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Catholic Archdiocese of Washington rebukes Georgetown on Sebelius speech
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' invitation to speak at Georgetown has drawn the ire of a Catholic group.
May 15th, 2012
07:39 PM ET

Catholic Archdiocese of Washington rebukes Georgetown on Sebelius speech

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic Church’s authority in the nation’s capital, is rebuking another Catholic icon, Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic college in the United States.

The conflict is over the university’s Public Policy Institute’s invitation to Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, to be its 2012 award ceremony speaker this weekend. The decision drew immediate ire from Catholic groups who see Sebelius, a Catholic, as someone who is using her office to violate religious liberty.

In a statement Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Washington called the decision unfortunate and even charged that the Public Policy Institute was supporting a “radical redefining of ministry.”

“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,” reads the statement. “It is also understandable that Catholics would view this as a challenge to the bishops.”

According to the archdiocese, the heart of the issue is that “the selection of a featured speaker whose actions as a public official present the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history.”

Catholics groups have taken particular issue with the HHS mandate that religious employers offer health insurance coverage that includes access to contraceptives and birth control services. The Catholic Church teaches that use of contraception and abortion are morally wrong.

Seven states, along with a handful of religious organizations, have filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the issue.

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia had issued a statement attempting to create some distance between the university and the contraception issue.

“The invitation to Secretary Sebelius occurred prior to the January 20th announcement by the Obama Administration of the modified healthcare regulations,” reads the statement. “The Secretary’s presence on our campus should not be viewed as an endorsement of her views. As a Catholic and Jesuit University, Georgetown disassociates itself from any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings.”

However, DeGioia did support her invitation to campus.

“We are a university, committed to the free exchange of ideas,” read that statement. “We are a community that draws inspiration from a religious tradition that provides us with an intellectual, moral, and spiritual foundation. By engaging these values we become the University we are meant to be.”

The archdiocese shot back. “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,” its statement said.

“ 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,” the statement continued. “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.”

After the uproar over the Sebelius selection first unfolded, HHS spokesman Keith Maley highlighted the former Kansas governor’s credentials as the reason she was selected.

"As a state legislator, insurance commissioner, governor and now cabinet secretary, Secretary Sebelius’ message will be about honoring the achievements of these students who are devoting their careers to public policy," said HHS spokesman Keith Maley.

Georgetown’s Washington, D.C. location has made it the location of a number of high-profile political speeches in the last year. Many of these have led to protests from both conservative and liberal wings of the politically diverse Catholic Church.

Just last month, a budget speech by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), a Catholic, led vocal criticism from 90 members of the Georgetown staff. The group sent a letter that questioned the budgets Catholic principles and its emphasis on cutting social safety net program.

“We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few,” read the letter.

This is not the first time that a Catholic university’s decision to invite an Obama White House representative to speak has elicited a negative reaction from Catholic groups. In 2009, after President Obama was selected to speak at the University of Notre Dame commencement, Catholic organizations protested the selection.

During the speech, Obama addressed the abortion issue.

"Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction," the president told the Fighting Irish graduates. "But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature."

– CNN’s Sally Holland contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • DC • Education • Health • Politics

soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Kindness

    thought to consider without a typical ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Let go and let god".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome .

    May 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "You're all smart people . I tell the truth."

      LMAO You're all smart people . I tell the truth.= EGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That makes your whole post moot!

      May 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Peacemaker

    Each day the hierarchy of the Catholic church is more and more out of touch with its people.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That is your opinion and the way you render it indicates it is the Church who has lost touch. What if it is the people who have lost sight of the truth the Church offers? Try to keep an open mind. Just because you find the teaching inconvenient doesn't mean it is invalid.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Powerful

    May 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      Nope your just one more liar. Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!*!

      May 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes
    Powerful

    May 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer
    Powerful

    May 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jesus

      Nope your just a proven liar. Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!*!

      May 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • political advisor

      Reply is not relevant to message given. What is up ?

      May 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  6. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE SE–XUALLY ACTIVE NEWCOMERS:

    Condoms are available over the counter. Ditto for the "morning-after pill" if you are over 17. Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate. (With a choice of hormone levels as determined by your doctor.)

    Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills (appropriately labeled as to concentration etc.) in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm? :) :) :) :)

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 18, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      May 18, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  8. tsar140

    Cheers to G-town and the Jesuits! Good people all around.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:44 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.