18 July 2022, The Tablet

US archbishop criticises Pope over abortion and communion

US archbishop criticises Pope over abortion and communion

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the US bishops’ committee on pro-life activities.
CNS photo/Bob Roller

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, Kansas, has criticised Pope Francis in an interview with the German newspaper Die Tagespost, saying the Pope’s handling of the issue of communion for Catholic politicians who support abortion rights made him “sad”.

“I think the Pope doesn‘t understand the US, just as he doesn’t understand the Church in the US,” Naumann told the newspaper, according to the Catholic News Agency Deutsch, part of the EWTN media conglomerate.

“His advisers and the people surrounding him have completely misinformed him on this.” It is not clear if Naumann’s mention of papal advisers was meant as a criticism of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is a member of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals, and served as the US bishops’ chairman of the Pro-Life Activities Committee before Naumann took over that post. O’Malley was criticised by some pro-life activists in 2009 for presiding at the funeral of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who also supported abortion rights.

It is rare for a high-ranking churchman to voice such public criticism of a Pope. Naumann was one of the most vocal proponents of having the US bishops adopt a policy forbidding pro-choice politicians from receiving communion, even after the Vatican urged caution about adopting a policy that no other episcopate had done and which touches on complicated theological issues.

Naumann later said that at the time of his interview with the German newspaper, he was unaware that Pope Francis had characterised President Joe Biden’s position on abortion as “incoherent”, but urged pastors to deal with such situations in a pastoral manner. Naumann called the Pope’s comments “very helpful.”  

“Of course we have to be pastoral,” Naumann said. “However, it is not pastoral to tell someone they are a good Catholic and can receive Communion as a matter of course, when that person has committed a grave evil. The fact that the Pope received [US House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was politically exploited. In doing so, Pope Francis is doing exactly what he warns others not to do.” Pelosi is also a pro-choice Catholic. Earlier this year, her local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, ordered Pelosi to refrain from taking communion because of her support for abortion rights.


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