Burlington Diocese awaits U.S. bishops’ decision on communion question

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(Host) Recent comments by a Catholic Church leader saying priests should refuse communion to politicians who support abortion rights won’t have an impact in Vermont. The head of Vermont’s Roman Catholics says he’ll wait for U.S. bishops to resolve the issue.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The question of how to treat Catholic politicians whose stand on abortion is at odds with church teachings has surfaced because of John Kerry’s candidacy. The Catholic presidential hopeful says he personally opposes abortion, but supports a woman’s right to choose.

Last week Cardinal Francis Arinze seemed to offer cover for bishops who might choose to deny communion to politicians like Kerry. Arinze said a Roman Catholic politician who supports abortion rights is not fit to receive communion. His comments came during a news conference at the Vatican.

In a statement released Tuesday, Bishop Kenneth Angell of the Burlington Diocese doesn’t mention Cardinal Arinze’s statements about denying communion to Catholic politicians who back abortion rights. Instead he says Arinze indicated the decision is up to American bishops. Angell says he will wait for a task force organized by the U.S. Conference of Bishops to weigh in on the question.

The Reverend Wendell Searles of the Burlington Diocese says the task force will try to resolve a question that bishops have been grappling with for years.

(Searles) “They’re working through that question of how to deal with officeholders or politicians out of sync with what the church believes and teaches.”

(Zind) Searles, who has been in the Burlington Diocese for 50 years, says he can’t remember any time when a politician was denied communion. Searles says there have been many occasions when priests, or the bishop himself, has had private conversations with Catholic politicians who positions have been contrary to church teachings.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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