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WEST WARWICK, R.I. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pastor in the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island is barring the state's pro-abortion lawmakers from receiving Holy Communion at his parish.
On Jan. 26, Fr. Richard Bucci, pastor at Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick, circulated a flier featuring the names of 66 state lawmakers who may not — among other things — receive the Eucharist, witness marriages or be lectors at church functions. Bucci wrote:
In accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years, the following members of the legislature may not receive Holy Communion, as are all the officers of the state of Rhode Island, as well as Rhode Island's members of Congress. In addition, they will not be allowed to act as witnesses to marriage, godparents, or lectors at weddings, funerals or any other Church function.
Father Bucci listed members of Rhode Island's general assembly who in June voted for the Reproductive Privacy Act, which upholds abortion in Rhode Island should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Rhode Island pastor and canonist Fr. Dean Perri told Church Militant that other Rhode Island priests agree with Bucci's decision and act accordingly:
A number of diocesan priests are in full agreement of Fr. Bucci's decision and do act in accord with the Church's teaching on the reception of communion. Some have been vocal and removed certain public officials from being lectors or extra-ordinary eucharistic ministers. Some have done it quietly behind the scenes.
In addition to distributing the flier at Sunday Mass, Bucci also mailed the flier to persons on the list, including Rep. Carol McEntee. McEntee denounced Bucci's action and called on him to resign. She also demanded that Bp. Thomas Tobin of Providence apologize.
"This is nothing more than another vicious outburst by Fr. Bucci. He is unfit to be a priest, and I call on him to resign immediately," McEntee urged. "I also call on Bp. [Thomas] Tobin to withdraw and disown this notice and issue a full apology to all individuals who are listed in this notice."
The diocese, however, is giving tacit approval to Bucci's initiative. Asked if Bp. Tobin approves of Bucci's flier, diocesan spokeswoman Carolyn Cronin on Thursday issued the following response:
For every sacrament, the Church provides detailed norms for preparation and reception. It is the pastor's duty to apply them within his parish, in accord with Church law. This includes the proper reception of Holy Communion as outlined by the Code of Canon Law. Because the Church entrusts to each pastor the duty of teaching, sanctifying and governing his parish, the daily pastoral and administrative decisions are made at the local parish level.
Perri confirmed that Tobin typically speaks in such situations through his spokeswoman.
"The bishop usually delegates official positions and comments to be made through Mrs. Carolyn Cronin," noted Perri.
Perri remarked that Catholic pro-abortion politicians are at odds with Rhode Island priests but affirmed that Tobin does support his priests when they stand up for Catholic teaching.
"We live in a one-party state (Democrats) and this is a big problem for many priests who have public officials as part of their parishes," lamented Perri. He added, "The bishop will back us up when we defend the Church's teaching and he is very much pro-life and pro-family."
Another such lawmaker, Rep. Julie Casimiro responded, "I think the General Assembly should post a list of pedophile priests not welcome at the statehouse. That is a much longer list."
Bucci told media, however, that if lawmakers really believed that voting for abortion was morally good, then they wouldn't be embarrassed to be called out in his flier.
"If they are proud of what they have done, why do they want to keep it a secret? We all hear about responsibility. Let them take responsibility. If they think this is a good and wholesome and holy thing," noted Bucci. "They should be proud of it, and why should I hide that from my parishioners?"
Casimiro further claimed, "Being pro-choice doesn't mean you are pro-abortion."
Bishop Tobin debunked this claim in 2016, warning Catholics to "never vote for any candidate of any party who supports abortion."
"And don't be fooled by those who say they 'aren't pro-abortion, but are just pro-choice,'" advised Tobin. "It's a smokescreen for what they really believe, but are afraid to admit." He continued:
After all, what kind of choice are they promoting? They're not talking about choosing a favorite ice cream flavor, are they? And it's not about so-called reproductive freedom or women's health care either. Clearly, politicians who support abortion are encouraging a choice that ends the life of an innocent human being and ultimately harms the mother, personally and spiritually!
Canon 915 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law directed towards clerics orders that Catholics who are "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
Citing canon 915 in his 2004 letter to U.S. bishops, then-Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke of Catholic politicians who are "campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws."
Ratzinger then stipulated, "When 'these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,' and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, 'the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.'"
Bucci affirms that he is just being a true spiritual father to all those in need.
"They call me 'father' so that I may have an influence in their lives, and this is a serious issue of life and death," said Bucci.
Perri says the lack of respect towards the Real Presence is at the heart of the current crisis in the Church:
You guys at Church Militant have hit the nail on the head about the lack of reverence for the Eucharist in today's day and age. We begin to restore that reverence by preaching about sin, confession and the need for salvation through a proper and fruitful reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, especially receiving it on the tongue and not in the hand.
He believes Bucci's actions will lend courage to the more timid priests in the diocese.
"I think that Fr. Bucci's note will inspire our younger priests to be more bold and steadfast when it comes to the proper reception of Holy Communion," commented Perri.