Of all the controversial invitations from Catholic universities to speakers and honorees in recent years, none has ever been more outrageous, upsetting and mired in rank hypocrisy than Georgetown's invitation to Kathleen Sebelius to participate in part of its commencement exercises this coming Friday.
At the moment, the bishops of the Church in America are engaged in their most significant public political battle in memory. The episcopacy has rightly refused to accept the intrusion into the prerogatives of the Church and the attack on general religious liberty embodied in the Obamacare-based mandate that requires Catholic institutions to provide to their employees health insurance covering birth control and abortion-inducing drugs, free of charge, in contravention of the Church's teachings and moral precepts.
The author of the mandate is, of course, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Now, as the leadership of the Church girds for an unprecedented legal and political fight, the nation's oldest Catholic university gives a place of honor to the very person who is legally responsible for the policy to which the Church's authentic teachers of faith and morals have so vociferously objected.
This is not to say that everyone who works or studies at Georgetown is compelled to accept the bishops' position or to oppose Obamacare. It is to say, however, that, as a Catholic institution, Georgetown is morally bound to show a modicum of solidarity with the episcopal leadership, morally bound to show some minimal deference to the position of the Church's leaders on an issue so critical to them. In order to show such solidarity and deference, Georgetown needed only avoid making an egregious frontal assault--is it so hard simply not to invite Kathleen Sebelius to campus?
The invitation to Sebelius was a deliberate provocation. It manifests a deep lack of respect for the Church and a sensational lack of humility.
Moreover, there are few persons in this country less worthy of celebration by a Catholic institution than Kathleen Sebelius. The cornerstone of her public life has been the promotion of abortion on demand, an act that the Church teaches is evil, a mortal sin. As governor of Kansas, she was a patron and protector of the notorious Dr. George Tiller, a man committed to the barbaric practice of late-term abortion. No one is closer or more committed to the agenda of Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby than Sebelius. "Abortion rights" is the issue that defines her.
And here is where the hypocrisy of Georgetown becomes so appalling. When Congressman Paul Ryan visited the campus several weeks ago to speak about his proposed federal budget, there was bedlam. Students protested his mere appearance (he was not honored). Ninety faculty members condemned Ryan's budget as an affront to Catholic social teaching because of the supposedly draconian cuts to the welfare state Ryan allegedly proposes. Father Thomas Reese, SJ decried Ryan's plan as contrary to the Gospel itself.
Last I checked, the right to be born forms a critical component of Catholic social teaching. Yet now, according to reports, only nine of Georgetown's 1,500 faculty members, and only three of the 55 Jesuits on campus, have uttered a peep in protest of the Sebelius invitation. Apparently, Fr. Reese believes Medicaid block grants are a sin; late-term abortion seems less of a concern.
Outside of my family, perhaps no group has influenced my life more than the Society of Jesus. My encounter with the Society in high school literally changed my life; through the Grace of God, the Jesuits gave me my faith. I've always had disagreements with members of the Society, but I have always loved it, too, for its history, mission and its affect on my personal life. My oldest child's middle name is Ignatius in homage to the Society and its founder.
And so it breaks my heart to see the Society of Jesus standby by while one of its most ancient American foundations commits this grave error. Tonight, as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and then Pentecost, I pray for the Society of Jesus and its sons.
"Lord, send down your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth!"