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October 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Brazilian Catholics are expressing outrage following a mass in which the country’s main socialist candidate for president, Fernando Haddad, who is perceived as pro-abortion, was given the sacrament of Holy Communion in a Catholic parish by a priest who is openly supporting his candidacy.

The priests attached to the parish have issued a statement defending the action, citing Pope Francis’ famous dictum, “Who am I to judge?” and claiming that anyone who approaches the altar must be given Communion.

Haddad, whose Labor Party has traditionally supported abortion as a “right,” has made statements in the past hinting at some degree of support for legalized abortion, while claiming that he is “personally against abortion.” He has spoken in favor of the Supreme Court defining the limits in which abortion can occur and says it is the purview of the Court to decide such matters. He has also spoken in favor of homosexual “marriage.” 

His vice presidential running mate, Manuela D’Ávila, has openly endorsed legalizing abortion during the pre-campaign, although she has stopped speaking about the topic since then. D’Ávila accompanied Haddad to the mass and allegedly received communion as well.

Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law says that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Despite this, many priests and bishops ignore the canon and distribute Holy Communion, which the Church teaches is the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to public officials who actively advocate for abortion while purporting to be Catholic.

Haddad received communion from Fr. Jaime Crowe, who spoke during the mass to welcome Haddad. “We feel honored by your presence,” said Fr. Crowe, according to the Brazilian publication O Globo.

Fr. Crowe also appeared to attack Haddad’s rival for the presidency, Jair Bolsonaro, regarding his tough-on-crime stance and proposal to arm the Brazilian populace in order to protect them from violence, which is rampant in Brazil.

“How did we get to this point?” asked Crowe during the homily, according to O Globo. “When someone can say to us that a good crook is a dead crook. Someone can say to us: it’s necessary to arm the whole world. Arms are instruments of death. A Christian must be in favor of life.”

Following the mass, Haddad, accompanied by his vice-presidential candidate Manuela D'Ávila, spoke to the gathered faithful and the press, attacking Bolsonaro’s position on the right to bear arms. 

“Bolsonaro is violence, he is bullets, Bolsonaro is lack of respect. He is the representation of all that is bad in terms of violence in this country,” said Haddad, who went on to accuse Bolsonaro of being a “Nazi.”

Jair Bolsonaro is a Catholic who strongly opposes both the legalization of abortion and homosexual “marriage” in Brazil. He was stabbed in September by a socialist while campaigning in the city of Juiz de Fora, and almost bled to death before arriving at a local hospital. It took him weeks to recover. 

The appearance by Haddad followed a meeting between the candidate and representatives of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) a day earlier, and appears to be a ploy to receive more Catholic votes. Haddad reportedly promised the CNBB that he would not introduce any bills to legalize abortion, a promise similar to the one made by pro-abortion President Dilma Rouseff, also of the Labor Party, when she was running for office. 

The visit also occurred on the feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida, an image of the Virgin Mary venerated by Brazilian Catholics. 

Woman objects, but priests quote Pope Francis: 'Who am I to judge?'

When a woman approached Haddad after the mass to express her disagreement with his reception of Holy Communion despite his support for the legalization of abortion, Haddad questioned her religious belief. 

“I am the grandson of a religious leader. You must be an atheist,” Haddad told the woman. 

According to the Brazilian publication Estadão, the woman declined to identify herself, but characterized Haddad’s presence in the parish a “sacrilege,” in the words of the publication. The expression was echoed by a large number of blogs and in other internet media. 

“The Catholic Church doesn’t permit it,” she reportedly said. “He is an abortionist. He shouldn’t be here inside [the church].”

In response to the controversy, the priests of the parish issued a statement defending their decision to invite Haddad, quoting Pope Francis and invoking the name of Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero, figures who are dear to the ideological left who were recently canonized by Francis.

“Regarding the fact that the candidates received communion, we clarify that the Rite of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church is the unique moment of reflection and decision of the faithful. We trust in the conscience of each one, and to quote the words of Pope Francis, “if they seek God, who am I to judge?”

“We feel ourselves to be in communion with the Church of Brazil that also received other candidates for the government of São Paulo in the Basilica of Aparecida and in the Sanctuary of Saint Jude Thaddeus,” continue the priests.

“We reaffirm, with heads held high, walking on the path of Jesus the Nazarene, with Saints Oscar Romero, Paul VI, and Saint Dias, Martyr of this region, and with Paul Evaristo Arns, let us have hope, we go forth -. . . From Hope to Hope . . .’”

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