AUGUSTA – National groups opposed to abortion are turning up the heat on pro-choice Roman Catholic politicians, but Gov. John E. Baldacci remains committed to taking Communion whenever he chooses.
“There’s a separation of church and state, the country was founded on religious freedoms,” the pro-choice governor said Monday. “I feel very strongly about that and I remember how fierce President Kennedy had to be on that issue. The practice of Catholicism is something I try to practice not one day a week, but every day of the week. … I plan to [take Communion] when I attend mass.”
Last week, the American Life League, an outspoken opponent of abortion, announced it would begin an advertising campaign targeting Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over his reluctance to deny Communion to Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
The print ads note McCarrick’s statement to The Associated Press that “I have not gotten to the stage where I’m comfortable in denying the Eucharist.”
The league’s ads say in reply: “You can’t be both Catholic and pro-abortion!”
McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., chairs a special panel of the American hierarchy that is considering whether bishops should settle on uniform church sanctions against U.S. Catholic politicians who champion abortion rights.
Several U.S. bishops have said officeholders with such views should not receive Communion. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis said he personally would refuse the sacrament to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who supports abortion rights.
The league, based in Stafford, Va., says in its ad that McCarrick spoke “despite the counsel of both Christ and the Holy Father.” It quotes Pope John Paul II from 2003 saying bishops should deny Communion to Catholics who demonstrate “outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm.”
Sue Bernard, communications director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said Monday that Bishop Richard Malone is waiting to hear from McCarrick’s panel before taking any position on the Communion issue, which has been the focus of much deliberation by the church.
“The bishops are sort of all over the board on this,” Bernard said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.