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Catholics who vote for politicians who support abortion rights or gay marriage will be banned from Communion until they have "recanted their positions" and confessed their sin, a Colorado bishop warned.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs said any Catholic who does not reflect church teaching in the voting booth "makes a mockery of that faith and belies his identity as a Catholic."

Sheridan's May 1 directive is believed to be the first in the nation that would apply to voters the same controversial sanctions proposed by some bishops against abortion-rights Catholic politicians.

It is also one of the most drastic—equating a particular vote with sinful activity. Sheridan's order applies only to his diocese of 125,000 Catholics.

"As in the matter of abortion, any Catholic politician who would promote so-called `same-sex marriage' and any Catholic who would vote for that political candidate place themselves outside the full communion of the church and may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled by the Sacrament of Penance," Sheridan said.

While Sheridan's letter appears to condemn any vote for likely Democratic nominee John Kerry, Sheridan insisted "the church never directs citizens to vote for any specific candidate."

Kerry, the first Catholic with a shot at the White House in 44 years, has said he personally opposes abortion but supports a woman's right to choose the procedure.

Sheridan's letter comes as Catholic bishops continue to debate the best ways to treat Catholic politicians who dissent from church teaching, a matter that is especially touchy during an election year.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke was the first to say he would deny Kerry the Eucharist, while others—including ...

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May 2004

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