November 16, 2008

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



  1. Tom, I couldn’t agree more. Well done.

    Comment by Rose — November 16, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  2. I think there is more to this than meets the eye. There is evidence to show that Fr. Laughlin was coerced in some way.

    Comment by BakerStreetRider — November 16, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  3. Well done. What’s clear is that some Bishops and diocesan officials will have to find their backbone regarding this issue. In the meantime, it sadly falls upon the shoulders of informed laity to help them find the courage to teach Catholic doctrine to Catholics. Weird state of affairs.

    Comment by Jack L — November 16, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  4. Outstanding!

    Comment by thetownecrier — November 17, 2008 @ 1:21 am

  5. [...] being said, let us explore what the Catechism has said.  Bizzy Blog has done an outstanding job in collecting this together. Father Newman made no “statements [...]

    Pingback by SC Priest’s Abortion Supporter’s Statements Repudiated, Yet Catechism Stands « Quipster — November 17, 2008 @ 2:18 am

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