On Wednesday, Chris Korzen of Catholics United welcomed Notre Dame’s decision to host President Barack Obama and expressed his frustration with the opposition of many Catholics to the invitation. Some, though, have suggested that the group was so quick to express support for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to be the next HHS Secretary because they were tipped by the White House, a claim they deny.
Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United, wrote that President Obama’s appearance at “Notre Dame will be nothing short of an honor for all Catholics.” Citing Obama’s historic election and polices that “promote the common good resonate strongly with Catholics of all political and ethnic backgrounds.”
He called the attack on Notre Dame “simply disingenuous” and claimed that it “reflects a larger pattern of manipulation of the Catholic faith for political advantage.” He further criticized those attacking Notre Dame for focusing on a single issue and not responding to “others who hold positions contrary to Catholic doctrine.”
However, Dan Gilgoff, a writer for US News and World Report, questioned why Catholics United took 5 days to come out in support of Notre Dame after it rapidly expressed its support for Obama’s nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports legalized abortion, as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Gilgoff suggested that Catholics United had been “tipped” by the White House before the nomination.
Korzen told CNA, “We viewed Gov. Sebelius' nomination as a positive step for health care policy in the U.S., so we were eager to register our support.”
He further denied that they were “tipped” by the White House saying, “We talk to a lot of people in government from both sides of the aisle - including the White House. However, it would be inaccurate to say that we learned about the Sebelius nomination from anyone in the administration.”
“We learned about it the same way most others did - from the New York Times,” Korzen said.
Korzen’s statement on Notre Dame also spoke about "partisan operatives who routinely use a single-issue analysis to divorce the Catholic faith from its longstanding commitment to social justice and the sanctity of all human life,” was also questioned by Gilgoff.
Gilgoff wondered if this accusation included Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy, “who has blasted Notre Dame for hosting Obama.”
Korzen replied that, “We do not include Bishop D'Arcy among those who we believe are misusing the Catholic faith to advance a partisan agenda. While Bishop D'Arcy's decision not to attend the commencement is unfortunate, we commend him for expressing his opinion in a civil and respectful manner and for not adding his voice to the shrill chorus attacking Notre Dame and President Obama.”