Rhode Island Catholic priest says abortion worse than pedophilia; bishop responds

A teenager holds a sign during the Ninth Annual Walk for Life West Coast rally at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, California January 26, 2013.
A teenager holds a sign during the Ninth Annual Walk for Life West Coast rally at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, California January 26, 2013. | REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A Catholic bishop has responded to controversy surrounding a Rhode Island priest in his diocese who implied in a news interview that abortion is worse than pedophilia. 

The Rev. Richard Bucci of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick spoke with NBC affiliate WJAR after declaring in a letter published in a newspaper that lawmakers who support abortion would be denied communion, and he called them out by name. 

The declaration also came in the form of a flier handed out to parishioners which stated that the lawmakers could not receive communion in "accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church for 2000 years."

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"In addition, they will not be allowed to act as witnesses to marriage, godparents, or lectors at weddings, funerals or any other church function," added the flier, according to the Providence Journal

In an interview with NBC affiliate WJAR about his actions, Bucci seemed to be responding to those who compare abortion and pedophilia when he said: “We are not talking about any other moral issue, where some may make it a comparison between pedophilia and abortion. Pedophilia doesn't kill anyone and this does.” 

Bucci also argued that the acceptance of abortion encourages other violence, adding that "once you say an innocent life isn't worthy of living ... then other life becomes meaningless."

Bishop Thomas Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, issued a statement on Thursday in response to the Bucci’s comments in the news interview.

Tobin began by stressing that “it is never acceptable to underestimate the harm caused by sexual abuse of minors.”

“Sexual abuse, wherever and whenever it occurs, causes long-lasting, sometimes permanent and devastating harm to the victims/survivors, their families and the entire community,” the bishop said.

Tobin went on to say that “abortion is also a sinful, immoral act” that “destroys innocent unborn life” and “exploits vulnerable women.”

“There are no circumstances, personal or political, that justify the termination of unborn children. The Catholic Church has been very clear and consistent in condemning the evil of abortion,” he continued.

The bishop concluded by calling on “all parties to refrain from unhelpful, inflammatory rhetoric, and to reflect personally and prayerfully on the consequences of these grave matters.”

Bucci is one of a handful of Catholic clergy who have called for Catholic politicians to be denied communion whenever they advocate for pro-abortion policies.

Last October, Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, denied former Vice President Joe Biden communion during a worship service.

“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church,” Morey told news outlet SC Now last year.

“Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

Others, including the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, have been more critical of denying communion to politicians who advocate for abortion rights.

“Bishop [W. Francis] Malooly has consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist, and will continue to do so,” said the Wilmington Diocese in a statement released last year.  

“His preference, as with most bishops, is to interact with politicians individually who disagree with significant church teachings.”

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