TOPEKA, Kan. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic Kansas state Senator Pat Pettey (D-6) recently tried to use Catholic doctrine to justify her vote against a pro-life constitutional amendment. In response, Kansas City, Kansas Abp. Joseph Naumann — head of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee — publicly corrected her errors.
In 2015, the Kansas state legislature voted to ban any abortion procedure that dismembers a baby. A Kansas father/daughter abortionist duo — Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser — challenged the ban and won in a Kansas Supreme Court decision that not only nullified the dismemberment ban but also "found" that the state's constitution guarantees the right to abortion.
Archbishop Naumann said, "The court's claim of a right to abortion lying hidden in the Kansas Constitution for more than 150 years is absurd."
As Church Militant previously reported, the state's pro-life community responded to the stunning decision by proposing an amendment to the state's constitution. Called "Value Them Both," the proposition would have amended "the bill of rights of the constitution of the state of Kansas by adding a new section thereto stating that there is no constitutional right to abortion, and reserving to the people the ability to regulate abortion through the elected members of the legislature of the state of Kansas."
The proposition passed the state senate, despite Pettey's vote against it, but lost narrowly in the house by four votes.
Pettey justified her pro-abortion vote by saying: "These measures are a violation of the core principles my Catholic faith teaches — namely, the priority of conscience, the importance of social justice and the respect for religious freedom."
In his weekly column for archdiocesan newspaper The Leaven, Abp. Naumann addressed Pettey's statement point by point, and added relevant remarks Pope Francis made in his recent audience with the bishops of Kansas and Missouri.
While Pettey invoked "the priority of conscience," Abp. Naumann pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church's (CCC's) teaching on the formation of conscience in which it is noted "the education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings" (CCC 1783).
With regard to social justice, the archbishop wrote: "Sadly, the senator does not seem to understand that the right to life is one of the foundational principles of the Church's social justice teaching."
Again applying the "right to life" principle, this time to religious freedom, Abp. Naumann reminded his Catholic audience that, according to Pope Francis, "protection of the unborn is first and foremost a human rights issue, not a religious one."
In a statement obtained by Church Militant [see full statement below], Sen. Pettey said she stands by how she explained her vote. She expresses respect for the archbishop but adds that "as a woman and as an elected official," she has to represent all the people of Kansas.
Despite the first volley of the exchange coming from Pettey's invocation of her faith as justification for her vote, she complains that it is the archbishop who has politicized his weekly column and who has "degraded" her.
Pettey calls herself a "practicing Catholic" and says she plans to continue practicing her faith. As of press time, Church Militant was unable to determine to which Kansas parish Pettey belongs.
I stand by my explanation of the vote when the Senate considered the amendment.
I respect the archbishop. He is the leader of the Church here in our diocese. But I feel that as a woman and as an elected official that I have to make a decision that respects all the people that I represent.
When you're the archbishop and you use the weekly paper that goes out to this diocese as your platform and use a full page to degrade me as a senator and my position and what I said ... how can I not think it's politicizing it.
It's unfortunate that when people have the ability, they will use whatever vehicles they are able to, to make their point, and that's exactly what the archbishop is doing.
I am a practicing Catholic, and that's not true for a lot of people anymore. I plan to continue to practice my faith. I know that there are many other women and men that believe that we have to embrace everyone and that there are difficult decisions that have to be made sometimes in life.
I support life and the quality of life from birth to death.
"Sadly, Sen. Pettey's statement is fraught with multiple errors in logic and Catholic teaching," Naumann pointed out last week. "By invoking her Catholic faith for her reason for voting against the amendment, the senator actually created an even more serious moral problem for herself."
"The senator not only has misapplied Catholic moral teaching by her vote, but she is actually attempting to confuse others about Church teaching," he added.