South Carolina Update: Priest's statement on Obama voters repudiated

As Father O'Neal noted in a comment on the previous post, the public letterby a Greenville, SC, pastor, Father Jay Scott Newman, saying those who voted for Obama should go to confession if they are to receive communion, has been repudiated by the adminstrator of the Diocese of Charleston. (The diocese covers the entire state, and is between bishops.) Father Newman seems to have put Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin in a difficult spot, as he is the Administrator, not the new bishop. But Laughlin was forthright in his statement:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (November 14, 2008) - This past week, the Catholic Churchs clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion has been pulled into the partisan political arena. The recent comments of Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Marys Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C., have diverted the focus from the Churchs clear position against abortion. As Administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, let me state with clarity that Father Newmans statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Churchs teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated.The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. The Catechism goes on to state: In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lords Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and 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.The pulpit is reserved for the Word of God. Sometimes Gods truth, as is the Churchs teaching on abortion, is unpopular. All Catholics must be aware of and follow the teachings of the Church.We should all come together to support the President-elect and all elected officials with a view to influencing policy in favor of the protection of the unborn child. Let us pray for them and ask God to guide them as they take the mantle of leadership on January 20, 2009.I ask also for your continued prayers for me and for the Diocese of Charleston.

The CNS story on Laughlin's statement says Newman was not available for comment, and his original letter, printed in the parish bulletin and posted online, does not seem to be available at the parish website any longer.PS: Rocco has lots of info about the episode, including text of a follow-up note by Newman, also since removed from the parish website, defending himself against what he says were media misrepresentations of his answers to an AP reporter's questions. "I insisted on receiving and answering the original questions in writing precisely because I knew that this might turn into a very ugly brawl designed to make me look like a raving lunatic seeking to coerce voters through spiritual blackmail rather than a shepherd warning his flock about the spiritual danger of supporting abortion, whether directly or indirectly..."

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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