Open Letter to Georgetown University

May 7, 2012

Edward Montgomery, Dean
Georgetown Public Policy Institute
3700 O St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20057

John J. DeGioia, President,
Georgetown University
3700 O St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20057

Dear President DeGioia and Dean Montgomery,

We the undersigned, write with utmost distress concerning the decision to select Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to address graduates at the commencement ceremonies of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute on May 18.

We can only assume that the selection of Secretary Sebelius was done with full knowledge of the present conflict between our Church and the current Administration over the recent preventative services mandate. As you surely know, this unresolved conflict raises issues of fundamental concern for our Church, bishops, and all religious institutions who hope to protect the time-honored freedom to define, teach, and act upon the moral and religious tenets of their faith.

The unity of our Church, together with our Bishops, in calling for a responsible resolution to this conflict is irreparably harmed when prominent institutions such as yours honor officials or persons whose record and public statements demonstrate a hostility and clear opposition to the freedoms sought by our Bishops. More worrisome is your decision to grant such an honor to a person who just last year told a pro-abortion audience "We are in a war," referring to groups (including, presumably Catholic bishops) who oppose the mandate forcing employers to provide free birth control, sterilization, and some abortion-inducing drugs.

The U.S. bishops’ 2004 instruction titled "Catholics in Political Life" emphatically states: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

The difficulties that arise from the present conflict between our Church and the Administration are wholly different from those issues that permit Catholics in good conscience to prudentially disagree as to how to best resolve them. Indeed, the issues raised by the HHS mandate go to the heart of the constitutional balance between church and state, and to the fundamental freedoms, long protected in this country, of religious believers to live out the Gospel in public life.

Secretary Sebelius deserves civility and respect as the appointed Secretary of our government Department of Health and Human Services. She does not, however, deserve a platform or place of honor at a prominent Catholic institution commencement ceremony.

Your decision will only inflame this conflict, invite justified protests, cause great harm and detract from the necessary dialogue required to resolve the issues surrounding this mandate. More importantly, your decision is fundamentally an act of disunity, and represents an insult to the ongoing efforts of our Bishops and faithful believers in America who prayerfully seek a resolution to this conflict.

We, therefore, strongly urge you to reconsider the selection of Secretary Sebelius as the commencement speaker for the Public Policy Institute.


Brian F. Burch, President

<Your Name Here>

CC: His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl
5001 Eastern Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20782-3447

His Excellency Archbishop William E. Lori
320 Cathedral St
Baltimore, MD 21201