BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2009 4:14 AM EDT
For the first time publicly, Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph F. Martino made it clear Wednesday that he might eventually bar U.S. Sen. Bob Casey from receiving communion if the senator doesn’t follow his advice on opposing abortion.
The bishop also said the senator should now think twice about receiving communion after voting Tuesday to confirm an abortion rights supporter, former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as Health and Human Services secretary.
“If necessary, future determinations will be made regarding whether Sen. Casey is worthy to receive Holy Communion,” a Diocese of Scranton statement on Casey’s vote said. “However, at this point Bishop Martino believes it is incumbent upon Sen. Casey to reflect on his actions and ask himself if he should receive the sacrament.”
The bishop said he plans to continue to monitor Casey’s positions and votes on “life issues.” He also believes he has “a pastoral responsibility to instruct the senator about these serious moral issues” because Casey is a member of the diocese.
In letters last month and earlier this week, the bishop warned Casey against voting for Sebelius.
As he has for months, Bishop Martino declined to make himself available to answer questions about his position.
“The bishop isn’t available for an interview,” diocesan spokesman Dan Gallagher said in an e-mail.
In a telephone interview, Casey, who opposes abortion, declined to comment directly on the bishop’s new warning, but defended his support of Sebelius.
“Although I disagree with her on some issues, including a number of the decisions she has made on abortion, I believe my vote in favor of her confirmation was correct,” he said in a statement.
Casey also said:
� Leaving the position vacant as the country faces a possible flu pandemic “would be highly irresponsible.”
� The country cannot afford a further delay in appointing the official who will lead the fight to make sure more than 40 million uninsured Americans have health insurance and to reform the nation’s health care system.
� Sebelius has executive experience both as a governor and Kansas insurance commissioner that will help her carry out her duties.
“While the Secretary of HHS will have a limited role in defining abortion policy, I look forward to working with the president to reduce the number of abortions through measures like my Pregnant Women’s Support Act legislation,” Casey said in the statement.
The diocesan statement questions whether Casey is as opposed to abortion as he says he is and accuses him of having an “inconsistent” voting record.
It praises Casey’s support for legislation to aid pregnant women and families, but says he voted:
� Against restricting the payment of American tax dollars to foreign family planning groups that refuse to renounce abortion. Casey says such groups are already forbidden from using American tax dollars for abortions and the new restriction is unnecessary.
� To confirm Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan as solicitor general, despite her support of partial-birth abortion and her opposition to withdrawing federal money from taxpayer-funded abortion clinics and funding for teen-pregnancy counseling by religious institutions.
� To confirm Sebelius, who vetoed laws to restrict late-term abortions, including one that would have allowed lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions illegally and required late-term abortion providers to give “a fuller account” of each abortion. Sebelius also took hundreds of thousands in contributions from “one of our nation’s most notorious abortionists.”
That’s “ample evidence for the anti-life evidence she will make in this key position,” the diocesan statement said.