Archdiocese, 26,000 Catholics Scold Georgetown Over Sebelius

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 16, 2012   |   5:01PM   |   Washington, DC

The Archdiocese of Washington has released a condemning statement and more than 26,000 Catholics have signed a petition opposing Georgetown University’s decision to allow pro-abortion HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to give a commencement address.

As LifeNews has reported, after tens of thousands of people complained to Georgetown University about its having pro-abortion HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as one of its commencement speakers, the Catholic college has attempted to play down her participation.

Sebelius has an extensive pro-abortion record, including presiding over the implementation of Obamacare, her gubernatorial administration shredding documents in Kansas while she was governor that resulted in the dismissal of a criminal case against Planned Parenthood, and her close relationship to abortion practitioner George Tiller.

The Cardinal Newman Society has been leading a campaign to get students, staff, alumni and other concerned people to contact Georgetown. It has also alerted Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and sent a letter to Georgetown President John DeGioia urging him to immediately withdraw the invitation.

The Archdiocese of Washington has since criticized the Catholic college:

During the past week there has been much in the national and local news regarding the controversial selection of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to be a featured speaker at an awards ceremony at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.  Yesterday, the President of the University, John J. DeGioia, issued a public statement in response to the concerns, objections and even outrage that have been expressed.

The Archdiocese of Washington reserved public comment to permit Georgetown University and its sponsor, the Society of Jesus, the opportunity to address the controversy.  While the explanation of how this unfortunate decision was made is appreciated, it does not address the real issue for concern – the selection of a featured speaker whose actions as a public official present the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history and the apparent lack of unity with and disregard for the bishops and so many others across the nation who are committed to the defense of freedom of religion.

Contrary to what is indicated in the Georgetown University President’s statement, the fundamental issue with the HHS mandate is not about contraception.  As the United States Bishops have repeatedly pointed out, the issue is religious freedom.  Secretary Sebelius’ mandate defines religious ministry so narrowly that our Catholic schools and universities, hospitals and social service ministries do not qualify as “religious enough” to be exempt.  This redefinition of religion penalizes Catholic organizations because they welcome and serve all people regardless of their faith.  Ironically, because of Georgetown’s commitment to open its doors to Catholic and non-Catholic students alike, the university fails to qualify as a religious institution under the HHS mandate.

Given the dramatic impact this mandate will have on Georgetown and all Catholic institutions, it is understandable that Catholics across the country would find shocking the choice of Secretary Sebelius, the architect of the mandate, to receive such special recognition at a Catholic university. It is also understandable that Catholics would view this as a challenge to the bishops.

It is especially distressing to think that the university’s Public Policy Institute would be unaware of this national debate since the mandate was published last August.  Such a radical redefining of ministry should prompt Georgetown, as a Catholic and Jesuit university, to do more to challenge the mandate and speak up for freedom of religion.

Today, the Cardinal Newman Society, Catholic watchdog group, announced it is is sending to Georgetown University President John DeGioia the names of more than 26,000 people who joined an open letter urging Georgetown to cancel Sebelius’ invitation.

The results are also being shared with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Pope Benedict XVI’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

“These signers are students, alumni, Catholic families, pastors and others who can no longer tolerate Georgetown University’s betrayal of our Church and our Catholic beliefs,” CNS President Patrick J. Reilly wrote in a cover letter to DiGioia today. “You have two more days to stop this scandal and insult. We pray that you appreciate the deep concern of these signers and hear through them the voice of reason.”

The letter reads:

Dear President DeGioia:

It has come to the attention of The Cardinal Newman Society and the following signers that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been granted the honor of speaking at the diploma ceremony for Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute on Friday, May 18. We strongly urge you to withdraw the invitation to Secretary Sebelius immediately.

It is scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly “pro-choice” Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration’s effort to restrict the Constitution’s first freedom — the right to free exercise of religion — while threatening the survival of many Catholic and other religious colleges and universities, schools, charities, hospitals and other apostolates.

Georgetown insults all Americans by this honor. The selection is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion. The contrast is stark between Georgetown University and those faithful Catholic colleges and universities that have stood for faith and freedom.


Patrick J. Reilly

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has termed the mandate “an unwarranted government definition of religion” that is “alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law,” “a violation of personal civil rights” and “a mandate to act against our teachings.”

CNS added, “But Secretary Sebelius’ record on abortion is at least as troubling as the mandate. When Governor of Kansas, Sebelius supported abortion rights and vetoed pro-life legislation. In 2008, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City reportedly told Sebelius, a Roman Catholic, to stop receiving the Eucharist until she publicly recants her position on abortion and makes a ‘worthy sacramental confession.’”