Archbishop Takes on Catholic State Senator Over Church Teaching

Archbishop Joseph Naumann publicly corrected a state legislator’s misrepresentation of Church teaching in a strong, straightforward column about abortion.

He also revealed more of what Pope Francis told U.S. bishops regarding the abortion issue when they visited him last month.

His column is published in the Feb. 14 edition of The Leaven and is not yet available online.

Last year the state’s Supreme Court, emboldened by a new governor who wants to ease restrictions on the abortion industry, which helped fund her candidacy, “discovered” a right to abortion in the very language of the Kansas state constitution that was written to protect the right to life.

This year, an effort to put a state Constitutional amendment on the ballot for Kansas voters to decide the issue passed the Kansas Senate but failed by four votes in the Kansas House.

Naumann, who is also the leader of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, cited words from Pat Pettey, a Catholic senator from his archdiocese, who defended her vote to quash the amendment by saying, “These measures are a violation of the core principles my Catholic faith teaches — namely, the priority of conscience, the importance of social justice, and the respect for religious freedom.”

“Sadly, Sen. Pettey’s statement is fraught with multiple errors in logic and Catholic teaching,” wrote Archbishop Naumann. “By invoking her Catholic faith for her reason for voting against the amendment, the senator actually created an even more serious moral problem for herself. The senator not only has misapplied Catholic moral teaching by her vote, but she is actually attempting to confuse others about Church teaching.”

Citing her words invoking “the priority of conscience,” he quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church calling for the proper formation of conscience:

“The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (1783).

In answer to her citing the importance of social justice, he quoted the Catechism saying  “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception;” (2270) and “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation” (2273).

“Sadly, the senator does not seem to understand that the right to life is one of the foundational principles of the Church’s social justice teaching,” he said.

Taking on her claim that her vote amounted to “respect for religious freedom,” he mentioned his meeting with Pope Francis on Jan. 16 along with Kansas and Missouri bishops.

Francis “reminded us that the protection of the life of the unborn is first and foremost a human rights issue, not a religious one,” he said.

Earlier in the column he revealed other information about his meeting with Francis, saying the Pope asks two questions to abortion supporters:

“Is it ever right to kill a child to solve a problem?” and “Is it ever right to hire someone to kill a child to solve a problem?”

He said the Pope believes these questions “make clear what is genuinely at stake with each and every abortion.”

“One does not need to have any religious belief to know that it is gravely wrong to take the life of another human being,” wrote Naumann of the state senator’s remarks. “On the other hand, coercing Kansas to be complicit in abortion through payment of their taxes is a religious liberty issue.”

To conclude his column, he took on the senator’s final point, that the court’s pro-choice decision “protects every Kansan’s right to personal autonomy.”

“The court certainly has not protected the autonomy of the unborn,” he said. “Next to the child, women are the group most victimized by abortion. In our Project Rachel post-abortion ministry we see the devastation suffered by women, who were often pressured into an abortion by the child’s father.”

He concluded:

“It is disappointing that we are four votes short in the House of Representatives from attaining the super majority required to place the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment on the ballot for Kansas voters.

“We must not yield to discouragement, but must persevere in our prayers and advocacy. The lives of children and of the soul of our state hang in the balance.

The Archdiocesan website shared these resources for Kansas:

Click Here to see how your representative voted.

Click Here to send a note of thanks or a message of disappointment to your Representative.

Please also join in the Kansas Rosary Crusade until we succeed in the passage of the “Value Them Both” Amendment.   https://kansasrosarycrusade.org/

To find out who your Kansas representative is and contact information, visit: openstates.org/ks/legislators/

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.