Robert P. George has that Sebelius-at-Georgetown situation all figured out for you.
As soon as Georgetown announced that its roster of commencement-weekend speakers would include Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the orthodoxy cops at the Cardinal Newman Society were all over it. The move “can only be interpreted as a direct challenge to America’s Catholic bishops” — isn’t it obvious? After all, she’s “the lead architect of the Obama administration’s assault on religious freedom through the HHS contraception mandate.” How could a Catholic university bestow an honorary degree on such a person? What’s that? She’s not receiving an honorary degree? She’s one of eleven people who will be speaking over commencement weekend, and several others are receiving honorary degrees? Oh. Well, then how could a Catholic university “honor Sebelius by granting her a prestigious platform at its Public Policy Institute commencement ceremony”?
Worry yourself no longer. Robert P. George has the answer:
It’s relatively simple: The left-liberals who run the show at Georgetown have found a way to signal to the world that the nation’s oldest Catholic, and most famous Jesuit, university stands with the Obama administration in its war (to use, if I recall correctly, Kathleen Sebelius’s own word) against the Catholic bishops and others who oppose the HHS mandate as a violation of religious freedom and the rights of conscience (you know, the enemies of women’s “reproductive health”). By honoring Secretary Sebelius, they can help to undermine the bishops’ credibility and blunt the force of their witness as leaders of the Catholic church. I get it. It’s a bold and clever move. Although I find its substance appalling, I can’t help but admire its shrewdness.
Eureka. What a brilliant play. Maybe the CIA should start recruiting these lefties for psy-ops. Certainly, one must acknowledge that it’s not always easy to discern the motives of large institutions. But, as William of Ockham taught, all things being equal, the most presumptuous hypothesis must be true.
Unless it isn’t. Over to you, John DeGioia, president of Georgetown:
Last fall, public policy students expressed preferences for potential speakers who could participate in the program. Given her role in crafting the landmark legislation that will make health care more accessible to 34 million Americans who are currently uninsured, Secretary Sebelius was identified by students as a leading policy maker in our country who could contribute to this event. Secretary Sebelius has a long and distinguished record of public service, including two terms as governor of Kansas before beginning her service in April, 2009, as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She is also the spouse and the mother of Georgetown graduates.
In early January, an invitation was extended to Secretary Sebelius and she accepted. In the weeks that followed, elements of the legislation, specifically terms covering contraception, dominated our public discourse and impacted our Georgetown community very directly.
In different contexts over the past three months, including a March 14 “Statement on Religious Freedom and HHS Mandate,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed strong opposition to the position put forward by the Obama Administration. Some have interpreted the invitation of Secretary Sebelius as a challenge to the USCCB. It was not. The invitation to Secretary Sebelius occurred prior to the January 20th announcement by the Obama Administration of the modified healthcare regulations.
The Secretary’s presence on our campus should not be viewed as an endorsement of her views. As a Catholic and Jesuit University, Georgetown disassociates itself from any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings.
We are a university, committed to the free exchange of ideas. We are a community that draws inspiration from a religious tradition that provides us with an intellectual, moral, and spiritual foundation. By engaging these values we become the University we are meant to be.
Ah, but one question remains. President DeGioia claims the idea for inviting Sebelius came from students. But he doesn’t explain how that idea got into their heads in the first place, does he?
(Full disclosure: Commonweal is honoring DeGioia with the Catholic in the Public Square Award in September. Rest assured, we’ll get to the bottom of this.)