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Several graduating seniors, who were aware of and cared about what Brennan represents, did their best, in vain, to get him dis-invited. They saw scandal in the reality that the violent policies Brennan advocated remain in stark contrast to the principles that Fordham University was supposed to stand for as a Catholic Jesuit University.
Controversy on campus grew, catalyzed by two protest petitions created by Fordham students and multiple articles in the school newspaper, The Ram. Eventually, Fordham senior and organizer, Scott McDonald, requested a meeting with university president McShane to discuss why Fordham's trustees could not be trusted to invite someone more representative of Fordham's core values.
McDonald met with McShane, Vice President Jeffrey Gray and university secretary Margaret Ball, but McShane dismissed Scott's qualms about torture: "We don't live in a black and white world; we live in a gray world."
Then McShane announced that what was said at the meeting was "off the record...not to leave this room." But McDonald had not agreed to that. He left the meeting wondering if the moral theologians at Fordham would agree that torture had now become a "gray area."
We who attended Jesuit institutions decades ago were taught that there was a moral category called "intrinsic evil" -- actions that were always wrong, such as torture, rape and slavery. At Fordham, at least, torture seems to have slipped out of that category.
Now that the issue of the 272 slaves has again surfaced, Georgetown University needs to acknowledge its institutional guilt, apologize and find some way to make restitution to the descendants of those African-Americans.
Though clearly whatever is done will fall into the category of way-too-little and way-too-late, confession of this earlier sin might finally put the brakes on the steady moral decline of what once was an important social as well as religious institution -- the Jesuit university.