The Archdiocese of Washington’s newspaper has said that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ appearance as a featured speaker at a Georgetown University awards ceremony is a sign that the prestigious Jesuit school is not standing with the Catholic bishops in defense of religious freedom.
“One can only wonder how the selection of Secretary Sebelius for such a prominent role as a featured speaker can be reconciled with the stated Catholic mission and identity of Georgetown University,” the Catholic Standard editorialized May 10. “Secretary Sebelius' vision on what constitutes faith-based institutions presents the most direct challenge to religious freedom in recent history.”
In light of the struggle of many Catholics, the U.S. bishops and others to “preserve freedom of religion,” choosing Sebelius for special recognition “can only be seen as a statement of where the university stands – certainly not with the Catholic bishops,” the editorial says.
The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new rule mandating that employers provide insurance coverage for sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing drugs. Its narrow religious exemption would not cover most Catholic institutions like health systems, charitable organizations and colleges and universities.
Non-compliance is punished by heavy fines.
The Obama administration has proposed a compromise, but many Catholic leaders have said it is insufficient to preserve the freedoms of those who object to providing such procedures and drugs.
Catholic Standard described Sebelius as the “architect” of the HHS mandate’s “radical challenge” to freedom of religion.
Sebelius will address a May 18 awards ceremony for Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute. The event is part of the university’s commencement weekend activities.
“Georgetown University's response to the commencement speaker decision is disappointing, but not surprising,” the archdiocesan paper said. “When the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching, there are, of course, disappointing results.”
The editorial noted that Pope Benedict XVI recently stressed the need for Catholic higher education in the U.S. to commit to “building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America's civic and cultural heritage.”
The Catholic Standard editorial lamented that Georgetown has undergone secularization, blaming this on the fact that its leadership and faculty “find their inspiration in sources other than the Gospel and Catholic teaching.”