Gone to Canossa

Catholic Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas has made public what he calls a “pastoral action,” telling Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that she is not to present herself for communion. This action is taken as a quid pro quo for her recent veto of a piece of legislation the Bishop favored. News report. Bishop’s statement.

The Kennedy compromise is ancient history. The Catholic church’s reluctance to engage in such retaliation for political votes is also over, at least in Kansas City.

The message from Archbishop Naumann is clear: “If you are a Catholic in public office, you will do what I tell you to do. You will obey. You will take directions from the hierarchy.”

This is what Protestant Americans have always feared, and yet Catholics have always said such fears were unfounded–mere “anti-Catholicism.”

It’s a clear example of what Catholic writer Russell Shaw condemns as “clericalism.”

The question is, will we be seeing more bishops act like this?

10 thoughts on “Gone to Canossa

  1. I hope we do. The Bishops of Kansas and this GOvernor it appears has been in a very long converstion over this. This just did not occur because the Bishop was upset over a politcal piece of legislation being vetoed. This is after a huge history of a Catholic Politician supporting and advocating and in this case using her veto to stop legilation which aim is to protect the unborn.

    I also don’t see how this is “clericalism.”. If so how? What does the Kennedy compromise have to do witht eh Universal Teachings of the Church? Who signed on to this? The Kennedy Compromise , and I guess this is in reference to the famous speech Keendy made to the Protestant Ministers in Houston, has been a very nixed bag. I really urge people to read that speech. Even at the time leading Protestant Ministers thought it went to far

    Bishops bend over backwards on this issue. THey always have. At some point there is a breaking point. When we are talking about the evil of abortion the Governor of Kansas started down this road long ago.

    She is not excommunicated. She is not banned from Church. She is still a Catholic in good standing. I do see this as a Pastoral move.

  2. How is someone a Catholic in good standing if they are told they can’t come to communion?

    How is someone not excommunicated (cut off from communion) if they are cut off from communions?

    It’s clericalism because it is saying a cleric knows better about political matters, and must be obeyed in such matters or risk punishment.

  3. No I really disagree that is Clericalism. Basically we got the big three that Catholic Politicans cannot support or advance That is abortion, Genocide, and Racism.

    The Bishops were largely against the war in Iraq and our intervention. Yet no Congressman is denyed communion because they disagree with the Bishops

    The Church for good reason is against Enforcement only Policies as to the problem of illegal immigration Yet Catholic Congressmen are not being threaten a denial of communion if they vote other wise

    The Church is for The right of people to educate their Children and for Church Schools. However if someone voted in a way to hamper lets say Vochers or to impede Home schooling they would not be denied Communion

    I could go on and on. This is a member of the Catholic Church that is in sin and is causing scandal. Her Bishop is acting in an approriate manner

    Lets say this. Lets say she was a Catholic David Duke up there using her ppsoition to promote Racism. Would people be talking about Clericalism then? WOuld anyone be upset? WOuld not most people think it was appropriate?

  4. She’s being singled out and punished not even so much for an action, as for a negative–vetoing a bill. And the headline in the archdiocesan newspaper makes no bones about this:

    Governor’s Veto Prompts Pastoral Action. He says the bill had been passed by “significant majorities”–not significant enough to override the veto, however.

    He finds her veto message disrespectful. What did she say?

    Over the last several years, we have worked on lowering abortion rates in Kansas by focusing on adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women, providing sex education and offering a variety of support services for families.

    Those efforts are having a positive impact; recently we learned that the abortion rate in Kansas continues to go down.

    For years, the people of Kansas have asked their elected officials to move beyond legislative debates on issues like abortion and focus their attention on issues that can be solved in the Statehouse – stronger schools, affordable health care and economic growth.

    Kansans are proud of the progress we’ve made lowering the abortion rate and lifting our economy. It’s time for legislators to recognize that progress and focus on the things that continue to move us forward.

    I am concerned about a number of provisions in SB 389. The United States Supreme Court decisions make clear that any law regulating abortion must contain exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman’s life or health. However, SB 389 allows a variety of individuals to seek a court order preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion, even where it may be necessary to save her life. I am concerned that the bill is likely unconstitutional or even worse, endangers the lives of women.

    The bill contains unprecedented expansions of legal proceedings which would likely encourage extensive litigation and also unnecessarily jeopardizes the privacy of Kansas women’s confidential medical records.

    As Governor, nothing is more important to me than the safety, health and privacy rights of our citizens. I am vetoing SB 389 because it endangers the health of women and is likely to be found in violation the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Kansas.

    Therefore, pursuant to Article 2, Section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, I veto House Substitute for Senate Bill 389.

    This is not the reckless, ideological tirade that the archbishop makes it out to be. It is carefully reasoned, notes that she has sought to lower the abortion rate, but notes that the problems in the bill would make it subject to overturn. It was a poorly crafted bill, she says.

    But it was the archbishop’s bill. And so he punishes her … for doing her job as governor. He knows better. That is clericalism. It is the arrogant presumption by clerics that they know better by virtue of their ordination.

  5. Dear Bill,

    We can sin through omission, though. You are correct that she has not taken an action, and it is this inaction that the Archbishop (and, indeed numerous Catholics) believes is gravely sinful.

    We may be at a time in which the episcopacy will do this more.

  6. Did you read her reasons? The issue is not reduction in abortion, she argues. It is how best to accomplish it. And it isn’t even that–it is judging a piece of legislation based on existing Supreme Court precedent and saying, “This isn’t going to pass muster.” Is the archbishop competent to assess the constitutional issues and the Supreme Court precedents? I don’t think so. One of the surprising items in the legislation cited by the governor was the provision for relatives of abortion patients (siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.) to sue the doctor (regardless of the fact that an adult woman had given consent–see this summary of the bill). How is that reasonable? How could that have ever passed constitutional muster? How can the archbishop issue his statement in such a cavalier fashion, dubbing her statement “absurd,” without responding to points such as this?

    This is a blatant crossing of the line of church/state separation. It is a form of sacramental extortion. It is clericalism.

    (And dare I draw you attention to the fact that no priest or bishop who was involved in sexual abuse or in covering it up has yet been excommunicated or publicly told to stay away from the sacraments?)

  7. Dear Bill,

    Let me give you a link to the bill in question:

    Click to access 389.pdf

    So far, it looks like the following are the major points:
    1) Definitions of who are mandated reporters
    2) Abortion records to be provided to the KS Secretary of Health
    3) License revocation
    4) Physician referral is needed
    5+6) Parental consent is needed in cases of a minor
    7) Informed consent is required

    So, perusing the text of the bill, I would say that the archbishop is right in his decision, pointing specifically to the general principles that truly informed consent is needed and that parental consent is likewise needed.

  8. I had linked to the summary which raises the same points … plus others that you omit in your own summary. You aren’t addressing the specific issues raised by the governor in her veto (e.g., the legitimization of complaints by siblings and grandparents of the woman choosing the abortion and the fact that some provisions have repeatedly been struck down by the Supreme Court, etc.).

    But these are all red herrings. The larger issue is does the church have any business directing legislation? Is religious freedom the freedom of clerics to manipulate public officials? Or does religious freedom require strict separation of church and state?

    This archbishop, by intimidation of politicians, may be seen to be proof that those who have been afraid of Catholic pretensions to political power may well have been justified.

  9. Dear Bill,

    I suppose this is a place where men of goodwill can disagree and still be men of goodwill. This is reminiscent of what recently occurred in NYC, with Cardinal Egan publicly telling Rudy Giulani that he is not to present himself to the Eucharist after he did so when the pope was there.

    I still disagree with your original premise that this is clericalism as Russel Shaw describes. You have not convinced me that this is otherwise. Somehow, I think this is not the point you are trying to make. This is a greater debate, one regarding the relationship between state and church.

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