November 16, 2008

Abortion Voter Update: Press Coverage of SC Priest’s ‘Repudiation’ Ignores Superior’s Earlier Support, Clever Dodges in Official Letter

The plot surrounding Father Jay Scott Newman’s admonishment to Barack Obama-supporting parishoners has thickened.

On Friday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted news that Fr. Newman, a Catholic priest and pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, South Carolina, had informed parishoners who voted for Barack Obama in full knowledge of the Illinois Senator’s aggressively proabortion positions that they “should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance.”

This is not a controversial position, but rather, as shown at BizzyBlog earlier today, bedrock Catholic teaching, to the point where if you vote for a known proabortion presidential candidate or any other candidate in a position to meaningfully influence the law and do not repent, you’re not a legitimate practicing Catholic. Period.

Well, it turns out that Father Newman originally had the full support of Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, the acting administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, which currently does not have a bishop. But two days later, Msgr. Laughlin reprimanded Fr. Newman in what appeared to be fairly harsh terms (they really weren’t; I’ll get to that).

Most of the press has covered the story as if Msgr. Laughlin’s initial support never existed. But Carolyn Click’s report at The State on Friday (HT Catholic Culture) shows otherwise:

While Newman has been the most outspoken of South Carolina priests in the wake of the election, the administrator of the diocese of Charleston, Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, supports him fully, said diocese spokesman Steve Gajdosik.

“I think it’s fair to say that Father Newman’s letter echoes the sentiments of Father Laughlin,” he said.

In October, Laughlin wrote a letter on faith and citizenship to the state’s Roman Catholics that urged the faithful to be “moral voters.”

“It was more of a positive exhortation to do good, to do the right thing,” Gajdosik said.

Further, Catholic Culture reports the following (bold is mine):

….. other priests of the Charleston diocese had already indicated their support for Father Newman. On November 12, for example, Father Newman received this message:

Thank you for your statement. I wish the bishops would have been as forthright. Why did they not speak before the election?

That email message was sent to Father Newman by… are you ready?… Msgr. Laughlin.

Totally oblivious to all of this (or perhaps pretending to be), Fox News’s James Abrams and the Associated Press’s Meg Kinnard reported yesterday that, in Abrams’s words, Fr. Newman had been “officially repudiated.”

But read Kinnard’s AP story, smugly headlined “Communion For Obama Voters? Yes We Can!” at CBS News’s web site, and you simply will not find the “repudiation” the writers claim is there:

A Roman Catholic South Carolina priest should not have told parishioners who voted for President-elect Barack Obama to refrain from taking Holy Communion because of his stance in support of abortion, the church’s senior officer in the state said Friday.

“This past week, the Catholic Church’s clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion has been pulled into the partisan political arena,” Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, said Friday in a statement posted on the diocese’s Web site. Recent comments by the Rev. Jay Scott Newman, Laughlin wrote, “diverted the focus from the Church’s clear position against abortion.”

Earlier this week, Newman said in a letter to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion without first doing penance for voting for the Democrat.

Sorry, AP and Fox, “He shouldn’t have done it” is miles away from “what he said was wrong.” There’s a reason for that: What Father Newman said is right, and in total accordance with Catholic doctrine.

Nor will you find repudiation of Father Newman’s positions in the full text (PDF found here) of Msgr. Laughlin’s release. The good Monsignor “cleverly” stayed within the strict letter of Catholic doctrine while seeming to placate Fr. Newman’s earthly critics when he wrote that:

Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and to 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.

That’s cute, Msgr. Laughlin. As shown earlier today, the “teachings of the faith” are that abortion is intrinsically evil, and that voting for candidates who support abortion (and, in Obama’s case, advocate extending its practice beyond where it is today) is also intrinsically evil. A “Catholic” who claims that a vote for a known proabortion candidate is defensible if their conscience says so is only demonstrating that he or she has not “formed his or her conscience well”!

Msgr. Laughlin surely knows all of this. Yet in his “clever” statement pretending to undercut a parish priest while not really doing so, he deliberately missed an important teachable moment.


Voting Catholic in 2008 dissects it well, and deserves a full reading. But it would seem to boil down to this — a “higher authority” is exerting its authority in a manner that is not consistent with the wishes of THE Higher Authority:

Bishops who are differing on whether voters and lawmakers should refrain from receiving Communion are not in communion with the Catholic Church, and one ought to mosey on down the road if they are at all interested in their own salvation and that of their children.

Indeed. Catholic Culture asks a question conscientious reporters, if they still exist, would be attempting to answer:

Wouldn’t you love to see Msgr. Laughlin’s phone log for November 12-14?

The full text of Father Newman’s letter is also at the BizzyBlog link (originally found at the Boston Globe; HT Voting Catholic in 2008).

Cross-posted at

A Globalarmist’s ‘Surreal Scientific Blunder’ Noted in UK Paper; US Media Doesn’t Care

Earlier today, Christopher Booker at the UK Telegraph noted a “surreal scientific blunder,” followed by an attempted cover-up, that should cause everyone to question the source’s past and future credibility.

The source of the shoddy work is NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the outfit run by world champion globalarmist James Hansen. Hansen has in the past stated that “heads of major fossil-fuel companies who spread disinformation about global warming should be ‘tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.’”

What Booker reports causes one to wonder what the appropriate punishment should be for committing drop-dead obvious errors and integrity-lacking follow-up.

Part of the punishment is surely the Telegraph’s delicious headline, followed by Booker’s criticism (bolds are mine):

The world has never seen such freezing heat

A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore’s chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month …..

So what explained the anomaly? GISS’s computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs – run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious “hockey stick” graph – GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new “hotspot” in the Arctic – in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.

A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen’s institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.

…. whether, on the basis of such evidence, it is wise for the world’s governments to embark on some of the most costly economic measures ever proposed, to remedy a problem which may actually not exist, is a question which should give us all pause for thought.

No kidding. It’s also reasonable to ask why taxpayers or anyone else should be funding Hansen’s horrible handiwork.

McIntyre at Climate Audit reported the errors, with What’s Up With That also noting, on Monday, November 10. GISS’s blunder, and attempted back-and-fill, were both clear by Thursday. Yet a Google News search at 11 AM on “Hansen October” (quotes not used) for November 9-16 shows that the larger center-right blogs have picked up on the story, but that here has been no apparent traditional media interest. A similar New York Times search came up empty.

Thus, Mr. Hansen will more than likely be able to continue to spout off in front of congressional committees about the planet’s impending doom from global warming — even as evidence continues to mount that the earth is cooling.

Cross-posted at

SC Diocese Appears to Repudiates Catechism; SC Priest Is ‘Reined In,’ But Right (Update: Full Text of Letter)

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:15 am

New Post, 9 PM — “Press Coverage of SC Priest’s ‘Repudiation’ Ignores Superior’s Earlier Support, Clever Dodges in Official Letter.”


From Joseph Abrams at Fox News, following up on an original story blogged here on Friday:

Diocese Repudiates Catholic Priest Who Said Obama Supporters Should Not Seek Communion
A Roman Catholic priest in South Carolina is being reined in by his own diocese for saying parishioners who voted for Barack Obama should not seek communion until they have repented.

….. “Father Newman’s statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated,” said Msgr. Martin Laughlin, administrator of the Charleston Diocese, which is currently without a bishop.

Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have issued various rulings on whether Catholics who support abortion can receive communion.

An uncharitable commenter, whose comment has not been posted to ensure that his or her lack of charity is not widely known, apparently believes this ends the argument. It does no such thing, but I’ll do the honors of ending it.

Father Newman made no “statements contrary to Catholic teachings,” and if I may be so clever, Msgr. Laughlin didn’t say that he did. He said they were “inadequate.” But if even Laughlin had written, “The diocese repudiates every word of Fr. Newman’s statements,” the diocese would be wrong (see UPDATE; it is wrong), and I will reference material supported by official Catholic teachings to prove it.

Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.

As to voters’ responsibilities, here is EWTN’s Father Stephen F. Torraco in 2002, in “A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters”:

Q3. If I think that a pro-abortion candidate will, on balance, do much more for the culture of life than a pro-life candidate, why may I not vote for the pro-abortion candidate?

If a political candidate supported abortion, or any other moral evil, such as assisted suicide and euthanasia, for that matter, it would not be morally permissible for you to vote for that person. This is because, in voting for such a person, you would become an accomplice in the moral evil at issue. For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering. It is an issue that strikes at the heart of the human person and is non-negotiable. A disqualifying issue is one of such enormity that by itself renders a candidate for office unacceptable regardless of his position on other matters.

Q6. If I think that a candidate who is pro-abortion has better ideas to serve the poor, and the pro-life candidate has bad ideas that will hurt the poor, why may I not vote for the candidate that has the better ideas for serving the poor?

….. solidarity (with the poor) can never be at the price of embracing a “disqualifying issue.” Besides, when it comes to the unborn, abortion is a most grievous offense against solidarity, for the unborn are surely among society’s most needful. The right to life is a paramount issue because as Pope John Paul II says it is “the first right, on which all the others are based, and which cannot be recuperated once it is lost.” If a candidate for office refuses solidarity with the unborn, he has laid the ground for refusing solidarity with anyone.

Q7. If a candidate says that he is personally opposed to abortion but feels the need to vote for it under the circumstances, doesn’t this candidate’s personal opposition to abortion make it morally permissible for me to vote for him, especially if I think that his other views are the best for people, especially the poor?

A candidate for office who says that he is personally opposed to abortion but actually votes in favor of it is either fooling himself or trying to fool you. ….. If you vote for such a candidate, you would be an accomplice in advancing the moral evil of abortion. Therefore, it is not morally permissible to vote for such a candidate for office, even, as explained in questions 3 and 6 above, you think that the candidate’s other views are best for the poor.

Q14. Is it a mortal sin to vote for a pro-abortion candidate?

To vote for such a candidate even with the knowledge that the candidate is pro-abortion is to become an accomplice in the moral evil of abortion. If the voter also knows this, then the voter sins mortally.

A Catholic in a state of mortal sin cannot receive Communion, but must receive confession and do penance to get out of the state of mortal sin. This is of course exactly what Fr. Newman said:

“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,” Newman wrote.

Father Newman is thus inarguably right.

To the extent that his diocese “rejected” that view (which rejection, as noted above, is very vague; but see UPDATE), his diocese, currently serving without a bishop, is wrong. Any diocesan official or bishop can equivocate until the cows come home. Any and all such statements do nothing to change objective, eternal truth.


UPDATE: Local SC reax

More than 50 people demonstrated outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Greenville on Saturday afternoon in support of the priest who told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama shouldn’t receive Holy Communion until they’ve done penance because of Obama’s abortion stance.

A short time later, during a mass inside the church, the Rev. Jay Scott Newman spoke to the congregation about the national controversy stirred by his comments on the church Web site.

“I don’t know what kind of week you had, but I’ve had a pretty interesting week,” Newman said during the 5 p.m. mass.

The roughly 200 parishioners began clapping and then rose to their feet, applauding for more than a minute. When they stopped, Newman said, “I wrote my column in haste. I should have taken my time.”

Had he taken more time, he said, he would have done a better job of explaining his position, though he did not go into further details.

Feel free to use the above, Father.


In a Web site posting Friday, the diocese said it doesn’t believe parishioners who voted for Obama — who does not support overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion — should have to seek penance before partaking in Holy Communion.

The diocese is wrong.

UPDATE 2, 8 PM: Here’s the full text of Father Newman’s letter (HT Voting Catholic in 2008):

Dear Friends in Christ,

We the People have spoken, and the 44th President of the United States will be Barack Hussein Obama. This election ends a political process that started two years ago and which has revealed deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States. This division is sometimes called a “Culture War,” by which is meant a heated clash between two radically different and incompatible conceptions of how we should order our common life together, the public life that constitutes civil society. And the chief battleground in this culture war for the past 30 years has been abortion, which one side regards as a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the other side regards as a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state. Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president. We must also take note of the fact that this election was effectively decided by the votes of self-described (but not practicing) Catholics, the majority of whom cast their ballots for President-elect Obama.

In response to this, I am obliged by my duty as your shepherd to make two observations:

1. Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists 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.

2. Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th, he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal:

God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.


Father Newman