SC Update: Priest’s letter on sinfulness of Obama voters officially repudiated

The public letter by a Greenville, SC, pastor, Father Jay Scott Newman, saying those who voted for Obama should go to confession if they are to receive communion, has been repudiated by the adminstrator of the Diocese of Charleston. (The diocese covers the entire state, and is between bishops.) Father Newman seems to have put Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin in a difficult spot, as he is the Administrator, not the new bishop. But Laughlin was forthright in his statement:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (November 14, 2008) – This past week, the Catholic Church’s clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion has been pulled into the partisan political arena. The recent comments of Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C., have diverted the focus from the Church’s clear position against abortion. As Administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, let me state with clarity that Father Newman’s statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.” The Catechism goes on to state: “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.”
Christ gives us 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.
The pulpit is reserved for the Word of God. Sometimes God’s truth, as is the Church’s teaching on abortion, is unpopular. All Catholics must be aware of and follow the teachings of the Church.
We should all come together to support the President-elect and all elected officials with a view to influencing policy in favor of the protection of the unborn child. Let us pray for them and ask God to guide them as they take the mantle of leadership on January 20, 2009.
I ask also for your continued prayers for me and for the Diocese of Charleston.

The CNS story on Laughlin’s statement says Newman was not available for comment, and his original letter, printed in the parish bulletin and posted online, does not seem to be available at the parish website any longer.

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CF in Naples, FL

posted November 15, 2008 at 9:09 am

U.S. Catholic Bishops have specifically addressed the issue of worthiness to receive communion: “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper”: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist, Copyright © 2006, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Canon Law is explicit: CIC, c. 912: “Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.” Prohibited by canon law means (a) excommunicated (and there is a specific procedure for so doing that does NOT consist in a priest’s “because I say so”) or (2) in a state of mortal sin. In the latter case, the onus is on the communicant and not on the minister.

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Meredith Gould

posted November 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I respectfully and sociologically suggest that the speed with which everyone assumed this was true is more interesting than whether it was, in fact, true!

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Fr. Guy Selvester

posted November 15, 2008 at 3:31 pm

To CF in Naples,
First of all your comments would be received better if you didn’t remain anonymous. (It’s easy to hurl epithets from the cheap seats). Second, if a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Communion is aware that someone is in mortal sin then it is both their duty and their prerogative to DENY Communion to a person. So it is most definitely their call.
Holy Communion is NOT a right. As a Sacrament it is a gift from God and NO ONE can claim it as a right. Quoting laws (Canon or Civil) to one another is hardly helpful. Everyone should be more concerned with erring on the side of charity. This includes the misguided clergy who attempt to mix politics with religion (which is wrong) as well as the people who are offended by that and try to use Canon Law to browbeat people into submission.

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posted November 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Fr. Selvester-
Thank you very much. You are the first person I have read in a blog or comment that spoke directly to the issue of ANY of us “quoting laws to one another.”
I, for one, have found it very confusing to start trying to go down various Canon this and Canon that when people start quoting. However, I am very fortunate to have a thoughtful and active Pastor who continually advises and prays with us (individually and as a parish) about conscience formation. He encourages all of us who feel passionately about politics to enroll in RCIA and learn what The Church teaches and how The Church teaches.
Anyway – I thank you for your comment.

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posted November 16, 2008 at 1:21 am

What’s tragic is that anyone would care what some mitred pinhead would say about bread and wine that remain bread and wine, or how his minions argue in support of their insubordination. The Eucharist is not a right, it is a mass delusion.

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posted November 16, 2008 at 11:55 am

No doubt Father Newman’s objection to Obama is based on his views on abortion and gay marriage. It seems that so many Catholic clergy (and other “Christian” leaders) and “spokesmen (any women?)” are so outraged about abortion, gay marriage, etc., but I don’t hear them demand an end to war, joblessness, starvation, corporate greed,and non-education with equal energy.____Jesus didn’t talk much about sex, but sure emphasized love and care of neighbor, especially the least among them. Have our leaders forgotten the Sermon on the Mount and the Works of Mercy?

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Tom Bombodil

posted November 16, 2008 at 5:50 pm

You wrote: “Jesus didn’t talk much about sex, but sure emphasized love and care of neighbor, especially the least among them.”
I think the unborn certainly qualify as the “least among” us. It is incredible to think that Jesus would not have condemned abortion.

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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 3:13 pm

A sane response and a respectful one – and we need more of both in our discussions. I find it almost unbelievable that persons of faith can react the way they do to each other as so many do in these blogs.

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posted November 17, 2008 at 3:43 pm

People like Father Newman need to understand that there are more effective and appropriate ways to reduce the number of abortions. Look at a reports from the World Health Organization that compares countries and their abortion policies and you will clearly see that legislation is fairly inneffective because when single women can’t afford the costs of childbirth and then raising a child, they usually will find some way to obtain an abortion. This is usually done in a methodoligical way that is far more disturbing than the current methods and producing more death to both the unborn and to the mother. It also creates more death through the spread of disease.
What is effective is the provision of social supports such as education, living wages (especially fair wages for women), better maternity leave options, and especially health insurance. These are all things that would have been included in McCain’s “across the board spending freeze” that he mentioned in the last debate. Providing as many alternatives to abortion as possible is what it really means to be pro-choice. As it is now there are only 2 choices.
Its not hard to understand how poverty is related to abortion. That being said; was it a sin that I voted for Gore and Kerry? I did so because I support all life, not just for the unborn. Had I voted the other way, I would have helped put us in the situation that we now find ourselves in: record unemployment, foreclosures, and deficit as well as a faultering stock market.
The vast majority of abortions take place outside the U.S. which means we should consider a candidate’s foreign policies as well. Continuing to support free trade agreements that initiate gross human and environmental rights violations create more poverty in already impoverished areas is going to create more abortions.
Additionally, the IPCC has already concluded that the number of people who are going to die from climate change will be very serious. Most likely, when considering the resulting violence over resources and land lost, it will dwarf the abortion numbers. Therefore, we should also consider a candidate’s environmental policy initiatives.
Along with all of that is the fact that we live in a Democracy! When you try to force the beliefs of the minority upon the whole of sociaety, you are undermining democracy. That is why finding solutions that can be embraced by the majority (universal health care, living wages, education, etc.) works in a democratic country while legislation will do very little, even if it Roe v. Wade is ever actually overturned. Look at the history of our politics. Sure Bush had the opportunity to appoint 2 Supreme Court Justices, but Obama is just as likely to have that same opportunity. This pattern of going back and forth for has existed for decades. So thinking that you are making a difference by voting for a “pro-life” candidate is a little dillusional. Given the horrible things that have happened under Bush and the fact that it has made no difference in the abortion rate, should people repent for voting for him?
The bottom line is that just because you have a different idea about how to solve a problem, does not mean you are in contrast to the teachings of the Church and should be denied its most sacred element. sing the Eucharist as a political tool as a small handful of bishops did in 2004, is just plain sacralegious and again, undermines democracy.
People like Father Newman seem to think that abortion is a simple, cut and dry issue with only one morally acceptable solution. He is looking at the tree and not the forest. There were a lot of propogandist e-mails (i.e. born alive and the false information about the Freedom of Choice Act) that probably influenced his statement. I would be more than happy to address any questions regarding that last statement. Ignorance breeds more ignorance and when it is being proliferated and supported by religious figures, it is all the more disturbing. When you have ignorant (I don’t mean that in a pejorative way) leaders, it makes people question whether they should follow these leaders and can potentially turn away someone who may have been intereted in Christianity and/or Catholicism. That is one reason why seperation of church and state is good for both church and state. Also, because there are too many people like Father Newman who do not understand the complexities of certain issues. Maybe he thinks a theocracy is the answer. Just look to the middle east to see how well that works out. People like Father Newman are repulsive to progressive Catholics and non-Catholics. I pray that God will judge us on our intentions and not the actual outcomes of our actions.
Perhaps Father Newman should repent for proliferating ignorance, misusing Communion,and encouraging people to vote for candidates who will ultimately cause more suffering and death. Thank God, the Diocese of Charleston provided the voice of reason because if leadership of the Church were left to people like Father Newman, there would be a lot fewer Catholics and more human suffering.

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posted November 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm

There is no doubt in my mind that the views expressed is purely racist!!

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Your Name

posted November 18, 2008 at 9:15 am

Bob,__I agree completely with you that the Eucharist should not be politicized and that Catholics have the right to vote for whomever they choose, so long as they are not acting with deliberate intent to promote some intrinsic evil, such as abortion. I also agree that the problem of abortion and how to reduce, or preferably eliminate, its occurrence needs to be addressed in a much broader and more practical context than it currently is within the narrow arena of abortion politics as it is played out here in the United States – to the benefit of absolutely no one except for certain politicians who are able to use the issue as a political tool when running for office.____Where we disagree is that I support legal protection for the unborn and believe that it is the duty of all of us who have been made disciples of Jesus Christ to support such legislation whenever there is a real chance of it being enacted. Otherwise ,the unborn represent a unique class of human beings who are completely disenfranchised of any legal status or protection, a morally unacceptable condition of society that must be opposed for as long as it exists.__

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posted November 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Your name, Your logic of Catholics should vote as long as they are not acting with deliberate intent to promote intrinsic evil. What do you call Obama’s record and promise to increase the killing of babies with Foca. That is deliberate voting for and intrinsic evil. Are you not listening to the Pope and your Bishops. Past that are you not listening to Jesus Christ

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