SC Catholic Priest Makes Firm Post-Election Doctrinal Statement on Abortion and Voting

Why wasn't there more of this before the election?

The headline at a Greenville, SC News story carried at USA Today says, "Priest urges penance for Obama voters."

Father Jay Scott Newman is actually demanding it of those who would claim to be faithful Catholics. In the process, he is also stating longstanding Church policy on abortion that has largely been absent from Sunday pre-election homilies at Catholic churches for at least a half-dozen presidential election cycles -- policy that Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and other politicians who claim to be Catholic have long ignored (bolds are mine):

A priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Greenville has told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama placed themselves under divine judgment because of his stance on abortion and should not receive Holy Communion until they've done penance.
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told The Greenville News on Wednesday that church teaching doesn't allow him to refuse Holy Communion to anyone based on political choices, but that he'll continue to deliver the church's strong teaching on the "intrinsic and grave evil of abortion" as a hidden form of murder.
..... In a letter posted on St. Mary's website, Newman wrote that "voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil." Catholics who did so should be reconciled to God through penance before receiving communion, "lest they eat and drink their own condemnation," Newman wrote, echoing a I Corinthians admonition for anyone who partakes "without recognizing the body of the Lord."
The response from parishioners has been supportive by a margin of 9 to 1, Newman said. He also cited Scripture in urging parishioners to pray for Obama and cooperate with him wherever conscience permits.
..... No matter the intention of the voter, Newman said a vote for Obama is "material cooperation" with his goal of extending access to abortion.
Asked in an e-mail interview if he would actively deny the sacraments to Obama voters, Newman said he won't because the church teaches that no one is denied communion unless it would cause "grave scandal," such as in the case of a notorious public sinner. However, he said he'll continue to teach the necessity of being in "full, visible communion" with the Church before receiving the sacraments.

Note to Greenville News reporter Ben Szobody: It's "Father Newman" or "Fr. Newman" every time his name appears, not "The Rev" when you feel like it. This should not be "controversial" (a favorite media word for "majority or accepted opinion we journalists don't like"), but it almost surely will be.

A more pertinent question is why the Church's teaching was rarely reinforced in the months leading up to the election. Is it because many priests are nonchalant about this pivotal Church doctrine? Are they afraid to risk collection basket receipts by offending their more liberal parishoners with the uncomfortable truth? Or are they intimidated by the likes of Barry Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State and others, who have threatened churches speaking out on political matters of faith with IRS harassment?

Given that preventing grave sin is at least as important as atoning for it, how much failure by priests other than Father Newman to speak out periodically on the intrinsic evil of abortion does there have to be before their relative silence is interpreted by God as "material cooperation" -- especially when such silence may be one of the main reasons why Obama and Biden, instead of the mostly prolife John McCain and more strongly prolife Sarah Palin, are the current president- and VP-elects?

I'm not in a position to judge, but I believe, given the result 10 days ago, it is more than fair to ask the question.

Cross-posted at

Abortion Media Bias Debate Religion Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential Labeling Christianity Major Newspapers USA Today Regional Media South Carolina Jay Scott Newman