After issuing the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic Church-affiliated organizations, charities, hospitals, and schools must provide free contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been invited to speak at what has been termed an “awards event” at the “oldest Catholic and Jesuit institute of higher learning in the United States.” Secretary Sebelius will deliver an address at the university’s Public Policy Institute’s graduation event on Friday.
Georgetown University could easily be viewed as the “scene of the crime,” where the “crime” is the start of the false contraception controversy begun two months ago by Georgetown University activist Sandra Fluke, who appeared before a “committee” of Democratic legislators, and stated that she and her friends were suffering because they could not obtain free birth control. Ms. Fluke later admitted that she purposefully enrolled at Georgetown University because she intended to work toward mandating Catholic institutions to provide free contraception. Working within the Democratic party, Ms. Fluke’s story was manipulated into an issue about a woman’s right to free contraception. The HHS mandate, however, in its dismissal of the rights of faith groups and individuals to practice the teachings of their faiths and beliefs, has essentially torn into the very fabric of religious freedom for Americans as embodied in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Secretary Sebelius, a professed Catholic herself, has been banned from the reception of communion by her bishop in her home state of Kansas, where she served as governor, because of her support for legalized abortion, including late-term abortion, as well as for Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller, the murdered late-term abortionist.
Regarding the HHS mandate, Cardinal Raymond Burke, a high-level judicial authority of the Catholic Church, said that the regulation is in “cooperation” with “evil,” and violates the right to free exercise of religion. He said that Catholic employers could not comply with it in good conscience.
In 2004, the USCCB issued a statement entitled, Catholics in Political Life, in which the bishops state:
Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly. It is with pastoral solicitude for everyone involved in the political process that we will also counsel Catholic public officials that their acting consistently to support abortion on demand risks making them cooperators in evil in a public manner. We will persist in this duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.
The bishops go on to assert:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
According to a staff member of the USCCB, the decision regarding a Catholic public official who promotes policies that are against the teachings of the Catholic Church is left to the local bishop. In this case, Georgetown University, in the archdiocese of Washington D.C., is under the authority of Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Regarding the HHS mandate, Cardinal Wuerl has asserted:
In upholding the HHS regulation, the administration has ignored the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and has denied Catholics the most fundamental freedom, religious liberty. A Catholic school simply cannot effectively teach Catholic doctrine while providing insurance to its teachers–and in the case of Catholic universities, to its students as well–that violates its own beliefs.
To date, Catholic and Christian groups are urging Cardinal Wuerl to issue a statement requesting that Georgetown University revoke the invitation to Secretary Sebelius to speak at the graduation event.
In April, Bishop George Murry of Ohio instructed Mercy College School of Nursing in Youngstown to disinvite State Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat who supports abortion-on-demand, from delivering its commencement address. Similarly, Bishop Robert McManus of Massachusetts asked Anna Maria College to revoke its invitation to honor Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the wife of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, an abortion advocate.
Last month, Secretary Sebelius, while speaking at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference defended the new health care law, touting that it had made it possible for a 25 year-old law student to devote her career to social justice issues because she did not have to worry about obtaining health coverage.
With the recent attacks against religious liberty, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has asserted its role in defending religious freedom not only for faith organizations, but for individuals as well. The bishops have issued a call for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education, and action in support of religious liberty, from June 21st to July 4th.
In addition, the USCCB plans to hold its annual Spring General Assembly, in Atlanta, the week prior to the start of a “Fortnight for Freedom,” to focus on issues concerning domestic and international religious freedom.