By Peter J. Smith and Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 23, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Over a year after Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann publicly prohibited the pro-abortion U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from receiving Communion, Sebelius has broken her silence on the matter. Appealing to the "separation of church and state," Sebelius said the episcopal order was "one of the most painful things I have ever experienced" and implied that her pro-abortion position was part and parcel of upholding the rights of an inter-faith constituency. In a response given to LifeSiteNews.com, Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City said the secretary's argument "misrepresents the issue" to make it appear that "she was the victim of merely upholding the law."
Former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius proved her bona fides to the pro-abortion movement time and again through close associations with now-slain abortionist George Tiller and Planned Parenthood, and through numerous vetoes of pro-life legislation and common-sense regulations on the abortion-industry.
But the former governor described by the late-columnist Bob Novak "the national pro-choice poster girl" is far from being a Catholic in good-standing with the Catholic Church - a status that rankles the HHS Secretary and for good reason: Sebelius has the distinction of being one of the highest ranking Catholics in the Obama Administration, who is forbidden to receive Holy Communion - a Church sacrament that also symbolizes spiritual unity with the rest of the Church's members.
Back in May 2008, Archbishop Naumann publicly directed Sebelius to refrain from presenting herself for Holy Communion until she takes "the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion."
Naumann admonished Sebelius publicly,as the leader of the Catholic Church in Kansas, after he discovered that Sebelius had deliberately flouted his private plea to refrain from Holy Communion.
Last week, the Washington Post interviewed Sebelius about Naumann's corrective action, and the HHS Secretary indicated that the Archbishop's action was personally "painful" - but she remained coy about whether she was still continuing to receive Holy Communion in Washington, D.C. (See video of interview)
Excerpts From interview Dialogue
WaPo: You are also a pro-choice Catholic, and I was reading some stories out of your home state recently where one of the bishops took an action. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sebelius: Well, the Archbishop in the Kansas City area did not approve of my conduct as a public official and asked that I not present myself for communion.
WaPo: What did you think about that?
Sebelius: Well, it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced in my life, and I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and I feel that my actions as a parishioner are different than my actions as a public official and that the people who elected me in Kansas had a right to expect me to uphold their rights and their beliefs even if they did not have the same religious beliefs that I had. And that's what I did: I took an oath of office and I have taken an oath of office in this job and will uphold the law.
WaPo: Do you continue to take communion?
Sebelius: I really would prefer not to discuss that with you. That's really a personal-thank you.
Arcbhishop Naumann Responds to LifeSiteNews
However the Catholic Church views abortion and as first and foremost a moral issue - not a religious or faith issue - because the sacredness of human life pertains to the natural law, which reveals the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of human acts through reason.
In response to Sebelius' statements to the Post, Archbishop Nauman told LifeSiteNews.com that he issued the request "to motivate her to recognize the serious error of her past support and advocacy for legalized abortion, and to protect other Catholics from being misled by the Governor's actions into thinking that abortion is not a grave moral evil."
"Secretary Sebelius misrepresents the issue by her attempt to invoke separation of church and state," wrote Naumann. "At no time did I ask her not to execute her oath of office.
"Secretary Sebelius makes it appear that she was asked not to receive Holy Communion because she was the victim of merely upholding the law. In reality, Secretary Sebelius opposed even such modest restrictions on abortion as parental notification of minors, required waiting periods before an abortion, as well as meaningful regulation of abortion clinics to protect, at least, the mother's health."
Naumann said it was "very painful" to ask Sebelius not to receive Communion. "However, I had exhausted every reasonable means to convince her to change her position," he said. "I also had a serious obligation to uphold the integrity of the Eucharist and to protect other Catholics from being misled by the former Governor's support for legalized abortion.
"I continue to pray for Secretary Sebelius that she will accept the grace to acknowledge the grave evil in which she has been involved and will have the courage to take the necessary steps to correct the scandal created by her past actions."
For years Sebelius maintained a cozy relationship with the recently-slain late-term abortionist George R. Tiller, who funnelled large amounts of campaign contributions to Sebelius through his ProKanDo PAC. In return, Sebelius held a party for Tiller in the governor's mansion.
During her tenure as Kansas's governor, Sebelius vetoed many pro-life bills that included widely-regarded "common-sense" regulations and health-standards on an out-of-control abortion industry documented to have facilities operating in sub-standard medical conditions. Such vetoes thwarted the Kansas legislature's attempts to provide parental notification and informed consent laws, greater abortion waiting periods, the right to see an ultrasound before choosing an abortion, and the legal right to a patient, spouse, or family member to sue an abortion provider over a suspected unlawful late-term abortion.
But Sebelius's most egregious offense to faithful Catholics and Church leaders may have been citing her faith to defend a veto of a bill that would have strengthened the state's ban on late-term abortion.
"It's really hard not to feel ill when one reads such a response from Sebelius who is so unabashedly and vociferously dead-set against the teaching of our Church," Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews.com. "She seems to think that this public-private dichotomy of her person is a virtue. In medical terms it's called schizophrenia."
"She said that the denial of Communion was painful to her," Euteneuer continued. "I can assure you, her receiving Communion as if she were a real Catholic is eminently more painful to us."
See previous related LifeSiteNews.com coverage: