Roman Catholic bishop Michael Sheridan announced on Friday that Catholics who vote for politicians in favor of abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia, or same-sex marriage may not receive Communion until they recant and repent in the confessional. Sheridan's announcement is the most extreme from a U.S. bishop in the ongoing debate over how faith should influence Catholics in the upcoming November election. Sheridan, who is the bishop of Colorado Springs, Colo., made his remarks in a pastoral letter published in the diocese's newspaper and singled out these particular issues because, he said, they are "intrinsically evil." Sheridan said some Catholics have challenged him to expand the number of items on his list of positions to include the death penalty and the war in Iraq. But Sheridan said he doesn't believe those issues carry the same weight.
Last month Cardinal Francis Arinze said a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights "is not fit" to receive the Eucharist. The debate was spurred by Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry's support of abortion rights. "I just think this is a tragic direction for the bishop to take," said Denver district attorney Bill Ritter. "My great fear is that it will drive Catholics away from the church, Catholics who abide by the church teaching in everything they do but look at candidates and vote on a range of issues."