Sebelius speech at Georgetown draws fire from Catholic group
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' invitation to speak at Georgetown has drawn the ire of a Catholic group.
May 8th, 2012
08:42 AM ET

Sebelius speech at Georgetown draws fire from Catholic group

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Georgetown University holds ten official commencements and 18 other awards ceremonies every spring, but on Friday, when the Catholic school announced its 2012 speakers, one drew immediate criticism from a group of conservative Catholics.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a member of President Obama's cabinet, is set to speak at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute's awards event.

"Secretary Sebelius was chosen by our GPPI students to bring her message of congratulations as they begin their careers in public service and public policy," the school said in a statement. "As an academic community, Georgetown regularly hosts a variety of high profile speakers."

In a letter from the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative advocacy group for Catholic teachings in higher education, society President Patrick Reilly requested that Georgetown President John DeGioia withdraw the invitation to the HHS secretary.

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"The selection is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion," the letter said.

The objections stem from the Obama administration's mandate that all organizations, including those based in faith, pay for health insurance that covers contraception. The Catholic Church teaches that contraception and abortion are morally wrong.

On Monday, Georgetown spokeswoman Rachel Pugh sent an e-mail to the Cardinal Newman Society clarifying that Sebelius will not be giving a commencement address.

"She is speaking at Georgetown Public Policy Institute's annual student and faculty awards event," Pugh said.

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"The point is that they are publicly recognizing someone who has made herself an enemy of the church's religious freedom," said Reilly. "(Sebelius) is also a pro-choice Catholic."

"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," according to HHS spokesman Keith Maley.

The Cardinal Newman Society posted a petition on its website on Friday requesting that Georgetown pull back the invitation to Sebelius. The petition has received over 12,500 electronic signatures, according to Reilly.

This isn't the first time the issue of women's reproductive rights has come up with a speaker at a Catholic university in the U.S. In 2009, Obama drew criticism when he spoke at the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame, where he addressed the abortion debate.

"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 Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (341 Responses)
  1. Reality


    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

    1a. (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    1b. (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by:

    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    May 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  2. gerald

    Sebellus has excommunicated herself from the Church. She does not belong at any Catholic university speaking.

    May 10, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • chefdugan

      There is NOTHING too insulting to say to a Catholic bishop. How they can say anything about morality is beyond me when all of their buddies are busy didling with little boys. A Catholic today has to be a master of self delusion and a hypocrite as well.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • chefdugan

      That certainly is a huge mark in her favor.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  3. palintwit

    I predict that someday soon the Sarah Palin family trailer will become as big a vacation destination as Graceland. It will be called Sarahland. Baggers and birthers from the four corners of the bible belt will make the pilgrimage, gladly paying $25, $35, or more for the chance to tour Sarah Palin's trailer and to go out back and see the actual outhouse where she took her morning dump.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  4. pgc

    2012 Campaign Slogan: "Let's Get Polarized"

    May 10, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Stan

      Ain't that the truth. I was listening to Dick Lugar's concession speech yesterday & the guy had a point, the ideologues in each party seem pretty hellbent on edging this country ever closer to the divide where nobody will ever be able to compromise or co-operate with anyone with a different opinion.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  5. Nigel Goddard

    Perhaps it is time for the Bishops, Priests, Cardinals and Monsignors to conduct a scientific poll of the married men and women in their congregations and ask if any have used artificial contraception in the last 10 years. They should base their policies on the findings and adjust accordingly.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • gerald

      Perhaps prison chaplins should change their sermons so that they don't speak about what prison inmates have done. That is basically what you are saying. If someone struggles with sin as we all do, you don't remove the sin by ignoring it. The Catholic Church is not based on popular vote.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  6. jim atmadison

    The Catholic Church can p and moan all they want.

    Now, just how much federal financial aid money and loan support goes to Georgetown students again?

    May 10, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Lisimay

      I am a Georgetown graduate... man are you right about that! LOL

      May 10, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  7. mmi16

    The US is not a theocracy! The 'conservatives' of virtually all religions need to understand that. There is freedom of and from religion! You can believe what you want – and I'll believe what I want!

    May 10, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  8. John Wright

    Anyway you look at it I still wouldn't want to lose a big percentage of the vote of people to a convicted imprisoned candidate from whatever state. How embarrassing for Obama.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • J.R.

      Or disapointing for your state. However you look at it, if YOU vote for a convict, that shows YOUR character.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Tom

      If people vote for a convict it is more a reflection on Obama's character then their own.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Obama might as well be a convict since he is sytematically redistributing wealth that isn't his to begin with. He is also forcing private citizens to buy insurance they don't want that provide coverage they don't want or need. Is that criminal?

      May 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  9. eroteme

    We should not concern ourselves what Sebelius may or may not say. Her credibiity can be based on her comment to her fellow Kansans: When originally passed by for cabinet appointment by Obama she told us she would not be going to Washington because 'Kansas needed her'. When Obama later gave her a call, she decided that Kansas didn't need her after all, she packed her bags and headed for Washington.

    May 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  10. Brian

    Wow. They have become so hyper-partisan that they can't even let someone who disagrees with them on an issue even speak at a University... You know, the place where you are supposed to be exposed to different viewpoints and able to express yourself?

    May 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  11. svatoid

    So the organization that supports pedophile priests (are there any other kind??0 is objecting to speaker? Why don't they clean up their own house before lecturing others.

    May 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  12. Fed Up

    Obama isn't even a legal citizen, so why are he and "his administration" making this objection. I'd like to see the birth certificate, then we can see if he can manage the office he was elected to by the YouTube generation.

    May 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • J.W

      I hope you are just trolling here.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jim

      Really? How many pictures of the damn thing do you want to see? Or are you just that blind? And it's not his administration that's objecting. It's the Catholic Church.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • OOO

      You don't need a US birth certificate to be a US citizen. You could immigrate legally (as most of our grand and great grand parents did).
      I think you are confusing that with the requirements to be president.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  13. Nobama

    Obama loses 41 percent of W.Va. primary vote to federal inmate.

    See ya – wouldn't want to be ya.

    May 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Eeesh

      Yeah, because we all know that Obama was really hoping to clinch W. Virginia's support this year, not to mention west virginia is usually the first place the country looks when we want to try new and different things. A LOT of progressives live there

      (please insert sarcasm where you see fit)

      May 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • J.W

      West Virginian can relate more to the guy in federal prison lol.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Debra

      West Virginia??? The State where all men have "relations" with farm animals?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  14. BD

    I will never understand how imposing one's religious views on others that do not share those views could be considered fighting for religious freedom by even the most wacked out right wing-nuts.

    I'm not judging the belief but if you want to lobby to restrict the religious freedom of all others then at least call a spade a spade.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • CaliCPA

      BD – sorry but in trying to understand logic will inevitably be needed. Ergo, it cannot be understood. You know there's a reason thousands of folks fled Europe 200 years ago.......it was due to the "religious freedom" going on there. LOL

      May 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Tom

      Refering to people as wacked out wing nuts doesnt help your cause. Also people do it on the left all the time by labeling people bigots if the dont agree with gay marraige.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • HB5

      Um, Tom, denying an entire group of people civil liberties simply because you do not like the way they were born is the very definition of bigotry.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Matthew

      Let's continue to exopse the STEROID (and other drugs/methods) users so people will know who the LOSERS are. The reason the ROIDERS get furious and want us to keep silent is because: 1. CHEATING in ALL SPORTS (PHONEY)2. ILLEGAL (JAIL)3. DANGEROUS (UNHEALTHY)4.Some ROIDERS want to SCAM people into buying their line of supplements. It's the DRUGS that made them larger,stronger and quicker. Not their BOGUS supplements. (SCAM ARTISTS). Stay natural buddy!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  15. Keith

    If the Christians are against it I am all for it. Easy calculations

    May 9, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  16. catholic engineer

    Health and Human Services? Is that part of the U.S. Public Health Service which conducted the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (also known as the Tuskegee syphilis study or Public Health Service syphilis study). This was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in impoverished black male sharecroppers. The man thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government. I can't look at Sebelius without thinking of this incident.

    May 9, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • bud in NC

      What happened at Tuskegee was a terrible thing for sure. May I assure you that Ms Sebelius had nothing to do with it, and I would guess that she too is shocked to know about it. So time to grow up and put your anger towards something usefull.

      May 9, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • SPA Knight

      catholic engineer – I can't stand to look at her either because she represents everything that is morally wrong with health care in our country. She is the face of government mandates, stripping citizens of rights and freedoms, promotion of tax funded contraception and abortions all while claiming to be Catholic. anyone who is on the side of the culture of death is not on the side of of American or Catholic values.

      May 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      Using your logic, I can't take you seriously because I can't look at the word Catholic without thinking of all of the little boys priests have molested, at some point in the past, which has nothing to do with you personally.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Lunchbreaker – Your comment implies that your are emotionally influenced by what goes on in the world around. If that is the case, there is plenty of injustice around the globe that can be very troublesome. There much more to worry about when we examine the human rights violations going on by Governments including our own. Those should send chills down your spine because it will eventually affect you personally at a point in the future when you wake up and all your rights have been taken and the landscape begins to look like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico, etc. In those countries, you can't even begin to object about the abuse or your head may roll. Let's keep it all in perspective.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Jim


      You mean like forcing women to have an invasive medical procedure (And needless, I might add) before having an abortion? Yes, that is the standard for equality and freedom. While I understand, and even admire, your devotion, there has been no talk of making contraceptives MANDATORY. Only making their availability mandatory. No federal money is allowed, by law, to be spent on abortion. And lastly, if you think that the individual has ANY say in healthcare decisions, try being an 84 yr old man and being told by the insurance company that they won't pay for a medical procedure. With no recourse. That's the way things are now. So don't tell me about how bad things would be under the Affordable Healthcare Act.

      May 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What an off-the-wall comment! Do you have trouble looking at Fords because Henry Ford was a vicious anti-Semite?

      May 9, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      I know of no citizen that is being denied contraceptives. They are available at every pharmacy on every street corner in America. We are handing them out like candy through Planned Parenthood which receives a significant amount of money from the US Government which is money they collect from private citizens. There organizations handing them out for free in public schools along with condoms without parental consent.

      I'm sorry about your insurance situation and I hope you can find one that better serves your needs. Government's role is not to manage our healthcare system.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  17. JohninMableton

    "who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion," In other words, we want freedoms and the freedom to take away the freedom of women. Hypocrite much?

    May 9, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • JoJo

      You're absolutely right Johnin. In fact, those pesky laws taking away my freedom to murder people should go away too. I like you, believe in absolute and total freedom to do whatever I want to anyone. Ever. That makes sense.

      May 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  18. Jesus Is Lord

    The church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been in league with the Vatican for three decades and has been responsible for the AIDs epidemic that has plagued the world recently. Before the Vatican became involved, Michael Jackson was targeted by the Mormon church and is known to be responsible for his skin color change. People close to Mr. Jackson who were known members of the church were poisoning his food with skin bleaching products that were later responsible for his demise. The Vatican and the Mormon church murdered Freddie Mercury with AIDs. They have been targeting gays and blacks in order to cleanse the human gene pool of all liberalism. They are in bed with the world government illuminati and this is the reason why Bohemian Grove exists. http://www.infowars.com/bg1.html Information has recently been unearthed that proves that the Masonic faith was founded by the Catholics and later incorporated the Mormon church.

    There is a wealth of information on the subject here:


    May 9, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're such a wackaloon.

      May 9, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • BD

      Whoah, I don't know whether to worry or give you a +1 for one hell of a creative conspiracy.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Dennis

      GIGO once again shows it's face

      May 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Larry

      wow youre a special kind of crazy. the only thing the mormons have done behind the scene is to support anti gay measures protests etc. as for michael jackson he did it to himself with the help of doctors that wouldnt tell him no, same thing helped kill elvis.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • Mattski

      Posting it more often doesn't make it more true.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:25 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.