By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The pastor of a Catholic church in South Carolina has asked parishioners who voted for Barack Obama to refrain from taking communion until they have made a full confession and done penance.
Fr. Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina distributed a letter to all parishioners on Nov. 9 informing them that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Communion before repenting of their vote for “the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senator or to run for president.”
His letter goes on to explain that “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place 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.”
While acknowledging that the policies of the Church do not allow him to refuse to administer communion, he expressed his hope that parishioners in his parish will decline on their own.
According to national exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama. In South Carolina, which was carried by pro-life candidate Sen. John McCain, voters in the mostly conservative Greenville County went 61 percent for McCain, and 37 percent for Obama.
Members of the parish were not offended by the letter. One man, who has attended St. Mary’s for 18 years, said he welcomed the pastors position and said it would inspire further discussion at the church.
“I don’t understand how anyone can call themselves a Christian, let alone a Catholic, and could vote for someone who’s a pro-abortion candidate,” said Ted Kelly, 64, who serves as lector in the parish. “You’re talking about the murder of innocent beings.”
However, national pro-Obama Catholic groups such as the Boston-based Catholic Democrats, voiced their complaints to the Associated Press.
“Father Newman is off-base,” said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. “He is acting beyond the authority of a parish priest to say what he did. … Unfortunately, he is doing so in a manner that will be of great cost to those parishioners who did vote for Sens. Obama and Biden. There will be a spiritual cost to them for his words.”
Fr. Newman remains nonplussed. “It was not an attempt to make a partisan point,” he said in a Nov. 13 telephone interview. “In fact, in this election, for the sake of argument, if the Republican candidate had been pro-abortion, and the Democratic candidate had been pro-life, everything that I wrote would have been exactly the same.”
He told the Greenville News on Wednesday that he will continue preaching on the “intrinsic and grave evil of abortion” and called Obama and Joe Biden’s abortion support a “divisive issue.”
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