Pastor denies communion to legislators who support abortion rights

By: Ellie Romano

Email: ERomano@ABC6.com

Twitter: @ERomanoABC6

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – A catholic church in West Warwick is denying communion to every state legislator who voted last year to preserve the right to an abortion in state law.

Rev. Richard Bucci distributed the fliers last week at Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick. He also mailed them to the homes of several lawmakers.

The fliers also said legislators wouldn’t be allowed to act as witnesses to marriage, godparents or lectors at any church functions.

“It’s hate speech all the way,” said Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Narragansett, South Kingstown). She is among the many names listed on the flier.

She said the letter isn’t about abortion but is instead a direct attack on her family members who have been feuding with Sacred Heart Church for decades. 

“When I look at what has happened to my family from Sacred Heart Church, any sin that they see that I’ve committed– theirs is far more egregious,” said McEntee.

Her younger sister, Ann Hagan Webb, was sexually abused as a child for years by a clergy member at Sacred Heart.

In 2019, the sisters worked together to pass legislation that changed the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims from seven to 35 years. They believe this legislation is what sparked the fliers, not abortion politics.

“It’s about the legislation on the statute of limitations because [the church] could lose a lot of money with that,” said Webb.

Lawmakers whose names are in the flier are now calling on the Diocese of Providence to remove Rev. Bucci.

“They wonder why they’re closing churches, and they wonder why they’re losing parishioners,” said Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-North Kingstown, Exeter). “I don’t believe this is about pro-choice. I believe this is retaliation to the Hagan McEntee family.”

A diocese spokeswoman says it was not involved in these mailings. The diocese released the following statement:

For every sacrament, the Church provides detailed norms for preparation and reception.   It is the pastor’s duty to apply them within his parish, in accord with Church law. This includes the proper reception of Holy Communion as outlined by the Code of Canon Law. Because the Church entrusts to each pastor the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and governing his parish, the daily pastoral and administrative decisions are made at the local parish level.

McEntee says the church needs to modernize. 

“I think the bishop should promulgate rules and regulations that affect all parishes and not allow one rogue pastor to promulgate ancient rules,” said McEntee.

Webb said the one positive outcome of the fliers is that they have sparked a discussion on separation of church and state.

“Separation of church means to me as a lawyer that my religious beliefs do not encumber my ability to vote at the State House,” said McEntee.

McEntee said the fliers have not changed her pro-choice view. 

Rev. Bucci was unable to provide comment on Monday but is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday morning.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

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