–Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the incoming head of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities
By Dave Andrusko
Pro-lifers of all religious denominations and none were absolutely delighted last month when the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops chose Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City to succeed another pro-life champion, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, as chair of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
As many people said, Archbishop Naumann is “one of us,” with a long history of pro-life involvement and an unflinching willingness to speak truth to power–including to pro-abortion Catholic politicians who hide behind the “personally opposed” fig leaf.
I ran across an interview he gave recently to Catholic World and I was encouraged all over again. You can read the interview in its entirety here, so let me highlight just some of the fascinating quotes he gave to Jim Graves.
He began by reminding Graves that he doesn’t officially take over for a year and then immediately outlined what the Committee has done over the years (which is music to pro-life ears):
Regarding the work of the committee, the pro-life issue has been, and remains, one of the paramount moral issues that the Church tries to give some guidance on to our own people, as well as society at large. Many years ago, the bishop’s conference developed a pastoral plan for pro-life activities. There are four dimensions: 1) prayer, 2) education (which includes informing people about the issue, working to change minds and hearts), 3) pastoral care (we in the Church providing alternatives to abortion, and post-abortion ministries), and 4) advocacy (supporting public policy to protect human life, helping the Church to have a voice before Congress).
I also learned something about Archbishop Naumann’s background which helps explain why the abortion issue is so important to him personally:
My own father was murdered before I was born. It was in December 1948, and I was just three months along inside my mother’s womb. So, I was part of a crisis pregnancy, in a sense, even though it was a different culture at the time. As the issue evolved, and became an issue in our culture today, my personal background gave me a greater sensitivity to women facing a pregnancy under traumatic circumstances.
Graves then asked him when he preaches on the pro-life issue, “how do you present the topic?”
If I’m preaching a homily focused in this area, I begin with the acknowledgement that there are likely people in the pews who have had a direct experience with abortion. I say to such people that they know better than anyone else what a tragedy abortion is, and ask them to pray for me in my work that I can help others to know about the pain they’re experiencing.
I bring up the Project Rachel ministry, which helps women to heal from abortion. I tell them that that help is there, if they need it. I then talk about why the issue is so important, and that the rhetoric of “choice” is deceptive. People don’t talk about “choice” in other areas when the taking of a human life is involved.
And, I like to point out that what makes abortion so particularly destructive is that it not only takes the life of a child, but scars the family, because the abortion occurs in the womb, the one place where life should be most protected.
I challenge people to become involved, to pray, to become more knowledgeable, and to have conversations with others one-on-one. And, we can vote and share our views with our legislators.
There is so much more in the exchanges, but let me conclude with this. Graves then asked, “How do people respond to these homilies?”
I’ve had a few walk out, but such people are few and far between. I pray for those who walk away, as I’ve obviously hit a difficult chord with them. But most people who hear me are supportive.
I’d also like to say to our priests: we can’t fail to talk to our people about these real sins that affect the lives of our people. If we talk about sins they don’t commit, of what good is that?
Certainly we want to preach about the topic in a sensitive way, and be supportive of those who chose abortion but now regret it. But if the Church is silent on the destruction of life, we’re being negligent, and leaving our young people vulnerable to making this tragic decision.