Friday, November 14, 2008

"Repent"? "Repudiated."

It's all over the wires now, but for the two or three who haven't yet heard, a South Carolina pastor won himself a new batch of fervent fans -- and just as ardent critics -- with his post-electoral exhortation in the parish bulletin...
Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place 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.
...and then, once the AP -- and Drudge... and everyone else -- ran the story under the headline “Priest: No Communion for Obama Voters,” responded as follows:

Last Wednesday morning I received five written questions about last week’s bulletin column from the Greenville News, and I answered those questions in writing. The third question asked “Are you saying that you’ll administer a no-communion policy unless Obama voters partake in penance?” Here is my answer:

“I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices, even as I continue to teach what the Church teaches about the necessity of being in full, visible communion with the Church before receiving the sacraments. Only those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches and who seek to live according to that teaching should even be interested in receiving the sacraments of the Church, and on the question of the intrinsic and grave evil of abortion, there is and can be no doubt about what the Church teaches.”

When a reporter from the AP called to ask about the story which appeared in the Greenville News, I forwarded my written answers to her and verified by email that she received them. So, the AP knew that I stated categorically that “I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices,” and yet it was on the basis of the slant in the AP story that the world was then told that my position is “No Communion for Obama Voters.”

I insisted on receiving and answering the original questions in writing precisely because I knew that this might turn into a very ugly brawl designed to make me look like a raving lunatic seeking to coerce voters through spiritual blackmail rather than a shepherd warning his flock about the spiritual danger of supporting abortion, whether directly or indirectly....
As the rapidly-expanding diocese currently awaits a new ordinary, after a local church spokesman appeared to signal its support for Fr Jay Scott Newman's position, earlier today the kindly fellow holding down the hot seat -- 83 year-old Msgr Martin Laughlin, the diocesan administrator -- publicly rapped the priest (simultaneously sending his spokesman, Steve Gajdosik, under the bus), lamenting in a statement that, as a result of Newman's comments, the "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.
A video from Laughlin has likewise been posted by the diocese. According to one well-placed source on the ground, the understanding also included Newman pulling his statements from the parish site (a development which had reportedly taken place later Friday evening; the St Mary's site was inaccessible, ostensibly due to a heavy number of hits).

While the octogenerian cleric -- who also runs a parish on top of his chancery duties -- could've attended this week's November Meeting as diocesan administrator, Laughlin's humility kept him back home.

In a related story, a California woman reported being "humiliated" after a parish priest publicly chastised her -- and followed out her of church -- for pro-Barack Obama messages written on the windows of her car, which was parked in the lot during Mass.

The headline-making cleric -- who attempted to snatch a journalist's notebook away when visited by local media -- was reported to have a history of "outbursts."