Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Wondering how pro-abortion Catholic politicians like Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius justify their public dissent from Church teachings on this most fundamental issue concerning the sanctity of human life?
This blog will answer that question with Sebelius’s own words, in an interview published yesterday by The Washington Post.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas requested in May 2008 that Sebelius not present herself for reception of Communion because of the public scandal caused by her support for legal abortion as governor of Kansas.
Here’s what Sebelius said about the matter, in her interview with the Post’s Lois Romano (go here to watch a video of her comments):
MS. ROMANO: You are pro-choice.
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Yes.
MS. ROMANO: Do you think that the federal government should do some federal funding of abortions, personally?
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Well, the President has made it pretty clear that Congress and the new health insurance plan will not provide federal funds for abortions.
MS. ROMANO: Well, I know that. I was asking you what you thought.
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: I am the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and I will support the President’s proposal moving forward.
MS. ROMANO: You are also a pro-choice Catholic, and I was reading some stories out of your home state recently where one of the bishops took an action. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Well, the Archbishop in the Kansas City area did not approve of my conduct as a public official and asked that I not present myself for communion.
MS. ROMANO: What did you think about that?
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Well, it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced in my life, and I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and I feel that my actions as a parishioner are different than my actions as a public official and that the people who elected me in Kansas had a right to expect me to uphold their rights and their beliefs even if they did not have the same religious beliefs that I had. And that’s what I did: I took an oath of office and I have taken an oath of office in this job and will uphold the law.
MS. ROMANO: Do you continue to take communion?
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: I really would prefer not to discuss with you. That’s really a personal—thank you.
We simply can’t allow Sebelius’s arguments justifying her pro-abortion actions as a politician to go unchallenged.
In response, here is an excerpt from the Q&A interview with Archbishop Naumann published by his archdiocesan newspaper The Leaven in May 2008, in which the archbishop explains in detail why he requested Sebelius refrain from presenting herself for Communion because of the scandal caused by her pro-abortion actions.
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.