Q. What is meant when it is said that Gov. Sebelius’ actions were scandalous?
A. To answer this question, I again refer to “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper,” which references the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “To give scandal means more than to cause other people to be shocked or upset by what one does. Rather, one’s action leads someone else to sin. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. To lead others into sin is indeed a very serious matter. Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged” (no. 4).
Governor Sebelius’ public support for legalized abortion, as a Catholic, naturally leads others to question the moral gravity of abortion. In effect, her actions and advocacy for legalized abortion, coupled with her reception of holy Communion, have said to other Catholics: “I am a good Catholic and I support legalized abortion. You can be a good Catholic and support legalized abortion.”
Q. How can the church require the governor to fail to uphold her oath of office to enforce the laws and court decisions of the state and federal government?
A. No one has asked the governor not to uphold her oath of office. However, the governor does have an obligation, as a Catholic, to express her opposition to laws and judicial decisions that fail to protect the lives of the innocent and to do all in her power to work to change the law. She has a responsibility to use her exceptional leadership abilities to extend the maximum protection possible under the current limitations imposed by the Supreme Court.
Q. The governor claims that the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act that she vetoed was unconstitutional and would jeopardize the privacy rights of women. Is it fair for the church to attempt to force her to sign bad laws by requesting she not receive Communion?
A. My initial request for the governor not to present herself for Communion was before her veto of the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act. I challenged the governor to produce a single instance in her legislative or executive career where she has supported any effort to limit abortions. In the 1980s and 1990s, as a state representative, she voted to weaken or eliminate even such modest measures as parental notification for teens, waiting periods, or informed consent protections for women before an abortion. When Gov. Sebelius was running for reelection in 2006, she was profiled on Emily’s List Web site and quoted as saying: “I have always led the fight to ensure that abortion is safe, legal and rare.” Emily’s List is a political action committee that only supports women candidates who support legalized abortion. On that same Web site it stated: “As governor she (Kathleen Sebelius) has vetoed legislation to severely limit women’s choices.” My request for the governor not to present herself for Communion, was not about any one action, but a 30-year history of advocating and acting in support of 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. Is it not wrong for the church to deny Communion to someone because they support the law of the land?
A. First of all, it is important to recall our own history. We do not have permissive abortion public policies in our country because of a vote of the people. In fact, the 1973 Supreme Court decisions struck down all state laws prohibiting and/or restricting abortion. It is the court that has imposed its doctrine on the entire nation, prohibiting the people or their elective representatives from meaningfully limiting abortion. The recent decision of the California Supreme Court striking down the state ban on same-sex marriages is yet another illustration of the arrogance of the courts. Those who suggest that the church should alter its teaching and discipline on the issue of abortion because of our current public policy, in effect, want to extend the court’s authority to alter also the doctrine of church.
Q. The law does not force anyone to have an abortion. Why not just try to convince people not to have an abortion rather than work to change the law?
A. We must do both. We should do everything possible to persuade and influence others not to have an abortion. We must support crisis pregnancy centers that assist those experiencing an untimely pregnancy. However, the law does not just permit abortion, it “teaches” abortion. Our laws do not permit us, in any other instance, to take the life of an innocent person. The fact that the law permits abortion communicates, especially to the young, that abortion does not really destroy another human life. The number of abortions dramatically increased after the court struck down the state laws restricting abortions. One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to protect the innocent and the vulnerable.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Archbishop Naumann answers questions
~Archbishop Naumann's call to Kansas Governor Sebelius to repent of her pro-abort stand generated much discussion among Catholics and in the media. Here's Abp. Naumann answering some of the questions posed to him following his exhortation to Gov. Sebelius. I like his unequivocal style.