US bishop: "denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians must be last resort"

 Refusing to give Communion to a politician who supports legalised abortion, such as the leading Democrat contender for the presidential elections, Senator John Kerry, must be the "last resort" in a process to convince the politician to uphold moral truths when voting, the President of the US Bishops' Conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory said yesterday. "In the nature of the church, the imposition of sanctions is always the final response, not the first response," he told the Catholic News Service. The Bishop's statement came after remarks made last Friday by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments, on the new Vatican document on the Eucharist. The document reaffirmed church teaching that a Catholic, in a situation of serious sin, must go to confession before receiving Communion. Cardinal Francis Arinze told a Vatican news conference that pro-abortion Catholic politicians such as Mr Kerry were "not fit" to receive communion. He said: "The norm of the church is clear. The church exists in the United States. There are bishops there, let them interpret it." Several bishops, led by Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, have warned they will not give Mr Kerry Communion. Mr Kerry has said he does not personally support abortion, but does believe in a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. Mr Kerry's defenders have accused the Vatican of not understanding the separation of church and state. "It is time for church leaders to acknowledge that the threat of denying the sacraments to Catholics who disagree with their positions has no basis in Church law," said Frances Kissling, president of the Washington-based Catholics for a Free Choice group. "It is both bad politics and bad religion," she said. But Judie Brown, president of the anti-abortion American Life League, said it was perfectly reasonable for the public to expect a politician's religion to influence their voting record. "If you are elected to public office as a Catholic, then your fellow Catholics expect you to be Catholic," she told AP. Senator Kerry is the front-runner to become the Democratic party's presidential candidate. If he wins the election, he will be the country's first Roman Catholic president since John F Kennedy in 1960.

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