By MEG KINNARD - Associated Press Writer
Published - Nov 13 2008 09:04PM EST | AP
A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishionersthat they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they votedfor Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supportsabortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation withintrinsic evil."
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letterdistributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church inGreenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take HolyCommunion before doing penance for their vote.
"Our nation haschosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politicianever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president,"Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middlename of Hussein.
"Voting for apro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative existsconstitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and thoseCatholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion ofChrist's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in thiscondition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they arereconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drinktheir own condemnation."
During the 2008 presidential campaign,many bishops spoke out on abortion more boldly than four years earlier,telling Catholic politicians and voters that the issue should be themost important consideration in setting policy and deciding whichcandidate to back. A few church leaders said parishioners risked theirimmortal soul by voting for candidates who support abortion rights.
Butbishops differ on whether Catholic lawmakers _ and voters _ shouldrefrain from receiving Communion if they diverge from church teachingon abortion. Each bishop sets policy in his own diocese. In theirannual fall meeting, the nation's Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday toforcefully confront the Obama administration over its support forabortion rights.
According to national exit polls, 54 percent ofCatholics chose Obama, who is Protestant. In South Carolina, whichMcCain carried, voters in Greenville County _ traditionally seen asamong the state's most conservative areas _ went 61 percent for theRepublican, and 37 percent for Obama.
"It was not an attempt tomake a partisan point," Newman said in a telephone interview Thursday."In fact, in this election, for the sake of argument, if the Republicancandidate had been pro-abortion, and the Democratic candidate had beenpro-life, everything that I wrote would have been exactly the same."
ConservativeCatholics criticized Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004for supporting abortion rights, with a few Catholic bishops sayingKerry should refrain from receiving Holy Communion because his viewswere contrary to church teachings.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh,spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she hadnot heard of other churches taking this position in reaction to Obama'swin. A Boston-based group that supports Catholic Democrats questionedthe move, saying it was too extreme.
"Father Newman is off base," said Steve Krueger, national directorof Catholic Democrats. "He is acting beyond the authority of a parishpriest to say what he did. ... Unfortunately, he is doing so in amanner that will be of great cost to those parishioners who did votefor Sens. Obama and Biden. There will be a spiritual cost to them forhis words."
A man who has attended St. Mary's for 18 years saidhe welcomed Newman's message and anticipated it would inspire furtherdiscussion at the church.
"I don't understand anyone who wouldcall themselves a Christian, let alone a Catholic, and could vote forsomeone who's a pro-abortion candidate," said Ted Kelly, 64, whovolunteers his time as lector for the church. "You're talking about themurder of innocent beings."