Archbishop asks Kansas governor to refrain from Communion for abortion support, awaits response

ppnaumannsebelius120508 Archbishop Naumann / Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Saying her support for legal abortion conveys the erroneous message that the Church’s teaching on abortion is optional, Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F. Naumann has publicly admonished Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her veto of an abortion law reform bill passed by the Kansas legislature. 

Sebelius, a Catholic, is considered a possible vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.  Her campaign has reportedly accepted donations from Dr. George Tiller, an abortionist who performs late-term abortions and is the subject of a Kansas Supreme Court case for allegedly violating the state’s laws on late-term abortions.

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.

The archbishop said that the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act had been passed by “significant majorities” in both chambers of the Kansas legislature. 

However, Governor Sebelius vetoed the measure when it came to her desk, saying in her veto message, “For years, the people of Kansas have asked their elected officials to move beyond legislative debates on issues like abortion.”  An attempt to override the veto failed in the state Senate by two votes.

Archbishop Naumann, writing in The Leaven, said that Sebelius’ statement gave him the impression that “the governor considered it a waste of the Legislature’s time to pass a statute that attempts to protect some women.”  The measure would have required informing women who are considering an abortion about both the development of their unborn child and the alternatives to abortion.

“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,” Archbishop Naumann wrote.

He said the veto demonstrated disrespect both for the legislators who had worked on the bill and the Kansas citizens who lament that Kansas has become the late-term abortion center for the Midwest.

The archbishop said it was “even more troubling” that Governor Sebelius’ campaign has accepted contributions from Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita man whom Archbishop Naumann called “perhaps the most notorious late-term abortionist in the nation.”  The archbishop said the governor’s campaign has also been supported by Tiller’s political action committees

Archbishop Naumann lamented how Sebelius’ positions contradicted her Catholic faith.

“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,” he said.

The archbishop said he had met with the governor “several times over several months” to discuss “the grave spiritual and moral consequences of her public actions by which she has cooperated in the procurement of abortions performed in Kansas.”  He said he was concerned “as a pastor” both for her “spiritual well-being” and for those misled by what he called her “very public support for legalized abortion.”

He said he hoped such meetings would make her understand the need “to take the difficult political step, but necessary moral step, of repudiating her past actions in support of legalized abortion” and also the need to extend “the maximum legal protection to the unborn children of Kansas.”

The archbishop said that after meeting with several other Kansas bishops, last August he wrote the governor to request that she refrain from presenting herself to receive Holy Communion.  He said she should refrain from receiving Communion until she had acknowledged her erroneous stand on abortion, made a “worthy sacramental confession,” and taken the “necessary steps for amendment of her life.”  Such steps, Archbishop Naumann said, would include a public repudiation of her previous support for laws and policies that sanction abortion.

Noting that Governor Sebelius had reportedly received Holy Communion at an area parish, Archbishop Naumann said he had written her again asking her to respect his request and not require him to take 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,” the archbishop said in The Leaven.

The archbishop requested the faithful pray for the governor, saying he hoped his action would both prompt Sebelius to reconsider her position and alert other Catholics to the “moral gravity” of cooperating in the performance of abortions.

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In comments to CNA, Archbishop Naumann said that “the governor hasn't responded yet, but we are hopeful that she will.”

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Governor Sebelius is considered a possible choice for vice-president for Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate for the presidency. She is also a member of Obama's Catholic National Advisory Council.

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