Georgetown University's Sebelius Invite Seen as Slap in Face to Bishops

Georgetown University is under fire for inviting Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to deliver an awards ceremony address. Sebelius issued the controversial birth control mandate that will require employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs without co-pay.

Many religious organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have complained that the mandate violates their religious freedom because it requires them to pay for services that are in opposition to their religious doctrine. Supporters of the mandate have argued, on the other hand, that the mandate is necessary to provide for women's health.

Sebelius, a pro-choice Catholic, will be the main speaker for Georgetown Public Policy Institute's May 18 "Tropaia" awards ceremony, the university announced Friday.

Robert George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, believes that Georgetown University was deliberately taking sides in the birth control mandate controversy by choosing Sebelius.

"The left-liberals who run the show at Georgetown have found a way to signal to the world that the nation's oldest Catholic, and most famous Jesuit, university stands with the Obama administration in its war (to use, if I recall correctly, Kathleen Sebelius's own word) against the Catholic bishops and others who oppose the HHS mandate as a violation of religious freedom and the rights of conscience (you know, the enemies of women's 'reproductive health'). By honoring Secretary Sebelius, they can help to undermine the bishops' credibility and blunt the force of their witness as leaders of the Catholic church. I get it. It's a bold and clever move. Although I find its substance appalling, I can't help but admire its shrewdness," George wrote at the "Mirror of Justice" blog Sunday.

The Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic organization, has launched a new website,, and started a petition asking Georgetown President John DeGioia to rescind the invitation.

"It is scandalous and outrageous that America's oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly 'pro-choice' Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration's effort to restrict the Constitution's first freedom – the right to free exercise of religion – while threatening the survival of many Catholic and other religious colleges and universities, schools, charities, hospitals and other apostolates," the letter to DeGioia states.

The letter also calls the invitation an insult to all Americans, and especially insulting to "faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion."

Georgetown University's announcement does not specifically mention the birth control mandate, but does mention Sebelius' role in helping to implement the Affordable Care Act, which gave Sebelius the authority to enact the birth control mandate. Rather, it emphasized Sebelius' efforts to improve health care for poor and vulnerable populations.

Established by Jesuits in 1789, Georgetown University is America's oldest Catholic university.

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