Proud of Our Archbishop

Just a little while ago, I picked up my copy of The Leaven, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and went straight to Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s column, which dealt with the issue of giving Holy Communion to our pro-abortion Catholic governor, Kathleen Sebelius. It is in some sense “hard-hitting,” and necessarily so, but what comes through most clearly is our Archbishop’s edifying pastoral concern for our governor and for the rest of the flock. Here is his column in its entirety:

Governor’s Veto Prompts Pastoral Action

by Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann

On the day of my return (Monday, April 21) from the exhilarating experience of participating in Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit to the United States, I learned that Governor Kathleen Sebelius had vetoed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act (HS SB 389), which had been passed by significant majorities in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature. Last week, an attempt to override the governor’s veto failed in the Senate by two votes.

Governor Sebelius in her veto message claimed: “For years, the people of Kansas have asked their elected officials to move beyond legislative debates on issues like abortion.” From her veto message, I received the impression the governor considered it a waste of the Legislature’s time to pass a statute that attempts to protect some women by making certain they have the opportunity to be well-informed: (1) about the development of their unborn child; and (2) about abortion alternatives available to them. Evidently, the governor does not approve of legislators devoting energy to protecting children and women by making it possible to enforce existing Kansas laws regulating late-term abortions.

The governor’s veto message demonstrated a lack of respect to the members of the Kansas General Assembly who had carefully crafted and resoundingly passed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, as well as to the many Kansans who find it more than an embarrassment, in no small part due to several previous vetoes by Governor Sebelius of earlier legislative efforts to regulate abortion clinics, that Kansas has become infamous for being the late-term abortion center for the Midwest.

What makes the governor’s rhetoric and actions even more troubling has been her acceptance of campaign contributions from Wichita’s Dr. George Tiller, perhaps the most notorious late-term abortionist in the nation. In addition to Dr. Tiller’s direct donations to her campaign, the governor has benefited from the Political Action Committees funded by Dr. Tiller to support pro-abortion candidates in Kansas.

In her veto message, the governor took credit for lower abortion rates in Kansas, citing her support for “adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women, providing sex education and offering a variety of support services for families.” Indeed, the governor and her administration should be commended for supporting adoption incentives and health services for pregnant women.

However, the governor overreaches by assuming credit for declining abortion rates in Kansas. Actually, lower abortion rates are part of a national trend. Our neighboring state of Missouri has actually had a steeper and longer decline in its abortion rate.

Governor Sebelius’ inclusion of public school sex education programs as a factor in the abortion rate decline is absurd. Actually, valueless sex education programs in public schools have been around for years, coinciding with increased sexual activity among adolescents, as well as increases in teen pregnancy and abortion. On the other hand, the governor does not acknowledge the significant impact of mass media education programs, such as those sponsored by the Vitae Caring Foundation, or the remarkable practical assistance provided by Crisis Pregnancy Centers which are funded through the generosity of pro-life Kansans.

What makes the governor’s actions and advocacy for legalized abortion, throughout her public career, even more painful for me is that she is Catholic. Sadly, Governor Sebelius is not unique in being a Catholic politician supporting legalized abortion.

Since becoming archbishop, I have met with Governor Sebelius several times over many months to discuss with her the grave spiritual and moral consequences of her public actions by which she has cooperated in the procurement of abortions performed in Kansas. My concern has been, as a pastor, both for the spiritual well-being of the governor but also for those who have been misled (scandalized) by her very public support for legalized abortion.

It has been my hope that through this dialogue the governor would come to understand her obligation: 1) to take the difficult political step, but necessary moral step, of repudiating her past actions in support of legalized abortion; and 2) in the future would use her exceptional leadership abilities to develop public policies extending the maximum legal protection possible to the unborn children of Kansas.

Having made every effort to inform and to persuade Governor Sebelius and after consultation with Bishop Ron Gilmore (Dodge City), Bishop Paul Coakley (Salina) and Bishop Michael Jackels (Wichita), I wrote the governor last August requesting that she refrain from presenting herself for reception of the Eucharist until she had acknowledged the error of her past positions, made a worthy sacramental confession and taken the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.

Recently, it came to my attention that the governor had received Holy Communion at one of our parishes. I have written to her again, asking her to respect my previous request and not require from me any additional pastoral actions.

The governor has spoken to me on more than one occasion about her obligation to uphold state and federal laws and court decisions. I have asked her to show a similar sense of obligation to honor divine law and the laws, teaching and legitimate authority within the church.

I have not made lightly this request of Governor Sebelius, but only after much prayer and reflection. The spiritually lethal message, communicated by our governor, as well as many other high profile Catholics in public life, has been in effect: “The church’s teaching on abortion is optional!”

I reissue my request of the faithful of the archdiocese to pray for Governor Sebelius. I hope that my request of the governor, not to present herself for holy Communion, will provoke her to reconsider the serious spiritual and moral consequences of her past and present actions. At the same time, I pray this pastoral action on my part will help alert other Catholics to the moral gravity of participating in and/or cooperating with the performance of abortions.

Archbishop Naumann is a member of the episcopal advisory council of Catholics United for the Faith. This article initially appeared in the May 9th issue of The Leaven.

16 responses

  1. Archbishop Naumann is a great bishop and I love that he has followed the steps in the Gospel of Matthew in rebuking the sinner, getting two or three others and then taking it to the Church.

    Though I would be interested in why he does not just instruct his priests and EMHC to just not given her Communion if she does present herself out of charity to prevent her from sacrilege. Especially since she really fulfills Canon 915 and the Bishop has really been trying to help her. Though maybe this will be his next step if she does continue to present herself.

    The Gov. should change her name to Rebelius. I do wonder how she got elected in Kansas in the first place?

  2. My sadness over yet another politician risking the loss of eternal life was lifted by the faithfulness and loving concern of her Bishop in doing what a good “father” would do in disiplining his charges for their own and his family’s good.

  3. Praise God for a great Archbishop who will stand firmly for the Divine Law over human(man-made)laws. I thank God for such a great and courageous
    Bishop. May the Holy Spirit strengthen him!

  4. The strong pastoral stand of Archbishop Naumann should serve as an inspiration and example to the whole U.S. Bishops Conference. Undoubtedly many other bishops will be encouraged and inspired by his example.

  5. This is direct pastoral teaching from a loving shepherd who cares for each of his flock and abides by the charism entrusted to him at his ordination. Since the Governor is blatantly disregarding her shepherd in a very public manner she has made her decision to live apart from Christ. There are eternal consequences. May she turn back and seek to Truth, who is Pure Love.

  6. It’s a shame that we can’t elect people to public office who are as strong, caring, intelligent and well-spoken as the Vatican appoints to pastoral ones.

  7. Leon, thank you for sending me this article, there are Catholics who act as if they are above the church’s laws and Governor Sebelius is no exception just like former Gov. R. Giuliani, Senators. J. Kerry and E. Kennedy it makes me wonder if they are really practicing Catholics whose knowledge of the faith is deeply rooted in their hearts and minds..

    Being Pentecost Sunday, I pray that the Holy Spirit will work on their conscience and have a realization that they need to tow the line and obey their Bishops and Archbishops.

    The good, Archbishop Joseph Naumann is just doing his responsibility I am very sure that if Gov. Sebelius will continue to disrespect the Eucharist there will be forthcoming admonitions from Arch. Naumann.

    This occurrence is not an isolated case, this is actually happening in some parts of the world. I can only pray that these individuals who refuse to obey the church hierarchy will see the light soon.

  8. I congratulate Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. He and the other bishops of Kansas have lots of work to do in the State of Kansas.

    This takes me back to 1969-1970, the two years I spent teaching at a Catholic college in Salina. During that time Kansas passed one of the most “liberal” abortion laws in the world. A mother could abort her baby for any reason up through nine months of pregnancy. The response of the Catholic community in Salina was silence. A couple of the nuns at my college helped me to make picket signs, but they were afraid to picket with me. It might, they thought, reflect badly on the college if they joined me in picketing Methodis Hospital which would allow abortions. (The college is now defunct.) When I picketed, only one person joined me–a woman who was a Jehovah Witness.

    By comparison, at the time Kansas was a so-called “dry” state. The Methodist-dominated legislature had no trouble imposing its understanding of morality concerning alcohol. You couldn’t get a glass of dinner wine in an ordinary restaurant. But enterprising Kansans found a way around that: you could join a “private club” and get drunk as a skunk. I was told that membership fees were about a dollar.

    Thus Kansas legislated that you could kill your baby but you could not have a glass of dinner wine. Obviously the former still holds true; is Kansas still “dry”?

    In Salina we tried to form an organization to promote marital chastity by teaching NFP. We convened a meeting and met some nice people who knew more about NFP organizations and literature than we did. When we suggested forming an organization, they all demurred. They were afraid to go public about their acceptance of Humanae Vitae. “Closet NFPers.”

    We appealed to the bishop to help, to do something to promote Humanae Vitae. That’s how we learned the bouncing ball theory of social morality. When things get to a certain low level, they will bounce back. According to that theory, bishops don’t really need to do anything; the bounce-back will just happen.

    These things are old news, but they show the problem that has been inherited by the current bishops of Kansas. May the Holy Spirit bring to the Catholic Church of Kansas a new Pentecost in our day, and may Archbishop Nauman have the great spriritual pleasure of seeing the conversion of Catholics who presume that they are above the teachings of Christ through his Church.

  9. So let me throw a question out there for the sake of argument. The event that appears to have been the final straw for Abp. Naumann was the Governor’s veto of a proposed state law requiring that women be informed about the development of the unborn child and a list of alternatives. Laudable and worthy goals though they are, my question (for the sake of theoretical) is whether being a Catholic requires one to support state “abortion alternative” programs?
    As Catholics we must accept as an article of faith that abortion is an inherently moral evil. The question I am asking is what does that mean for Catholics working in government? I guess I get a little concerned that our bishops have a tendency to turn everything that is “good” into a government platform. For example, too many in our country lack health care. The kneejerk reaction on the part of the bishops’ confernce is that the “Catholic position” becomes that we must now have government-provided health care (not saying this is right or wrong, just trying to illustrate my point). So too, we have legalized abortion. The “Catholic position” is that government must fund abortion alternative programs. Have I really cut myself off from the Mystical Body of Christ if I do not want to tax people to fund such programs? (clarification: I’m not saying this is exactly the same as Gov. Sebelius’ situation, but it does raise the question)
    Whad’ya think?

  10. I think that’s a legitimate question, Greg. I have had similar concerns.

    But in the case at hand, I believe the wisdom of Archbishop Naumann’s approach is apparent. A long string of Sebelius’ public actions (in conjunction with his personal conversations with her) have made it more than clear that she is in violation of Catholic teaching. And as such, I believe he is on very firm ground.

    This situation is not like situations involving, say, education, health care, etc. In those cases, I agree that it is not always so clear what a Catholic should do or support in terms of government policy. Some Catholics (including bishops), seem to take a liberal line that requires extensive (and expensive) government intervention. Yet, Catholics are completely free to disagree on the means of achieving the objective standards. To my knowledge, we all agree that children should be well educated, health care should be offered to all, etc. But not all of us think the government should take over health care in the way that, say, Hillary Clinton proposed.

    In Sebelius’ case, I believe it is sufficiently clear that she is standing against Catholic teaching vis a vis abortion and does not merey disagree on means. Obviously, abortion should be outlawed completely. The State’s first responsibility is defending it’s citizens’ lives. This is a black and white issue. And I have no doubt that Sebelius would similarly veto a law against abortion. I’m sure the archbishop addressed this in great detail with her already.

    This is not reasonably viewed as a matter of “agreeing on the objective, disagreeing on means”. The state has a definitive responsibility to defend human life. And it is a scandal to the faithful that a Catholic governor should so completely refuse that fundamental responsibility.

    God bless Bishop Naumann

  11. I think Jeff’s comment about how this can happen in Kansas is answered by John Kippley–namely, that we’re experiencing the bad fruit of some bad seeds that were planted in the 1960s and 70s. All the same, I must say that in general Kansans are wonderful, wholesome people, and there is much good happening here on both sides of the state line.

    With respect to Greg’s question, five points come to mind:

    (1) As a former medical malpractice defense attorney, I know that when it comes to every other conceivable medical procedure, the physician needs to obtain the patient’s “informed” consent, including a disclosure of all relevant factors, alternatives, and risks that go into making such a decision. The failure to do this opens the physician up to major liability. I always wondered (in a rhetorical sense) why these rules don’t apply in the case of abortions. Of course, such disclosure would be harmful to business and would bring evil to light. Anyway, requiring the disclosure of such information to pregnant women who are contemplating abortion doesn’t seem to require the expenditure of public funds, and really it only makes abortionists play by the same rules that all other health care providers follow in obtaining their patients’ consent to treatment.

    (2) Even if there were some sort of non-ideological explanation as to why the Governor vetoed the legislation, she didn’t provide it in her veto message that I’m aware of. Rather, she unabashedly is opposed to attempts to limit the “right” to free access to abortion up and including the time of birth.

    (3) To some extent, a Catholic public official has a greater responsibility than the rest of us. Pope John Paul II acknowledged as much in Evangelium Vitae, no. 74: “Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement,” which takes on new significance as Gov. Sebelius has been mentioned as a Democratic VP possibility. But Evangelium Vitae, nos. 73-74 discuss in specific detail the duties that one in Gov. Sebelius’ role has when it comes to opposing an intrinsic evil against human life. Not only has she failed to be part of the solution, but she clearly is a major part of the problem.

    (4) Archbishop Naumann is obviously very troubled by the fact that Gov. Sebelius receives direct support from Dr. George Tiller, arguably the most notorious late-term abortion provider in the country. Most of her constituents and their representatives supported the legislation in question. But she has opposed both her religion and representatives of the people in favor of a “special interest”–the culture of death incarnate.

    (5) I don’t think this is a “last straw.” In fact, the Archbishop merely reiterated his prior request that she not receive Communion, based on her continuing to present herself for Communion while at the same time obstinately persisting in her support of abortion rights, as evidenced again by the most recent veto. He’s being firm, but not harsh. I know that’s the balance I strive for as the pastor of my “domestic” Church. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of Gov. Sebelius’ voting the wrong way on a particular piece of legislation so much as her presuming to receive the Eucharist while publicly championing abortion rights, despite the archbishop’s clear, patient, ongoing admonitions.

  12. I, too, believe we are simply suffering the evil consequences of the fallout from misrepresentation of Vatican II. Speaking with most Catholics, they are under the impression that Vatican II changed the Church’s teachings in many areas, particularly those regarding sexuality. This was communicated to many of us when there failed to be a consistent and across-the-board support by our bishops of Holy Father Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. I remember that we only heard the strident voices of some of our priests, as well as the media, egged on in the main by Fr. Charles Curran, et al. Not a word from our bishops in Minnesota where I lived at the time! Most people turned up their noses and scoffed: “Oh, that Humanae Vitae! Don’t pay any attention to that document!” If one asked these scoffers if they had read the document, the reply was usually: “No, I don’t need to. My pastor (or bishop of both) says to ignore it or has nothing to say about it.” My point is that because Humanae Vitae was not preached strongly from the pulpit and from the bishops (as well as the REAL Vatican II and not its false “spirit”) the vast majority of American Catholics believed it was something that could be ignored. Our shepherds either believed it could be ignored or were too afraid to promulgate it because of the backlash they would receive or both!

    Therefore, many of our Catholic politicians, as well as many, many Catholics, are not well equipped to distinguish between what is intrinsically good and what is intrinsically evil. This is what our present Holy Father is so adamant about: moral relativism!

    I firmly believe that Governor Sibelius is one of these people. She is a product of our liberal, hedonistic, relativistic culture. As in Germany after the war at the Nurnberg Trials, she believes that if something is the law of the land, then one must be obedient to the law, and if a politician,then one must represent ALL one’s constituents, not just Catholics. She isn’t even thinking in terms of good or evil, morality or immorality. Religion or one’s faith is a private thing and should not be brought into the equation. I do not believe she is deliberately doing wrong; of COURSE she believes she is right! Just like the radical jihadists think they are right. We have lost the ability to THINK! To REASON! And this is the very thing our wonderful Holy Father is trying so hard to get across to us!

    We are now suffering the bitter fruits of, unhappily, poor leadership within the Church, where many of our leaders are more concerned with being accepted and being assimilated into our current culture than courageously doing what is right and perhaps being crucified for it!

    Also, much of our Catholic Church “business” has become just that: Business! I won’t go into all that now.

    But, I for one, would like to see holy priests, holy bishops, prayerful priests, prayerful bishops. I believe the people are hungering for this. Think of the Cure of Ars and how he was considered a saint in his own time and the people from all over Europe and the world, even, flocked to that little town of Ars to be near him, to go to Confession to him, to grab his worn cassock for a relic of the “saint.”

    Lord, give us holy priests, holy bishops! We don’t need bureaucrats.

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