By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who is Catholic, was on the hot seat yesterday at a Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of Health and Human Services. But it couldn’t have been nearly as tense as her relationship with her bishop, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
There’s a fascinating little interview with Naumann at the Web site of Catholics for Faith and Family. In it, Naumann lays out the struggles he has gone through with Sebelius, who supports abortion rights and has vetoed several bills in Kansas to impose new restrictions on abortion providers or regulations on clinics.
Clearly, Naumann does not take kindly to defiance from his flock. And he doesn’t hesitate to play hardball.
In the interview, Naumann says that after months of a “long dialogue” with the governor, he wrote her a letter, warning her privately not to present herself for Communion. But, he said, a parish priest informed him that she had done so.
Naumann pulled out the hammer. He went public. He proclaimed that the Kansas governor should not “present herself” for Holy Communion until she changed her stance on abortion. He told the Kansas City Star that would involve a confession, a public apology and a promise to undo the damage done by her “scandalous behavior that has misled people into dangerous behavior.”
That’s unusual. Bishops tend to treat conversations with parishioners over such spiritual matters as confidential. But Sebelius certainly got Naumann’s dander up.
Naumann contends in the Catholics for Faith interview, conducted by organization president Thomas McKenna, that he was concerned about “others being misled by her presenting herself as a faithful Catholic while holding positions that were completely contrary to our teaching on the sancity of life.”
For what it’s worth, Naumann also lays into Obama, saying that “anyone this president appoints is not going to be someone who is sensitive to the sanctity of life.”
The guy doesn’t pull any punches.