Students' speaking invitation to Planned Parenthood CEO draws criticism

By Richard Szczepanowski

(CNS) — The Archdiocese of Washington has criticized a Georgetown University
student group’s invitation to the president of Planned Parenthood to speak on

a statement, the archdiocese said the issue is not about free speech because
“lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what
should be an environment of morality, ethics and human decency that one expects
on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity.”

University officials defended the students’ invitation, saying in a statement
that the issue is a matter of “sustaining a forum for the free exchange of
ideas … even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or
objectionable to some.”

Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America and the Planned Parenthood
Action Fund, is scheduled to speak at Georgetown in April. She was invited to
speak by the school’s student-run Lecture Fund. Planned Parenthood is the
nation’s largest abortion provider.

its statement, the archdiocese said: “One would prefer to see some
recognition by this student group of the lives and ministry, focus and values
of people like Blessed Oscar Romero, Blessed Teresa (of Kolkata) and Pope
Francis in place of that group’s seemingly constant preoccupation with sexual
activity, contraception and abortion.”

added: “The Archdiocese of Washington is always open and ready to dialogue
with the students, faculty and administration of the university on issues of
such significance.”

apparent unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion and the
denigration of human dignity that there are other human values and issues being
challenged in the world lends credence to the perception of the ‘ivory tower’
life of some on campus,” the archdiocese said.

noted that Richards is not being paid to speak. “Student groups may invite
any outside speakers and guests to campus. An appearance of any speaker or
guest on campus is not an endorsement by the university,” it said.

Lecture Fund, according to its website, is “a nonpartisan student-run
organization that exists to enrich the academic experience of the Georgetown
community. The Lecture Fund strives to bring speakers to Georgetown’s campus to
enlighten, educate and, occasionally, entertain.”

university said it recognizes “that the perspectives of some speakers
(invited by the Lecture Fund) run counter to the Catholic and Jesuit values
that animate our university.”

work very hard to ensure that these values maintain a privileged place in our
community while at the same time providing a forum that does not limit speech
either in the content of the view being expressed or the speaker expressing the
view,” the university said.

Washington Archdiocese suggested that “those so interested in learning
more about the killing of unborn babies and respect for the dignity of all
human life” look at a recent issue of America magazine “that speaks
at length about the extent of violence and persecution the people of faith
around the world suffer.”

would be beneficial,” said, “for these Georgetown University students
to learn more about these serious problems in the world.”

Lecture Fund, according to its website, “consists of only undergraduate
students. We extend invitations to any and all speakers, they accept or deny
the invitation, and we plan accordingly.”

its website, the group said Richards’ talk “is not open to the public and
only those with a Georgetown University ID will be allowed to attend. The event
will consist of remarks, followed by a question and answer period.”

Archdiocese of Washington statement said, “The contribution to a better
world today can take inspiration from the Gospel and its proponents such as
Pope Francis and from the Jubilee Year of Mercy rather than from the organized
efforts to facilitate the violent destruction of unborn children,”

added: “The Jesuit community on campus clearly has its work cut out for it
and a long way to go as it tries to instill at Georgetown some of the values of
Pope Francis.”

of Richards’ planned speaking engagement was first reported by the Cardinal
Newman Society on its website.

Newman Society president Patrick Reilly noted on the group’s website that “disguised
as an academic event, this (Richards’ talks) is nothing more than a platform
for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the
Catholic bishops.”

in 1993, the society states its mission is “to promote and defend faithful
Catholic education … (through) supporting education that is faithful to the
teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church; producing and disseminating research
and publications on developments and best practices in Catholic education; and
keeping Catholic leaders and families informed.”

a clear bias in the choice of speakers, there’s no sense of moral truth, which
is the central point of a Catholic university,” Reilly said on the
website. “Either you accept Catholic moral teaching as true or you do not.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is morally wrong because
“human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of
conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be
recognized as having the rights of a person.”

his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of
Life”) St. John Paul II said: “Abortion willed as an end or as a means,
always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing
of an innocent human being.”

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is a staff writer at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of

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