Archbishop Naumann's column on Gov. Sebelius
Normally, it would be a source of joy and pride to have a Catholic from Kansas
named by the President to an important Cabinet Post. Unfortunately, I experience
neither with President Obama’s selection of Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his
choice to serve as the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services
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 a top priority for his administration health care
reform. 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 the
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 of Women, NARAL, etc.), who want abortion not only to be permitted
in this country but considered a right.
If they are successful in their efforts to have abortion included amongst “basic
health care services,” then it is entirely possible that doctors, nurses and
health care institutions will be compelled to cooperate in the provision of
abortion. Those advocating for abortion to be considered a “right” would love to
see Catholic hospitals faced with the choice to either cooperate in providing
abortions or close.
The protection of conscience rights for individuals and institutions is
extremely important. The Obama administration has already expressed a desire to
rescind the policies of the Bush administration to strengthen conscience
protection for health care workers and providers. President Obama, when he was
Senator Obama, co-sponsored the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that was
introduced in the previous congress. That version of FOCA would have, among
other things, forced health care providers to cooperate in abortion.
Regretfully, Governor Sebelius throughout her political career has been
associated with and supported by Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL and others
advocating for abortion to be considered a “health care right.”
Even more troubling is that earlier in her political career Governor Sebelius
accepted political contributions from Wichita’s notorious late-term abortionist,
Dr. George Tiller. When this was no longer politically opportune, Dr. Tiller
established a political action committee through which he donated hundreds of
thousands of dollars to support the election and re-election of Governor
Sebelius, as well as other equally staunch supporters of legalized abortion.
Kansas has one of the most restrictive laws regarding late-term abortions. Yet,
it has become, in large part because of Dr. Tiller, the late-term abortion
capital of the Midwest. How is this possible? It is possible because our current
laws have not been enforced. Each time the Kansas Legislature has passed
statutes in an effort to improve enforcement of late-term abortion restrictions,
Governor Sebelius has vetoed these laws.
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.
I am reminded of the powerful scene in A Man for All Seasons, the play about the
heroic Catholic English Martyr, St. Thomas More. After Richard Rich has perjured
himself in order to make it possible to convict Thomas More of treason, the
Judge asks Thomas More if he has any questions for the witness. Thomas More
notes that Richard Rich is wearing a chain of office and asks what it signifies.
He is told that Richard Rich has been appointed Attorney General for Wales.
Thomas More then paraphrases the Gospel saying to Richard Rich: “What does it
profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul, but for Wales?”
We need to pray for all Catholics who serve in public life that they will have
the courage and integrity to be true to the teachings and principles of our
Faith no matter the political consequences.
More from our