Priest Warns Obama Voters Against Receiving Communion

Catholic priest Rev. Jay Scott Newman has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving communion if they voted for Barack Obama. Why? Because Barack Obama doesn’t want to see women slaughtering themselves in effort to avoid being forced into life as government-controlled incubators.  In other words, he supports the right to safe and legal abortion. And Newman is having none of that.

South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.”

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.

“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,” Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middle name of Hussein.

“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.”

You may have read about Newman already on other feminist blogs.  What you may not have read is that he just so happens to be the feminist blogosphere’s own Daisy Deadhead’s priest.  It’s a small world, isn’t it?

Daisy says:

South Carolina is a death penalty state, as I have written before many times, and in the past, I organized prayer vigils for prisoners condemned to death. In fairness, Father Newman graciously allowed me use of the church and church facilities for these events, but notably did not himself attend. 

I have to ask: Why doesn’t this abortion-logic apply to other issues? Anyone who voted for 100 more years of war, as well as the continuance of capital punishment and the denial of universal health care (leads to DEATH, you know), should also confess and ask for penance, in my ever-humble opinion. 

And failing that, why can’t we simply call it a wash? Why is abortion the sole litmus test?

And Daisy, of course, is far from being the only Catholic to disagree with Newman.  Nationwide, 54% of Catholics voted for Obama, and in South Carolina’s very conservative Greenville County where Newman preaches, 37% of Catholics voted for Obama.  And, of course, many Catholics are in fact pro-choice and Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as other women.

It’s utterly ridiculous that we are seeing so many instances of religious figures telling their congregants how to vote, let alone challenging their right to worship based on political disagreement.  It shouldn’t be happening.  Especially when a vote for a pro-choice candidate is actually a vote for women’s lives.

Thankfully, at least someone is seeing reason.  The Diocese of Charleston has rebuked Newman and his statements.  It’d be great to believe it’s a sign that those in charge at the Catholic Church are finally getting a clue about the need for them to butt out of the political arena, but somehow I’m skeptical.


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24 Responses to Priest Warns Obama Voters Against Receiving Communion

  1. Kat says:

    I’m Catholic and, like the majority of my fellow Catholic voters, I voted for Obama. That’s really a strong message. This issue has definitely got the Catholics divided, but I find that of my Catholic friends who are so opposed to Obama, many don’t seem take into account anything but abortion. Any other poltical stance seems to be fine as long as women don’t have choice. That’s just crap.

    The church’s own guidance on the issue was not to name one candidate or the other as the church’s choice for president, but instead to urge all Catholics to carefully consider their choice after considering all the issues.

    I read an interesting article that has been circulating the blogosphere here: http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2058.

  2. Marnanel says:

    The Episcopal Bishop of Bethlehem wrote an interesting discussion of the implications for the separation of church and state of the actions of this priest. I thought I’d pass on the link.

  3. victoria says:

    I’ve gotta chime in on this as both a Catholic and as a theology grad student. This priest got it WRONG. He needs to take a refresher course in moral theology–no classmate of mine would be able to pass comps if they didn’t get such a basic question as this right. It is simply not true that voting Obama (or any pro choice candidate) = No Communion. He is twisting Catholic teaching to suit his agenda.

    It upsets me deeply that a leader of a congregation can promote such misinformation and cause such unnecessary turmoil in people’s hearts. I feel terrible for people who look to him as a teacher and spiritual guide.

  4. Holly says:

    Separation of church and state. If a church chooses to be involved in politics, it loses its tax exemption. Report them to the IRS.

    Personally, I think all churches should pay taxes.

  5. Pingback: Priest Warns Obama Voters Against Receiving Communion | Pelican Project Pro-Life

  6. evil_fizz says:

    The church’s own guidance on the issue was not to name one candidate or the other as the church’s choice for president, but instead to urge all Catholics to carefully consider their choice after considering all the issues.

    Well, it’s not as though the church can name a candidate without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. (Cue the bizarre passive aggression of Pulpit Sunday or whatever they called it.)

    If a church chooses to be involved in politics, it loses its tax exemption. Report them to the IRS.

    Holly, this is a bit of an overreach. Tax-exempt organizations like churches are free to counsel their members on political positions and to take positions on matters of public policy. They just can’t name candidates and make specific endorsements (although they are allowed to weigh in freely on ballot measures).

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  8. ol cranky says:

    If a church chooses to be involved in politics, it loses its tax exemption. Report them to the IRS.

    Holly, this is a bit of an overreach. Tax-exempt organizations like churches are free to counsel their members on political positions and to take positions on matters of public policy. They just can’t name candidates and make specific endorsements (although they are allowed to weigh in freely on ballot measures).

    fizz: normally, I’d agree with you except this goes beyond telling people how the church stands on an issue, this says that anyone who votes (or voted) for a candidate who doesn’t vow to legislate in accordance with religious doctrine is not eligible to receive sacraments. In short, Catholics were told specifically which candidate they were to vote for/against and does cross the line.

  9. evil_fizz says:

    this says that anyone who votes (or voted) for a candidate who doesn’t vow to legislate in accordance with religious doctrine is not eligible to receive sacraments. In short, Catholics were told specifically which candidate they were to vote for/against and does cross the line.

    Isn’t this an ex post facto issue? There was no pre-emptive statements that votes for Obama would disqualify one from communion, just that those who did vote for him should refrain from taking communion later. It seems this sort of nonsense rears its head all the time when a prominent pro-choice politician is elected. Kerry supporters were told the same thing.

    As much as I find it distasteful, the Catholic church and/or its surrogates are free to make abortion the dispositive issue in their political theology without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

  10. levicat says:

    I agree that churches should lose their tax-exempt status when they start preaching about politics. Especially when they NAME candidates, like in this case. Just b/c Obama is elected now does not mean he won’t be running again in 4 years, and denying communion based on political views is messed up. Doesn’t this send the message that whenever a person votes for a pro-choice politicians, they shouldn’t take communion, thus influencing voters/church-goers in every election?

    And how come the Catholics and Mormons pour so much money directly into politics (e.g., Prop 8) and still get to enjoy tax-exempt status?

  11. Adrian says:

    This is appalling. Even for people who believe aborting a fetus is wrong, always more wrong than having a pregnant woman die, I am outraged beyond words at the idea of holding such a value as more important than trying to stop war or torture, or relieve poverty or sickness.

    I’m curious about whether this priest went over the line of telling his parishioners that voting for Obama was an unforgiveable mortal sin before or after the election. (He didn’t say they could do penance for it before they could be Catholics in good standing again. *Murderers* can repent and be accepted in the church.) I think that if he only said it after the election, it’s a theological offense which the church is dealing with internally. If he said it before the election, it also becomes a civil problem relating to the tax-exempt status of the church.

  12. Kat says:

    I was in church every week in the months preceeding the election, and was never told which candidate to vote for. The church seemed to be actually extremely careful not to name one candidate or the other (although we probably all know they aren’t in favor of ANY pro-choice candidate). This particular priest broke ranks by making an issue of it, and the church is scrambling now to throw the disclaimers out there, and trying to figure out how so many Catholics voted for Obama without doing so in opposition to their own guidance.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/15/us/15bishops.html?ref=us

    Adrian — I do believe that the priest in question told his parishioners that they could confess their sin and then receive communion (which is pretty much the standard for any sin). However, IMHO there is no sin to begin with — the Bishops set forth that a vote could be made “despite” the candidate’s pro-choice stance as long as the voter believed he/she made the decision to vote for that candidate in good conscience after weighing all the issues.

    As an aside — my aunt is a nun and has been for 40-some years, and also identifies herself as a feminist. She voted for Obama and was horrified by Palin. So there are a lot of Catholics, even in the ranks, who don’t agree with this guy.

  13. exholt says:

    Though I am not Catholic myself, I grew up around many Catholics in my childhood neighborhood and live near a neighborhood with a large Catholic population.

    If this priest attempted to pull that BS in my area, he’d be laughed, ridiculed, and asked for his resignation/being pulled out of their church as the are tends historically to vote overwhelmingly Democratic and Obama won my area handily on Nov. 4th.

    Not only that, you’re far more likely to raise their ire by mentioning the GOP and its candidates in anything approaching a complementary manner….especially in this past election considering what transpired over the last 8 years.

    Moreover, what this priest pulled sounds far more like what some Protestant denominations, especially those of the fundamentalist right variety would pull judging by what I’ve observed firsthand and heard from classmates/co-workers.

    Also, this would not surprise undergrad classmates who were born and raised in South Carolina who frequently recounted how religious fundamentalism and social conservatism permeated their daily existence until they went out of state to attend college.

  14. evil_fizz says:

    And how come the Catholics and Mormons pour so much money directly into politics (e.g., Prop 8) and still get to enjoy tax-exempt status?

    Because of the way Congress and the IRS framed “politics”. Here’s their press release explaining 501(c )(3) status and political activity.

    As they state: “Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c )(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

    Ballot measures, like Prop 8, are not candidates, and thus churches get to weigh in however they’d like. There are other issues floating around (for example, related to the Mormon church’s advocacy and reporting its expenditures), but they are free to preach as they see fit on policy issues.

    If you’re asking why as a practical matter, it’s a 1st Amendment issue as well.

  15. Steeeeeeev says:

    As Karl Rove has shown us with “W”, any incompetent moron can profess to be against abortion and get a lot of votes… if he screws up the country, so what?

  16. Cara says:

    If you’re asking why as a practical matter, it’s a 1st Amendment issue as well.

    No it’s not. If it was, they’d be able to talk about candidates as well. But I do agree with you, from working at a non-profit, with how 501(c)(3) status works. I’ve seen the petitions against the Mormon church regarding the work on Prop 8, and haven’t signed because I know that they were within their rights legally, if not morally.

  17. Moreover, what this priest pulled sounds far more like what some Protestant denominations, especially those of the fundamentalist right variety would pull judging by what I’ve observed firsthand and heard from classmates/co-workers.

    Interesting that you are saying this. Jay Scott Newman was raised by a Baptist single mother in NC, proclaimed himself Rebel Atheist at a very young age, and eventually converted to Christianity after he got to Princeton. I’ve always thought he had a sort of southern-Protestant approach, which is likely a regional trait, simply from growing up here.

    Thank you for the link and the great comments. This whole thing has thrown me for a loop, to say the least.

  18. evil_fizz says:

    Cara, I have to disagree with you. Regulation of churches is, inevitably, a 1st Amendment issue, whether we’re talking about speech or the Establishment Clause (even if the 1st Amendment winds up being ancillary). With respect to 501(c )(3) status, it’s a bit different, but I think that the 1st Amendment is inevitably in the background.

    There’s a huge contingent of churches and church leaders who think that the tax-exempt rules should not preclude them from naming candidates. (And let’s be honest: if you stake out enough policy positions as a church, it becomes fairly clear which candidates you have in mind.)

  19. Unanimous_Person says:

    The issue of pro-life, and pro-choice is something that will raise controversy no matter where it rears its head, but I cannot help but think there may be a more underlying issue to this priests behavior. Lately I have seen many implications of racism towards Obama, and southern US DOES have that reputation, and what better way to conceal immoral and controversial motives, than with an understood immoral and controversial issue?

  20. ol cranky says:

    I’ve seen the petitions against the Mormon church regarding the work on Prop 8, and haven’t signed because I know that they were within their rights legally, if not morally.

    Cara: there’s been a lot of chatter that LDS actually funneled money to the YES on 8 campaign by telling congregants that donations to the fund would count towards their tithe. I’m not sure if this is true or not (I’m sure if it is they were very clever in how they handled it) but if it is true were does this fall on the legal spectrum?

  21. Cara says:

    Old Cranky, as someone working for a Planned Parenthood affiliate, I can and did ask supporters via our blog to donate to the SD Healthy Families No on 11 campaign. The affiliate is c3. And that’s totally legal. How the whole tithe thing works in relation to that, I do not know. But to the best of my knowledge it’s not really any different. A 501(c )(3) can encourage supporters to donate to other causes, even political ones, so long as they are not candidates.

  22. prefer not to say says:

    If anyone has read this far and is interested in the US Catholic Church’s *official* advice to its members on voting, you’ll want to take a look at this:

    http://www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/FCStatement.pdf

    It’s the document the bishops write and have distributed to church members in the month before election, reminding them that human life, family life, social justice, environmental stewardship and global solidarity are all values which a voter must take into account in order to make a moral choice.

    There were a number of bishops who refused to let it be distributed in their dioceses simply because it did not name abortion as the number one overriding issue on which to vote.

    Regardless of where you stand on abortion, voting your conscience is difficult and takes time and information, because there are many issues to be considered and weighed. Those who fantasize that they can do right simply by voting on one issue sell short the difficulty of being an honestly conscientious citizen.

  23. Jorge says:

    Also a Catholic (more spiritual), I sent a letter to St. Mary’s Church but have yet to receive a response. Please read it and my position at: http://www.examiner.com/x-948-Miami-Law–Politics-Examiner~y2008m11d13-An-open-letter-to-Pastor-Newman

  24. birdfarm says:

    Adrian, he did say you could confess –

    Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance.

    The Sacrament of Penance is the official name for what is commonly called confession.

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