(CNSNews.com) – Fifteen years after clashing with the Catholic Church over her support for abortion rights, the newly appointed president of NARAL Pro-Choice America boasts of the incident in her biography, claiming "she stood up to a public effort to excommunicate her." But a spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Helena, Mont., denies there was any attempt to kick Nancy Keenan out of the Church.
Keenan was appointed on Nov. 19 to head NARAL Pro-Choice America. The press release announcing her arrival describes her experience as a Montana state legislator and as state superintendent of education. According to the biography, Keenan "also showed the force of her pro-choice commitment and the strength of her personal leadership when she stood up to a public effort to excommunicate her from the Catholic Church."
There’s no disagreement over what precipitated the flap between Keenan and the Church; she had spoken at a pro-abortion rally on Nov. 12, 1989, while a member of the Montana Legislature.
But Wednesday, Eric Schiedermayer, director of communications for the Helena, Mont., Catholic Diocese, told CNSNews.com that the Church had merely tried to "help [Keenan] understand" its disapproval of her public support for abortion rights.
Following the 1989 rally, according to Schiedermayer, Bishop Elden Curtiss offered to meet with Keenan and a colleague of hers to discuss their views on subjects such as abortion.
Keenan met with the bishop in her office on Nov. 28, 1989, Schiedermayer said, during which time Curtiss submitted to her a list of exploratory questions regarding her pro-abortion views. These questions were reportedly an effort to show Keenan how she had deviated from Catholic Church teachings.
Schiedermayer said he is unsure whether Keenan ever replied to the questions privately, but he added, "Certainly not publicly."
According to a November 1989 article in the Montana Catholic newspaper, Keenan admitted that she was personally supportive of the Church’s teaching on abortion, but was unwilling to "impose that belief on others." In the same article, Curtiss criticized Keenan for separating her personal and political views. "I cannot accept the dichotomy between public and private morality," Curtiss reportedly said at the time.
Keenan accused Curtiss of overstepping his authority. "It’s one thing for the bishop to silence dissent in the Church," she reportedly told the Montana Catholic. "It’s another thing when the Church enters the halls of the capitol to silence dissent in the public arena."
Despite the disagreement, Schiedermayer said there was no public or official excommunication of Keenan. "Publicly, all of the statements are not anywhere near threats of excommunication. In fact, there are no threats of sanctions at all," he said. [Source]
I had thought the story of her alleged excommunication sounded rather fishy when I read it before. I am aware of no Catholic Politicians of having been publicly excommunicated for supporting abortion. The only example I can think of is that some Louisiana politicians were excommunicated in 1962 by Archbishop Rummel for opposing desegregation. Now we actually have a case of somebody who once said they were personally opposed to abortion now heading one of the largest abortion advocacy agencies. If this isn’t the perfect example of that monumental lie, then I don’t know what is. It is not quite clear whether Keenan still considers herself a Catholic or goes to a Catholic Church.