Pastor rebuked for chastising parishioners who supported Obama

By  Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
  • November 17, 2008
{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The administrator of the diocese of Charleston, S.C., said a pastor who told his parishioners they should refrain from receiving holy Communion if they voted for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama did not "adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teaching" on abortion and conscience.

"Any statements or comments to the contrary are repudiated," Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin said in a Nov. 14 statement.
Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Church in Greenville, S.C., said in a letter to his parishioners that Catholics who voted for Obama, who supports legalized abortion, would have to be reconciled with God through the sacrament of penance before faithfully receiving Communion again. The letter was published on the front page of the parish bulletin Nov. 8-9.

Laughlin said that Newman's comments "diverted the church's clear teaching on abortion" by pulling it into the "partisan political arena."

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Laughlin said that Christ gives everyone "the 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," he said.

The diocesan administrator also urged Catholics throughout South Carolina to unite to support Obama and other elected officials "with a view to influencing policy in favour of the protection of the unborn child." He invited people to pray for the new president and his administration as they take office Jan. 20.

In his letter, Newman said members of his parish who voted for Obama had placed themselves "outside of the full communion of Christ's church and under the judgment of divine law."

"Persons in this condition should not receive holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the sacrament of penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation," he wrote.

The priest called Obama "the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president."

Newman's letter also reminded parishioners to pray for the president-elect and "to co-operate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise."

"Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good," Newman wrote.

Calls made to Newman Nov. 14 were not returned.

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