Democrats in U.S. Congress Assail Denial of Holy Communion

Church Being Used for Partisan Purposes, They Tell Cardinal McCarrick

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 20, 2004 ( Forty-eight Catholic Democrats in Congress sent a letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick saying the indications by some bishops to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians were “deeply hurtful” and counterproductive.

The letter is the first organized response by Democratic legislators since a number of Catholic bishops declared that they would withhold Communion from politicians who favor “abortion rights,” the New York Times reported today.

The letter’s signers, including at least three House members with strong pro-life voting records, said the bishops are “allowing the Church to be used for partisan purposes.”

They also question why these bishops made abortion a litmus test while ignoring politicians who voted counter to the Church by endorsing the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

Cardinal McCarrick is the chairman of a bishops’ task force asked to devise recommendations for U.S. prelates on relations with Catholic politicians.

Recently, Coadjutor Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, asked that those in public office who support abortion to refrain from receiving Communion.

“Today, some self-identified Catholic politicians prefer to emulate Pontius Pilate’s ‘personally opposed but unwilling to impose’ stance,” he wrote in a statement.

“Perhaps, they are baiting the Church, daring an ‘official sanction’ making them ‘bad Catholics,’ so as to gain favor among up their secularist, ‘blue state’ constituencies,” the coadjutor bishop added. “Such a sanction might turn their lack of coherent Catholic convictions into a badge of courage for people who hold such convictions in contempt.”

Bishop Wenski went on to say, “You cannot have your ‘waffle’ and your ‘wafer,’ too. Those pro-abortion politicians who insist on calling themselves Catholics without seeing the contradiction between what they say they believe and their anti-life stance have to do a lot more of ‘practicing’ [holiness]. They need to get it right before they approach the Eucharistic table.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Oregon, also recently asked those in public office who support abortion to refrain from receiving Communion.

That prompted a prominent donor in the Colorado Springs Diocese to threaten to revoke a $100,000 pledge to his parish’s building project and to enlist others to take similar steps, the Denver Post reported Wednesday.

In a scathing “open letter,” businessman Ric Kethcart contended that Bishop Sheridan’s stance hearkens back to McCarthyism.

Peter Howard, Bishop Sheridan’s executive assistant, said the diocese is willing to sacrifice dollars to stake a moral claim, the Post reported. Already, some Catholics in the 10-county diocese who support Bishop Sheridan’s leadership have increased their giving, Howard said.

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