Not too long ago I wrote a blog entitled "A Tale of Two Bishops". In that commentary I applauded Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and his fellow Kansas bishops for taking a stern line with pro-abortion Catholic Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. His original commentary made it sound like the governor was going to be refused the sacrament of Holy Communion because the archbishop’s repeated efforts to persuade her to recant of her support for abortion had failed.
I was wrong!
As a matter of fact, in an article published by the Capital-Journal, the reporter references the archbishop’s most recent column. In that column the archbishop responded to questions about his original column. Here is the most crucial question and answer in the current article:
Q. Is a priest or another minister of Communion ever required to deny someone Communion?
A. Canon 915 of the church’s law states: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” In my request to Governor Sebelius, I have made clear that it is her responsibility not to present herself for reception of Holy Communion. I am hopeful that she will comply with this request.
Pastorally, it is certainly preferable not to burden ministers of the Eucharist with the responsibility to refuse Communion to someone. Ministers of Communion do have an obligation to protect the sacrament from misuse or abuse. I have, at this moment, not asked the ministers of the Eucharist not to give Holy Communion to the governor.
There is a startling admission in the archbishop’s answer to this question which simply cannot go unexamined by anyone who thinks about the meaning of the words contained in Catholic Church law, Cannon 915. The archbishop is admitting that as far as he is concerned, this Canon Law does not apply to pro-abortion Catholic Governor Sebelius!
Please allow me to make it perfectly clear: The Church law the archbishop quotes specifically says that, “those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” In other words, those who will not publicly repent of their support for the manifest grave sin of abortion are not to be given the holy sacrament containing the body and blood of Christ.
This means that the ordained priest, deacon or extraordinary Eucharistic minister should deny the governor if she approaches one of them for the sacrament.
We know the archbishop has said that he has made repeated efforts to get the governor to repudiate her record and that she has been intransigent in her support of abortion, most recently her veto of the partial birth abortion law. Clearly the governor is recalcitrant!
Yet the archbishop explains that he is not asking his priests, deacons or extraordinary Eucharistic ministers to deny Holy Communion to the governor. He is not doing what he says the Canon Law requires of him and of those assigned to distribute the sacrament.
Why not? What kind of message is he sending to Catholics in Kansas?
He does not tell us. It is clear, however, that he is shifting responsibility away from those who should be protecting the body and blood of Christ from sacrilege. Who is responsible? Well, according to what he has said, we assume he trusts the governor!
To my mind this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read or heard in quite some time. And believe me, I mean no disrespect to the archbishop, but in contradicting his own quote of Church law he is spreading confusion among the faithful, and I cannot understand why he would do such a thing.
Perhaps the saddest part of all this is that had he chosen to enforce Church law in this case, he might well have provided Governor Sebelius with an opportunity to reflect in the seriousness of her actions, and maybe she would have wanted so desperately to receive Christ that she would have sought His forgiveness for her egregious acts of support for the deadly act of abortion. We will never know!
It is clear that Archbishop Naumann has created a scandal himself by misrepresenting the intent of Canon 915. He is sending a message to those entrusted to his care that abortion is really not such a grave sin after all. Otherwise he would have made it perfectly clear that he not only will be refusing the governor Holy Eucharist but making certain that his flock understands why this must be done.
How tragic! How very sad! How shameful!
I have to agree with my dear friend Barbara Kralis, a well-known Catholic columnist who has been writing on Canon 915 for the better part of five years now. Barbara e-mailed me earlier today about this sad state of affairs in Kansas and said: Woe to Naumann!
Please join me in a prayer for him.