New Jersey Archbishop Urges Same-Sex Marriage Supporters To Refrain From Taking Communion

Archbishop John Myers

In the latest example of the Catholic Church hierarchy digging in their heels against marriage equality, a Newark Archbishop recently sent a pastoral letter to implore over 1 million Catholics in his New Jersey parish to stop supporting same-sex marriage. In fact, Archbishop John Myers even went so far as to suggest that any Catholics who support same-sex marriage, regardless of their own sexual orientation, should refrain from taking communion at Catholic mass because they are “unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters.”

James Salt, the executive director of the progressive Catholics United group, pointed out that Catholic leaders like Myers simply alienate their parishioners with their anti-equality sentiment when they choose to focus on culture war politics rather than on issues of economic justice:

SALT: We live in a time when Catholics are walking away from the faith in record numbers. Archbishop Myers’ tone-deaf pastoral letter on marriage might explain why. When so many families live paycheck to paycheck, pew-sitting Catholics like myself want our faith known for its service to the poor, not for the far-right politics of the bishops.

A world in which Catholics who do not support LGBT rights are considered unwelcome at mass could result in a lot of empty pews, just as Salt suggests. The Public Religion Research Institute reports that nearly three-fourths of Catholics support either same-sex marriage or civil unions; in fact, Catholics are more supportive of legal recognition for same-sex couples than any other religious group in the country. And studies reveal that the Catholic Church’s unwelcoming attitude toward the LGBT community has directly contributed to former adherents’ decision to leave the church.

Furthermore, Holy Communion is certainly not intended to be wielded by Catholic leaders as a political tool. When a lesbian woman was denied communion at her mother’s funeral simply because of her sexual orientation, a wide range of religious voices protested the injustice and a high-ranking archdiocese official apologized for the “lack of pastoral sensitivity.” The Catholic priest in question was eventually placed on administrative leave. Myers’ suggestion that Catholics who support fundamental human rights for LGBT individuals are too sinful to take part in communion is a similar manipulation of the religious ritual.

But Myers is hardly the first Archbishop to use his position of authority to persuade lay Catholics to reject LGBT rights. A Nebraska Archbishop is currently working to repeal the sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections in Omaha, a Minnesota Archbishop wrote to his parishioners last month in an attempt to convince them to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and a recent letter from a Washington State Bishop encouraged Catholics to overturn his state’s marriage equality law. And Salvatore Cordileone, a key player in the passage of Proposition 8 in California — who does not believe any Catholic in a gay or lesbian relationship should be allowed to take communion — has just been appointed by the Pope as the next Archbishop of San Francisco.