After Abortion Vote, Colorado Catholic Bishops Ask Lawmakers To Withhold Communion


(RNS) – Colorado’s Catholic bishops have asked Catholic lawmakers who voted in favor of abortion rights legislation earlier this year to “voluntarily abstain from Holy Communion,” according to a signed open letter. on Monday, June 6 and provided to the Religion News Service.

“Voting for RHEA was part of a gravely culpable action because it facilitates the killing of innocent unborn babies,” the letter from the bishops says, referring to the Reproductive Health Equity Act, “and the Catholic politicians who support it. have done have most likely placed themselves outside the fellowship of the Church.

The letter was signed by the Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop of Denver, and his auxiliary bishop, the Reverend Jorge H. Rodriguez; Reverend Stephen J. Berg, Bishop of Pueblo; and the Reverend James R. Golka, Bishop of Colorado Springs.

The legislation, signed into law on April 4, prohibits state and local public entities from denying an individual’s right to use or refuse contraception, and their right to pursue a pregnancy or have an abortion.

“A pregnant person has the fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and to give birth or have an abortion and to make decisions about how to exercise that right,” the law says. “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus has no independent or derivative rights under the laws of this state.”

According to the bishops’ letter, hundreds of people testified against the bill in the Colorado House and Senate. The bishops wrote that they have made efforts to speak with Catholic lawmakers who voted for the bill to “ensure they understand Church teaching on receiving Holy Communion.” , but note that few lawmakers accepted the invitation to meet.

The Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, leads Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 24, 2021, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The letter condemns these Catholic lawmakers for viewing “unborn babies” as “worth less than those who are gifted to be born” and thanks four Catholic lawmakers who voted against the bill.

In an email to Religion News Service, Colorado Catholic Conference executive director Brittany Vessely said the conference estimates about 10 baptized Catholic lawmakers voted for the legislation. By asking these lawmakers to “voluntarily abstain” from communion, Vessely said, the bishops are placing the burden of decision “on the conscience and soul of the politicians who have chosen to support this evil and unjust law” rather than on church leaders.

“The bishops also pray that these Catholic legislators will publicly repent and seek absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation,” she added.

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Jamie L. Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, said in a statement that Catholic bishops in Colorado should listen to their people, noting that one in four abortion patients is Catholic.

“Instead, in a generally self-aggrandizing manner, they have closed their ears, hardened their hearts, and dismissed these people of faith and the pro-choice majority that backs them as ‘unworthy,’ transforming Jesus’ gift of his body and blood—his ultimate example of welcome and inclusion—into a weapon of division and exclusion,” Manson wrote. “The contrast between these so-called Colorado ‘shepherds’ and the Good Shepherd they claim to serve speaks for itself.”

RHEA cites growing attacks on access to abortion and reproductive health care in the United States as well as Colorado’s history of supporting reproductive health care as reasons for the bill, which codifies the a person’s right to make decisions about reproductive health care independently of government interference. In 1967, Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion.

“We pray that this letter and our request not to receive Jesus in the Eucharist will stimulate sincere reflection and conversion in the hearts of those who participated in allowing this grave act of injustice to become law,” concluded the bishops.

This is not the first time Catholic bishops in Colorado have issued statements on political issues. Three of the four authors of the latest letter also signed a December 2020 letter stating that vaccines developed using aborted fetal cells are “ethically unacceptable.”

This new letter from the bishops is the latest in a series of attempts by conservative Catholic bishops to block lawmakers who support abortion rights from receiving Communion. Last month, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco banned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from taking communion in his jurisdiction, and three other bishops soon followed suit.

Last summer, a number of Catholic bishops argued over whether to deny President Joe Biden the sacrament for his support of abortion rights.

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