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Archbishop Naumann: Kansas governor should stop receiving Communion


By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius should stop receiving Communion until she publicly repudiates her support of abortion and makes a "worthy sacramental confession" related to her stance.

Writing May 9 in The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop Naumann said the Catholic governor of Kansas has had a long record of supporting and advocating for legalized abortion and that her public stances have "grave spiritual and moral consequences."

The column comes after the archbishop said he learned that Sebelius recently received Communion in a Kansas parish. He said he had previously met with Sebelius and discussed his concerns about her position on abortion and her vetoes of legislation to limit abortion in the state.

Archbishop Naumann told Catholic News Service May 12 that he sent a letter in August to the governor requesting that she refrain from receiving Communion because of her actions in support of abortion. He also said after discussing the issue with his fellow Kansas bishops he sent Sebelius a second letter asking that she respect his earlier request.

While the archbishop said he has the option of asking priests and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion not to give Communion to Sebelius, he said he is not ready to take that stand.

"That's certainly an option that's available," he said. "I'll have to evaluate it at that point. I'm hopeful she will be respectful of my request and not put the Communion ministers in an awkward position."

"I think it's really her responsibility at this point," he added.

Sebelius is planning to send a written response to the archbishop, said spokeswoman Brittany Stiffler.

"The governor is reviewing the archbishop's letter," she told CNS. "She's not providing any comments at this time."

In the column, Archbishop Naumann said he was addressing the issue "both for the spiritual well-being of the governor but also for those who have been misled (scandalized) by her very public support for legalized abortion."

The archbishop wrote he was concerned because Sebelius had vetoed several bills that would have regulated Kansas abortion clinics. He said many Kansans "find it more than an embarrassment" that the state had become "infamous for being the late-term abortion center for the Midwest."

He cited the work of Dr. George Tiller, medical director of Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, Kan., which specializes in the provision of late-term abortions. Tiller has been a contributor to Sebelius' political campaigns and also has funded political action committees that support candidates who want to keep abortion legal, including Sebelius.

Archbishop Naumann was especially critical of the governor's recent veto of the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, which would have placed new requirements on abortion providers. An attempt to override the veto failed by two votes in the Kansas Senate April 30.

"From her veto message, I received the impression the governor considered it a waste of the Legislature's time to pass a statute that attempts to protect some women by making certain they have the opportunity to be well informed: 1) about the development of their unborn child; and 2) about abortion alternatives available to them," he wrote.

While commending the governor for supporting adoption incentives and health services for pregnant women, Archbishop Naumann refused to credit Sebelius for declining abortion rates in Kansas, as she has claimed. Abortion rates have been falling nationwide in recent years, but not as much in Kansas as in neighboring Missouri, he said.

In his conversations with the governor, Archbishop Naumann said she has told him she was obligated to uphold state and federal laws and court decisions related to abortion. He said he has asked her to show "a similar sense of obligation to honor divine law and the laws, teaching and legitimate authority within the church."

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