Wisconsin Congressman Thumbs Nose at Catholic Bishop on Abortion-Communion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Wisconsin Congressman Thumbs Nose at Catholic Bishop on Abortion-Communion

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 9, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A Catholic Wisconsin congressman who backs abortion is thumbing his nose at his bishop, saying he won’t be "coerced" by former Milwaukee Archbishop Raymond Burke into voting to put the Catholic church’s pro-life beliefs into public policy.

In January, Archbishop Burke notified the Diocese of La Crosse that Catholic lawmakers in that diocese who persist in their support of abortion or euthanasia will be refused Holy Communion until they publicly renounce their "grave public sin."

In his first response to Burke’s pronouncement, Obey wrote an opinion article in a recent issue of America, a popular Jesuit magazine.

"In my view, Bishop Burke attempted to use his interpretations of theology to coerce me into taking specific positions on matters that I believe are matters of constitutional law," Obey wrote.

"The difference between us is that I am not trying to force him to agree with my judgments, but he is attempting to force me to agree with his. That in conscience I cannot do," Obey continued.

Obey claims he "detests" abortion and that he agrees with Catholic teaching that abortion is morally wrong. He also says he has voted more than 60 times in opposition to abortion.

But that claim doesn’t mesh with his voting pattern as a member of Congress.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, Obey has a 27% pro-life voting record during the current session of Congress and a 38% pro-life voting record in the last session.

Obey has frequently voted not only in favor of abortions, but in using taxpayer funds to pay for them.

Burke was installed as the Archbishop of St. Louis at the end of January.

Tony Huenneke, a spokesman for Archbishop Burke, told the Associated Press that the bishop had not seen Obey’s op-ed and did not have a comment.

In June, the nation’s Catholic bishops decided that they would not make a collective decision whether or not to deny communion to politicians who support abortion.

Since then, many bishops have said pro-abortion elected officials should voluntarily refrain from taking the Christian sacrament until they change their position.

"Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive holy Communion," Burke wrote in his memo to the Wisconsin diocese.

"They are not to be admitted to holy Communion, should they present themselves, until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices."

Related web sites:
National Catholic Bishops’ statement on communion and abortion – https://www.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.htm