Georgetown Redux: Deception Is Not Consistency

The Catholic community is abuzz with the news that Georgetown University has invited Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) secretary, pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius, to be a speaker during graduation weekend. 

Originally touted as being part of the commencement ceremonies, Sebelius’ speaking engagement is now listed under the category “speakers at other events.” According to the Georgetown website, Sebelius will be speaking at a Tropaia Ceremony. Tropaia is a Greek word that refers to a monument erected in celebration of a military victory. The university uses this ceremony to distribute awards to students from its different schools. 

According to the university’s website, “The Graduate School Commencement and GPPI’s [Georgetown Public Policy Institute] Tropaia are actually one ceremony and you should definitely go to both parts. . . . GPPI’s Tropaia ceremony is where diplomas will be distributed. Each student will walk across the stage to be recognized.”  

This invitation to Sebelius is a slap in the face of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which is currently working to topple the Obama contraception mandate through education programs, pressure on Congress, and other measures. This is an extremely grave matter. As many of us know, the fundamental question to be asked about the Obama diktat is a simple one: Does a Catholic institution in America have the right to maintain its commitment to Catholic doctrine in its policies and employment practices or must it succumb to the state, divorce itself from Christ, and become secular in order to exist?

Knowing that Sebelius is the driving force behind this mandate, one wonders what is going on. And one must wonder why a Catholic institution would invite her to speak at such an important ceremony.

Yet the nature of the ceremony is irrelevant. Regardless of what type of commencement ceremony the university calls it, the fact still remains that a Catholic institute of higher learning has invited someone who is clearly in opposition to Church teaching and tradition to speak. It wouldn’t matter when she was speaking on campus or for what occasion. The fact is that, by extending an invitation to her, the university is displaying approval or, at the very least, acceptance, of Sebelius’ actions. And that is just not acceptable.

Catholic institutions are obligated to instruct their students in Catholic tradition, Catholic values, and Catholic teaching. Though many may say that the Church should come into the 21st century and amend its teachings, they simply do not understand that the teachings of Christ are unwavering. We will not, and cannot, change them at every whim or every time the social climate changes. 

I ask you: How difficult would it be for the bishops to pressure Georgetown to cancel the invitation when the USSCB is on record as doing nothing at all about Sebelius and her anti-life record? She’s been in the public eye for years and her pro-abortion position is very well known.

In fact, the headlines a few years ago claimed that Sebelius was told not to take Holy Communion. But, in May of 2008, when her bishop, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, was asked specifically whether or not he would instruct the priests in the Kansas City, Kansas, diocese to withhold the body of Christ from Sebelius, he said he was “not ready” to take that step. We must ask ourselves: When exactly will he be ready? And what else must Sebelius do to prove her disdain for the teachings of the Catholic Church?

So, today, the status quo remains. Kathleen Sebelius is free to receive the Eucharist if she so chooses and nobody is reprimanding her or denying her the Body of Christ despite the endless pro-death statements and actions she takes. Meanwhile, a Catholic university asks her to speak in front of a group of young, impressionable graduates—an act that clearly shows that the university has no qualms about Sebelius’ actions or behavior.

The Cardinal Newman Society has pressed for signatures on a petition asking the university to cancel Sebelius, but she will go on as planned and speak to a room full of eager students who are still learning how to survive in a world that clashes with their fundamental beliefs. Will her thoughts and words inspire them? Will she encourage them to lead a moral life? I don’t think this is likely. 

The key to success in situations like this is to be able to rely on the consistency and courage of the bishops in addition to their unswerving defense of Christ in the Eucharist. 

This brings up a very interesting question: What electoral outcome would have been realized at the November 2008 presidential election had the U.S. bishops united together and enforced Canon Law, specifically Canon 915, within every U.S. diocese? It was during the providential moment of the June 2004 USCCB Plenary Conference in Denver when Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) gave them, in his profoundly inspiring “memo,” the proper direction to follow to end the scandal. Ratzinger explained precisely how to enforce Canon 915; his memo was ignored. 

Would the U.S. Church today be suffering, as it clearly is, from the string of immoral attacks by the current government administration on the most compelling moral issues of our time if the bishops had enforced Canon 915 as directed in the Ratzinger memo?  

Woe to the hierarchy in the U.S. for the loss of so many scandalized and confused souls within their flocks who have left their parishes in shame and are staying home. And woe to a university that can toss aside its faith and allow the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing to enter its halls. Now is the time to be aware. Now is the time to be weary. And now is the time to take action.