Georgetown catches flak for Sebelius invite

Washington, USA - In what has become an annual tradition, another Catholic university has come under fire for its choice of commencement speaker.

Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit institution in the nation, is taking heat for inviting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, to address the school’s Public Policy Institute graduates on May 18. Prominent Catholic groups, including the Cardinal Newman Society and the Catholic League, have assailed the university in recent days for giving a platform to the pro-choice Cabinet official.

Mrs. Sebelius has also played a central role in implementing President Obama’s health care reform law, which has angered many Catholics officials because of its contraception mandates, even for faith-related employers. Georgetown found itself caught up in that debate earlier this year when one of its law students, Sandra Fluke, testified before Congress in favor of mandating contraception coverage.

“It is scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly pro-choice Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration’s effort to restrict the Constitution’s first freedom, the right to free exercise of religion,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which advocates for a stronger Catholic identity at schools such as Georgetown.

A petition asking the school to pull Mrs. Sebelius from the event has received more than 14,000 signatures.

In most cases, problems arise only when the speaker is a controversial political figure, Mr. Grieboski said. Other high-profile guests, such as business titans, entertainers or professional athletes, rarely rock the boat.

“Nobody was going to say we don’t want Steve Jobs, the most successful businessman in America, to come speak because of his company’s practices in Vietnam or China,” Mr. Grieboski said.