Q and A With Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
From Creative Minority Report:
Two weeks ago Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann publicly asked Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to refrain from receiving Communion because of her support of legalized abortion. This started a political firestorm on television, talk radio, and the internet. Today, the Archbishop Naumann devoted a page and a half of The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper, to answer questions raised by his decision...(emphasis added)My May 9 column, making public my request to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius not to present herself for reception of holy Communion until she had sought to repair the public scandal of her long-standing support for legalized abortion, not surprisingly has initiated quite a bit of discussion in secular newspapers, local talk radio shows and coffee-break conversations. I have personally received a significant number of pro and con communications. While I attempt to acknowledge every letter I receive, it is not possible for me to make an in-depth response to each one. Similarly, it is not possible for me to respond to every newspaper editorial, letter to the editor or radio caller. In this column, I want to provide you with my responses to some of the more common questions and misunderstandings regarding my pastoral action. I hope this is helpful for your own personal understanding. However, I also hope that it makes you feel more confident and better informed so that you can explain to others who have questions and concerns...
Q. Why was the governor singled out for this pastoral discipline? Are there not others in elective office who hold similar positions?
A. Governor Sebelius holds the highest elective office in the state of Kansas, making her the most prominent Catholic in public life. It is a time-intensive process to enter into verbal and written dialogue, as is necessary, to insure a person is aware of the spiritual and moral consequences of their actions, as well as to understand the scandal their actions cause for others. It is my intention eventually, as much as the limitations of my own time permit, to have similar pastoral dialogues with other Catholics in elective office who support legalized abortion.
Q. Is it not wrong for the church to attempt to impose its religious beliefs on others?
A. While one can be a faithful Catholic and support a wide diversity of strategies on the vast majority of issues, it is not possible to compromise on the sanctity of human life.
For the Catholic in public life, the unequivocal defense of such a fundamental human right is not imposing one’s Catholic faith upon others. The fact that the church addresses the morality of such a basic right does not make this an exclusively religious issue. Just as supporting public policies that prohibit stealing, racism, or murder — moral issues also very clearly addressed by the church — is not an imposition of Catholic doctrine, neither is advocating for policies that protect human life in its earliest stages.
Q. Governor Sebelius says that she is personally opposed to abortion, but she supports the law protecting the right of others to choose an abortion. Why is this not a morally acceptable position?
A. Freedom of choice is not an absolute value. All of our laws limit our choices. I am not free to drive while intoxicated or to take another’s property or to assault someone else. My freedom ends when I infringe on the more basic rights of another. On a similarly grave moral issue 150 years ago, Stephen Douglas, in his famous debates with the future President Abraham Lincoln, attempted to craft his position as not favoring slavery but of the right of people in new states and territories, such as Kansas, to choose to sanction slavery. Being pro-choice on a fundamental matter of human rights was not a morally coherent argument in the 1850s, nor is it today. No one has the right to choose to enslave another human being, just as no one has the right to kill another human being. No law or public policy has the authority to give legal protection to such an injustice.
Q. Are not the actions of the church requesting Catholic politicians who support legalized abortion not to receive Communion really an attack on Democrats?
A. No. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York has made a similar request of former Republican presidential candidate and former mayor Rudy Giuliani. I encourage Catholics who are Democrats to remain Democrats, but to change the extremist position of the party on abortion. If the majority of Catholic Democrats objected to the platform of the party supporting legalized abortion, it would change tomorrow. In the end, to create an enduring public policy that will protect the right to life of innocent unborn children, we need to build a consensus that includes both Democrats and Republicans.
Q. Does the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church discredit it from being able to address moral social issues like abortion?
A. In logic, this type of argument is termed “ad hominem.” It is an attempt to attack personally one’s opponent in a debate, rather than make substantive arguments about the issue being debated. It is usually an indication of a weak position by the person making the “ad hominem” argument. What is needed is a substantive discussion of this important social and moral issue, not personal attacks!
[Read the whole thing]
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
"Catholic Democrats" Attack "Registered Republican Archbishop of Kansas City" for "Using Communion" to "Take Down" Sebelius
Archbishop Naumann to Kansas Gov. Sebelius: Stop Taking Communion, Publicly Apologize [UPDATED]