Bishops React to Priest who Told Obama-Supporting Catholics to Confess before Receiving Communion
By Kathleen Gilbert
GREENVILLE, South Carolina, November 14, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A South Carolina Catholic priest who advised Obama supporters in his flock not to receive Communion before going to confession elicited polarized responses from the Catholic community, ranging from outrage at a misuse of authority to warm praise for championing Church teaching on abortion. Today LifeSiteNews.com spoke with bishops Gracida, Vasa, and Chaput, all known for their outspokenness on political issues, about the priest’s actions.
Following Obama’s election, Fr. Jay Scott Newman wrote a letter to parishioners stating, "Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."
Therefore, as Fr. Newman writes, "Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."
Fr. Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, explained to local news that he will not refuse Communion to individual parishioners, as Church law would require in the case of a pro-abortion Catholic politician or other well-known public figure. Instead the priest is simply exhorting all Catholics who supported Obama’s pro-abortion ticket not to approach the altar. (To see Fr. Newman’s full letter, go to: http://www.stmarysgvl.org/ourparish/2008-dedication-of-the-l...)
St. Mary’s is considered the mother church for upstate South Carolina Roman Catholics, with 7,500 registered members.
“Personally, I think it is valuable to have this discussion in the secular media because, many times, many Catholics don’t go to mass, and so they come at this issue from a secular viewpoint,” said diocesan spokesman Steve Gajdosik to the Greenville News.
“I think to Father Newman’s credit, he isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues. And sometimes there is a lot of pressure to conform and just be nice and go along.”
Fr. Newman’s sentiments aligned with those of Msgr. Martin Laughlin, the diocese’s administrator.
"We must not be guided by the so called ‘lesser of two evils’ or attempt to justify the acceptance of intrinsic evil for some greater good. We may never embrace evil," Msgr. Laughlin had written in an October letter, in which he called abortion "an affront to human dignity."
Archbishop Burke, formerly archbishop of St. Louis, MO and the current Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, had said in an interview just before election day that for a citizen to not "support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life" is "to participate, in some way, in the culture of death which pervades the life of the nation and has led to so much violence.”
Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, TX, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) his reaction to Fr. Newman’s letter "is one of admiration and awe. I find nothing in what he has written that is at variance with the Magisterium of the Church. He is to be congratulated."
Bishop Vasa of Baker, OR told LSN that, while Fr. Newman was correct to say that voting for Obama constitutes a material offense against moral teaching, it would nonetheless be impossible to "to ascertain with any degree of certainty the sinfulness of the action of any particular voter" as many voters may or may not have been aware of Obama’s extreme stance on abortion.
In a further statement, Fr. Newman appears to agree with Bishop Vasa. Newman said his statement on the "enormously complex subject" could be easily distorted when taken out of the context of his fidelity to normative Church doctrine. Within this context, he said, "no one could conclude that a vote for Senator Obama is in itself or by itself a mortal sin.
"But from that same teaching, though, we must conclude that a vote for a pro-abortion candidate can be a mortal sin if the intent is to support abortion, that abortion is not merely one issue among other important issues, and that no Catholic should endorse a pro-abortion politician if a plausible pro-life alternative is available." (http://www.stmarysgvl.org/ourparish/2008-dear-friends-in-chr...)
Bishop Chaput, one of the most outspoken bishops on political matters, declined to comment on Fr. Newman’s letter, stating only that Charleston diocesan administration had authority to speak on the matter.
"Praise God for priests with mettle enough to put what’s right and good for their flocks before what is politically expedient," said Jim Sedlack, Vice President of the American Life League. "We pray more men like Fr. Newman will stand up and enforce Canon 915." Canon 915 deals with the subject of the distribution of Communion to those who are obstinately persisting in grave sin.
Numerous U.S. bishops issued a sustained volley of statements throughout the months prior to the presidential election condemning Catholics who supported pro-abortion candidates; these statements often contained thinly veiled references to Obama, considered by many to be poised to become the most pro-abortion president in history.
Prior to his election to the pontificate, Cardinal Ratzinger had written to U.S. bishops saying that Catholics indiscriminately receiving communion without discerning their worthiness "is an abuse that must be corrected," and that voting for a pro-abortion candidate without proportionate reason incurred moral guilt that disqualified a Catholic from receiving communion (See: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2005/apr/050419a.html).
See related LifeSiteNews.com articles:
Can Catholics Who Vote for Obama Still Receive Communion?
Special Report: Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, General Principles