PORTSMOUTH, England, March 24, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Some Catholic MPs in Britain are incensed after Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan told LifeSiteNews in an interview published earlier this month that those who voted in favor of same-sex “marriage” or who publicly support abortion “shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.” One MP pointed to Pope Francis as justification for voting in favor of same-sex “marriage” last July.
“I think it is a great pity, indeed a tragedy, that this bishop appears not to have noticed that we have a new gentle shepherd preaching a Christ-like message of inclusivity, love, tolerance and forgiveness,” said Conor Burns, a Conservative MP who voted for same-sex “marriage” legislation that came into effect this month. Burns’ Bournemouth West seat lies in Bishop Egan’s diocese.
“I look to the guidance of the Holy Father Pope Francis,” Burns said.
In his interview with LifeSiteNews, Egan called it an “act of mercy” to deny Communion to anti-life-and-family politicians.
“When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favor of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” he said.
Bishop Egan explained that rather than a punitive measure, the denial of Holy Communion is “always an act of mercy.” It is done, he said, “with the hope and prayer that that person can be wooed back into full communion with the Church.”
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Egan’s statements reflect those of American Cardinal Raymond Burke who recently called a priest’s refusal to give Holy Communion to a publicly dissenting Catholic politician a “prime act of pastoral charity,” since it helps the person in question to “avoid sacrilege and safeguard[s] the other faithful from scandal.”
But Catholic MPs called Egan’s statements “a tragedy,” saying that ordinary Catholics would be “appalled,” reported The Tablet.
According to paper, 47 out of about 82 Catholic MPs voted for same-sex “marriage” in the House of Commons when the marriage bill was passed by 400 votes to 175.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who voted for the legislation, called Bishop Egan an “old-fashioned diehard.”
“There are some old-fashioned diehards in the Church, just as there are in the wider community. But most Catholics I know would be horrified if anyone was barred from communion simply for voting to support other Catholics who are gay, or Catholic women who want the right to choose.”
But during the interview, Bishop Egan made it clear that denying communion to politicians obstinate in opposing Church teaching is not something he made up.
“Nobody is forced to be Catholic,” Egan said. “We’re called by Christ and He’s chosen us, it’s a free choice. We live under the word of God. It’s not my truth, its God’s truth.”
The law of the Church in Canon 915 states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” since they have made themselves unworthy to receive the divine guest Jesus.
John Smeaton, head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), defended Egan as a “fearless pastor.”
“His words have reverberated around the Catholic community in Britain and are strengthening that community at a time when their faith, when unborn children, and when the Holy Eucharist itself, are being trashed by pro-abortion enemies within the Church itself,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Smeaton put the following question to the Catholic MPs: “If the Government introduced legislation which targeted Catholic MPs, so that they could be executed with impunity, would they or would they not say publicly that fellow politicians who voted for or who supported such legislation, without apologizing, retracting and refuting their position, may not go forward to receive Holy Communion?”
“What is the difference in God’s eyes between the sanctity of life of a Catholic MP or the sanctity of life of an unborn child?” he asked.