Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann devotes his weekly column to Obama’s choice of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-choice Catholic, to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The column pretty well summarizes his disappointment and the history of their differences, leading up to his calling on her to refrain from taking communion.
A spikier version of his views emerges in this interview with Our Sunday Visitor. Naumann says the 10 percent decline in abortions in Kansas cannot be attributed to her policies, and claims she distanced herself from the notorious Kansas abortionist George Tiller only when it “became politically not very convenient for her to” be associated with him.
Naumann gives Kansas’ two senators, conservative Republicans, including Catholic convert and pro-lifer Sam Brownback, a pass for supporting Sebelius:
“…in a sense I can understand that. When there is a pro-life president, we resent if there is an effort to try to prevent the president from appointing people who share his vision. So, I can understand why they might acquiesce, I guess, is the best way to put it, to her appointment.”
On the other hand, Naumann calls the 26 other prominent Catholics who came out in support of Sebelius “very, very dishonest” and adds “not very competent.”
Given the support of Brownback and Pat Roberts, the other senator from Kansas, it seems unlikely that Sebelius will not be confirmed. And Naumann, as everyone else, admits that she is an ace on health care reform, which is a priority for Obama and the Catholic Church and the country. And the HHS secretary is the point person. But with enough pushback, perhaps the confirmation hearings could turn into a scrap, or at least give Sebelius an opportinuty to clarify her record and positions on abortion rights and reduction.
Naumann appears to be becoming the champion of the anti-Sebelius push. At the Catholic League, Bill Donohue has called on Catholics to rally ’round Naumann and against Sebelius, and at InsideCatholic.com, Deal Hudson sets out a three-point strategy for derailing Sebelius.
One is to get the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George, “to express officially, the view of all the U. S. Catholic bishops that Gov. Sebelius should not present herself for communion at any Catholic parish, even in Washington, DC.” The second point is to get Michael Steele, a pro-life Catholic who is the new (and flailing) chairman of the Republican National Committee, to “forget about Rush Limbaugh and actually be the Republican leader of the opposition to the Sebelius nomination.”
“If Steele wants to demonstrate the GOP’s commitment to the pro-life plank of the platform then he should get out in front on this issue. The failure to exert his leadership at a moment like this will not only further diminish his leadership — after the Limbaugh stumble — but further convince religious conservatives that they really don’t have a permanent home in the Republican Party.”
Finally, Deal says Catholics should pressure the Finance Committee (which will hold the Sebelius hearings) to connect her to George Tiller, which “may create enough public disgust to make the nomination an embarrassment for Obama.”
The risks for the GOP in going along with this, Hudson says, are huge:
“I don’t think the GOP yet realizes this is quickly becoming a signal moment in its relationship with conservative Christian voters. We will soon see if its leadership learned any lessons from the 2008 presidential campaign, and particularly its treatment of Gov. Sarah Palin.”
Can’t draw the line any clearer than that. Stay tuned…