Thursday, March 05, 2009

"The Sacrilege Remains"

Having precluded Kathleen Sebelius from the Communion line, the Kansas gov's nomination as President Obama's secretary for Health and Human Services has reaped a windfall of press for her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City.

Mentioned in seemingly every piece on the HHS pick thanks to his May 2008 "pastoral action" calling on Sebelius to refrain from the Eucharist, Naumann's made several high-profile interventions since the term-limited Kansas chief was formally introduced at the White House on Monday, appearing on Laura Ingraham's nationally-syndicated conservative radio show and giving a more internally-focused interview to Our Sunday Visitor where he said that, regardless of "whether a bishop tells a [pro-choice] Catholic politician they shouldn’t go to Communion or not, the sacrilege remains."

Now, the archbishop's taken his response to a new level by dedicating his column in tomorrow's archdiocesan weekly, The Leaven, to the governor's "troubling" promotion:
In many ways, I can understand why President Obama selected Governor Sebelius. As I have acknowledged on several other occasions, she is a very bright and gifted leader. In many important areas, she represents well Catholic social teaching. She has advocated for more affordable housing for the poor, she has worked to expand access to health care for economically disadvantaged children, and she has supported incentives encouraging adoption.

Yet, on the fundamental moral issue of protecting innocent human life, Governor Sebelius, throughout her career, has been an outspoken advocate for legalized abortion. For this reason, her appointment to HHS is particularly troubling.

President Obama has made health care reform a top priority for his administration. The church certainly supports the objectives of such reform: to make quality health care accessible and affordable for everyone. Of course, there is vigorous debate on how to best achieve this important goal. I claim no competence or expertise in this area.

The secretary for HHS will be a key figure in developing and implementing health care reform for the nation. There are those who have great influence within the Obama administration and with whom Governor Sebelius has been associated throughout her political career (e.g., Planned Parenthood, National Organization for Women, NARAL, etc.), who want abortion not only to be permitted in this country but considered a right....

As you are aware, because of her long history, both as a legislator and governor, of consistently supporting legalized abortion, and after many months of dialogue, I requested Governor Sebelius not to present herself for Communion. I did this in the hope that it would motivate Governor Sebelius to reconsider her support for what is an intrinsic evil — the destruction of innocent human life by abortion. I also took this pastoral action to protect others from being misled by the governor’s public support and advocacy for legalized abortion.

The appointment of Governor Sebelius as the secretary of HHS concerns me on many levels. With her history of support for legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, it is troubling the important influence that she will have on shaping health care policies for our nation. Having elected President Obama with his own record of support for legalized abortion, our nation should not be surprised by his appointment of a secretary for HHS who shares his views. Though many people voted for President Obama not because of his support for legalized abortion, but despite it, voters in effect gave him the ability to appoint individuals who share his anti-life views to his Cabinet and, even more troubling, to the courts.

I am also concerned personally for Governor Sebelius. Her appointment as secretary for HHS places her in a position where she will have to make many decisions that will in all probability continue her personal involvement in promoting legalized abortion and her cooperation in this intrinsic evil.

I am also concerned that the appointment of Governor Sebelius places another Catholic supporting legalized abortion in a prominent national position. She joins Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and unfortunately a host of Catholic senators and members of the House of Representatives who support legalized abortion, contrary to the clear and consistent teaching of their church. It saddens me that so many Catholics, to gain political advancement, have chosen to compromise their Catholic faith by their failure to defend the most fundamental of all human rights — the right to life.
Meanwhile, the focus is beginning to shift to the capital -- not just in anticipation of Sebelius' confirmation hearings, but as the ecclesiastical football of her standing in the church would rest with the current bench's most outspoken force against sanctions, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, in the event of the nominee's approval by the full Senate.

Terming the unprecedented circumstances a "perfect political storm," the DC Times' Julia Duin sets the scene:
Although the presumed new HHS chief may have to forego the sacrament in Kansas, she can partake here in Washington. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and his predecessor Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have both refused to deny Communion to such Catholics....

It's long been [Wuerl's] position that it's the politician's local bishop who calls the shots on partaking of Communion.

“Every Catholic member of government has a pastor and a bishop, and they need to be in dialogue with them,” he told me in 2007. The idea that the archbishop of Washington is somehow bishop for the nation is not acceptable.”

But what if the home bishop is refusing to dole out the Communion wafer? Do the restrictions extend to here?
After Sebelius' supporters in the Catholic-lobbying world rolled out a website backing the nominee, in-church opponents of the secretary-designate launched a page of their own; among other things, the latter group has aimed to portray the HHS pick as an "abortion lover."

Back at home yesterday, the governor said that a timetable for her confirmation hearings remained undetermined. In a joint statement on Monday, both of Kansas' Republican, pro-life senators -- including the Catholic convert Sam Brownback -- backed the choice as an "honor" for the state and said they looked forward to being "able to pick up the phone and talk directly with the secretary about issues that are important" to Jayhawk County.

In accord with the standard protocol of the Upper House, both Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts will likely present Sebelius to the Senate when she appears on Capitol Hill for her hearings. Given the department's extensive purview, an HHS nominee must clear the vetting of two Senate committees -- Health and Finance -- before reaching the full body for its final up-or-down vote.