By Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Surprising several and delighting many, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was chosen to lead the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The vote was taken Nov. 14 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2017 fall general assembly in Baltimore. Archbishop Naumann became chairman-elect on a 96 to 82 vote over Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Archbishop Naumann succeeds Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.
What many found surprising about this vote is that the chairmanship of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities has gone to a cardinal for many years.
“I hope that I was elected because my brother bishops think I can make a contribution to our church’s pro-life efforts,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“This week, as part of the centennial anniversary, Cardinal Parolin — the Vatican Secretary of State — acknowledged the distinguished efforts of the bishops of the United States in the protection of the sacredness of human life and the promotion of the dignity of the human person,” he continued. “I hope in some small way I can help continue and build upon that proud tradition.”
Archbishop Naumann, already a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, brings years of front-line pro-life experience and deep pro-life roots.
As a priest, Archbishop Naumann served from 1984 to 1995 as the archdiocesan pro-life coordinator in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Under his leadership, the Archdiocese of St. Louis established a Project Rachel ministry and the Lifeline Coalition.
Later, he was one of the founding board members of the Vitae Society.
Archbishop Naumann was appointed coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in 2004 and was appointed archbishop in 2005.
The motto on his episcopal coat of arms is “Vitae Victoria Erit,” or “Life Will Be Victorious.”
Archbishop Naumann’s election drew an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from Allison Donohue, consultant in the archdiocesan pro-life office.
“I’m very excited and proud of the archbishop,” said Donohue. “It shows all the hard work he’s done all these years since he was ordained a priest. As an archbishop, he’s been very faithful and true to the church’s teachings on life.
“It goes to show you how respected he is by all the other bishops.”
Archbishop Naumann has been “a pro-life hero,” said Ron Kelsey, who was archdiocesan pro-life consultant from 2005 to 2016, when he retired.
The archbishop has frequently led pro-life rosaries in front of local abortion clinics, celebrated pro-life Masses, attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January, helped found and supported a number of pregnancy clinics, helped establish Project Gabriel, continues as a strong supporter of Project Rachel, and has spoken at many fundraising dinners for pro-life organizations.
As a member of the Kansas Catholic Conference, Archbishop Naumann was an advocate of pro-life legislation and has penned many editorials about a variety of life issues in his columns in The Leaven.
The archbishop has never wavered from his strong pro-life teaching.
“His firm stance of making sure the church takes a stand against abortion is a trait I hope many other church leaders aspire to,” said Reagan Barklage, western regional director of Students for Life of America.
“I look forward to seeing what Archbishop Naumann accomplishes during his time in this role,” continued Barklage.
Anne Carmichael of the Vitae Foundation called Archbishop Naumann “courageous” and “always out in front on the issue of life.”
“He’s so profoundly faithful no matter what the cost,” said Carmichael. “This is such a critical time for the Catholic Church in America and so appropriate that it’s Archbishop Naumann leading the USCCB pro-life committee, and keeping the focus on abortion and euthanasia.”
Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, called Archbishop Naumann “an outspoken pro-life leader in the public square.”
“His election to the head of the USCCB’s pro-life efforts speaks to the importance of the bishop’s place in keeping the life issues at the forefront of our national dialogue,” she said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Archbishop Naumann will serve as a tremendous and powerful voice on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, the elderly and the medically dependent and disabled,” she added.
When asked, Archbishop Naumann said it was too early for him to talk about his goals for the pro-life committee. He will serve as chair-elect for a year while Cardinal Dolan completes his term.
“The pastoral plan for pro-life activities has four dimensions,” said Archbishop Naumann. “They are prayer, education, pastoral action and advocacy.
“I hope that, during my time as chair, the committee will be able to strengthen our church’s efforts in all four areas.”