Georgetown, Obama Use Poverty Summit to Distract from Religious Freedom, Abortion
By Justin Petrisek
Religious freedom is at the core of the critical debates—education, marriage, family—in our society today. However, this is exactly what Georgetown University and President Barack Obama appeared to be undercutting during the President’s visit on Tuesday to a “Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty” on Georgetown’s Jesuit campus in Washington, D.C.
“The Catholic Church, through her teaching and the statements of Pope Francis, has very important things to say about poverty,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “But instead of focusing on how Catholic and Evangelical Christian insights can inform American policy—the stated purpose of last week’s conference—the Georgetown organizers used the event as a platform for President Obama to distract religious voters from his violations of religious freedom and push a political agenda.”
Although key religious leaders were invited to speak at the summit, including Bishop Jaime Soto of the controversial Catholic Campaign for Human Development, media coverage and Georgetown’s own public promotion of the event focused on President Obama’s argument that poverty issues should constitute a more vital role for Christians in America—apparently more vital than issues of religious freedom and human life.
Catholic and other Christian groups including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Sojourners were invited to be “partners” in the conference, but it was President Obama whose views were promoted by Georgetown.
“This may sound self-interested,” Obama acknowledged to the Catholicand Evangelical participants. “[T]here are issues where we have had disagreements around reproductive issues, or same-sex marriage, or what have you. And so maybe it appears advantageous for me to want to focus on these issues of poverty, and not as much on these other issues.”
Obama continued, seeming to downplay the vital issues of religious freedom:
There is great caring and great concern, but when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you're talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this is oftentimes viewed as a “nice to have” relative to an issue like abortion.
President Obama included praise for the Holy Father. “[T]hat emphasis [on poverty] I think is why he’s had such incredible appeal, including to young people, all around the world. And I hope that that is a message that everybody receives when he comes to visit here,” he said.
The President stopped just short of outright telling Catholics and Evangelicals to ignore the “narrow issues” of abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage, wrote Robert Royal, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. “I was there, and the president was careful not to go quite so far. That would have amounted to a slap at Catholics. Instead, he offered subtler blandishments,” he wrote.
Read more: www.cardinalnewmansociety.org