Georgetown Professor Launches Campaign to Nix Sebelius' Graduation Speech

Georgetown Professor Launches Campaign to Nix Sebelius' Graduation Speech

Patrick J. Deneen, a Georgetown University political science professor, has initiated a campaign to request that university president, John DeGioia, revoke an invitation to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, to speak at a graduation awards event on Friday at the university’s Public Policy Institute.

According to the National Catholic Register, Deneen has circulated a letter, signed by eight other Georgetown faculty members, which observes Secretary Sebelius’ role in the advancement of the HHS mandate that forces Catholic-affiliated organizations, hospitals, and schools to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to its employees. Citing a 2004 document, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), entitled “Catholics in Political Life,” the letter describes the honor bestowed upon Sebelius by Georgetown as “a grave and serious mistake- indeed, a scandalous one.” Sebelius has been an ardent supporter of abortion, including late-term abortion, and has been denied the reception of communion by her bishop in Kansas, where she served as governor.

Deneen’s letter indicates that Georgetown’s invitation to the secretary may be viewed as an endorsement of the HHS mandate, which has been flatly rejected by the USCCB. “In truth, it is difficult to believe that the according of this honor to Secretary Sebelius was motivated by anything other than a desire to send a message of endorsement,” writes Deneen.

Deneen, who plans to present his letter to university president DeGioia on Wednesday, said that the fact that only eight other faculty members would sign the letter is not surprising but, still, “very sad.” He indicates that, in addition to a general letter to his colleagues at the university, he also wrote a separate letter to the nearly 90 Georgetown faculty and administration members who wrote to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, confronting his view of Catholic social teaching prior to his presentation, entitled “America’s Enduring Promise,” at the university last month. In Deneen’s letter to these colleagues, he suggested some hypocrisy in their challenging of Paul Ryan, based on authoritative documents of the Catholic bishops about Catholic social teaching, and yet their current dismissal of the teachings of the bishops about the HHS mandate.

Deneen intends to resign his post from Georgetown at the end of the month, and has accepted a position at the University of Notre Dame.

An online petition calling for Sebelius’ invitation to be revoked has been signed by over 16,000 people since the invitation was announced last Friday. Judy Feder, a professor at Georgetown Public Policy Institute said, “We’ve been fortunate to have Cabinet secretaries before. Secretary Sebelius is a great inspiration to our students.” When asked about Sebelius’ advancement of the HHS mandate, Feder dismissed the issue, saying, “Georgetown already covers these services for employees.”

It is noteworthy that Judy Feder ran for Congress in 2008, and was applauded by the National Organization for Women (NOW) as a candidate who “fully supports women’s right to choose abortion and birth control, as well as access to family planning services that include emergency contraception.”

To date, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., has declined to issue a statement urging the president of Georgetown University to rescind the invitation to Secretary Sebelius.