LONDON, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales assured Catholic Members of Parliament this week that there are “no plans” to refuse them Holy Communion after they voted to support the “gay marriage” legislation that came into effect yesterday.
Greg Pope, head of parliamentary relations at the conference and a former Labour Party MP, wrote to MPs assuring them that comments by the bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, on the Church’s Code of Canon Law forbidding Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” would not be applied to them.
Today the media office of the bishops’ conference confirmed with LifeSiteNews that the letter was addressed to the Catholic MPs with the bishops’ full authorization. “Many thanks for your mail. Mr. Greg Pope was speaking as a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,” a spokesman with the bishops’ Catholic Communications Network said.
Greg Pope was chosen as the liaison between the English Catholic bishops and Parliament despite his consistent voting record in opposition to traditional moral teachings. Pope has supported abortion, adoption by homosexual partners, and artificial contraception.
“The statement was approved by the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference after appropriate consultation. ‘There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs who voted in favour of same sex marriage legislation last year,’” the spokesman said.
Pope’s letter came in response to a LifeSiteNews interview with Bishop Philip Egan in which he said that denying Communion to someone engaged publicly in grave sin is an “act of mercy” and a “medicinal” remedy for Catholics.
He said, “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church … in terms of the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.”
“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 refused to be intimidated by the possibility of opposition, saying “Nobody is forced to be Catholic.”
“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, it’s God’s truth. One would hope that in that case it would encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord with the truth and say I’m sorry I got lost.”
A spokesman for Bishop Egan told LifeSiteNews today that he would not be giving further statements on the subject.
Bishop Egan’s comments were a reiteration of canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which says, “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, has repeatedly insisted that Communion “must” be refused to those who publicly defy Catholic moral teaching. So far, however, the issue remains contentious with most bishops refusing to implement the canon. While it is a “hot button” issue in the US, Bishop Egan’s comments were the first time the Church’s law on the issue has been brought up by the English Catholic episcopate.
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Portsmouth MP Conor Burns, a Catholic who voted for the legislation, told the Telegraph that the bishop’s message had affected him, saying he now “felt unable” to receive Communion in his parish. Burns, who is a chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s relations with the Holy See, called Bishop Egan’s comments a “tragedy.”
“I feel a little less welcome in my home diocese than I did a couple of weeks ago,” he added.
In the dissident Catholic Tablet magazine, Burns castigated Bishop Egan for failing to get with the Pope Francis program: “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. I look to the guidance of the Holy Father Pope Francis.”
The Tablet also quoted Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh calling the recently appointed Egan an “old fashioned diehard.” “Most Catholics,” McDonagh said, “would be horrified if anyone was barred from communion [sic] simply for voting to support other Catholics who are gay, or Catholic women who want the right to choose.”
Greg Pope has come under heavy criticism by pro-life campaigners in Britain after he was appointed as deputy director of the Catholic Education Service. The appointment was decided unanimously by the interview panel chaired by Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the CES and Archbishop-designate of the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
Bishop Philip Egan
Bishop’s House, Bishop Crispian Way,
Phone: (44) (0) 23 9282 0894
Email: [email protected]
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Phone: (44) (0) 020 7798 9033
Email: [email protected]