The student body at Georgetown University wants to invite Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to speak to them. The president of Georgetown believes a university should be a marketplace of ideas for students to sample, and he is fine with Sibelius addressing the school. However, the cardinal of Washington D.C., and the Catholic bishop's association are outraged by the invitation and want to prevent her appearance. Why? Sibelius championed a change in the health care law mandating employers provide access to contraception for employees through their health insurance plans and required Catholic institutions, like hospitals and social service agencies, to comply. Georgetown is a "Catholic" university and thus Sibelius should not be allowed to speak if the authorities disagree with her and her politics.
What makes the bishop's position so hypocritical and politically tone deaf is just weeks ago Congressman Paul Ryan was allowed to speak at Georgetown and the cardinal and bishops didn't say a word about the invitation. Over 90 members of the Georgetown faculty signed a letter protesting Ryan and his claim his budget proposal was consistent with his Catholic faith. Ryan claims his budget, which rips the social safety net to shreds, increases military spending, adds to the deficit and cuts taxes for the richest Americans, is a document Jesus could embrace. Ryan's budget would decimate programs from food stamps to Head Start to Medicaid and end Social Security and Medicare as we know them.
One of the key tenets of the Catholic Church’s reading of scripture is a call for each individual to support a fundamental option for the poor. It means working for and supporting programs for the poor, disadvantaged, the sick and elderly of our society. The Jesuits, and others who signed the open letter to Ryan, pointed to his budget, which passed the House recently, as violating this fundamental teaching. It is impossible to see the historical progress of the Church's social gospel over the last century and claim, as Ryan does, his budget is faithful to this understanding.
Ryan's budget increases the deficit over 10 years. It increases the gap between the rich 1% and everyone else. It puts the priorities of our war machine over the needs of our families and children. It proposes cutting taxes for the richest Americans and eliminating the earned income tax deduction for working Americans who earn under $28,000 a year. It does nothing to address the immoral treatment of investment income verses earned income for tax purposes...another sap to the rich.
Despite Ryan thumbing his nose at over 100 years of Catholic social teaching, and putting the needs of the rich and corporations over those of the downtrodden and needy, Ryan was allowed to bring his Darwinistic philosophy to Georgetown and allowed to try to sell it to the students with no interference from the Catholic hierarchy.
Sibelious is invited to speak, fronting an agency which is trying to expand health care to millions of the poor who cannot afford it...support meal programs and food distribution ideas to combat hunger...fight to control everything from diabetes to obesity and other health concerns and to serve "the least of our brothers and sisters", but she is persona non grata according to those running the Church in America.
This same dispute arose when President Obama was invited to speak at Notre Dame. President Bush, who instigated a war which the bishops labeled "immoral", supports the death penalty which the Church condemns, and encouraged torture, could speak at any Catholic institution without any interference from the bishops because he was opposed to contraception and abortion. Does anyone see a disconnect here?
At a time when the Vatican is attacking American nuns and their activities in this nation...at a time when sex scandals still roil the waters all over the world...at a time when the church cannot produce enough priests to serve American Catholics and at a time when the Church continues its sexist and sinful policies toward women, the hierarchy objects to a speech by the secretary for more healthcare and more human services and welcomes with open arms a politician who proposes a budget social Darwinists would love, but Jesus would condemn. (if you doubt me, read Matthew 25:31 and following)
It is hard to be a conscientious Catholic these days in America. Church leadership is obsessed with sex and reproduction and orientation issues while millions of children go to bed hungry, millions of Americans struggle to find and hold onto shelter, and we continue military adventurism and drone strikes all over the globe.
I don't know how many collective toes the bishops have left, but they are using a Gatling gun to eliminate them as fast as they can and their moral influence over average Catholics is going up in the smoke.