Love Will End Abortion - Show #42
Archbishop Joseph Naumann was ordained to the priesthood in 1975 in the Archdiocese of St. Louis where he served as the Coordinator of the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee for 10 years. He was ordained to the episcopacy as Auxiliary Bishop in St. Louis in 1997. He then assumed responsibilities as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas in 2005, an office in which he continues to serve.
Archbishop Naumann is also Chairman of the Kansas Catholic Conference, a Member of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – Committee on Pro-Life, and a Member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – Committee on Marriage and Family Life.
Archbishop Naumann is the Chairman-Elect for the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities and will begin serving in the role of Chairman in November of this year.
Archbishop Naumann Elected Head of Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee:
Archbishop Naumann: ‘Thanks for being the pro-life generation!’:
Transcript of Interview with Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Chairman-Elect of the USCCB Pro-Life Activities Committee, 1/18/18:
Jim Havens: Your Excellency Archbishop Naumann, it is a blessing to be with you today. How and when did you awaken to the reality of abortion and our human responsibility and Christian calling to pray and work toward ending it?
Archbishop Naumann: Well in 1973, I was in the Seminary at the time, I was in theology two years away from ordination, and like everyone else I was stunned by the decision. I certainly didn’t see it coming. I remember early on being inspired by Mother Theresa and her speaking so courageously and boldly on talking about the impoverishment of a country that would kill its own children, and, “Send your children to me.”
But it’s kind of interesting, sometimes I pinpoint my active engagement in the pro-life movement to the Democratic National Convention of 1984. I was watching some of the proceedings of it, and the vice presidential candidate was Geraldine Ferraro, this Catholic woman, and immediately after receiving the nomination, and this Catholic receiving this nomination for high office, she immediately launched into all this rhetoric that was in defiance of the Church’s teaching on life, and I was appalled by this, and very frustrated to hear this.
It was shortly after that I got a call from the priest who had been the pro-life priest moderator for the Pro-Life Apostolate in St. Louis where I’m from originally, and he said that he was looking to move on from that position, and he was trying to get a list of three priests to present to the Archbishop, Archbishop May at the time, to be possible candidates. And I said, “Well, I’ve never even been the priest moderator for the parish pro-life committees in the parishes where I serve,” but I was so, again I credit Geraldine Ferraro, I said, “If there’s anything I could do, I’d be willing to do it.” And he said, “Well, I need three names, would you be on the list?” So I said, “Okay,” and thought for sure that the Archbishop would find somebody more qualified, but for whatever reason I got a call from the Archbishop some weeks later, and asking me to do that so that gave me really the opportunity to really, it kind of forced me in a sense to really immerse myself in these issues, and to really think about them, and to see what the Church really needs to do. So I was the Pro-Life Director in St. Louis for a little over 10 years, and it was a wonderful experience, and you meet some incredible people, heroic people, people that are motivated simply for their love for children and for parents, adults, mothers, and for the children whom many of them will never ever know the work that they do to save lives, but that’s what got me launched.
Jim Havens: Alright, well you mentioned some of your experience there, you have a long history of working in the pro-life apostolate for the Church, what pro-life apostolic work are you most proud of?
Archbishop Naumann: Well, during my time as the Pro-Life Director, that was the time that Vicki Thorn had started Project Rachel in Milwaukee, and we were one of the second or third diocese really to start Project Rachel, so I was really very grateful for this ministry. The very first parish I went to, to preach on the pro-life issues, afterwards there was a young woman who asked if she could speak to me sometime that week, so we made an appointment. She was a professional, very attractive woman, I would guess in her early 30s, and I thought, “Oh, she’s probably upset about some of the things I’ve said,” but when she came in, she told me she had an abortion when she was in college, she had never been able to talk to anybody in her family, or anybody, about this, and she would say at family gatherings, she would see her nieces and nephews and realize that some of them were the same age her child would have been. She said she’d go into the bathroom and sob, and then kind of recompose herself and come out and try to go on with life, but it acquainted me with the great, great burden that women particularly carry after the abortion, and so I was very happy that we were able to begin that ministry in St. Louis.
Another thing that was, we were able to put together a coalition in St. Louis of hospitals, crisis pregnancy centers, resident centers for women that were pregnant, and that became what’s called the Lifeline Coalition, and to try and upgrade. And like a lot of diocese at that time, our Archbishop, Archbishop May, said, “Any woman who has an untimely pregnancy, come to us if you’re thinking about abortion. We’ll do whatever you need to help you carry the child.”
The final thing I think I would say is the Vitae Foundation is something that I was privileged to be involved with from the beginning, which is, Vitae is, they create messaging for mass media, and for social media now, on the pro-life issue, and to change people’s minds and hearts with the truth, they also do a lot of messaging that helps get women in crisis to the crisis pregnancy centers. So those are some of the things that I’m grateful that I was a part of.
Jim Havens: Terrific. Will you share some of your vocation story with us? And specifically, what is the story behind why you chose Vitae Victoria Erit, Life Will be Victorious, as your episcopal motto?
Archbishop Naumann: Well, my priest vocation story, I mean, when young people ask me, I said, “It was a long, long time ago in a different age, a different millennia,” which is true, where I think every Catholic young man thought about the priesthood. In my own case, my father was killed before I was born. So I never knew my father, and that was another motivating factor in retrospect, that my mother was three months pregnant with me when my father died, and so she was, if you would, in a crisis pregnancy at that point, but I think because of that I have an older brother that the priest in our parish took a special interest in us, and because of that, we had many friends that were priest friends for our family. So I always thought about the priesthood, and I went to the seminary right out of grade school to a high school seminary, which today there are none of those, but at that time I was one of 160 freshmen at this seminary high school. I didn’t know that I was called to be a priest at that time, but I was attracted to it, I was open to it, and I would say it was between my sophomore and junior year of college that I actually felt convinced that that’s what I thought God was calling me to do, and there were six more years to see if the Church agreed with that. Fortunately, they did.
In terms of the episcopal motto, because I had worked in pro-life, it had been such an important part of my priesthood, when I was named a Bishop, you can select a motto, usually it’s from scripture, but I chose this phrase because it was one that Pope John Paul II used a lot in his writing, and to me, I was hoping it has that meaning of the victory of life that eventually the culture of life will prevail, but also that I hoped my ministry as a Bishop would be a ministry that would bring hope to people, the hope of the truth of the victory of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate victory of life.
Jim Havens: Amen. You once wrote the beautiful words that, “We are privileged to participate in the unfolding of this victory of life, this victory of life already won by Jesus, in this particular moment of human history.” It’s clear to me that our Christian calling to evangelize, to share the incomparable treasure of Jesus and His Catholic Church and our Christian calling to love our neighbor and serve the least among us by actively working to end abortion, that these two callings are truly one calling that flows from our one identity in Christ.
As many Christians awaken more and more to their true identity in Christ and begin to see themselves more and more rightly as missionary disciples, how important is it that we also, as part of that same identity in Christ, more and more see ourselves as true lovers who will not passively accept abortion and its devastating consequences, but rather in true love of neighbor will become more and more active in praying and working to end abortion?
Archbishop Naumann: Yeah. I mean, I truly believe that. That it’s not a battle that we’re going to win on our own human energy, but it’s a battle that Christ has won, and for whatever reason, there are many graces, I think, that have come out of this struggle that God is pulling forth from them. For instance, the ecumenical work that’s happened, and the increased resources for women in crisis pregnancies that weren’t there before Roe v. Wade. So I think the Lord is, the Paschal Mystery is always there, He’s always bringing good forth, even from evil.
But I think you’re right, this whole call to missionary discipleship, which Pope Francis has articulated, and before him, Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict spoke about the new evangelization. So it’s not enough for us to keep our faith, we’re on mission. We’ve got an obligation to share the gift of our faith with others, and sadly there’s so many in our culture today that don’t believe in God, or if they do believe in God, it’s kind of a deist, and to know of this God that loves them and calls them to share in his life and gives them an eternal destiny, we have to share that good news. And part of that good news is the dignity of every human person, the dignity of life. So we, again, we have to share, Pope Francis talks about the Gospel of Joy, and Pope John Paul talked about the Gospel of Life, and it’s the same Gospel. In both of those, I think, we have an obligation to share with individuals, and with our culture.
Jim Havens: Very good. Is it fair to say that being actively pro-life is not an optional task, but rather an essential aspect of Christian identity that affects the integrity of our witness and therefore impacts the effectiveness of our efforts to evangelize?
Archbishop Naumann: Yeah, absolutely. There are many people that have come to the Church because of our pro-life commitment, and I’ve had many people, many Protestants thank me for the Church’s fidelity in this, and for being there when other Christian churches weren’t. So I think it is part of who we are as Catholics, and it is an essential part that we have to share.
Yes, it’s about trying to change the law. I think we have to try to change the law because the law not only permits abortion, but it teaches abortion, particularly to our young people. The fact that the law protects abortion says to young people, “Well this couldn’t be killing, this couldn’t be murder because our laws don’t permit that in any other circumstance.” So we have to, yes, part of this building a culture of life is to change the law, but to change the law we have to really change people’s hearts and minds. It’s not about just winning an election or pushing some candidate forward, but it’s creating a culture where this would be unthinkable again, as it once was in the United States, and still is in many parts of the world.
So I think it is a core part of our teaching, which is, this dignity of the human person, that every human being’s made in the divine image and even more, that the Son of God gave His life on Calvary for each and every one of us, so that there’s no, as Pope Francis would say, “There’s no throwaway lives,” there’s no throwaway culture here that we can discard life. So yes, I think it’s an essential part of who we are as Christians and as Catholic Christians in particular.
Jim Havens: And while every issue that affects the human person is important, it seems vital that we see all of these important issues rightly in the context of a hierarchy of moral value that differentiates issues in terms of magnitude and priority as we stress the importance of all social issues that affect humanity. How important is it for us to clearly proclaim in word and deed the fundamental human right to life as the preeminent human right upon which all others are based, and therefore, to also proclaim in word and deed abortion as the most important social justice issue of our time?
Archbishop Naumann: Yeah, and I think that’s well said, and it’s very important that it is a matter of the social teaching of the Church, and it’s the foundational principle: without life, there is nothing.
Pope John Paul used to articulate it so well. He built off of something that Paul VI had said, “If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, proclaim the truth, and if you want to live the truth, you have to defend life.” I think it is the foundational right, this right to life. If we don’t have life, none of the other rights matter, and so there is a preeminence here.
I think one of the things, when we get into the public policy issues, there are many issues that we care about as a church, and they have certainly important moral implications, but many of them, there is prudential judgements on how’s the best way, for instance, if we’re talking about the poor, how do we help eradicate poverty? How do we help lift people out of poverty? We all have to be concerned about that, but there are different strategies on how we might do that, but when you come to the life issue, when you come to an issue whether we permit the killing of a child or not, there can’t be any nuanced strategies for that. That is something that we have to be absolutely opposed. Now, how do we get there? How do we change the law? There can be different strategic judgements there, but I think Pope John Paul was so clear on the gospel of life that no Catholic politician, for instance, while he might vote for an incremental change, he has to be clear about what the ultimate goal is, and that is to protect each and every human life.
So I think it is, there are a hierarchy or priorities and issues, and that’s part of what I think as Bishops is part of our call to inform our people and educate people, realize how all of them are connected. Whether we’re trying to eradicate racism or stand up for the immigrant, or stand up for the unborn, they’re all part of this common ethic of the dignity of the human person, but when you get down to looking at, and I think when we get to elections and you evaluate candidates, then you have to look at, what are the hierarchy of issues here? And where does prudence allow for some difference, and where doesn’t it?
Jim Havens: How do you currently see the political and cultural landscape in the U.S. in terms of pro-life activity?
Archbishop Naumann: Well, on one hand, there’s a lot of encouraging signs because I think you see the young people that march for life, and you see some of the polling data that shows, I think Americans more and more, even ones that call themselves pro-choice, but when you dig down into, The Knights of Columbus just did a poll that would show people that would say that they’re pro-choice want a lot of limitations on abortion. So I think the culture, and I think there’s several reasons for that. I think prayer, I think the fidelity of the pro-life movement, but also I think the technology, the ultrasound technology, the window into the womb. So it becomes impossible really to deny the humanity of the unborn child.
And the other thing is, I think the post-abortive women who are speaking out and saying abortion is not only taking of a life, but it’s a great tragedy for a mother. I put it this way, think about one of the greatest human losses, I think, is to lose a child. For a parent to lose a child, I don’t think there’s any suffering that’s greater than that, but then when you layer onto that, “Not only did I lose my child, but I authorized it, I participated.” What a terrible burden that is, and only with God’s grace and mercy can they be healed from that and find light. So I think that the advocacy of the post-abortive women also has helped.
But at the same time, you look at the landscape. I mean, we still fight the secular media that are overwhelmingly pro-abortion, the entertainment industry that’s overwhelmingly pro-abortion, higher education and the people that control so many of the colleges and universities in what’s politically correct to think. So we have a lot of entrenched culture that’s very anti-life, and so I don’t see this battle ending anytime soon. I think it’s something that we’re going to be fighting for the soul of our nation and our culture for the foreseeable future.
Jim Havens: It seems to me that love demands that we always affirm the good, and at the same time we’re looking for the next step, or steps that we need to take in order to keep going and get better. With this framework in mind, there is much good to be affirmed in the current pro-life activity led by our Catholic Bishops, but at the same time, in all humility, there are many ways in which the leadership of the Catholic Bishops can, and needs to, keep going and get better. What do you see as the next step or steps for growing the leadership of the Catholic Bishops in terms of pro-life activity?
Archbishop Naumann: I think the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities is excellent because it’s multi-dimensional. It consists of prayer, it consists of education, it consists of the pastoral outreach, which is both helping those in a crisis pregnancy, and then helping those that have chosen abortion and now regret it, and then there’s the advocacy.
And as far as I see it, we always can improve, and we need to take our game up in all of those area. We need to, the prayer is the foundation of everything, and we need to pray and do penance really, to sacrifice, to intercede for the strength, and the wisdom, and the courage to change this culture. Then I think the abortion alternatives are essential to this victory, so I think we can never do enough in that area, we need to ramp that up. I think education, and this is an area where I think, as I mentioned before, I was part of the Vitae Society, and I think we really have to become smarter. I think at a time, we were saying things that appealed to the choir, but they weren’t reaching people that we need to help change their minds and their hearts. So I think we need well researched messaging that, and in ways that is effective in our culture today, so I think we need to do that. And then our advocacy efforts, you know, I think we can’t back down. We need to continue to be strong and firm that this is a non-negotiable issue for Catholics.
Jim Havens: At this point in time, what do you see as the most effective non-violent action or actions we can take, just regular lay folks in the pews, that we can take to end abortion as soon as possible?
Archbishop Naumann: I would encourage people to pray, first of all, to make this part of your daily prayer, and not just to pray in kind of a, “Well, Lord change the culture,” but to pray, “Lord, what are you asking me to do to help change the culture? And reveal to me how is it that I’m called to be part of this effort.”
In terms of education, most of the most effective education is one-on-one. It’s done person to person, it’s done within families, with co-workers, with friends. So to be well-versed ourselves on the issue and to be able to talk intelligently. The other side uses slogans, but they’re effective slogans. So how do we help people to see through those slogans, and through so much of the rhetoric that I think are easy to confuse people? So I think we have to be knowledgeable, ready to educate.
I think we all need to support the crisis pregnancy centers, so we can volunteer. Time is very precious, we can give money and resources in that way as well.
Then, I think we have to get our voices heard, and we need to be active in public policy, and we need to be engaged voters, knowledgeable voters, but we need to communicate with our legislators and work with our state conferences, Catholic conferences. Work with NCHLA that does a lot of good work in terms of directing people in terms of what’s happening at the federal level, and who we need to send messages to, but we need to ramp up our advocacy efforts.
And some people are being called to become engaged in politics, as difficult as that is, and as messy as it is, but we need strong believing Christian Catholic people that are willing to get into the fray and help change the culture.
Jim Havens: Any final message or final comments for those listening today?
Archbishop Naumann: I would just thank your listeners that have been pro-life and have worked at this for a long, long time, and just thank them for their heroism and their fidelity, and just encourage them. There’s a lot of things that the devil tries to discourage us, and that’s always the devil at work. So never to lose hope, never to surrender to sometimes the things that seem overwhelming, and have that confidence the Lord’s won the victory and we’re just there participating in its unfolding.
Jim Havens: Alright, well thank you Your Excellency. I very much appreciate your generosity with us today and your leadership. Thank you very much.
Archbishop Naumann: Thanks, Jim. Good to be with you and your listeners. God bless.