Priest in N Ireland urges pro-choice politicians not to receive Holy Communion

Mary Lou McDonald Leader of Sinn Fein L and Michelle ONeill Vice President of Sinn Fein R speak after a meeting of the Stormont Assembly Oct 21 2019 Credit Charles McQuillan Getty Ima Mary Lou McDonald, Leader of Sinn Fein (L) and Michelle O'Neill, Vice President of Sinn Fein (R) speak after a meeting of the Stormont Assembly, Oct. 21, 2019. | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

A priest in Northern Ireland has exhorted pro-choice politicians not to receive Holy Communion, and Catholic voters not to vote for pro-choice candidates or parties, after legislation expanding abortion access in the region took effect this week.

"To be publicly pro choice-abortion is irreconcilable with being a faithful Catholic. Therefore, such persons should not approach the Holy Eucharist. If they do so, they are committing the mortal sin of sacrilege," Fr. Patrick McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Belfast, said in an Oct. 21 Facebook post.

"The Word of God calls everyone to be in the state of grace when they approach the Lord's Table," added the priest of the Diocese of Down and Connor.

Northern Ireland's devolved legislature failed Monday to block a change to the region's law imposed by the British parliament, which expands access to abortion. Previously, abortion was legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life was at risk or if there was risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The British parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 in July. The act took effect Oct. 22 because the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, was not able to do business by Oct. 21.

Pro-life members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, largely comprised of members of the Democratic Unionist Party recalled the assembly Monday for the first time since January 2017 in order to block the relaxed abortion restrictions.  

However, in order for the assembly to make any binding changes, the election of a speaker of the assembly with cross-party support was required. This proved impossible when the Social Democratic Labour Party walked out of the Oct. 21 meeting.

Members of the assembly from Sinn Fein, the Green Party, and People Before Profit did not participate in the Oct. 21 session.

"We were betrayed today at Stormont," Fr. McCafferty wrote in another Facebook post, on Oct. 21. "I implore all faithful Catholics, faithful Christians and all good people who value human life and true (not fake) human rights, to withdraw all support from pro abortion-choice politicians and political parties."

"For Catholics and nationalists/republicans, in particular, Sinn Fein and the SDLP have betrayed us in a most hideous fashion," he said.

Sinn Fein supports abortion rights, while the SDLP allows their Members of the Legislative Assembly a conscience vote on the topic. Fr. McCafferty noted that "Sinn Fein is avowedly pro abortion," and charged that "The SDLP is infected with influential pro abortionists."

And Fr. McCafferty wrote Oct. 22 on Facebook that "We have been failed miserably by politicians - all of them."

He noted that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed because of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, saying some of the politicians and officials of the DUP "are at the heart of this scandal."

"The collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, due to the RHI Scandal, has left the door wide open for a phalanx of determined and fanatical pro abortion MPs in Westminster, led by Stella Creasy - unelected by the people of Northern Ireland - but aided and abetted by pro abortion-choice politicians in Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance, PBP and the Green Party - to railroad through, at Midnight last night, one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world," the priest lamented.

Fr. McCafferty wrote that "The SDLP, once a party that Catholics could trust and vote for with confidence, is no longer such a party. There are now a significant and influential number of SDLP MLAs and councillors, who are pro abortion-choice. Catholics voting in the future, for SDLP candidates, need to carefully determine their stance on abortion before giving that candidate their vote."

Dolores Kelly, an MLA from the SDLP who told the Belfast Telegraph she is "a pro-life politician", said that "many people who are pro-life and practising Catholics will also be very alarmed and angry about Fr McCafferty's comments" regarding not approaching Holy Communion.

"I don't know much about canon law, but I know that such a decision would have to come from Rome," Kelly stated.

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Canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law states that "anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession"; and the preceding canon notes that those "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

Fr. McCafferty noted, "I have the utmost regard and respect for those persons who, knowing they are living in an irregular situation, present themselves at Mass, during Holy Communion, for a blessing," saying that "such persons are real men and women of Faith."

He reiterated that pro-choise politicians "should not receive Holy Communion … until they sincerely repent, seek reconciliation with the Lord and renounce their pro abortion-choice positions."

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