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Division among US bishops on sanctions for politicians

While Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin says he has no plans to deny Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, St Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke plans to issue a pastoral letter informing even Catholics who vote for a pro-choice politician that they are "committing a mortal sin".

"It is a serious sin," Archbishop Burke told the local Catholic newspaper. He added that a person who voted that way could receive Communion only after a "true repentance" and obtaining absolution by going to confession. "It's not right to support candidates who are for abortion," he added.

"It is not a matter -- as in the case of politicians whose positions are public -- of denying Communion to voters who support pro-abortion candidates," the archbishop said. "But Catholics who support such pro-abortion candidates participate in a grave evil. They must show a change of heart and be sacramentally reconciled or refrain from receiving holy Communion."

Archbishop Burke publicly stated that Catholics sin by voting for candidates who favor abortion during an interview June 24 with St. Louis radio station KMOX-AM. It was in response to one of many questions he was asked about a variety of subjects.

Meanwhile Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who heads the US bishops' task force studying Catholics in public life told his fellow bishops that withholding Holy Communion from politicians or others could hurt the church in its efforts to stop abortion and euthanasia.

McCarrick made the comments during the bishops' closed-door spiritual retreat last week in suburban Denver.

"Disciplinary actions are permitted," McCarrick said. "But they should be applied when efforts at dialogue, persuasion and conversion have been fully exhausted."

McCarrick said keeping the sacrament from defiant Catholic lawmakers could turn Communion into a "partisan political battleground", create a backlash in support of abortion rights and raise concerns about the loyalties of Catholic politicians.

St. Louis prelate says voting for candidate who backs abortion a sin (Catholic News Service 29/6/04)
Cardinal Says Denying Communion May Hurt ( 23/6/04)
Madison bishop identifies Communion criteria (The Capital Times 25/6/04)

Catholic bishops to work on ending rifts (Detroit News 13/6/04)
Program Details (ABC Religion Report 30/6/04)
Runaway Priests: Church pays horrific price for clerical indifference (Dallas Morning News 29/6/04)

30 Jun 2004