Catholic Diocese Rebukes Priest Who Said No Communion for Obama Backers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Diocese Rebukes Priest Who Said No Communion for Obama Backers

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17
, 2008

Greenville, SC ( — The Catholic Diocese of Charleston has rebuked the priest who told parishioners that members of his church who supported Barack Obama should voluntarily refrain from receiving communion. The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said backing a pro-abortion candidate puts them out of step with Catholic pro-life teachings.

Newman said Thursday that Catholic Church policies don’t allow him to refuse to administer communion so he hopes the parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville will decline on their own.

He said his members should refrain from participating until they do penance for backing “the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president.

But Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin issued a statement in response on behalf of the diocese saying Newman shouldn’t have dragged the church into politics.

"This past week the Catholic Church’s clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion has been pulled into the partisan political arena," Laughlin said in a statement.

He said Newman’s comments "have diverted the focus from the Church’s clear position against abortion" and that they "do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings."

"Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and the teachings of the faith. Therefore, if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion," Laughlin said.

Father Newman wrote in a parish bulletin this weekend that his original comments were taken out of context by the Associated Press — which reported that he would deny communion rather than, as reported, that he wants parishioners to voluntarily consider whether they should repent before receiving it.

Relying on the document "Faithful Citizenship" produced by the nation’s Catholic bishops, Newman said his comments stemmed from that.

"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,’ Newman explained.

Newman said in his weekend homily that he has received thousands of emails from people both supporting and condemning his comments.

On Saturday afternoon, several dozen pro-life Catholics rallied outside the parish in his support and, when Father Newman celebrated Mass later in the day, his homily was interrupted by a lengthy standing ovation as his parishioners indicated their support.

When his gestures for silence failed to stop the applause, Father Newman, fighting back tears, turned to kneel, facing the Blessed Sacrament, until the congregation finally quieted down.

ACTION: Thank Reverend Newman by going to

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