Controversy over Catholic support for pro-choice Obama heats up in South Carolina

The administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston has repudiated a South Carolina priest who told his parishioners they should not take Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama.

The Sunday after the election, Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C. distributed a letter telling parishioners that those who voted for Obama should refrain from receiving the sacrament unless they first do penance because the President-Elect supports abortion rights and backing him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

The Associated Press reports:
"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."
In a statement [pdf] released Friday, Diocese of Charleston Administrator Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin said that the Church's teaching on the evil of abortion "has been pulled into the partisan political arena":
...[L]et me state with clarity that Father Newman's statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's 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.
With a voting record that repeatedly earned perfect ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Obama has emphasized the need to find common ground among supporters and opponents of abortion rights through efforts to minimize unwanted pregnancies. But that stance has not satisfied many in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The nation's Catholic bishops pledged last week to confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said:
Aggressive pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.
National exit polls showed that 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Poll data shows that Obama -- a Protestant -- performed especially well among Latino Catholics, more than two-thirds of whom chose him over McCain. Four years ago, Catholics overall favored Republican incumbent George W. Bush over Kerry by 52 percent to 47 percent.

However, McCain carried South Carolina this year, and voters in conservative Greenville County voted for the Republican by a margin of 61 to 37 percent.

(Photo of Rev. Jay Scott Newman administering Holy Communion from St. Mary's website)