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US politicians warn of of anti-Catholic hate revival

48 Catholic members of Congress have signed a letter warning that the church risks bringing "great harm" on itself if bishops decide to deny Communion to legislators who support abortion rights or take other public positions that are odds with church doctrine.

In a 10 May letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, the legislators, all House Democrats, wrote that they were concerned about recent statements by some members of the Catholic hierarchy "indicating that the sacrament of communion should be withheld from certain Catholic legislators because of their votes on public issues."

"We do not believe it is our role to legislate [according to] the teachings of the Catholic Church," wrote the legislators, some of whom oppose abortion rights. "For any of us to be singled out by any bishop by the refusal of communion or other public criticism because we vote in what we believe are the requirements of the United States Constitution and laws of our country, which we are sworn to uphold, is deeply hurtful."

The legislators said denying the sacrament to legislators based on their voting records "would be counter-productive and would bring great harm to the Church."

McCarrick is chairing a seven-member task force of bishops that is considering whether to recommend sanctions in guidelines on how bishops should respond to Catholic lawmakers who do not uphold church values in their work. The legislators requested a meeting with McCarrick and possibly with other members of the task force to discuss the matter.

McCarrick told The Associated Press last month that Roman Catholic politicians who advocate policies contrary to church teaching on abortion and other issues may risk sanctions that fall short of denial of Holy Communion.

"I have not gotten to the stage where I'm comfortable in denying the Eucharist," he said.

In their letter, the legislators wrote that while the "paranoid anti-Catholicism" that once denied public office to church members seems to be in the past, "attempts by Church leaders today to influence votes by the threat of withholding a sacrament will revive latent anti-Catholic prejudice, which so many of us have worked so hard to overcome."

House Democrats issue warning to church (Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer 20/5/04)

48 House Catholics send warning to Bishops (MSNBC/Washington Post 20/5/04)
Catholics vote with wallets on bishop's Communion ban (Denver Post 20/5/04)
Florida Bishop Rebukes Pro-Abortion, Communion Receiving Catholics (Lifesite 18/5/04)
Michael Novak: A Pope & a President (National Review Online 18/5/04)

21 May 2004