Defiant Catholic Voters Shouldn't Receive Communion, Say 2 Bishops

Prelates in Colorado and Oregon Extend Warnings Beyond Politicians

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, MAY 14, 2004 ( Bishop Michael Sheridan says that Catholics should not receive Communion if they vote for politicians who defy Church teaching by supporting abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.

The Colorado Springs bishop delivered this message in a pastoral letter published last week.

A similar idea was presented by Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Oregon, who also spelled out his position in a newspaper column last week.

Bishop Sheridan, 59, wrote in his pastoral letter: «Anyone who professes the Catholic faith with his lips while at the same time publicly supporting legislation or candidates that defy God’s law makes a mockery of that faith and belies his identity as a Catholic.»

In a telephone interview, the bishop told the New York Times: «I’m not making a political statement. I’m making a statement about Church teaching.»

In his pastoral letter, he wrote: «Among the many distortions and misrepresentations that prevail in the current debates about the relationship between religion and the social order (politics) is the assertion that faith and politics are to be kept separated. This, apparently, is based upon the American doctrine of the separation of church and state.

«In fact,» he continued, «the wall that separates church and state is the safeguard against both the establishment of a state religion and the imposition of sectarian religious beliefs and practices, such as particular denominational forms of worship or theological tenets. In no way does the American doctrine of separation of church and state even suggest that the well-formed consciences of religious people should not be brought to bear on their political choices.»

After explaining the obligation of the faithful and Catholic politicians to show their faith in public, Bishop Sheridan wrote: «There must be no confusion in these matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ‘ipso facto’ place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation.»

«Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences,» wrote the prelate.

«It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance,» Bishop Sheridan stated.

Archbishop Vlazny, in his column in the Catholic Sentinel newspaper, touched on the same points.

«Should Catholics who choose to vote for pro-choice politicians refrain from reception of the Holy Communion?» he asked.

«If they vote for them precisely because they are pro-choice,» the Portland prelate continued, «I believe they too should refrain from the reception of Holy Communion because they are not in communion with the Church on a serious matter.

«But if they are voting for that particular politician because, in their judgment, other candidates fail significantly in some matters of great importance, for example, war and peace, human rights and economic justice, then there is no evident stance of opposition to Church teaching and reception of Holy Communion seems both appropriate and beneficial.»

Archbishop Vlazny, 67, added: «Catholics who do support pro-choice politicians still have serious responsibilities with regard to their stance on this matter. They must make it very clear to these politicians and governmental leaders that their support is in no way based on the pro-choice advocacy of these political leaders.»

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