America News Analysis

An archbishop’s warning to Catholic politicians

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chairman of the US bishop’s pro-life committee and Archbishop of Kansas City (pictured), has issued a clear statement that politicians who support abortion should not present themselves for Communion, “for the protection of many others from moral confusion”.

For some time now, the faithful have urged bishops to define the expectations of Catholics in public life, especially concerning Catholic politicians who obstruct pro-life legislation or push for the expansion of abortion. Archbishop Naumann’s letter suggests that the bishops may finally moving in this direction.

“Recent efforts to perpetuate and expand abortion in state laws have illuminated the deplorable actions of some Catholic public officials and advocates,” Naumann said in a statement posted on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Catholic identity, if not the Catholic faith, is still seen as important for a certain type of white urban Democrat, and while Catholics such as Andrew Cuomo, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are in the unenviable position of being dragged into extreme positions by the outsized influence of abortion advocates, they have worked against pro-life interests in explicit and troubling ways.

“If, even after an extended dialogue, a Catholic in public life persists in scandalous actions,” Naumann’s letter said, “I have found it necessary to request that they not present themselves to receive Holy Communion, for their own spiritual welfare and for the protection of many others from moral confusion.”

Naumann’s intervention was triggered by various recent late-term abortion bills, including one Republican bill in the US Senate that would have provided for medical care in the event of a botched abortion that resulted in an infant being born alive. The bill was blocked by Democrats in the chamber.

“Their efforts to support and even celebrate such legislation will result in killing many more unborn children,” said Naumann in a statement pointedly directed toward Catholic Democratic figures, “as well as the spiritual and emotional wounding of their mothers and fathers.”

Earlier in February, Naumann also responded to bills in New York and Virginia. “This legislation is evil, pure and simple,” he said. “And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations. Most grieving to our Lord of Life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.”

In the same statement he called for Catholics to “fight for the unborn with renewed vigour” and he has been leading by example on that front for some time. In 2009, he issued a pastoral admonition of Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic Kansas governor nominated to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. The then Archbishop Donald Wuerl clarified that his guidance stood in Washington as well. Naumann also rebuked Vice President Joe Biden in a column when he denied that the contraceptive mandate would affect Catholic institutions.

Naumann’s current letter is a similar pastoral admonition, yet it is not directed at an individual, but rather a whole group of pro-abortion politicians, in what could be an indication that the bishops may begin taking a stronger stance against pro-abortion Democrats in general.

Naumann was elected by his fellow bishops to lead the USCCB’s pro-life committee by 96 votes to 82 (his rival for the post was Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago). Naumann was also the chosen speaker at this spring’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Naumann’s latest move will probably only increase the sense that he is a fighter. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who Naumann co-consecrated, has not been willing to take the step of denying Communion to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Marriage and the family are the issues Naumann fights for. He supports the Living in Love marriage ministry, and has even taken steps to disassociate parishes in his diocese from the Girl Scouts in part on the grounds that “Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem are frequently held up in materials as role models for young Scouts”. He is also a fan of the Croatian pop star Tajči, and once touted her as a role model for having eschewed pop stardom for family life.

Notably, Naumann also recently praised a new federal rule that prohibits certain social services funding from going to abortion clinics, stripping Planned Parenthood of an estimated $60 million in funds.

“I applaud the Trump Administration for reaffirming that abortion is not family planning. Abortion ends the lives of families’ most vulnerable members, as well as damaging the spiritual, mental and physical health of mothers,” he said in a statement on February 27.

Naumann’s outspoken conservatism is suggestive of a more strained relationship between certain liberal Catholic politicians and that smaller, more faithful Church that the future Benedict XVI wrote about. If Donald Trump offers any lessons to us it’s that men who fight may find themselves in Washington sooner than anyone expects. Is it possible that Pope Francis might send Naumann to the capital?