March 8, 2016

Washington cardinal rebukes Georgetown for inviting Planned Parenthood chief

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Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington speaks at a conference on climate change at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome on May 20, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington speaks at a conference on climate change at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome on May 20, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

(RNS) Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl appeared to take a swipe at Georgetown University for inviting Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards to speak, saying that “it is neither authentically Catholic nor within the Catholic tradition for a university to provide a special platform to those voices that promote or support” issues such as abortion.

Without mentioning the nation’s oldest Catholic university by name, Wuerl wrote in a blog post on Tuesday (March 8) about the importance of Catholics’ maintaining their Christian identity even amid the challenges of modernity or persecution.

That imperative, he said, “is no less important for the institutions of the Church such as universities and social ministries, as it is for individuals, to offer this testimony of their Catholic identity.”

“Conversely, students, faculty, and the community at large are all impoverished, not enriched, when the institution’s Catholic identity is diluted or called into question by seemingly approving of ideas that are contrary to moral truth,” Wuerl wrote.

Richards’ appearance, set for next month, was arranged by the Lecture Fund, a student-run organization at the Washington, D.C., university.

The event is not open to the public, and when news of Richards’ invitation broke it was met by sharp criticism by some Catholics.

The Jesuit university responded with a statement saying it is committed to “the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some.” It noted that Richards is not being paid to speak.

“Georgetown remains firmly committed to the sanctity and human dignity of every life at every stage,” it added.


RELATED STORY: Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards to speak at Georgetown University


Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortion services, has for months been the target of abortion foes after the release of undercover videos that activists say show Planned Parenthood officials illegally negotiating to sell fetal tissue recovered from abortions.

While even some abortion-rights activists have cringed at the language used in the videos, Planned Parenthood officials have defended their procedures and the only charges that have been brought in any state have been against the undercover filmmakers.

Still, demands to defund the organization have become a major talking point in the presidential campaign, and for abortion foes.

The idea of giving Richards such a platform apparently was a step too far for Wuerl, who is not known as a culture warrior type.

“In our present culture, we have seen an increase in antagonism against Catholic teaching and the Church itself,” Wuerl concluded.

“It is precisely in these times that the Catholic institution of higher learning is called to continual self-examination to ensure that it maintains and promotes an authentic Catholic identity, that it recognizes the importance of virtue, and that it attempts to be a beacon of Christ’s truth and love as manifested in and through the Church.”

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)

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  • Tom Downs

    “Catholic identity” means one thing to the cardinal and another to sociologists. The one looks at what the leadership thinks and has proclaimed as truth. The other looks at the people who make up the Church. In this, as in birth control and other issues, the Catholics, the faithful members that are the Church do not see a single truth. The Cardinal is not the Church, at most he is given permission to represent it, and in this case he clearly does not represent the Church’s thinking. Given the wide-open nature of the religious marketplace and the general cultural trend toward secularism, the Cardinal’s leadership style will continue the Catholic Church’s hemorhage of members.

  • Cardinal Wuerl and other critics of Planned Paalenthood head Richards speaking at Georgetown U are wrong for many reasons, such as — 1. GU is a respected university friendly to academic freedom; 2. Most of PP staff and clients are Christians; 3. The overwhelming majority of US Catholics have no problem with contraception and disagree with the Vatican ban; 4. The abortion rate among Catholics is about the same as for non-Catholics; 5 Only about 3% of PP’s budget goes for abortions; 6. PP has long been a precious boon for women of limited means; 7. PP’s family planning assistance actually reduces the demand for abortions; 8. A celibate male cleric has a lot of nerve trying to interfere with women’s rights of conscience and religious freedom. — Edd Doerr

  • Fr. Alex Anderson

    Would Cardinal Wuerl include those of his own Archdiocese, like Joe Biden at Catholic University, or Nancy Pelosi, or the President of the United States among “those voices that promote or support” issues like abortion? Sounds pretty selective if you ask me?

  • Jay

    The Cardinal should ask himself whether the Bishops’ intolerance against others, especially gay people, might have contributed to antagonism against the Church hierarchy.

  • NC Ken

    Simple … time for a very public excommunication. Replace the bad actors with good ones. Finis.

  • yoh

    If the Catholic Church excommunicated Catholics who regularly ignore the directives of the church, there would not be enough people left to tithe. The overwhelming majority of those within the faith do not take the church’s rules on sexual relations seriously.

  • Greg Miller

    Mr. Downs, Truth is not a matter of opinion or democratic vote. Even if it were you are wrong in stating that the “people who make up the Church” support birth control, because Catholicism is universal, and while what you may say is true in the American Catholic experience, American Catholics make up less than 10% of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, and you can be sure the rest of the world is nowhere near as lax in following Church teaching. Additionally, the Church is a body not just of those alive right now, but a “communion of saints” existing outside of time. The Catholics of the last 2000 years–the majority of whom are alive with God in their reward, not here on Earth–have opposed contraception. Your comment reflects ignorance of what, who, and how the Church is.

  • Ed of ct.

    Tom Yoh these apostates like you do not go to church to begin with now.

  • Charlie

    “it is neither authentically Catholic nor within the Catholic tradition for a university to provide a special platform to those voices that promote or support” issues such as abortion.”

    But it’s o.k. to invite a priest who has protected pedophiles in the church.

  • yoh

    If it were true the Catholic Church would shrink to FLDS level size with only a small fanatical size and little resources. What you call apostates are really the rank and file of the church.

  • Jack

    Ed of ct., “yoh” is about as Catholic as Bernie Sanders or Woody Allen…..which is to say he isn’t and wasn’t Catholic. He is an atheist.

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