United States Catholic bishops elected Archbishop Joseph Naumann to chair a key pro-life position this week, breaking a long-held tradition of electing a cardinal to the seat.
Naumann, who serves the Kansas City Archdiocese, will lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee; he was chosen over Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago in a 96 to 82 vote Tuesday, the National Catholic Register reports.
The Catholic archbishop has been a bold and sometimes controversial advocate for the right to life. Earlier this year, his diocese broke ties with the Girl Scouts because of the club’s connection to the abortion chain Planned Parenthood and other abortion activists. The move upset some parents, but Naumann urged the change anyway. He encouraged schools and parishes to charter with the more conservative American Heritage Girl clubs instead.
Naumann said his decision was not easy, but he was concerned about the Girl Scouts’ promotion of “troubling trends” in society, including abortion.
He also has rebuked Catholic politicians like former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine and former Kansas Governor and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius because they oppose protections for unborn babies.
“In 2008, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City reportedly told Sebelius, a Roman Catholic, to stop receiving the Eucharist until she publicly recants her position on abortion and makes a ‘worthy sacramental confession,’” CNS reported.
Some believe that the choice of Naumann over Cupich is an oppositional move by the U.S. Catholic bishops to Pope Francis’s priorities.
Here’s more from the Chicago Tribune:
National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters — a liberal — went so far as to say the vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its fall general assembly in Baltimore “amounted to the bishops giving the middle finger to Pope Francis.”
Naumann is a hard-liner on abortion who in 2008 made headlines for telling then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that she should not present herself for Holy Communion because of her support for abortion rights. In May, he ordered churches in his archdiocese to sever their ties with the Girl Scouts over what he said was that group’s ties to Planned Parenthood (the Girl Scouts denied the ties).
By contrast, Cupich espouses the “consistent ethic of solidarity” a development of the “consistent ethic of life” approach first championed in the U.S. by the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Rather than single abortion out, the ideology opposes abortion as part of a framework that also includes staunch opposition to capital punishment, assisted suicide, euthanasia and unjust war, and stresses support for the life of the mother and child after birth.
According to the Catholic blog 1 Red Drop, both Naumann and Cupic are strong supporters of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Both oppose euthanasia and abortion.
But they had different approaches to their leadership of the pro-life committee. Naumann indicated that the pro-life committee will focus primarily on abortion and euthanasia as it traditionally has in the past. In contrast, many believed Cupich would have expanded the pro-life committee’s work into issues such as the death penalty, poverty and health care, which are some of the pope’s priorities, according to the blog.
National Right to Life congratulated Naumann on his election.
“Dating back to his days in St. Louis, Archbishop Joseph Naumann has long been a friend to the right-to-life movement, and to National Right to Life, and has been an outspoken pro-life leader in the public square. His election to head the USCCB’s pro-life efforts speaks to the importance the bishops place on keeping the life issues at the forefront of our national dialogue. There is no doubt in my mind that Archbishop Naumann will serve as a tremendous and powerful voice on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, the elderly, and the medically dependent and disabled,” NRLC president Carol Tobias told LifeNews.