dame and listen to the sickening political speech Obama delivered would see the difference between those praying the rosary for both the president and the university and McGuire’s hateful rant. She mocked orthodoxy in her speech and repeated the same liberal mantra of “social justice” by big government.
Trinity’s curriculum reflects the same liberalism. The women’s studies minor promotes “feminist theory” and “strategies for social change.”6 Combine that with student internships with feminist and pro-abortion groups and pro-abortion politicians and the picture is anything but Catholic. The online organization, Catholic Culture, which reviews websites for orthodoxy gives Trinity a danger designation for fidelity saying, “The focus of the site, as well as the college, is totally secular.”7 Amen to that.
But McGuire isn’t content with promoting moral relativism and secularism solely on campus. In early May, Trinity partnered with the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), well known for its organized and malicious dissent, to hold a conference entitled Washington Briefing for Nation’s Catholic Community. No surprise, the presenters were mostly liberal radicals including Nancy Pelosi, columnist E.J. Dionne, Sr. Carol Keehan (president of the Catholic Health Association, who supported Obama’s pro-abortion health care takeover and received a presidential pen for her betrayal), Sr. Simone Campbell (director of NETWORK, a liberal nuns’ lobby group), Morna Murry (President of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the faux Catholic dissent group funded by George Soros), Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. (former editor of America forced to resign by the Vatican for his dissent-ridden editorial policy), and Joe Feuerherd (NCR editor). There were some orthodox names in the mix and some high level political types including two former ambassadors to the Vatican and several conservative Congressmen. Helen Alvare, former head of the bishops’ pro-life office, was the token pro-lifer on the agenda. But the bulk of the “briefing” was clearly aimed at furthering the liberal spin on the faith with “tolerance” as the Holy Grail. And the meeting was heavily attended by dissenters. Nothing illustrated that more than the sustained ovation and applause given to Sr. Carol Keehan. NCR’s reporter, Michael Winters described the moment in gushing hyperbole:
That applause came from somewhere deep in the consciousness of the assembled Catholics, all of whom share a commitment to the Church’s social justice traditions and teaching. It came from the years of frustration as successive presidents failed to find the political calculus needed to enact universal health coverage. It came, most especially, from the recognition that we almost encountered another chapter in that catalogue of frustration. But, at the last minute, Sister Carol, with that counter-cultural combination of a wealth of knowledge and experience and the unique authenticity of one who has chosen poverty, provided the moral push that pushed health care reform across the finish line. We had come to hear Sister Carol speak, so we stopped the applause eventually. I wish it had gone on forever.8
An interesting aspect of this fawning description is that it demonstrates that those attending the event were primarily liberals who equate social justice with socialism. No orthodox, pro-life Catholic would rise and engage in sustained applause for a woman who betrayed the unborn by supporting a healthcare plan that increases the killing.
The materials promoting the conference subtly advertised its dissent saying, “No longer are American Catholics called to simply ‘pay, pray and obey.’ Not only does a healthy church require the full, active participation of its members, informed Catholics are called to lead the way in building an inclusive, tolerant and just society. That makes information and networking at all levels vital if we are to provide clear voices and strong leadership on today’s pressing issues.”
Those who think NCR and Trinity University care about anything but “strong liberal leadership” ala Trinity grads Pelosi and Sebelius and president Obama, are delusional. The phrase “building an inclusive, tolerant, and just society” is codespeak for treating homosexuality, “reproductive rights,” and other sinful choices as normal and acceptable.
In view of the lineup of liberal, pro-abortion, pro-big government participants, a conference goal was obviously creating the illusion of “dialogue” on liberal issues. Like the “common ground” conversations of years ago where pro-lifers legitimized pro-abortion groups by dialoguing about killing babies, this conference, organized by dissenters, could only provide gains for liberals by making their evil positions points of discussion. But just as there is no common ground and no possibility of tolerance for murdering unborn children, there is no possible common ground between the positions of the liberals at NCR who want to sanction moral evils condemned by Christ and His Church and those who adhere to the truth.
NCR and Trinity promote moral relativism and cafeteria Catholicism. They exemplify Pope Benedict’s recent statement saying, “Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church."9 The pope was, of course, referring to the sex abuse scandals. However, groups like NCR and Trinity contributed to the sex abuse scandals by promoting acceptance of the gay lifestyle and homosexual priests. NCR has always been a mouthpiece for the activist gay community featuring in its pages rebels like Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, founders of New Ways Ministry and other champions of the gay agenda. The paper is a mouthpiece for dissent. They promote cafeteria Catholicism which is ravaging the Church and endangering souls. NCR and Trinity teach the people in the pews to defy Church teachings and put their own feelings and opinions above doctrine. To NCR and Trinity, every Catholic is his (or should I say her) own pope.
In the final analysis, the Washington Post Magazine article illustrates that the world loves its own as St. John says. Patricia McGuire is one of them and so they praise her. If one thing is certain, it’s that Trinity dances to the tune of the world. Pat McGuire could have rebuilt Trinity to be a powerful witness in the 21st century. She chose the world instead. Unfortunately, while she “saved” Trinity financially, the school lost her Catholic soul in the process. It was a bad bargain and it’s a pathetic legacy for Patricia McGuire who will forever be remembered as the president who took an ailing Catholic college and killed it.
2 Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville KY, 1966.
3 Harvey Cox, The Secular City, MacMillan Company, NY, 1965.
4 Mary Ann Kreitzer, Of Nancy Pelosi, Father Drinan and Alma Mater, The Truth Vol. 11, No.4 Winter 2006/2007.