The Georgetown Eight Ask That Sebelius Invitation Be Rescinded

Patrick J. Deneen, who is soon to leave his post as Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, has launched a campaign to obtain Georgetown faculty signatures on a letter asking Georgetown President John J. DeGioia  to rescind an invitation to “pro-choice” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at the Jesuit university on commencement day.

[Tell Georgetown to withdraw the invite to Sebelius – sign the petition at]

Sebelius’s HHS promulgated the mandate that faith-based institutions must provide health insurance policies that cover contraception and abortifacients, regardless of their moral objections to these practices.

Calling the invitation to speak on commencement day “one of the greatest honors that a University community can bestow upon an individual,” the letter says, “Secretary Sebelius’s role in crafting and advancing the HHS mandate that would require religious institutions to offer insurance coverage that would provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives, makes her a profoundly objectionable choice.”

Only eight members of the Georgetown faculty besides Deneen himself have signed the letter, which Deneen plans to present to President DeGioia late this afternoon, have signed so far. Deneen remains technically a member of the Georgetown faculty until May 30.

Georgetown has 2, 173 full- and part-time  faculty (not including other staff). So 8 is 0.4 percent of the university’s faculty.

“There really aren’t a lot of faculty members at Georgetown who would sign a letter like this,” Deneen told The Cardinal Newman Society. “That’s very sad.”

Deneen announced earlier this year that he was resigning his position at Georgetown over concerns that the university has lost its Catholic identity. He has accepted a position at the University of Notre Dame.

“Once I had made that announcement, I didn’t intend to make any further public statements about the decisions and activities at Georgetown. But this [invitation to Sebelius] was just so scandalous,” Deneen said in a telephone interview. Deneen wrote the letter on Sunday and has been trying to get signatures since.

“I’m in touch with a lot of graduates of Georgetown,” he said, “and the thing I’ve been hearing from them is, ‘I keep telling people it’s not as bad as it seems [at Georgetown]. But this decision changes that.’”

In addition to the general “Dear Colleague” letter, Deneen crafted a special letter and invited signatures from the nearly 90 members of the Georgetown faculty and administration members who sent Rep. Paul Ryan a letter challenging his interpretation of Catholic social teaching before Ryan spoke at the university.

Deneen reminded those who wrote to chastise Ryan that they had invoked the authority of Church teaching in doing so:

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – whose letters you approvingly cite in your open letter to Congressman Ryan – the HHS mandate constitutes a grave infringement upon the religious liberty at the heart of the tradition of Catholic Social Thought.  Indeed, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago has stated his fear that under the HHS mandate, all Catholic hospitals and schools – including universities – will either have to be closed or secularized.  At the heart of the tradition of Catholic Social Thought is the role of the servant Church itself, a role that is now under threat.  We believe it is altogether inappropriate for Georgetown to accord the architect of the HHS mandate the honor that is implied by an invitation to speak at Commencement exercises.

No word yet on how many of the 90 will sign this letter.

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  1. […] Sebelius to a commencement weekend ceremony, outgoing Georgetown professor Patrick Deneen has circulated a letter of protest among the faculty: Calling the invitation to speak on commencement day “one of […]