The Rev. Timothy S. Healy, the president of Georgetown University, assailed the Moral Majority and President Reagan's budget cuts and foreign policy yesterday as symptoms of a "bout of meanness" that Healy said is "souring" American society.
Healy condemned "the face that America is now showing abroad" and the "bitter set of new national priorities that puts military hardware above the promises we made to the old, gulls children out of school lunches and . . . proposes that student loans can be adequately replaced by tuition tax credits."
"In our haste to balance the budget, we seem to ride roughshod over the human considerations," Healy said at a convocation of the University of the District of Columbia, marking the completion of UDC's Van Ness campus.
Healy, who is a Jesuit priest, also derided the Moral Majority as the "prophet of . . . the new righteousness." He compared the organization, headed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Protestant evangelist, to the Ku Klux Klan.
The Georgetown president, who describes himself as a Democrat, spoke on the first day of the new fiscal year, when the opening round of President Reagan's tax and budget reductions went into effect. He received enthusiastic applause from an audience of about 900 at yesterday morning's convocation. In late afternoon he repeated many of the same points speaking at a 20th anniversary ceremony at the City University of New York, where Healy served as vice-chancellor before becoming Georgetown's president in 1976.
In a statement from his headquarters in Lynchburg, Va., Falwell denounced Healy's speeches as "simply another uninformed attack," which he said may have been inspired by "the headlines obtained by Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti who made similar statements a few weeks ago."
Falwell described the Moral Majority as "a political organization that is committed to promoral and traditional family values in America" and that also strongly supports the state of Israel.
He said the group has opposed abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Falwell has been a strong supporter of President Reagan.
In his UDC speech, likening the Moral Majority to the Ku Klux Klan, Healy declared: "Whether hatred comes wrapped in white sheets or the scripture, it is still a denial of man and his works."
But Cal Thomas, a Moral Majority vice president, said the group opposes the Klan, which traditionally has been anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic as well as antiblack.
"Thirty percent of our supporters are Catholics," Thomas said. "Eighteen percent of the members of Falwell's church are black . . . . Father Healy doesn't know what he's talking about. It is he who is biased and bigoted."
Speaking in the Fine Arts Auditorium at UDC's $87.5 million campus, Healy said, "America is in a rancorous mood these days, and our meanness tracks not escalating interest rates, but a sinking Dow Jones . . . . These moods have found different names: Nativism, Know-Nothingism, America First, the Ku Klux Klan, McCarthyism. Now we have the new righteousness and its prophet, the Moral Majority."
"Its voice is the voice of hatred," Healy said at another point in his speech. "Its stand is against rather than for. It revels in a rhetoric of condemnation. Its master work is political assassination.
"Ultimately, in this republic these are the seeds of its death," Healy said. "The fairness of the American people will bring it down."
Healy said both the University of the District of Columbia and Georgetown were vulnerable to "the new religiosity that's sweeping the nation." But he added: "I'm on safe ground, since when the Moral Majority says 'Christian,' it doesn't mean me. The new righteousness runs counter to Western religion . . . ."
The "new righteousness" also has done damage, Healy said, by "its assault on the classic American idea that lined up U.S. foreign policy against oppression, tyranny, and human cruelty, wherever found.
"Now at the moment we seem to be moving away from that stand -- steadily backwards," Healy continued. "We have deafened our ears and hardened our hearts. In defiance of all 200 years of tradition, we claim now that our only consideration is our own interest."
In an interview later, Healy said he didn't mean his remarks as a "political comment" or an attack specifically on the Reagan administration. "It's the mood I'm after," he said. "It's us. It's our mood and I think it's rotten."
At the morning ceremony, UDC President Lisle C. Carter Jr. presented an honorary doctorate degree to former D.C. mayor Walter E. Washington, who appealed for construction of UDC's downtown campus at Mount Vernon Square, which has been blocked by Congress. The former mayor, who lost to Marion Barry in 1978, received an enthusiastic ovation, which prompted Carter to remark, "Maybe that means you'll run again."
Carter also presented a citation to the widow of Sen. Wayne Morse, of Oregon, who sponsored legislation in the mid-1960s creating Federal City College. And Carter presented an honorary degree to former Rep. Ancher Nelsen, of Minnesota, who sponsored creation of the Washington Technical Institute.
Federal City and WTI merged with D.C. Teachers College in 1977 to form UDC.