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. Kathleen Sebelius

    Oh, let me update you on Fukishima since we've been blowing smoke up you rear end with the help of cnn and the rest of major media: Physicist: Unit 2 completely liquified, 100% liquification of uranium core — “We’ve never seen this before in the history of nuclear power”
    But have a nice day and never mind that Cesium 137 that was found in the cows' milk in VT.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Satan

      Yes, yes... right on topic again! (ahem)

      May 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Kathleen Sebelius

      Satan, This is a belief blog. And I believe that I and the rest of this administration is lying to you. Fukushima has 85x more Cesium 137 than Chernobyl did. Have a nice day, sheep.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  2. RickBangkok

    The Inquisition is alive and well.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |


    May 16, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  4. catholic engineer

    All societies are built on certain principles. When a member of a society works against the principles of that society, he is an enemy of that society. His act is called "treason". In the US, he can be shot, deported, or imprisoned. The Catholic church is also a society built on certain principles. Sebelius, a member of the Catholic church, is working against the principles. She is an enemy of the Church. Her punishment? Her bishop has merely requested that she not receive communion, even though she could be excommunicated. "The smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary", Pope Paul VI is quoted as saying. Well, the stink of HHS perfume has entered Georgetown University.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      I don't understand why any person would want to claim a religion that they disagree with.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Hypocraties

      Oh yes, how kind and loving and truly holy. Oh by the way, what about the 8+ bible passages that outright support slavery?
      Even tell you the rules for selling your children into slavery.
      How about the demand for animal sacrifice?
      How about the complete subservience of women?
      How about condoned genocide of those who believe differently?
      The holly see seems to be upset about loosing tax exempt status.......about time I say.
      I guess they need that money to pay off all the victims of pedophile priests.
      Instead of hating and condemning that which is not just like you, maybe you should open your heart and love and accept the way Jesus said to, even though he never directly denounced slavery.
      Truth hurts huh?
      Go ahead, google slavery, animal sacrifice, and genocide in the bible–then act pious.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Gonzaga

      Divorce is immoral according to the Catholic Church but legal. I haven't heard anyone from the Church claiming Religious persecution by having to provide divorcees benefits. The hypocrisy stinks to the heavens.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • HS

      catholic engineer

      All societies are built on certain principles. When a member of a society works against the principles of that society, he is an enemy of that society. His act is called "treason". In the US, he can be shot, deported, or imprisoned. The Catholic church is also a society built on certain principles. Sebelius, a member of the Catholic church, is working against the principles. She is an enemy of the Church. Her punishment? Her bishop has merely requested that she not receive communion, even though she could be excommunicated. "The smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary", Pope Paul VI is quoted as saying. Well, the stink of HHS perfume has entered Georgetown University.

      How is that support of a church that condones, promotes and protects child ra p ists

      May 16, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  5. george argiriou

    How can i undo the report abuse?

    May 16, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  6. george argiriou

    What happened ?I want to talk.I pressed the report abuse by bad luck.Please connect me back.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  7. george argiriou

    We have not many of us the good knowlege of english that cames from the good knowlege of Latin from Vatican.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  8. george argiriou

    I do not mind marking me.I even injoying it.I have never read the bible.Not a single page.I only have read some parts of the revelation in a mag and i have heard a couple of songs like the "All over the watchtower".
    I wish you and your massive balls all the luck that you CAN have.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:33 am |

      Your English is bloody atrocious.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • george argiriou

      Do you want to call it a draw you are telling me?

      May 16, 2012 at 7:41 am |

      Please tell me you don't actually think there's a fucking competition here.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:52 am |

    Does anyone else find the ironic humor in a religious corporation having stake in an institute of education? Catholics are such idiots.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • george argiriou

      So your religion is massive balls.This religion does not last for long.I suggest to try something for your soul that lasts forever either in heaven or in hell.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:16 am |

      Dear retard, read your bible. If you think hell exists according to your bible, you've been duped. According to your bible, hell doesn't exist. Just a little tidbit for your furry little nipples. Do you know that the word "hell" was derived from a mistranslation from the word "GRAVE" in the old testament? LOOK IT UP.

      Did you know that jesus wasn't referring to hell when talking about a "lake of fire?" He was talking about a place where garbage and bodies were burned near a city he was preaching in at the time. LOOK IT UP.

      Say, did you know that jesus won't return? He said he would 2,000 years ago. He never did. If he was going to return, he is late based on the time frame he himself stated (it's in the bible). LOOK IT UP.

      I don't follow a religion, princess.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:24 am |

    CNN sure picked a hell of a quote of the day in its speed read posting.


    Pardon me while I soil the hot and cold water handles of my favorite McDonalds with manchowder sauce.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:08 am |

    Anyone else notice how ugly that woman is? Ugh. Absolutely disgusting.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  12. george argiriou

    Forget the ostrige thing.I thought you did not print me.

    May 16, 2012 at 5:39 am |

      What is an ostrige?

      May 16, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  13. george argiriou

    If you feel hallow it means that your belief leader is hallow.If you have doughts your belief leader is the rong 1.

    May 16, 2012 at 4:44 am |

      Thank you dear Cuban orphan for destroying my beloved language with a claw hammer.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  14. tallulah13

    I confess I laughed out loud at this statement:
    "the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history.”

    Killing people for different belief is a threat to religious liberty. Imprisoning or discriminating against people who have different beliefs is a threat to religious liberty. Insisting that a church-owned business provide the same health insurance coverage as it's secular equal is simply fair practice. Why am I not surprised that the catholic church believes fairness is a threat?

    May 16, 2012 at 3:27 am |
    • Robert

      exactly, nothing like injecting hyperbole into a rational conversation.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  15. Norman Bates, Catholic

    Psycho Catholics, qu'est-ce que c'est?

    The madness of religion deepens.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  16. Reality

    Such a minor issue !!

    On to the real issue, 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 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  17. Colin

    Nowadays, when I hear of the Catholic Church rebuking somebody, I am reminded of a silly, comical old father trying to rebuke an independent 30 year-old son or daughter who has long moved away from home and lost all respect for the old fashioned ideas of their fumbling, frustrated parent.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • momoya

      Exactly.. I can't wait for all religions to feel as outdated and out of touch as that old dad realizes.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  18. Lionel Gambill

    Hey, if you interfere with my persecution of people for choosing to avail themselves of optional family planning services, you are violating my freedom of religion, right?

    May 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  19. Barry

    Solicitation Number: AG-8371-S-11-0051
    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Office: Forest Service
    Location: R3 Southwestern Regional Office
    Added: Sep 28, 2011 5:15 pm
    (1) 40 caliber, 180 grain, 120,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (2) 9 mm, 124 grain, 50,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (3) .38 caliber, 135 grain, 10,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (4) .380 caliber, 90 grain, 6,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (5) .223 caliber, 64 grain, 87,500 rounds or equivalent,
    (6) 12 gauge 00 buck, 15,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (7) 40 caliber frangible, 10,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (8) 9 caliber frangible, 10,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (9) .223 caliber frangible, 10,000 rounds or equivalent,
    (10) 12 gauge 1 oz slug, 7,500 rounds or equivalent

    May 15, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Manilow

      So how many black helicopters will they need, Barry?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Yawn. So what? How many shots do you fire at the range every month? If your life depended on it for YOUR JOB you think you'd fire more than that.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  20. danielwalldammit

    How is it that the leaders of the American catholic church have taken such a hard turn to the right?

    May 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Portland tony

      The Pope's formative years were not spent as a liberal under a socialist leader. He grew up in a society based on rigid values.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Pope Hitler Youth I

      May 16, 2012 at 9:20 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.