Catholic archbishop gives moral guidance on election

Abortion is the fundamental issue for Catholics in the presidential campaign, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, in a visit Tuesday night to Kansas University’s Dole Institute of Politics.

“Our democratic institutions are founded upon the premise that there are certain inalienable rights,” including the right to life. Without that, other campaign issues like the economy and the war in Iraq mean nothing, he said.

In a speech organized by KU’s St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, Naumann sought to discuss how Catholics should live their lives in public and how numerous social issues are in play during the campaign. He spent much of the evening discussing the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and mapping out the church’s moral platform.

“The church in the United States always cherished its rights and its responsibility to form the moral (conscience) of the country,” he said.

He stopped short of endorsing a candidate, saying, “We (the church) don’t really believe that is the role of the church in a democratic society.”

Naumann told the crowd of more than 100 that sometimes there is no perfect candidate and sometimes it’s a choice between the lesser of two evils. Catholics should weigh their beliefs before voting, he said.

He blamed cultural relativism for forming beliefs that “(impair) a culture from what is imperatively true.”

Naumann said this election was part of a battle for the soul of our society, and warned that bowing to pressure from pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage groups could lead down the road to totalitarianism, because democracy could “(devolve) into the will of the majority trampling on the rights of the” minority.

“If liberty becomes distracted from truth, it leaves society vulnerable to totalitarianism,” he said. “Remember, Hitler was elected.”

Naumann’s speech left many audience members inspired.

Jennifer Sibille, a KU graduate student of physics, said she hoped to discuss some of the Catholic Church’s platforms with her peers.

“It’s sometimes difficult to want to speak up on an issue,” she said. “The university culture is so against that, so it’s always helpful to have some reinforcement.”

Anna Wishall, a KU graduate student of music therapy, said she came to get the church’s point of view on topical issues.

“A lot of people have told me they’re not going to vote in this election because they disagree with both candidates,” she said. But after hearing Naumann say there is no perfect candidate, she said she felt more comfortable going to the voting booth.

Jennifer Meitl, outreach coordinator for the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, said the abortion issue may not have been on the top of Catholics’ minds.

She hoped audience members learned that “the (issues) that have the most gravity are not the ones that have just been talking points,” she said. “Where do you define 45 million lives (lost) in the last 30 years? Where do you find more gravity than that?”