In a statement dated May 14, 2012, President John J. DeGioia sent a message to the Georgetown community regarding the recent attacks from Catholic groups across the nation on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius‘s scheduled lecture at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s awards ceremony this Friday.
Yesterday, the petition created last week by the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative watchdog group, was sent to President DeGioia with 26,000 signatures. Additionally, last week, the Cardinal of Washington D.C., Donald Wuerl, wrote an editorial expressing disapproval of Georgetown’s decision to host Sebelius. “Secretary Sebelius’ vision on what constitutes faith-based institutions presents the most direct challenge to religious freedom in recent history,” Wuerl wrote in the editorial. He stated that Georgetown’s decision was “disappointing, but not surprising.”
In the statement, DeGioia explained and justified Sebelius’s presence on campus for the Tropaia awards ceremony, asserting that “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.”
DeGioia stated that students in the GPPI program expressed interest in Sebelius as a distinguished public policy maker in the United States. He added that “her role in crafting the landmark legislation that will make health care more accessible to 34 million Americans who are currently uninsured” was indicative of the immense contribution Sebelius would add to the event. According to DeGioia, she is also the mother and spouse of Georgetown graduates.
DeGioia also responded to the allegations that inviting Secretary Sebelius was an attack against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Some have interpreted the invitation of Secretary Sebelius as a challenge to the USCCB. It was not. The invitation to Secretary Sebelius occurred prior to the January 20th announcement by the Obama Administration of the modified healthcare regulations,” DeGioia said in the statement.
Sebelius has become a controversial figure for Catholic groups for her position as a pro-choice advocate and commitment to reproductive justice. She is also one of the main architects for the 2010 Obama mandate to provide birth control coverage in healthcare insurance.