Update: After reading -and posting, the following AP report, I wated to thank the heroic priest for his strong words. I went to his parish website to get his e-mail address and to my surprise I found this disappointing letter:
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week I wrote a column for our Sunday bulletin just as I have done every week for the past seven years, and when I wrote it, I had no thought that it would be read by anyone other than parishioners of St. Mary’s or out of the context of everything that has been taught and preached here, from the pulpit or in writing, over these seven years. And yet that was precisely the result of the distortion of my words by the Associated Press. For an in depth explanation of what I wrote and what I did not write, please see the bulletin insert today which begins “Priest: No Communion for Obama Voters.”
Of course, I said nothing of the kind and explained very carefully and in writing to both the Greenville News and the Associated Press that “I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices.” Nevertheless, the AP story was written to create the false impression that I intended to deny Holy Communion to those who voted for Senator Obama; I did not.
My bulletin column last week was exactly 542 words—a space in which no comprehensive description could be offered of an enormously complex subject. That is why what I wrote last week has to be read in light of the teaching of the American bishops on “Faithful Citizenship” which was distributed in the bulletin the week before the election and explained from the pulpit. From that document and the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, no one could conclude that a vote for Senator Obama is in itself or by itself a mortal sin. But from that same teaching, though, we must conclude that a vote for a pro-abortion candidate can be a mortal sin if the intent is to support abortion, that abortion is not merely one issue among other important issues, and that no Catholic should endorse a pro-abortion politician if a plausible pro-life alternative is available. I regret that I did not take time last week to parse out every stipulation of the Church’s teaching, because the failure to do so allowed those who oppose that teaching to ridicule it by falsely asserting that I intended to deny Holy Communion to anyone who voted for the president-elect or that I presumed to know or judge their conscience. Again, for a fuller discussion of these issues, please see today’s bulletin insert.
As I write these words, I have received over 3,500 emails from around the world. Most of the people who wrote seem to regard me as either a mighty champion of reform or an evil tool of the devil, and I am naturally hesitant to accept either title. In truth, I am but a useless servant of the Lord Jesus trying, despite my frailty, to be a faithful witness to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I hope that everyone who reads these words will study what the Church teaches about freedom of conscience, political responsibility, and the absolute sanctity of human life. As I explain in the introduction to the Principles of Evangelical Catholicism which guide pastoral practice at St. Mary’s, everything about us must be measured and guided by the Gospel: our thoughts, words, actions, bodies, relationships, spending habits, political convictions, lifestyle choices, and business decisions. But this total surrender to Christ and His Gospel is not a restriction of our freedom; in fact, it is the beginning of authentic discipleship and the only path to evangelical liberty.
[HT: Jill Stanek for AP report]