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Georgetown's Kathleen Sebelius Invitation an Outrage

Did you ever hear or read about something and ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” Of course you have! That’s why you can easily understand the reaction of countless Christians, especially Catholics, to the latest outrage, as Chuck would have put it, in Washington, D.C.

This time, the scene of the caper isn’t Capitol Hill or the White House — it’s Georgetown, specifically Georgetown University.

A week or so ago, the university released the name of its commencement speakers. One name immediately stood out: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. That would be the same HHS that, last February, announced regulations that would require religious institutions such as, well, Georgetown University, to pay for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

What’s more, Sebelius isn’t just any HHS official — she is the person most associated with the uncompromising approach that has united people of all faiths, regardless of their position on contraception, in opposition to the proposed regulations.

Yet, scarcely two months after the controversy erupted, the oldest Catholic university in the country has invited her to be the featured speaker at its Public Policy Institute’s awards ceremony. The Institute describes its mission as “training tomorrow’s policy leaders today” by giving “students the rigorous quantitative and analytic skills needed to design and implement smart policies.”

Obviously, the “skills needed” don’t include fidelity to Catholic teaching or even respect for the religious freedom of others.

Did university officials think that no one would notice the disconnect? Not likely. In fact, as professor Robbie George has pointed out, the announcement was intended to send a signal.

As Robbie put it, “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 Sebelius’ own word] against the Catholic bishops and others who oppose the HHS mandate.”

Or, as the Cardinal Newman Society put it, the invitation is a “direct challenge” to the Catholic Bishops. The challenge is not only to the Bishop’s position on religious freedom and the HHS mandate but to their insistence that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

But that’s exactly what Georgetown did. What’s pathetic is that it thinks that, in defying the Bishops, and thumbing their noses at faithful Catholics, they’re somehow impressing “right-thinking” folks who shape public opinion.

I’m sorry to say it, but no one respects a stooge, and that’s exactly the part Georgetown in this scenario. They are, as Robbie put it, seeking to “undermine the bishops’ credibility and blunt the force of their witness as leaders of the Catholic church” by giving Sebelius’ “war” a patina of religious respectability.

But it was precisely the work to counteract the folks like these that Robbie, Timothy George and, of course, Chuck Colson wrote the Manhattan Declaration. Their goal was to make it clear that there are Christians — Evangelicals, Catholic and Orthodox — who will challenge and defy anyone who would threaten our most precious freedom: Freedom of religion.

Folks, you too can speak out and defend religious freedom. Please join more than half a million believers and sign the Manhattan Declaration. Go to Manhattan today.

Publication date: May 17, 2012

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