Catholic World News

Washington archdiocese criticizes Georgetown over Sebelius invitation

May 16, 2012

The Archdiocese of Washington has issued a statement criticizing Georgetown University for selecting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as the speaker at the commencement ceremony of its Public Policy Institute.

The archdiocese’s statement follows the publication of an archdiocesan newspaper editorial critical of the invitation and the release of a statement by John DeGoia, the university’s president, in defense of the decision.

“The Archdiocese of Washington reserved public comment to permit Georgetown University and its sponsor, the Society of Jesus, the opportunity to address the controversy,” the archdiocese said in its new statement. “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,” the statement added. “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.”

The statement concluded:

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.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - May. 16, 2012 5:45 PM ET USA

    Statement by the "archdiocese," statement by president DeGioia; will we hear a strong statement from Cardinal Archbishop Wuerl or is he still hiding under his desk?

  • Posted by: ltoscan2645 - May. 16, 2012 8:56 AM ET USA

    respectfully to all Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals...the time for words IS OVER, IT'S DONE...the Catholic faithful who truly love the Church DEMAND actions..The Cardinal Archbishop should deamand this be stopped and he should be in contact with Rome and the Jesuit General Superior to demand that this "university in the Jesuit tradition" be faithful to the directive of the local bishop..this maybe even a worse scandal than Mr. Obama speaking at Notre Dame..God have mercy on us..Mary help us!

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - May. 16, 2012 7:22 AM ET USA

    A stronger response and stronger action is needed than this! How about Georgetown and ExCorde Ecclesiae? Is it really a Catholic university? How about ecclesiastical penalties?