Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kathleen Sebelius is a pro-abortion Catholic: Let's hope she steps down from Obama's Cabinet

Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's Secretary of Health and Humans Services, is under fire for bungling the rollout of Obamacare and is under pressure to resign.  Catholics should hope she does. 

The Archdiocese of Washington DC recently filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Obama administration of adopting a "conscious political strategy" to delegitimize Catholic views on contraception (as reported in California Catholic Daily). In a memorandum filed before the court, the Archdiocese specifically accused Secretary Sebelius of ridiculing Catholic views on contraception (although apparently she did not mention Catholics by name).

Kathleen Sebelius: U.S. Secretary of HHS
Archbishop's Rebuke Looks Good on Vita
Photo Credit: Associated Press

Indeed, in May 2008, Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, publicly called for Sebelius to refrain from communion when she was governor of Kansas, after she vetoed a bill passed by the Kansas legislature to put restraints on abortions in the state.   Archbishop Naumann requested Governor Sebelius to "refrain from presenting herself for reception of the Eucharist until she had acknowledged the error of her past positions, made a worthy sacramental confession and taken 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."

Of course the Cardinal's rebuke did nothing to diminish her esteem in the eyes of Barack Obama, who appointed her Secretary of Health and Human Services after he was elected president in 2008. Who knows? She may have put Archbishop Naumann's rebuke on her CV.

I did not know until today that Archbishop Naumann had instructed Sebelius not to appear for communion more than five years ago, but I am glad he took that action.  Catholic bishops all over the United States need to publicly bar pro-Catholic public officials from receiving communion; and these sanctions need to be publicized.  There is a  a long list of politicians who are worthy of rebuke, so it is time to get started.


Archdiocese of Wash. D.C.: government marginalizes Catholics--mock Church on contraception. California Catholic Daily, October 23, 2013. Accessible at:

Joseph Naumann. Governor's Veto Prompts Pastoral Action. Accessible at:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Sebelius Thrust into Firestorm on Exchanges. New York Times, October 23, 2013, p. 1.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pray for Governor Jerry Brown, a decent man who presides over a state of moral chaos

When I first began practicing law, my senior partner told me never to become "an on-the-other-hand lawyer." Our clients pay us to tell them what to do, he told me, and we owe it to them to give specific advice without a lot of hedging and qualifications.  In other words, when advising our clients, we should be forthright and direct.
Pray for Jerry Brown
This is good counsel, which I have tried to follow. Nevertheless, I am ambivalent about an important question facing American Catholicism, which is this: Should the nation's aggressively pro-abortion Catholic politicians be denied communion under Canon 915?

My first answer is yes. Today, many of our nation's senior political leaders--people such as Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Tom Harkin, Secretary of State John Kerry, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi--call themselves Catholics but support abortion.  Indeed, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prelate of the Apostolic Signatura, declared recently that Nancy Pelosi specifically should be denied communion because of her pro-abortion stance.

On the whole, I support a hard line.  How can the Catholic Church call itself the Bride of Christ if prominent Catholics accommodate themselves to the culture of death while remaining in full communion with the Church? I recently argued that California Governor Jerry Brown, a serious Catholic, should be denied communion because he signed a bill into law earlier this month expanding the number of abortion providers in California.

And then I read in California Catholic Daily that Governor Brown vetoed a pernicious bill that would have expanded the statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church and other non-public entities. In doing so, Governor Brown invoked ancient principles of law that put time limitations on lawsuits.

"Statutes of limitation reach back to Roman law and were specifically enshrined in the English common law by the Limitations Act of 1623," Governor Brown wrote in an explanation of his veto decision. "Ever since, and in every state, including California, various limits have been imposed on the time when lawsuits may still be initiated. Even though valid and profoundly important claims are at stake, all jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years."

Frankly, I was surprised by Governor Brown's decision. I had expected him to sign the bill, even though it reeked of an anti-Catholic odor.  But he didn't sign the bill, and his explanation for his veto was an eloquent affirmation of basic fairness. Thank you, Governor Brown.

If Jerry Brown were to abide by Catholic principles in every regard, I doubt he would have been elected Governor of California. Given the moral chaos that now reigns in the California legislature, I suppose California Catholics are fortunate to have him as their governor.

So let us pray for Jerry Brown, a serious Catholic, that God will strengthen him and guide him in his difficult political decisions.  And should he be denied communion for publicly supporting abortion? Sorrowfully, I think the answer is yes.


Cheryl K. Chumley. No communion for Nancy Pelosi: Vatican court head. Washington Times, September 23, 2013.  Accessible at:

Governor Brown vetoes opening of sex abuse window. California Catholic Daily, October 14, 2013. Accessible at: [first posted on Capitol Alert].

Pope Francis, Forgive My Hardness of Heart

Pope Francis:
Pope Francis recently gave an extended interview to a Catholic journal that initially disheartened me. Pope Francis suggested that perhaps the Church has focused too much on certain Catholic beliefs--abortion, gay marriage, and birth control in particular. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," he said in the interview. "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be 
obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."

"Proselytism is solemn nonsense," Pope Francis said in another interview. "It makes no sense." But then Pope Francis emphasized there is a difference between the solemn nonsense of proselytizing and evangelizing.  "I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to the needs, desires, and disappointments, despair, hope."

I admit that I profoundly misunderstood the Pope's message, which I misinterpreted to mean that Catholics are to cease their witness  on core Catholic issues--abortion, for example. I feared his words were a signal that the Church should drift toward accommodation with postmodernism.

Kathy Schiffer's blog on the Pope's words helped me toward a proper understanding of the Pope's words.

And I also admit that I had a deeper insight about the Pope's words--perhaps even a revelation--when I read that the Pope has called for a synod to discuss divorce and remarriage.  Apparently the heart of the Church's examination of this painful issue will be an emphasis on forgiveness. "The church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy for all," the Pope said.

I am a divorced Catholic and I long for a Church response that will help me heal this wound. I am now confident that Pope Francis will guide a Church initiative that will lead to forgiveness and healing for millions of divorced Catholics.

And I see now that all his pronouncements in recent weeks have been made out of a spirit of love and forgiveness for all of us--Catholics and non-Catholics, regardless of our experiences, our sexual orientation, our participation in a sinful world.

God bless you, Pope Francis. Forgive me for my hardness of heart.


Catholic News Service. Pope calls synod to discuss divorce and remarriage. The Texas Catholic, October 11, 2013, p. 1.

Laurie Goodstein. Pope, Criticizing Narrow Focus, Calls for Church as 'Home for All'. New York Times, September 20, 2013, p. 1.

Laurie Goodstein. Pope Says Church 'Obsessed"  with Abortion, Gay Marriage and Birth Control. New York Times, September 19, 2013. Accessible at:

Bruce Nolan. Pope: 'Ministers of church must be ministers of mercy.' The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, September 20, 2013, p. 1.

Kathy Schiffer. Prosletyze NO, Evangelize YES, said Pope Francis.  Seasons of Grace blog site, October 2, 2013. Accessible at:

Monday, October 14, 2013

President Obama Calls for an end to Catholic education in Ireland: Why American Catholics should care

In a speech he gave last June, President Obama called for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland.  "If towns remain divided," President Obama said, " if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs, if we can't see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden,
Who needs Catholic schools?
that encourages division. It discourages cooperation."

The President's comment on Catholic education offended Catholics in the United Kingdom, but his remarks attracted little attention in the United States. And so I ask this question: Should Catholics care what President Obama thinks about Catholic education?

 I think we should for two reasons. First, President Obama's remarks to an audience in Northern Ireland betrays how little he knows about the major currents of world history.  The British exploited the Irish for hundreds of years and treated the Catholic religion with contempt. The fidelity of the Irish to the Catholic faith through a history of  violence and abuse is one of the great epics of Catholic history. For President Obama to recommend, almost offhandedly, the closure of Irish Catholic schools reveals how tone-deaf he is to any heritage that does not fit his postmodern view of history.

Second, Catholics should never forget the violence unleashed against Catholics in the twentieth century by totalitarian regimes, violence that was always preceded by governmental efforts to close Catholic schools and Catholic charitable institutions. As Robert Royal wrote of the Nazi persecutions, attacks on Catholic clergy in the 1930s were "clearly intended to help get young people out of Church schools and youth organizations and into the secular schools and Hitlerjugend that were inculcating Nazi ideology" (Royal, 2000, p.153).

Likewise, during the Communist takeover of Poland in the 1940s, the government began its repression by the closure of Catholic schools. "Church property and publications were slowly confiscated; religious schools were laicized; Catholic hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable institutions were transferred to the state," Royal wrote. Although the Polish primate objected, "it was obvious that the government intended to restrict Catholic activity to churches and slowly wean young people and he whole society away from the faith" (Royal, 2000, p. 218).

You might say it is unfair to compare 21st century American society with Communist Poland or Nazi Germany. But our nation's highest court has approved a decision by a public law school to refuse to recognize a Christian student group because it insisted that its members abide by traditional Christian doctrine on sexuality and marriage. And we have seen  a Catholic charitable institutions forced out of placing orphan children for adoption because they refuse to place children with same-sex couples. Who would deny that President Obama would like to see the Catholic Church totally neutralized in the public policy arena?

Throughout American history, American presidents have expressed their respect for Catholics and their faith, even during periods of intense anti-Catholic prejudice. As army commander during the American Revolution, George Washington reproached soldiers who wished to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, an anti--Catholic celebration that generally included burning the Pope in effigy. To insult Catholics in such a way, Washington wrote, "is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused . . ."

Likewise, President Thomas Jefferson, a deist, responded respectfully to the Ursuline Sisters of New Orleans when they sent an inquiry about the status of their property after the Louisiana Purchase had placed them under the jurisdiction of the United States government. In this letter, President Jefferson made a solemn promise:  "The principles of the Constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that [your property] will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to it's own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority."

And Abraham Lincoln likewise expressed his respect for Catholicism in a letter he wrote in 1855, six years before being elected president. In this letter, Lincoln expressed his utter contempt for the Know-Nothing Party, a political organization dedicated to oppressing Catholics.

As a nation, Lincoln observed, "we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal , except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.'"  Lincoln vowed he would emigrate to Russia before he would consent to be governed by the Know-Nothings.

Today, however, America is governed by a postmodern president who has a postmodern disdain for religion, including the Catholic faith. The fact that he felt free to offend Catholics in Northern Ireland by recommending the closure of Catholic schools speaks volumes about the man who presides over our country.


Dennis Byrne. After 90 years, Catholic Charities out of foster care. Happy Now? November 14, 2011. Accessble at:

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez130 S. Ct. 2971 (2010).

DeBlanco, Andrew (ed.). The Portable Abraham Lincoln. New York: Viking, 1992.

Ellis, John Tracey. Documents of American Catholic History. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1956.

Illinois Catholic Charities Drop Lawsuit Against State Over Gay Adoption, Foster Care. Huffington Post, November 15, 2011. Accessible at:

Robert Royal. The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. New York: Crossroad Books, 2000.

Kathy Schiffer. Obama calls for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland. June 17, 2013. Patheos,com. [Kathy Schiffer's blog]. Accessible at:

Paul Scicchitano. June 19, 2013. Obama Offends Catholics in UK: Says Religious Schools Divisive.  Accessible at:

Ben Wolfgang. Obama's remarks about Catholic schools sparks new fight with the Church. Washington Times, June 20, 2013. Accessible at:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Governor Jerry Brown should be denied communion under Canon 915.

What? California women are not having enough abortions? Apparently not. Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 154, a bill  that allows physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwifes to perform aspiration abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Governor Jerry Brown receives communion from Bishop Barber
Photo Credit: San Jose Mercury

California women abort more babies than the women of any other state--almost a quarter of a million babies in 2008. And California has more abortion clinics than any other state.

And although California's abortion rate is not the highest in the nation, it is quite high. According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost one out of four pregnancies ended in an induced abortion in California in 2008.  One out of four!

And the Guttmacher Institute's figures may understate the number of abortions taking place in California.  California is one of a few states that refuses to report the number of abortions being performed in the state to the Center for Disease Control. So we really don't know how many abortions are being performed there.

And what's next? Drive-through abortion clinics where a woman can get an abortion and a latte without getting out of her  car?

For me, the most astonishing aspect of this new law is this:  Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill allowing midwives to perform abortions, is a Catholic. Indeed, he was recently photographed receiving communion from the Most Reverend Michael Barber, bishop of the Oakland Diocese.

 It is time, in my view, for the Church to enforce Canon 915 and deny communion to pro-abortion politicians--starting with Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi.  Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prelate of the Apostolic Signatura, said in a recent interview that Nancy Pelosi should be denied communion. Surely Cardinal Burke's reasoning applies to Jerry Brown as well.

 Frankly, if the Church is going to allow Governor Brown to receive the Eucharist after he signed California's latest pro-abortion law, then there is no point in having Canon 915.

We will see whether Bishop Barber enforces Canon 915 against Governor Brown. If not, then his failure to act will be just another sign that many of our American bishops are accomodationists who would prefer to peacefully coexist with postmodern culture  than battle for a society that promotes social justice and the dignity of the child and the family.

I am beginning to believe that it will be lowly priests, nuns, and lay Catholics who will defend Catholic values in today's world--not our Church's leadership.  Just as it was during the Cristero rebellion of the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, it will be the little people who will stand firm against the forces of bigotry and nihilism and who will make the necessary sacrifices to preserve the Catholic faith in a hostile society.

If our California bishops have courage--now is the time to demonstrate it.  And they should start by denying communion to Jerry Brown, Nancy Pelosi, and all Catholic politicians who have made their private bargains with the culture of death.


Charles Donovan. Better Reporting for Abortions. New York Times, January 21, 2013. accessible at:

Governor Brown signs bill to boost abortion. California Catholic Daily, October 9, 2013. Accessible at:

Guttmacher Institute. State Facts About Abortion: California. Accessible at:

Katy Grimes. AB 154: Fuzzy numbers used to justify increasing abortion providers. Cal August 27, 2013. Accessible at:

Ian Lovett. California Expands Availability of Abortions. New York Times, October 10 2013, p. A11.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Accomodationist Catholicism: What Would Flannery O'Connor Say?

Paul Elie's book on four twentieth-century literary Catholics relates a story about Flannery O'Connor, who attended a dinner party hosted by Mary McCarthy and her husband Bowden Broadwater. O'Connor had little to say until late in the evening when Broadwater ventured that the Eucharist is merely a symbol of Christ's presence.

Finding her voice at last, O'Connor blurted out, "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it."

I thought of that story this morning while reading Ross Douhat's perceptive essay on Pope Francis. In recent communications, Francis has sought to soften the popular view that Catholicism is rigidly
"Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it."
obsessed with a few narrow doctrinal issues in an effort to reach out to mainstream culture.

As Douthat correctly observed, Francis is trying to bridge the growing chasm between postmodern society and the Catholic faith, seeking to position himself "somewhere between the[Church's rigorists and the progressives who pine to Episcopalianize the faith."

This worries conservative Catholics, Douthat wrote, who fear any effort to accommodate Catholicism to postmodernity will  only lead the Church to ruin. "There is no middle ground," these Catholics believe, "no center that holds for long, and the attempt to find one quickly leads to accommodation, drift and dissolution."

Count me among the conservative Catholics who are deeply worried by the Pope's remarks.  As I said in a previous post, I was greatly imressed by Philip Lawler's book, The Faithful Departed, which chronicled the collapse of Catholic culture in Boston under the leadership of three accomodationist cardinals--Law, Cushing, and Mederios. Let the Boston experience be a warning to all good Catholics: if we attempt to placate what Pope John Paul called the "culture of death," we are lost.

As Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a recent interview for The Wanderer, Catholics will soon be driven out of the fields of education, counseling, and health care unless they adapt themselves to postmodern values, values that are being cemented into law by postmodern court decisions and legislation. We really have two choices: we can compromise with the present age and become crypto-Episcopalians, or we can say no to postmodernism just as Saint Thomas More said no to King Henry VIII and Edith Stein said no to the Nazis.

If we say no, I feel certain, faithful Catholics will be driven out of the mainstream of American society, perhaps ultimately back into the catacombs.  We should prepare for this.

As for me, I do not wish to become an Episcopalian.  I don't think this is what Pope Francis is asking us to do, but if he is, he should realize that the response of many good Catholics will be to echo the words of Flannery O'Connor.  If our Church is to become a collaborator with postmodernism,  many faithful Catholics are likely to say, "to hell with it."


Ross Douthat. The Promise and Peril of Pope Francis. New York Times, October 6, 2013, Review Section, p. 12.

Paul Elie. The Life You Save May Be Your Own. New York: Farrer, Straus & Giroux, 2003.