Saturday, November 15, 2008


The South Carolina priest who told his congregation that they needed to repent before receiving communion if they had voted for Obama has gotten the repudiation of his chancery and the approval of some of the bishops.

According to a story linked at Spirit Daily, Fox News reports:

Newman said he would not deny anyone communion because of their political choices, but he told his flock of 2,700 families that they should first seek penitence if they voted for Obama, who supports abortion rights. The Catholic Church considers abortion an act of murder.

"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," Newman wrote.

That view was rejected Friday by the Newman's own diocese.

"Father Newman's statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated," said Msgr. Martin Laughlin, administrator of the Charleston Diocese, which is currently without a bishop.

Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have issued various rulings on whether Catholics who support abortion can receive communion.

"The Church hasn't said as a body what this individual priest has said, namely that anybody who has voted for Barack Obama shouldn't go to communion," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest and FOX News contributor.

"If anybody voted for Barack Obama because he is pro-abortion, that would certainly be an objective moral wrong," he said. "There are a lot of discretionary areas in politics on which two good Catholics could differ, but the respect for life is not one of these."

Newman and his church have received a thunderous response -- and more than 4,000 e-mails -- both praising and deriding the priest for his comments.

At home in his parish, however, church members said the response has been mostly positive.

A different picture of Msgr. Laughlin's response is painted by a LifeSiteNews.com report:

Archbishop Burke, formerly archbishop of St. Louis, MO and the current Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, had said in an interview just before election day that for a citizen to not "support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life" is "to participate, in some way, in the culture of death which pervades the life of the nation and has led to so much violence.”

Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, TX, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) his reaction to Fr. Newman's letter "is one of admiration and awe. I find nothing in what he has written that is at variance with the Magisterium of the Church. He is to be congratulated."

Bishop Vasa of Baker, OR told LSN that, while Fr. Newman was correct to say that voting for Obama constitutes a material offense against moral teaching, it would nonetheless be impossible to "to ascertain with any degree of certainty the sinfulness of the action of any particular voter" as many voters may or may not have been aware of Obama’s extreme stance on abortion.

In a further statement, Fr. Newman appears to agree with Bishop Vasa. Newman said his statement on the "enormously complex subject" could be easily distorted when taken out of the context of his fidelity to normative Church doctrine. Within this context, he said, "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." (http://www.stmarysgvl.org/ourparish/2008-dear-friends-in-chr...)

Bishop Chaput, one of the most outspoken bishops on political matters, declined to comment on Fr. Newman's letter, stating only that Charleston diocesan administration had authority to speak on the matter.

The response from Fr. Newman's chancery seems to be one of confusion based upon these two conflicting reports. Perhaps Msgr. Laughlin is attempting to weasle his way out of the spotlight in light of the controversy among the bishops, and not knowing who the next bishop of his diocese will be. In any case, Fr. Newman has exhibited courage in taking a stand and deserves approval for it. Msgr. Laughlin's position reflected in the Fox article is disappointing.

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