Remarks on Obama said not to reflect church teaching

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 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,” Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin said in a Nov. 14 statement.

Father 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.

Monsignor Laughlin said that Father 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, Monsignor 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.” He invited people to pray for the new president and his administration as they take office Jan. 20.

In his letter, Father 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.”

Father Newman’s letter also reminded parishioners to pray for the president-elect and “to cooperate 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,” Father Newman wrote.

Calls made to Father Newman Nov. 14 were not returned.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.