A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, defended its bishop’s recent decision to deny Communion to a pro-abortion Democratic state senator and rebuked him for politicizing the issue by complaining about it on Twitter.
Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Joe Cervantes alleged on Saturday that Las Cruces Bishop Peter Baldacchino discriminated against him because of his political office when he refused him the sacrament. “I was denied communion last night by the Catholic bishop here in Las Cruces and based on my political office,” he tweeted. “My new parish priest has indicated he will do the same after the last was run off. Please pray for church authorities as Catholicism transitions under Pope Francis.”
I was denied communion last night by the Catholic bishop here in Las Cruces and based on my political office. My new parish priest has indicated he will do the same after the last was run off. Please pray for church authorities as Catholicism transitions under Pope Francis.
— Sen. Joe Cervantes (@SenJoeCervantes) July 17, 2021
Christopher Velasquez, who is the director of communications for the Diocese of Las Cruces, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Monday that it was “unfortunate that a pastoral issue with a member of the local church be publicized,” but clarified that Baldacchino withheld Communion from Cervantes because of his public support for a pro-abortion bill in the State Senate.
The spokesman further explained that the disciplinary action had been taken against Cervantes only after both his pastor and his bishop had privately and repeatedly admonished him to refrain from the sacrament if he intended to vote in favor of Senate Bill 10, which repealed a 1969 state law criminalizing abortions. Supporters of the bill, which Cervantes cosponsored and Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law earlier this year, argued that the legislation would be a precaution against any future repeal of Roe v. Wade.
“It did not happen on the spur of the moment,” Velasquez said of the bishop’s action.
“In terms of the diocese, we regret the decision of Senator Cervantes to politicize this issue,” Velasquez further told CNA.
“Bishop Baldacchino did not receive a response from the senator,” Velasquez said of the bishop’s attempts to rebuke him privately. “He [Cervantes] was contacted multiple times prior, letting him know that if he voted for Senate Bill 10, he should not present himself for communion.”
Refusing Communion to Cervantes, Velasquez added, “has nothing to do with his office or politics, it has to do with Senate Bill 10…with this particular bill, because of what it entails.”
Church authorities denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians has become a flashpoint issue since President Joe Biden was inaugurated. In June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted overwhelmingly in favor of drafting a document that could lead to a rebuke of publicly pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
The Code of Canon Law stipulates that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a ‘criminal’ practice, gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.”