Thursday, November 13, 2008

My priest advises penance for Obama vote

Father Jay Scott Newman


Possible secondary subtitle: What should Daisy do?

Italics in article below is mine.

Priest advises penance for Obama vote

Parishioners shouldn't take Communion until they do because of president-elect's abortion view, he says

By Ben Szobody • STAFF WRITER • November 13, 2008

The 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 shouldn't 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.

Both Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, support legal abortions. Obama has called it a "divisive issue" with a "moral dimension," and has pledged to make women's rights under Roe v. Wade a "priority" as president. He opposes a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court decision.

At issue for the church locally and nationwide are exit polls showing 54 percent of self-described Catholics voted for Obama, as well as a growing rift in the lifestyle and voting patterns between practicing and non-practicing Catholics.

In a letter posted on St. Mary's Web site, 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.

Bishops in Baltimore for their annual meeting this week are wrestling with how to explain church teaching on abortion in light of voters' choice of Obama, who is Protestant, and Biden, who is Catholic, according to The Associated Press.

Francis Cardinal George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told colleagues that "the common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed."

Bishops have more vocally spoken about abortion this election season, though the issue hasn't generated as much public debate as the decision in 2004 to deny then-presidential candidate John Kerry communion because of his abortion views.

Stephen Gajdosik, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, told The News that calling parishioners who voted for a candidate who supports legalized abortions to penance is a question of how best to deepen a flock's relationship to God and a move left up to local priests. He said such a move is appropriate and in line with church teaching.

In an e-mail interview, Newman cited a survey earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that showed fewer than 25 percent of the 65 million Americans who call themselves Catholic attend Mass each Sunday, a "disturbing fact of life" that he said shows the vast majority of those baptized into the church "do not live as disciples of Jesus Christ in any observable way."

Mass-attending Catholics, he said, "vote overwhelmingly" for candidates who oppose legalized abortion.

The Catholic dilemma coincides with a split in Protestant circles between those who consider abortion as a non-negotiable moral concern when voting, and emerging groups such as Sojourners who call for candidates to be evaluated on a "consistent ethic of life," abortion and the Iraq war included.

Newman calls abortion the "chief battleground" in the so-called culture wars, and different from "prudential" matters such as health care, education or the war on terror. A Catholic who gets an abortion, encourages one or assists in the procedure is automatically excommunicated from the church, Newman said, a penalty he said doesn't apply to other forms of killing.

"The reason is that abortion is usually murder in secret and it lays axe to human life at its root," he said. With nearly 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade, Newman said Obama would seek to make "hidden murder" a legally protected right, and anyone who voted to give him such power "will be complicit in the legal holocaust which will follow."

Asked about the moral weight of abortion, Gajdosik said that if only three abortions per year took place in the United States, while an objectively immoral war took thousands of innocent lives, then the war might outweigh abortion as a moral concern.

As it is, he said, the weight of large numbers of innocents "slaughtered" should be the overwhelming issue of concern to Catholics.

Gajdosik said that for someone to be guilty of cooperating with evil, a person would have to know what's at stake and purposefully vote anyway for the candidate who supports legalized abortion.

Newman said, "An uninformed vote is an irresponsible vote," and that no informed voter this year could have mistaken the candidates' abortion positions.

No matter the intention of the voter, Newman said a vote for Obama is "material cooperation" with his goal of extending the use of lethal violence against unborn children.

Asked 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.
Yes, this directly affects me this time. This is my church, although my attendance is scattershot and I also go to Masses at various other parishes in the upstate. St Mary's is the oldest parish in the region and fairly stunning. (The beautiful stained glass art I have featured on my blog, is all from St Mary's.)

St Mary's members are pretty affluent and old-south. After years of attempting to fit in socially, I simply gave up and moved on, for the most part.

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?

If I were as plucky as I once was, I'd make a point of attending daily Mass at St Mary's, but alas, Father Newman CANCELED daily Noon* Masses a couple of years ago. This made it impossible for many of us who work on weekends to attend at all. As it is now, my health issues have basically confined me to my home for a few more weeks anyway.

My last physically-demanding task was standing in line for an hour and a half to vote.


*EDITED TO ADD: As Anonymous pointed out to me, St Mary's offers very early (7am) daily Masses. I referred to the 12 Noon daily Mass being canceled, and was not specific. My deepest apologies. I am dimly aware of Masses at such ungodly hours, but mostly, have only heard of them by legend and yes, in the church bulletin. (((shame))) Sorry, I did not actually check the website before linking.


ArrogantWorm said...

Ah crap, it's ...I dunno. I don't remember a time when the 'thou shalt nots' actions/reactions were of equal weight myself, even though everyone and their pastor claims otherwise. You might find the verification word amusing though. "Poron", could swing to so very many things!

Rachel said...

I honestly don't get this whole "culture war" nonsense. Maybe it's because I'm Jewish and Judaism prohibits evangelizing, and we keep our culture close to the vest, but I just don't get all these people who want everyone to have the same cultural values as they have. What's the big frakkin' deal?

thene said...

Wow, so abortion policy is different from healthcare and education policies? And there was me thinking that abortion wasn't even separable from health and education.

Anonymous said...

Daily Mass is offered at 7:00AM Monday-Friday at St. Mary's.

Daisy said...

My bad. I should have said daily NOON Mass, and I will correct my post to say so.

Noon Masses fit better into the average work schedule, IMO.

social skeptic said...

Last I checked this planet was a little overcrowded anyway.

On one side, they want to drop bombs and slaughter women and children far from home. On the other side, they want to give women choices and give gays rights. Hmmm.

John Powers said...

It's no fair to blog on your blog--lol--but I noticed that when I finally picked 8 places to live in the USA for that meme, they were all Red states. In a somewhat related vein when I say that many of my best friends are Christians, most of them are Roman Catholics.

As far the the presidential election went there was an strong ethical component to it, and the ethical choice seemed very clear to me. But I also came to understand how much friends and neighbors voting for that other one was also a clear ethical choice.

So the question is how can I be so in step with the people around me and yet so out of step in some fundamental ways? The second question is how to talk about it. On this latter question you are an inspiration because is seems to me your answer is that we try and keep on trying.

I could never pass muster in an ecclesiastical court, but my reading of the Catholic Bishops' on this matter is that the matter of "intent" is between you and God. So that the matter of whether or not you need to seek penance really is something that's between you and your God not between you and your priest.

Nonetheless, I'm sure you understand better than I that the authority of the Church brooks no opposition to the anti-abortion position.

bint alshamsa said...


I just finished writing a post about what your priest is saying. Please stop by and take a look whenever you get the chance.

Not Even Angels

bint alshamsa said...

I just thought of something that I wanted to share with you, too. Philipians 1:6,7 says

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace."

To me, this verse points out that, ultimately, the Creator is the one who shows us how to do what is good and what is right, not any priest. The priest is, in God's eyes, simply another soul in need of divine grace. The priest can't even provide it for himself.

Jeremiah 10:23 says

"O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."

Proverbs 16:2 says

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives."

These verses reflect some of the same principles that John Powers brought up. Ultimately, the priest can only give you guidance. He doesn't have the ability to know anyone's motives, which is what the Bible says God weighs. Perhaps if he had voted for Obama he'd have been doing it based on his abortion stance--since this is the only issue that he uses to decide who to vote for. However, those who make voting decisions based on other things (e.g. the candidate's respect for life of all kinds and forms) aren't voting for abortion. They are voting for those positive changes that they think the candidate may be able to bring about if put into office.

Father Newman seems to have made the assumption that we so often see in closed-minded people, namely, that everyone views the world as they do.

John Powers said...

I went back and re-read your post. I think your Bishop makes clear that your priest can deny you communion for voting for Obama. I was interested to see a post at Firedoglake on the topic with a link there to a NCR article about the US bishop's fall meeting.

"A prophecy of denunciation quickly wears thin,” said Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, S.D."

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Heyyyyy ... I don't think that's a priest at all. I think it's Karl Rove in suspenders.

jovan b. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jovan b. said...

wow, I didn't know that is your church! I agree with Rachel, I hate this "culture war" nonsense. Abortion is a woman's right and denying her that right blatantly violates the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of our Constitution. I think that people should be excommunicated for taking away women's right to abortion.

BTW Daisy, do you know anything about Christ Church Episcopal School? My alma mater, Williston-Elko, is traveling to Greenville to play their football team today.

Daisy said...

Yeah, Jovan, richest school in the county. The tuition is more than some colleges!

bryce said...

heard this on npr, d. newman is hitting the bigtime. he'll be even more insufferable than b4-if possible.

Anonymous said...

This is a way to assure his rich, Republican parishioners they've made a moral choice rather than one in their class interests. One of the unfortunate side effects of religion is that it can make people feel they've acted morally when in fact they've done the opposite.

Kay Olson said...

Newman calls abortion the "chief battleground" in the so-called culture wars, and different from "prudential" matters such as health care, education or the war on terror. A Catholic who gets an abortion, encourages one or assists in the procedure is automatically excommunicated from the church, Newman said, a penalty he said doesn't apply to other forms of killing.

I like that he lays the mind-boggling inconsistencies right out there for all to see. You and yours do not matter as much as these fetuses over here. Especially if you're a woman who may need an abortion. Sorry, this is no church for you. Bless you. Go away.

Sorry you haven't been feeling well, Daisy. I hope it's something that can improve. And soon.

Anonymous said...

sending prayers/ good vibes your way
get better soon

LarryE said...

Hey Father Newman - how do you feel about Matthew 5:38-48? Refused anyone communion based on violating that?

Renee said...

Daisy trying again to comment for some reason it would not let me earlier...Anyways, What I find most interesting about this is that abortion is the only issue that the church found offensive. It seems that you can run a bigoted campaign, pledge to maintain an illegal war and state that torture is not problematic and God should be fine with all of that. What could possibly unchristian about all of that violence and is after all focused on the infidel right?

No the real evil in this world is that women are seeking to control their own reproduction. The world will just come to an end if women are autonomous beings, but continuing on as an empire which does not respect human rights is the path to heaven. I think I would rather say the hail marys.

John Powers said...

You know of course Daisy if you decide to blog about your ailments many of us will be interested. The same ones of us who are now thinking, praying and wishing you well.

Father Newman is getting his 15 minutes of fame. The story went out over Yahoo News and I saw it posted at Facebook today.

I went to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site and searched "Zubik" who is the Bishop of Pittsburgh. Bishop Zubik is a working class guy, and I'm inclined to like him. Basically prior to the election he wrote that in the election abortion was the paramount issue.

I couldn't really see how this position is all that different from your own Fr. Newman's. What is different is Zubik is looking for "middle ground" with the government. State money is really important for the Catholic operations here. Indeed the Catholic bishops are concerned that too much adherence to principle will have far reaching implications to their enterprises, e.g. hospitals.

It's also interesting that the point man in securing some "middle ground" is Archbishop Wuerl who before his elevation to archbishop was Bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl is an able politician. I shouldn't mention it, but will anyway: he was sometimes referred to as "Cinnamon Wuerl" here.

When I read bint alshamsa's blog post my thoughts about university priests turned to Oratorians. There doesn't seem to be an Oratory in Louisiana, nevertheless the tradition of academic scholarship and tolerance is deep in the Roman Catholic tradition. One of Bishop Wuerl's tasks when bishop here was to rein in the Pittsburgh Oratory under instruction from Rome.

Sorry to blather on. My main point is that US Catholic bishops are eager to find some middle way and not to blow the whole thing up. My sense is they'd rather not have the involvement of Catholic congregants in this. Father Newman has provide a great service in making sure that ordinary Catholics will have something to say in this matter. My sense is that Fr. Newman has already heard directives to the effect of "shut the F up." Methinks too late.

Vanessa said...

Well, personally I would show up with an Obama t-shirt on, but I'm antagonistic like that, and you know my opinion on the whole religion thing, anyway.

You should do what feels right for yourself, Daisy. That is all.

mikeb302000 said...

Wonderful post and wonderful comments.

I can't stand 1. a male priest speaking on behalf of a patriarchal religion telling women what they cannot do (and I'm a Catholic myself), and 2. the hypocrisy of pro-lifers who accept capital punishment.

Ann O'Dyne said...

MANY women who seek terminations do so because
the Impregnator lied to them prior, and
abandoned them after ...
so I am hoping FATHER Newman would deny lying impregnators communion also.

At the moment in England there is the shockig case of Baby P tortured over a long period and I wonder where the hell the Father Newmans are while that type of murder is going on (so frequently).

Daisy, I love your blog

matttbastard said...

Oy vey, Daisy.


Gould said...

Hmm. 34,000 children die worldwide EVERY DAY of STARVATION.

Based on this guy's rationale, no one should take mass until that issue is resolved.

prefer not to say said...

What Gould said.

Daisy said...

Priest says he wrote Obama column too hastily

St. Mary's leader tells congregation he regrets attention from comments

By E. Richard Walton • STAFF WRITER • November 16, 2008

More than 50 people demonstrated outside St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Greenville on Saturday afternoon in support of the priest who told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama shouldn't receive Holy Communion until they've done penance because of Obama's abortion stance.

A short time later, during a mass inside the church, the Rev. Jay Scott Newman spoke to the congregation about the national controversy stirred by his comments on the church Web site.

"I don't know what kind of week you had, but I've had a pretty interesting week," Newman said during the 5 p.m. mass.

The roughly 200 parishioners began clapping and then rose to their feet, applauding for more than a minute. When they stopped, Newman said, "I wrote my column in haste. I should have taken my time."

Had he taken more time, he said, he would have done a better job of explaining his position, though he did not go into further details.

On the church Web site early last week, Newman wrote that "voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

On Friday, Newman said in a message on the church Web site that he had been misunderstood. He said he didn't intend for his comments to be seen beyond his parish and that he has received more than 3,500 e-mails from across the globe both in support and condemning his comments.

During the 5 p.m. mass Saturday, Newman said he wrote the column "at the last moment and right at the deadline." He said he regretted the attention his Web posting has drawn.

Newman said all future comments should come from South Carolina's Roman Catholic Diocese in Charleston.

In a Web site posting Friday, the diocese said it doesn't believe parishioners who voted for Obama -- who does not support overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion -- should have to seek penance before partaking in Holy Communion.

Ivan Ortiz, who was among those demonstrating in support of Newman on Saturday, said Catholics are taught that abortion is wrong under any circumstance. He said he and others went to St. Mary's "to show solidarity for the Rev. Newman."

Ortiz, who was a member of St. Mary's until August and now attends Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, said Newman was not attacking Obama.

Newman's supporters gathered in front of St. Mary's before the 5 p.m. mass and were asked by a church official to move to another building on the property. Some supporters carried signs, including one that said, "The church is pro-life."

Mary Anne Wylie, who attended the 5 p.m. mass, said she was troubled by Obama's pro-choice stance. She said the issue was only about the president-elect's view on abortion.

Ortiz said, "We don't support abortion in any way, shape or form."

YogaforCynics said...

This makes me think of the death of notorious Philly mob boss Angelo Bruno back in the 80's. With all the blood on his hands, the catholic church refused to bury him because...he was divorced!