Bishops choose Naumann over Cupich for pro-life chair in bellwether vote

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., looks on as Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the U.S. bishops' international policy committee, responds to a reporter's question during a Nov. 13 news conference at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 

Bishops meeting in Baltimore for their fall annual meeting elected a number of new committee chairs Tuesday morning and decided to break with the tradition of electing a cardinal to lead their pro-life efforts, instead voting for an archbishop who is a vocal opponent of abortion.

Bishops elected Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City to head the pro-life efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He beat Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, a proponent of the “consistent ethic of life” approach to pro-life issues espoused his predecessor in Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The final vote was 96 for Archbishop Naumann and 82 for Cardinal Cupich.


Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann beat Cardinal Blase Cupich, a proponent of the “consistent ethic of life” approach to pro-life issues.

Archbishop Naumann was a member of the bishops pro-life committee. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the committee, gave a nod to the archbishop during his remarks on Monday to the full body of bishops. During a press conference yesterday, Archbishop Naumann filled in for Cardinal Dolan, who was unable to attend, according to a spokesperson for the conference.

In other races, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who heads the Archdiocese of Detroit, was elected to serve as conference secretary beginning next November. The religious liberty subcommittee, which had been a temporary committee until bishops decided to make it permanent earlier this year, will be headed by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, a former president of the U.S.C.C.B. Bishop Michael Burbridge of Arlington, Va., was elected to lead the bishops’ communications committee. Bishop Nelson J. Pérez, of the Diocese of Cleveland will lead the cultural diversity committee, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will head the doctrine committee.

The pro-life committee race was viewed by some observers as a referendum on how bishops wish to approach in the public square the litany of life issues important to church leaders.

Both prelates oppose abortion, but their leadership in the pro-life area has played out in different ways.

When it comes to life issues, Cardinal Cupich frequently invokes his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who advocated for a consistent ethic of life that includes abortion and the death penalty but also issues of poverty, gun violence and war. Cardinal Cupich has written that these issues, along with abortion and euthanasia, contribute to society’s “disregard for the value of human life.”

Archbishop Naumann is seen as the more traditional voice on abortion. He cut ties with the Girl Scouts of America after critics accused the organization of promoting abortion rights, and he has said public figures who support abortion rights should not take Communion.

In other votes, bishops agreed to add a staff member to work on race issues, serving the newly established working group combatting racism.

Annette Magjuka
6 days 20 hours ago

It seems that church politics are a mirror of national politics. Some want the stick of RULE OF LAW. Some believe that justice and love is the way to support and sustain people.

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Thomas Farrelly
6 days 13 hours ago

Unfortunately, "justice and love" is often code for "Vote for abortion-promoting Democrats".

Robert Killoren
6 days 9 hours ago

No it is called Christianity. Justice and love is never for abortion. Take your partisanship elsewhere. America readers are Republcan and Democrat.

Thomas Farrelly
3 days 17 hours ago

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And of course America is a highly partisan magazine, adhering very closely to a Democratic platform, except on the matter of abortion.
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James Haraldson
6 days 12 hours ago

If you believe the rule of law is at odds with justice and love, you do not know anything about such matters.

Ellen B
6 days 10 hours ago

Why support policies that reduce the number of abortions? Why support life once it is on the earth?

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Terence Weldon
6 days 13 hours ago

This blatant snub to a senior cardinal is seriously disappointing, Have US bishops been paying no attention at all to Pope Francis? This is a slap in the face not only to Cardinal Cupich, but also to the pope who personally appointed him.

Patty Bennett
6 days 8 hours ago

This is not intended as an insult or snub to Cardinal Cupich. I know Archbishop Naumann. He is faithful and very intelligent, and will do a fine job. One of these had to be chosen. Please try to look at the positive, and not see an offense where no offense is intended.

History 0000
6 hours 13 min ago

He should be fired. Archbishop Naumann is not following the Directives of Pope Francis to Advocate on Social Justice issue primarily and these other less important issues should be put on the back shelf..

Brian Babiak
6 days 13 hours ago

Praise God for the Bishops decision! We faithful Catholics who believe Crdnl Cupich represents a trend of seeking worldly approval and subtly obfuscating and denying Church teaching are celebrating what appears to be the USCCB developing a spine and boldly proclaiming tough moral teachings in a relativistic world. Congratulations to Archbshp Naumann!

Mary Therese LEMANEK
6 days 12 hours ago

This was a fearful vs. a faithful decision. The "consistent ethic of life" is in no way a denial of Church teachings, nor is it a repudiation of any moral teachings.

someone somewhere
6 days ago

The repudiation is hidden within the "consistent ethic of life" if the reasons for opposition against the death penalty are considered to be not fundamentally different from the opposition against abortion.

Because then the important distinction that abortion always kills an innnocent while death penalty normally kills someone guilty of a serious crime.

Of course, whether someone suggesting a "consistent ethic of life" commits auch error is often hard to tell as for some reason many proponents of a "consistent ethic of life" seem to be reluctant to provide such details consistently.

Ann Johnson
5 days 13 hours ago

Except for those times in which the person wasn't guilty at all but was sentenced to death. Imagine how many times that happened before DNA testing and think of how many have been freed after the testing. One reason why the death penalty is essentially wrong.

Robert Klahn
6 days 3 hours ago

How is caring for the poor a denial of church teachings?

Tough moral teachings have been the rule for the last 45 or so years on abortion. How much good have they done?

Given a choice between saving babies and futile attempts to ban abortion I chose to save babies through caring for the poor.

History 0000
6 hours 12 min ago

Bishop Nauman is out of sync with Pope Francis and should be replaced.

H. Thomas Blum
6 days 13 hours ago

So sad. It's frustrating to watch the Catholic Church in the USA miss another opportunity. Pope Francis "You can lead them to water, but you can't make them drink."

Dolores Pap
6 days 13 hours ago

The Church is just shooting itself in the foot, because electing someone as inflexible as the man chosen, will merely alienate Catholics who are more inclusive,loving, and non judgmental.. In the end, people do whatever they have to do, no matter what the Church's doctrine might be. Think of birth control- what modern day Catholic doesn't use contraceptives? If they did not, then they'd all have an enormous number of kids.

Thomas Farrelly
6 days 12 hours ago

I don't really know in what way either of these two prelates is inclusive, loving, and non judgmental. Do you? I haven't seen either of them offer a "platform". Nor do I know what specific beliefs and policies you consider Inclusive, loving, and judgmental. Perhaps you could tell us. Does inclusive mean open borders? Does non judgmental mean abortion is ok?

Tim O'Leary
4 days 20 hours ago

How exactly is it loving and non-judgmental to support the killing of the unborn child? That is at least as irrevocable a judgment as any other form of murder. In any case, notice how all the comments against Archbishop Naumann's election are definitely not in the pro-life side of the debate on abortion. So, for some reason, they prefer Cardinal Cupich. The good Cardinal Cupich is definitely pro-life and thinks abortion is killing an innocent human being. But, he should reflect why his election would have been seen as giving comfort to the pro-abortion side, even if he never meant to. This is after all, a matter of life and death, and of civil rights as important as the fight against slavery was in the 1800s.

Jackie Martin
6 days 13 hours ago

Disappointing. Just one more example of why I am one of the 6 people leaving the church for every 1 person joining. Missed opportunity to help reverse that trend.

ron chandonia
6 days 11 hours ago

If you think getting your talking points from the headlines in the NYTimes is going to keep Catholics coming to church, just check out what has happened to the Episcopal Church.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
6 days 12 hours ago

Until the Catholic Church embraces a wholistic pro-life vision, we will be seen as nothing more than a hypocritical patriarchy. Ever heard no justice, no peace?

John Walton
6 days 8 hours ago

For the record, the inventor of "no justice, no peace" was a virulent anti-Jewish race-war instigator by the name of Al Sharpton.

History 0000
6 hours 6 min ago

Many people have used that phrase over the past few hundred years...Your attitude towards the Reverend Sharpton appears to be hateful, hurtful etc.. If you want to call out Racists, then start with Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and the pants on fire liars race baiting right wing media..

Tim O'Leary
6 days 11 hours ago

While a "consistent ethic of life" sounds like a good thing, I think that most of those who are disappointed with the selection of Archbishop Naumann are not really on the pro-life side. Sadly, it is naive to think the "consistent ethic of life" banner will actually help those in most need. A truly proportionate ethic of life would rank protection of life (abortion) over property (non-life threatening poverty) or health insurance (not the same as health care), defense of the innocent (all the unborn) over the guilty (death penalty for murder), and justice for the many (millions of unborn) over the few (capital punishment). The practical effect is the seamless garment serves only to weaken opposition to abortion. It has no other actual effect. Cardinal Cupich should reflect on why so many advocates of abortion wanted him elected.

Mike McDermott
6 days 7 hours ago

Well said, Tim O’Leary. A consistent ethic of life demands proportional effort and responses based on the magnitude of the problem. For example, how much energy should the American church spend on ending the death penalty, which costs about 50 lives a year, compared to abortion, which costs over 1,000,000 lives a year? The answer is obvious. Abortion is the defining life issue of our time. The other life issues called out regularly by Cardinal Cupich are worthy of mention, but when it comes to budgeting time and money, the fight against abortion deserves 99%.

Rosemarie Zagarri
6 days 10 hours ago

Naumann's election is a validation of the GOP agenda. As long as the Catholic hierarchy chooses to make abortion the primary definition of "prolife," it will remain the pawn of the Republican party. By prioritizing unborn life over the needs of the millions more Americans who already exist outside the womb, the bishops will deliver the votes of many Catholics (especially white Catholics) to the Republicans on election day. In the process, they will fail to make their voices heard on the issues that are truly destroying our country: racial hatred; lack of affordable health care; tax breaks for the wealthy; growing economic equality; and the degradation of our environment. In the end, a majority of the bishops feel far more comfortable attacking abortion, which is about controlling women as much as preserving life, than about confronting a white power structure whose values represent a wide-ranging assault on Christian values.

Peter Schwimer
6 days 9 hours ago

The churches are empty. This decision is just one more reason why. The Archbishop would deny communion to a Catholic who supports the right of an individual to self determination. BUT has absolutely Nothing to say when Catholic Justices publicly promote the death penalty. For heavens sake, be consistent. Prolife is bigger than anti-abortion but you would never know it from this vote. I am amazed that Catholic bishops will blame everyone from the sexual revolution of the 60's to Pope Francis when it comes to empty churches. They have no one to blame but themselves and their mealy mouthed response to the realities of the world.

Bob Waldrop
6 days 8 hours ago

Naumann or Cupich, it doesn't really matter. The US bishops certainly don't defend the right to life of all people, everywhere, from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. Exhibit A and B and C? The unjust wars on the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. They blessed the attack on Afghanistan as just, they waffled on Iraq issuing statements whose executive summary could be "it would be sort of unjust to invade Iraq, but not really so unjust that we would do anything about it, and in any event, if you disagree with us, that's fine. Oh, by the way, there are consequences to not acting to, so what do we know about life and peace?" In other words, they praised unjust war by their faint condemnation of it. We've never had a "fortnight for peace" nor do bishops send audio and video recordings to be played during Mass instructing the faithful about peace. They can't be bothered with that because, you know, their friends in Congress and the White House would be irritated with them for abandoning the party line.

So it comes to pass that the US Catholic Bishops are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war. All except Bishop Botean, of the Romanian Catholics of Canton Ohio, who courageously told his people that participation in the Iraq war was the moral equivalent of willing participation in an abortion. That's being pro-life.

Lisa Weber
6 days 6 hours ago

The Church is making a mistake by endlessly harping about abortion. By and large, it cannot force a woman to carry a pregnancy she is determined to end. The Church certainly alienates many and causes serious divisions by continually talking about it, though. Abortion was part of the reproductive scene long before Roe vs. Wade and will continue to be part of the reproductive scene even if it is again made illegal. I don't care how wrong abortion is, not a lot can be done about it by anyone other than the woman who is pregnant. It would be really nice if the Church would move on to something less divisive and more do-able.

History 0000
6 hours 34 min ago

Abortions go down dramatically in Democratic Administrations because women have full access to health care services and contraception...If the Catholic Bishops really and truly wanted to decrease abortions, then they would be in favor of birth control and access to womens' health services. They are just the opposite and alienate women and huge swaths of the population...

Robert Klahn
6 days 3 hours ago

After 4 decades or trying and failing to ban abortion, isn't it time to try the Consistent Ethic of Life?

Please don't try to tell me it's been policy, I never hear of it being preached, always just ban abortion.

I say save the children by offering care before and after they are born.

History 0000
6 days 2 hours ago

Respectfully, Archbishop Naumann should change his focus to the principles and teachings of Pope Francis's “Consistent Ethic of Life” OR Nauman should be removed from the KC Diocese and reassigned by Pope Francis to Africa or someplace else. The Holy Father is in charge. The Cardinals and Bishops of the Church should follow Pope Francis's guidelines, teachings and emphasis for the Church and its members and for all.

Pope Francis's leadership must be adhered to by those professing to be leaders in the Church in the United States. Otherwise, the US Conference of Bishops will be seen as a rogue and marginal clique group, declining in influence, not listened to by most Catholics in the US and an embarrassment to the Church.

The old way has not worked for the Catholic Church in the US and not for its people. It is is embarrassing and shameful that the US Catholic Conference of Bishops has, for decades, marginalized its own prestige and authority by not emphasizing the most important teachings of Jesus and by letting itself be used as tools of propaganda and politics by right wing US Groups who do not have the best wishes for the Catholic Church and for Catholics.

I could provide a laundry list of issues neglected by the Catholic Conference of Bishops while they have "barked up the wrong trees" and have "gone down rabbit holes" chasing much less consequential issues....actions by the US Conference of Bishops that have actually hurt millions of Catholics in the US including their illogical, selfish and misguided positions regarding universal health care in the United States. How many millions of people have died and how many millions of others have suffered and been bankrupted needlessly while the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was "asleep at the switch"?!?!
The US is the only advanced country in the world without Universal Healthcare. Universal Healthcare is a human right. But, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops allow themselves to be used by right wing Oligarchs and the Republican Party to purposely deprive millions of healthcare in the US?! It is Disgraceful and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops should be ashamed of themselves for not forcefully pushing for Universal Healthcare in the US. It is only one of dozens of issues where the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have "dropped the ball on".

Tim O'Leary
2 days 16 hours ago

You cannot be serious! Archbishop Naumann is in full agreement with Pope Francis that abortion is "a horrendous crime" and "a very grave sin." The real question is are you? I don't think you are even serious about universal healthcare, since any healthcare plan that doesn't protect the health of the unborn child is ipso facto not universal. And those foreign countries that claim universal healthcare promote abortion and euthanasia, and ration healthcare with long waiting times and cost controls so more people die waiting than from their disease.

Here is Pope Francis on abortion, as reported by Crux in Nov 2016 "I was thinking on the attitude of sending the kids back before they’re born, this horrendous crime, they send them back because it’s better like that, because it’s more comfortable, it’s a great responsibility- a very grave sin,” Francis said. The comments came in an interview with the Italian Catholic media outlets TV2000 and Blu Radio, released on Sunday after the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.…

History 0000
6 hours 22 min ago

Complete baloney...The Conference of Catholic Bishops, the right wing oligarchs and the right wing sheeple are do not advocate for services for the poor, middle class and marginalized people who are here...Stay off "pants of fire liars" right wing media Fake Fox, Fake Gasbag Radio etc...banned from Canada and the UK as propaganda....Even US Service Families who have been stationed in Europe marvel at the far superior universal health care in Germany and other countries...US has substandard, overly expensive health care because of the corruption in this country in Congress, the WH and the right wing media promoting Oligarchs who skim 100's of billions out of the health care system and put it into their own pockets and don't use if for health care services...Many from Silicon Valley, LA , NY fly to Europe or Canada for health care because US health care is a complete trainwreck....Other countries have more advanced treatments including stem cell treatments that fanatics in the USA have tried to block causing the US to fall behind...

Vincent Gaglione
5 days 23 hours ago

The choice of this picture of Bishop Naumann to illustrate the article was a bit over the top, or is he quite the gruff, overbearing personage that the picture portrays?

If indeed his selection portends more of the same rigid interpretation of “pro-life” solely on the basis of anti-abortion legislation, then the Bishops reveal themselves to be either political neophytes or political manipulators.

We are Catholics in a pluralistic society. We are Catholics called to live according to our faith as an example to others. We are Catholics expected to live up to the nation’s values, as well, one of which is respect for the religious and personal beliefs of others, no matter how different they are from our own.

The “pro-life” push for the criminalization of abortion is seen by most non-Catholics as, at the least, an intrusion of religious beliefs upon the rest of the society and, at worst, another Catholic attempt to create a theocratic nation. If you have any Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or unbelieving friends, friends with whom you share honestly, ask them their opinions on the issue.

Or are the abortion and religious freedom issues diversions by the Bishops from more serious Catholic lay attention to their mistakes on lots of other issues and levels – too many to name here, the worst of which are our empty pews and our millennial children’s rejection of our religion?

Bishop Naumann’s visage in the picture gives an image of hardline, rigid, unbending Catholicism, the unChristian kind that once sent deviates, dissenters, and Protestants to the flames. I really hope that’s not what he turns out to be.

History 0000
6 hours 19 min ago

These kind of rigid belief systems that the far right wants to shove down everyone else's throats reminds many of the "American Taliban"....People fled Europe for America to escape this kind of religious tyranny that they want to impose on all..

Robert Rine
5 days 23 hours ago

The Catholic Church's 'one issue' stance was instrumental in helping Donald J. Trump be elected POTUS. Sad to see the bishops have decided to continue along that path.

Thomas Farrelly
2 days 15 hours ago

Gosh, even Hillary didn't include that in her catalog of reasons why her loss was someone else's fault.

History 0000
6 hours 39 min ago

Evangelicals Voted for and Elected the Anti Christ, Trump...

Baron Corvo
5 days 22 hours ago

An apt illustration of the reason why Catholic Churches and their collection plates are empty each Sunday morning - the hierarchy is composed largely of hold-overs from Ratzinger era appointments; toe-dancing poofters more interested in tassels and lace and 'traditional mass' nonsense, with all the accompanying 'banning' from the sacraments that would make the evangelical yokels smile.
Cupich is the face of the MODERN CHURCH and Naumann is a backward step. If you people want to be Baptists, with all their judgemental hypocrisy, go join them. This is truly sickening.

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