June 2, 2007 / 11:19 AM / 12 years ago

Welsh archbishop enters pro-abortion MP row

LONDON (Reuters) - Politicians who vote in favour of abortion should not take communion, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff said on Saturday, adding his voice to that of the head of the Scottish Catholic church.

Peter Smith said he would not bar them from taking communion, but he would expect the politician involved not to seek it.

His comments are the latest in a row begun by the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Kieth O’Brien, who this week, questioned the right of pro-abortion MPs to take communion.

Speaking in a sermon marking 40 years since the Abortion Act, O’Brien was reported in the media as saying the politicians should not expect to remain full church members.

He went on to liken the abortion rate north of the border to “two Dunblane massacres a day”.

The Welsh prelate backed the Cardinal’s words, telling BBC radio that it reflected “the general teaching of the church”.

“The church’s law is quite clear,” Smith said. “A priest or bishop is not permitted to refuse communion unless it is quite clear that the person has been excommunicated or there is a very public rejection of church teaching.”

But he went on: “The pastoral reality is, as the Pope has said recently in Mexico, that if a Catholic politician manifestly, clearly goes against the church’s teaching, then they ought to remove themselves from receiving communion, because it would be a cause of great scandal.”

Pro-abortionists and some MPs have said politicians should be left to decide on such sensitive ethical issues as abortion without being placed under pressure or threats from religious leaders.

The leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has emphasised his opposition to abortion, although in more measured terms than his Scottish counterpart.

He said: “I would urge all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity.”

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