In a statement sent to The Cardinal Newman Society Monday night, the Archdiocese of Washington responded to the controversy surrounding the invite of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards to speak to students and staff at Georgetown University next month, criticizing the invitation and what it suggests about the campus culture at the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university.
The Newman Society broke the news on March 2 that the Lecture Fund at Georgetown invited Richards to campus. The Lecture Fund “is a non-partisan student-run organization that exists to enrich the academic experience of the Georgetown community. The Lecture Fund strives to bring speakers to Georgetown’s campus to enlighten, educate and, occasionally, entertain.”
A quote at the top of the group’s website reads, “Keep them coming, all of them — the radicals, the politicians, the spiritual leaders and whoever else can be roped into speaking here. To continue the Jesuit ideal of lifelong, comprehensive learning, our minds need to be challenged, inspired and opened.”
On March 3, the University issued a statement defending its decision to allow Richards to speak on campus citing Georgetown’s commitment to “the free exchange of ideas.”
From the Archdiocese of Washington statement: “Recently it was reported that the Lecture Fund — a student-run organization at Georgetown University — had invited the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund to speak at the university. The university insists that this is a matter of student autonomy and free speech, although the same student organization is selective in what it accepts for discussion and whom they invite.
“In any case, this is not our issue here,” the statement continued. “What we lament and find sadly lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what should be an environment of morality, ethics and human decency that one expects on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity.”
The Newman Society pointed out in its original report that as the head of PPFA and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Richards promotes positions and activism on a daily basis that directly contradict Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human life and on human sexuality. And according to PPFA’s records of “abortion services” disclosed in annual reports, Richards has overseen the deaths of over 2.8 million babies since taking charge of the organization in 2006.
In addition to being known as the largest facilitator of abortions in the U.S., Planned Parenthood promotes the use of contraceptive drugs and devices to avoid pregnancy (including abortifacient “emergency contraception”), and encourages teenagers to masturbate and engage in sexual activity. Richards has also defended Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the selling of body parts procured from aborted babies, revealed last year in a series of undercover videos.
“One would prefer to see some recognition by this student group of the lives and ministry, focus and values of people like Blessed Óscar Romero, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis in place of that group’s seemingly constant preoccupation with sexual activity, contraception and abortion. The Archdiocese of Washington is always open and ready to dialogue with the students, faculty and administration of the University on issues of such significance,” according to the statement.
“The apparent unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion and the denigration of human dignity that there are other human values and issues being challenged in the world lends credence to the perception of the ‘ivory tower’ life of some on campus. This unfortunately does not speak well for the future,” the archdiocese stated. “One would hope to see this generation of Georgetown graduates have a far less self-absorbed attitude when facing neighbors and those in need, especially the most vulnerable among us.”
The Archdiocese of Washington further stated, “Perhaps those so interested in learning more about the killing of unborn babies and disrespect for the dignity of all human life might take a look at the recent America magazine issue that speaks at length about the extent of violence and persecution the people of faith around the world suffer. It would be beneficial for these Georgetown University students to learn more about these serious problems in the world.
“The contribution to a better world today can take inspiration from the Gospel and its proponents such as Pope Francis and from the Jubilee Year of Mercy rather than from the organized efforts to facilitate the violent destruction of unborn children,” according to the statement.
The statement concluded: “The Jesuit community on campus clearly has its work cut out for it and a long way to go as it tries to instill at Georgetown some of the values of Pope Francis. Until then it is hard wholeheartedly to share in the cry, ‘Go Hoyas!’”
Newman Society President Patrick Reilly said that having Richards speak at Georgetown “is the latest in a long history of scandal” at the University.
“In bringing in someone with such a horrendous record of not only advocating ideas that would be contrary to Catholic teaching, but is herself responsible for the deaths of more than two million babies under her watch, Georgetown demonstrates that it does not understand the nature of a Catholic university,” he told CNSNews.com.