Archbishop defends criticism of Kansas governor

Posted on 16 Mar 2009 at 11:10am
By Associated Press

Naumann earlier told Sebelius to stop taking communion until she repudiated her abortion rights views

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Roman Catholic archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., isn’t backing off of his criticism of the nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for health and human services secretary.

"I don’t think I have any influence on who’s going to be the next secretary of HHS," Archbishop Joseph Naumann told The Kansas City Star for a story published Saturday, March 14, but "I felt I had to exercise my teaching authority for the good of the Catholic community."

Earlier this month, Naumann said he was "concerned personally" for Sebelius and that he found her nomination "particularly troubling."

Last year, Naumann urged Sebelius, who is Catholic, to stop taking communion until she repudiated her abortion rights views.

She never replied publicly about that or Naumann’s latest comments.

But some people take issue with his statements about Sebelius, as well as other comments about social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

In a column written before the November election, Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese argued that while Catholics "may and do" disagree over the death penalty, war and other issues, abortion and gay marriage are always evil and therefore more politically important.

"This has the appearance that the church is involved in partisan politics," said Chris Korzen, a spokesman for Catholics United, which supports Sebelius’ nomination.

Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, pointed out that Naumann appeared on a talk show with conservative host Laura Ingraham in early May and that his communion guidance to Sebelius last year was publicized by his office, not the governor.

"This is not going on the Laura Ingraham show to discuss the feelings of the church about abortion," Lynn said. "That’s perfectly reasonable. … When you do what he’s done, this is not being someone’s priest or pastor, it’s becoming a political animal in the most secular of ways."

But Rockhurst University philosophy professor Brendan Sweetman, who wrote "Why Politics Needs Religion," said Naumann’s statements are proper and explainable.

"I think he’s judging that it’s such a serious question that he needs to do something about it," Sweetman said.

Naumann also defended his comments.

"The church should never be in a position of telling people who to vote for, or what political party to have allegiance with," he said. "But in terms of addressing these fundamental human rights issues that have moral obligations on Catholics, I have to speak about those."

Information from: The Kansas City Star, www.kcstar.com

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