I was forwarded the last bit of our correspondent's report on the Kansans for Faithful Citizenship conference, with Kathleen Sebelius's speech. Here it is:
Finally, I'm getting to the finale; Kathleen Sebelius's speech. After a short introduction by one of the organizers, we were instructed to stand for the governor, and Sebelius marched in. After thanking those who put on the conference, she set forth her vision for moral leadership. She invoked the free-staters who founded Kansas (leaving out any specific mention of John Brown's rampages or the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre) and those Kansans who followed the abolitionists and advocated "women's rights and a free and open society." Sebelius said that those people who settled Kansas understood the idea of the "common good" and talked about their cooperative efforts.
Then she went onto a biographical reverie which began with a dig on the traditional Latin Mass. She said she was raised in the Catholic Church where, as a child, she watched Mass with the priest saying his prayers in Latin, with his back to the congregation. She said that way of doing things made religion an individual thing; it "wasn't very inclusive." She also accused her mother of using daily Mass simply as quiet time--of not really praying. She then made a praising passing reference to John XXIII for setting changes in motion. She said then that for her generation, it was standard for politicians to keep their individual religious beliefs quiet, but it was important these days to share them and try to apply them in public life.
After going on for a time about what constituted virtue and saying that "actions do speak louder than words" (which seemed to be the only remotely Catholic thing she said--contra the protestant notion of sola fide), she said that ignoring schools and children's needs and voting against health care access was not virtuous. She called for moral leadership in the distribution of resources and repeated the "common good" mantra. Then she jumped in and quoted the more convenient parts of USCCB statements, including something that went like "How can we, all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable, be better off in years ahead?" (That doesn't really sound like a Catholic statement, but it does sound like a USCCB statement, doesn't it?) Sebelius then went back into her biography, and talked about how she had to do volunteer work in the summers, rather than get a paying job. She also talked about being educated by the Sisters of Notre Dame, who (instead of teaching her the Fifth Commandment, I guess) taught her and her classmates that girls could do anything, and that in so doing they created a group of "accidental feminists."
And then she got into her abortion stance. She said that there was no question she couldn't focus on the abortion issue, and that "My Catholic faith teaches me life is sacred," but that she simply disagreed on tactics: "criminalizing women and their doctors" wasn't the way to fight abortion--it should be fought be reducing and eliminating the causes that lead to abortion. She then had the audacity to take credit for the reduced number of abortions in the last few years, and she argued that a lower abortion rate can only come about by supporting her litany of liberal (er, "progressive") causes. It was more productive to "talk about a culture of life," she said, and she looked forward to a day when abortion was rare or non-existent. Then without taking on Archbishop Naumann directly (and...this is a shocker...without personally thanking George Tiller for his financial support), she moved on to talk about protecting natural resources and other things, with the old liberal Catholic line.
Naturally, she received a rousing standing ovation, and one of the guys that spotted me as a mole chided me for not joining in. She left, the conference ended, and I had a few minutes of private conversation with the two guys who figured me out. One of them wanted to know what I thought of the conference, and I said the common good rhetoric was pretty good, and it might work to some degree, and it's true that it will. If the neo-cons--particularly those at the national level--continue on the present course, the liberals could win over more of the masses, and then the "real conservatives" will be truly on the outs, with nothing to show for their last 25 years of activity. Meanwhile, the cultural destruction that California and Massachusetts are taking to the next level will come to Middle America. Part of me wonders if that needs to happen, in order to purge the neo-cons from the "conservative" movement, but another part looks at Great Britain and sees what might happen: in the years the Tories have been out of power, the true conservatives of the Edmund Burke line have failed, utterly, to pull themselves together and make any progress, and Tony Blair (and his neo-con Labour party) have worked to tear down the last bits of the institutions which sustained England even through the protestant revolt and replace it all with "Cool Britannia."
And that's it. Like I said, you shouldn't have waited with baited breath for the Sebelius report. It was entirely predictable--wrapping herself in a cloak of cozy feel-good Catholicism without confronting any of the hard issues. The lawyer and the priest in Lawrence that you wrote about last week must be proud. There were no fireworks, and of course, no challenges to her positions, or her outrageous attempt to take credit for reducing abortions while she was vetoing pro-life legislation. I suppose, ultimately, though, that she and her "progressive" friends got the last laugh on me, having sacrificed most of a Saturday for such humdrum. I'll give her credit for that, for sure.