SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The Catholic bishop of Springfield on Thursday banned leaders of the Illinois General Assembly from receiving Holy Communion at local churches because of their involvement in abortion legislation approved last week.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki took the action against House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton in a decree based on Catholic canon stating that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Additionally, Paprocki barred other Catholic legislators who voted for statutory protection for abortion rights in Illinois. The measure was Democrats’ response to steep restrictions on abortion adopted in at least six Republican-controlled states in an effort to get the contentious issue, legalized by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, back before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is Jewish, has promised to sign the legislation.
“To support legislation that treats babies in the womb like property, allowing for their destruction for any reason at any time, is evil,” Paprocki said in a statement.
Madigan and Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, voted “yes” on the measure. In a statement, Madigan said Paprocki had informed him that supporting the so-called Reproductive Health Act would mean forfeiting Communion.
“I believe it is more important to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, including women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest,” Madigan said.
John Patterson, spokesman for Cullerton, said he’s unaware of Cullerton ever attending Mass in Springfield. He declined further comment.
Denial of sacraments to Catholic politicians for supporting abortion rights is not unusual. The Springfield Diocese has long denied Communion to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, because of his views favoring abortion rights. Vatican officials have said that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be denied the Eucharist and the issue received national attention during Democrat John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
The Illinois legislation rescinds decades-old statutes which criminalize performing abortions, include requirements for spousal consent and waiting periods, and would reverse newer prohibitions on partial-birth abortions, all of which have never been enforced because of court orders. But sponsors of the measure say recent restrictions in other states are already being challenged in federal court, where decisions could reverse the decrees on which abortion access in Illinois is based.
Paprocki’s move also covers lawmakers who supported 2017 legislation to expand state-employee health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortion procedures and reversed statutory “trigger” language that supporters said would outlaw abortion in Illinois if Roe is overturned.
It was signed into law in September 2017 by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fiscal conservative who campaigned in 2014 for abortion-coverage expansion but told supporters in spring 2017 that he would veto the legislation. His endorsement so angered conservatives that it encouraged a 2018 primary challenge from the right, which Rauner barely survived before Pritzker defeated him.
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