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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 June 2007, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Welsh prelate joins abortion row
Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff (2001 file)
The archbishop said MPs defending abortion should not ask for communion
Catholic MPs who vote in favour of abortion should not put themselves forward for communion, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff has said.

Peter Smith backed the stand made by the head of Catholics in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who questioned pro-abortion MPs' rights to communion.

He said the cardinal's words reflected "the general teaching of the church".

Archbishop Smith said he would not bar abortion supporters from communion, but advised them not to ask for it.

If a Catholic politician manifestly, clearly goes against the church's teaching, then they ought to remove themselves from receiving communion
Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff

"The church's law is quite clear," the archbishop told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "A priest or bishop is not permitted to refuse communion unless it is quite clear that the person has been excommunicated or there is a very public rejection of church teaching.

But he went on: "The pastoral reality is, as the Pope has said recently in Mexico, that if a Catholic politician manifestly, clearly goes against the church's teaching, then they ought to remove themselves from receiving communion, because it would be a cause of great scandal."

Archbishop Smith rejected arguments that MPs had to represent a larger constituency, including people whose views on abortion were at odds with the Catholic Church.

"A politician in these circumstances has a real difficulty, which I can appreciate," he said.

"But I would say that, because at the end of the day this is a question of a fundamental human right to life - which we all have and on which all other rights are based - if a politician said 'I must go along with the majority view of my constituents' then he ought to consider his position both as a Catholic and a politician."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland described the archbishop's comments as both "heartening and encouraging".

He added that the archbishop's endorsement of Cardinal O'Brien added to many other positive responses received from around the world in the past couple of days, from both within and outside the Catholic community.

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31 May 07 |  Scotland
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