With the U.S. presidential race heating up and both John McCain and Barack Obama close to announcing their vice presidential nominees, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City says he hopes his warning of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for her support of abortion, has “alerted” Obama that she is not a good advisor on the Catholic Church.
While he was in Quebec City, Canada for the Knights of Columbus’ annual conference, Archbishop Naumann took time to explain to CNA the intricacies of his decision to ask the Kansas governor to refrain from receiving Communion.
Writing in the May 9 issue of The Leaven, the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s newspaper, Archbishop Naumann said that because of the governor’s support for legalized abortion, he had asked her to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until she makes a worthy confession and publicly repudiates her stand on abortion. He later clarified that his request to her was not directed toward one particular action, but rather, it concerned her “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.”
When you stand before God…
“There are many goods you are trying to weigh. Where you have someone in public life who is not living in their public responsibilities consistent with the Catholic faith, I think you are concerned about that individual,” he began.
“One of the things that I said when I met with the governor at one point, is that some day she’s going to have to stand before God and account for her public service. And I hope that she’s going to have something better to say than what she does to this point on the protection of the innocent unborn. But I said if you go to God and you say, ‘Well, I didn’t understand how important this was’ or ‘I didn’t understand that this was such a crucial issue’ then as your bishop I’m the one responsible because I didn’t do enough to try and make sure of that. I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that and so I wanted to make sure that she understood what a serious matter this was.”
The concern for the archbishop is multi-layered, ranging from the individual involved to the rest of his flock. “I think you have concern for that individual and in wanting to try to bring about enlightenment and conversion. You also have a concern for the rest of your people. That’s the problem with the individual that’s in a public position. When they act contradictory to their faith, then it can create within the Church what the Church means by scandal, which means leading others into error.”
According to Archbishop Naumann, he received letters from people who were requesting that she be excommunicated immediately even before he asked Gov. Sebelius not to receive Communion. Yet, Naumann says he isn’t really concerned about these people because they know Sebelius’ actions aren’t in keeping with the Catholic faith.
“It’s all the people that aren’t writing,” who worry the archbishop. “Frankly after the pastoral action I did take with the governor,” the Kansas City archbishop related, “there were several [people] who communicated with me that, ‘we didn’t realize how extreme she was’.”
“I also am concerned about young Catholics that are thinking about public service and public life,” he said. The archbishop’s message to the younger generation of Catholic is that, “they can’t go the road of these so-called pro-choice Catholic politicians and really be faithful to your faith.”
The archbishop’s dialogue with Sebelius
Lest anyone think that Archbishop Naumann’s public correction of Gov. Sebelius was an impulsive decision, he made clear that he was in conversation with her for “a couple years” and that the discussions took place at “various levels.”
As he explained to CNA, “To my mind, you have to pursue it in that way; you have to attempt to meet with the individual, instruct the individual, make sure that you’ve given them every chance to consider their position before you take extreme action.”
When he was asked if Kathleen Sebelius has honored his request, the Catholic leader of Kansas City said that she has. “To my knowledge, she hasn’t gone to Communion since this second request to her so in that sense from an indirect way she’s honoring the request.”
However, the governor has not kept the lines of communication open with Archbishop Naumann since his request in May. According to Naumann, “she has not communicated with me at this point at all and she’s told other people in the media that she’s going to respond to me personally, but that hasn’t happened at this time.”
A bad counselor for Obama
“What I found out after I took the pastoral action with Governor Sebelius is that Senator Obama had her on his advisory committee for Catholics,” recalled the archbishop.
“I wasn’t aware of that [beforehand],” he said, “but I hope that it alerted Senator Obama that this is not probably somebody that can really counsel you in terms of the mind and the heart of the Church on this very critical and important area.”
“So I think it would be a bad judgment on Senator Obama’s part to select someone who was in conflict with the Church.”
Turning his attention to Catholic voters and the upcoming election, Archbishop Naumann advised them to bring their values in to the voting booth. If Catholics do this, “we can have a serious impact on the positions that the individuals and parties are taking,” he said.
“There’s a lot at stake in the elections,” observed Naumann.
“I think that the political parties read the results of the election and then put an interpretation on it. After this election, they’re either going to think ‘we need to be more aware of these values about the sanctity of human life; the importance of marriage and its traditional understanding being upheld’ or they’re going to think ‘these are things we can either ignore or the tide is with us to go against what has really been the tradition of Western civilization’.”