Catholics Voters Getting Mixed Messages About Obama

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Just days after a South Carolina priest instructed parishioners who voted for Obama to go to confession before receiving Communion, his diocese issued a letter repudiating the order. At the same time, a Vatican official, speaking at Catholic University, equated America’s future under an Obama presidency with Christ’s agony in the garden.

Since Obama’s victory on Nov. 4, Catholics have been bombarded by conflicting reports of what they should or should not have done when electing the nation’s forty-fourth president.

For instance, just last week Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, S.C., issued a letter to his parishioners 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 explained 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.”

However, this letter was quickly followed by another issued by the administrator of the Charleston South Carolina diocese repudiating Fr. Newman’s stance. In a Nov. 14 statement, Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin said Fr. Newman’s comments did not “adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teaching” on abortion and conscience and said that “any statements or comments to the contrary are repudiated.”

Msgr. Laughlin said that Fr. 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, Msgr. 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 favor of the protection of the unborn child.”

Also during the same week, during a lecture at Catholic University in Washington, DC, Cardinal James Stafford, an American and Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See, equated the election of Barack Obama to a “cultural earthquake.”

“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal,” the Cardinal said. “We will know that garden.”

During the lecture entitled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul,” Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must now deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”

Citing the passage of Roe v. Wade and the rejection of the papal encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae as a turning point in the nation’s moral history, Stafford spoke about the decline of a respect for human life and the need for Catholics to return to the original values of marriage and human dignity.

“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”

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What is a properly formed conscience? Fr. Richard Rego explains this complicated topic clearly and concisely in a Contemporary Adult Guide to Conscience, available for only $2.95 at

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