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WASHINGTON — A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest who had warned Barack Obama voters not to take Communion without first confessing their sin said Friday (Nov. 14) he will not deny the sacrament based on “political opinions or choices.”
But the Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville reiterated his belief that “any Catholic who supports or endorses the intrinsic evil of abortion has, by that fact, placed himself or herself outside of full communion with the church.”
Last Sunday, Newman warned people who voted for President-elect Obama that they “drink and eat their own condemnation” if they do not confess before receiving Communion.
“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil,” Newman wrote in a column that ran in St. Mary’s church bulletin last Sunday (Nov. 9).
“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 continued.
But Newman’s hard line may run afoul of church law, the will of U.S.
bishops and even the pope himself, two prominent Catholic scholars said.
“If the bishops wanted 54 percent of the Catholic population (who voted for Obama) to go to confession before receiving Communion, they would have said so at their meeting in Baltimore,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center.
He added: “There’s a good reason why priests should not say stupid things but be very careful when talking about confession, Communion and politics.”
At their semi-annual meeting this week, the nation’s Catholic bishops vowed to fight abortion but did not agree on how to deal with Catholics who support abortion rights.
In a 2004 letter to Catholic bishops, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI a year later, said Catholics voters are “permitted” to support pro-abortion rights politicians as long as their vote is cast for “other…proportionate reasons.”
Newman could not be reached for comment, but he sought to “clarify”
his remarks in a column posted on St. Mary’s Web site Friday, saying he “cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices.”
The priest said he has received 3,500 e-mails from around the world.
“Most of the people who wrote seem to regard me as either a mighty champion of reform or an evil tool of the devil.”
According to an online biography, Newman grew up in Greensboro, N.C., among Southern Baptists and Church of the Brethren family members.
After professing atheism at age 13, Newman was baptized in the Episcopal Church in 1982, later joined the Catholic Church and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1993.
Nicholas P. Cafardi, a Catholic scholar and expert in canon law who endorsed Obama, said Newman’s position is not supported by church law.
“I don’t know any serious person in the church who would share his view,” Cafardi said. “It’s not up to him to judge whether (people about to receive Communion) have committed a grave sin. And it’s certainly a leap to say that those who voted for Senator Obama committed a grave sin.”
By Daniel Burke
c. 2008 Religion News Service
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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