The Catholic Diocese of Charleston expressed regret Friday over recent comments from a Greenville priest, saying the church's moral teachings had been "pulled into the partisan political arena."
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman distributed a letter Sunday to parishioners of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville stating that worshippers who voted for Barack Obama were risking their souls if they took Holy Communion before repenting.
"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. "Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil. … 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."
Obama supports abortion rights. The Catholic Church advocates for the sanctity of all human life.
Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, diocese administrator, said Newman's comments had served as a distraction and did not "adequately reflect" church teachings, adding that he would repudiate any assertions to the contrary.
"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,' " Laughlin said in a statement. The Word of God, which informs the conscience, should be assimilated in faith and prayer and put into practice, he said, referring to the Catechism. "Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and the teachings of the faith. Therefore, if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion."
The pulpit, Laughlin said, is reserved for the Word of God, not partisan politics.
"We should all come together to support the president-elect and all elected officials with a view to influencing policy in favor of the protection of the unborn child," Laughlin said.
The 2008 presidential campaign prompted many church officials to express strong anti-abortion views. Other groups, such as Catholic Democrats and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, emphasized other issues such as poverty, the economy and war.
In a post-election statement, Catholics in Alliance praised Obama for his victory.
"As faithful citizens, we will challenge his administration to bring a responsible end to the Iraq war, ensure all Americans have health care and enact comprehensive solutions to reduce abortions," the statement read. "Catholics in Alliance will continue to challenge all elected officials to put human dignity and the common good before narrow partisan agendas or rigid ideologies."
In the election Obama took 54 percent of the Catholic vote, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.