Topeka The Roman Catholic archbishop for northeast Kansas said Friday that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius should refrain from taking Communion until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion rights.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, also criticized her recent veto of a bill imposing new restrictions on abortion providers. He called upon the governor, who is Catholic, to take the "necessary steps for amendment of her life."
Naumann said he wrote to Sebelius in August, asking her to refrain from Communion but learned recently that she'd participated in the sacrament. He said it prompted him to write her again, asking her to respect his request and "not require from me any additional pastoral actions."
"The spiritually lethal message, communicated by our governor, as well as many other high-profile Catholics in public life, has been in effect: 'The church's teaching on abortion is optional!"' Naumann wrote in a column published Friday in The Leaven, the archdiocese's newspaper.
The issue of Catholic politicians taking Communion arose again recently because of Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to the United States. In New York, Cardinal Edward Egan said former mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani had broken "an understanding" by accepting Communion at a papal Mass.
Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said the governor has not seen the archbishop's column but, "Receiving Communion has not been a problem in the past for her."
Sebelius has been a strong and consistent supporter of abortion rights throughout her political career, starting as a Kansas House member in 1987-94. In 2002, when she ran for her first term as governor, she sought to reassure anti-abortion voters by promising not to seek major changes in Kansas' laws on abortion.
But she's also repeatedly vetoed legislation sought by anti-abortion groups and supported by the state's Catholic leaders.
This year's measure was partly a response to allegations that Dr. George Tiller has performed illegal late-term abortions at his Wichita clinic. Tiller, among the few U.S. physicians who perform such procedures, has said he follows state law.
Sebelius objected most strongly to provisions allowing a patient's spouse or family to go to court if they believed a doctor had performed or was about to perform an illegal late-term abortion. The patient herself also could sue, but so could a local prosecutor.
She argued that the bill would encourage litigation, jeopardize patients' privacy and allow lawsuits to block a woman's abortion "even where it may be necessary to save her life."