April 11 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

5A-BISHOP-PHILIP-EGAN

Bishops of England and Wales will not withhold the Eucharist from politicians

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has told Catholic MPs that they will not be refused Communion if they voted in favour of same-sex marriage

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has told Catholic MPs that they will not be refused Communion if they voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

The announcement follows comments last month by the Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth (above), who said that these politicians should be denied the Eucharist. He argued that instead of being a punitive measure it was ‘an act of mercy’ that could bring individuals ‘back into communion with the Church.’

“When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church … in terms of the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life—they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage—then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” the bishop said. “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage—then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.”

However, a later email from the bishops’ conference sent to parliamentarians said: “There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs or peers who voted in favour of same-sex marriage legislation last year.”

The email was authorised by the bishops’ conference, whose president is the Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

When he made the remarks about refusing politicians communion, Bishop Egan said he would need to act with his fellow bishops and said they would debate the issue.

A spokesman for the bishops’ conference said at the time there were ‘no plans’ to discuss the matter at their next bi-annual meeting due to take place soon after Easter.

The email, written by Greg Pope, the head of Parliamentary Relations for the bishops’ conference and a former Labour MP, added: “I can see that there is potential for distress to be caused within the Catholic community at Westminster over this.”

Forty-seven out of at least 82 Catholic MPs voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill when it was passed in the House of Commons last year.

Portsmouth MP Conor Burns, a Catholic who voted for the legislation, had said that the bishop’s message had affected him, and that he ‘felt unable’ to receive Communion in his parish. Mr Burns, who is a chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s relations with the Holy See, called Bishop Egan’s comments a ‘tragedy.’

“I feel a little less welcome in my home diocese than I did a couple of weeks ago,” he added.

 

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