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Maher's Moment: A look back at Bishop Maher's Denial of Communion to a Pro-Abortion Politician
San Diego News Notes ^ | January 2004 | ROBERT KUMPEL

Posted on 01/22/2004 10:53:53 AM PST by nickcarraway

On September 8, 2003, Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the United States Catholic Bishops Council, met with conservative American bishops. Discussed at the meeting was the question of excommunicating and denying communion to pro-abortion politicians. San Diego Bishop Leo T. Maher's 1989 decree denying Assemblywoman Lucy Killea communion -- and the subsequent media victimization of Killea -- was revisited.

On November 15, 1989 the late Bishop Leo T. Maher faxed a communiqué to Democratic Assemblyman Lucy Killea, informing her that she would be denied Holy Communion because of the openly "pro-choice" stance she had taken in her race against Republican Assemblywoman Carol Bentley for the 39th Senate District Seat. Pro-abortion forces rallied behind Killea, portraying her as a martyr for the cause of choice and the media predicted a landslide victory. Three weeks later, Killea won by 2,364 votes (51%).

Fourteen years later, Maher is still the only United States bishop on record to have denied Holy Communion to a Catholic who supports abortion, and Killea's election victory is still invoked by liberal Republicans, priests, bishops, and diocesan bureaucrats as an example of why ecclesiastical discipline won't work. Many Catholics in leadership positions have bought the rationale thus far, though they may not have all the facts. Forgotten are the facts that Killea's win was no landslide, she outspent her opponent nearly three-to-one, and the college of bishops showed little collegiality toward Bishop Maher at the time.

Joan Patton, a former head of San Diego Right to Life and a volunteer for Bentley's campaign, remembers Maher's actions as the crowning achievement of his tenure in San Diego. She frequently met with Maher and was disappointed that his brother bishops didn't support him. "He wasn't really surprised by it," Patton recalls. "I remember he was getting ready to go to a bishops' meeting for the California Catholic Conference and one of the agenda items was supposed to be a discussion of denying communion -- it seems that they were going to take a stand against doing that sort of thing. As I remember, a priest was trying to get it onto the agenda. Bishop Maher was quite angry because no one but bishops were allowed to set the agenda for the meetings. I think he managed to erase it from the agenda. I asked him if any California bishops supported him and he said, "Very few, Joan. Possibly one or two."

In 1989, Killea was a well-known, veteran assemblywoman, having held the office since 1982. She was popular with her colleagues and was considered a stalwart of bipartisanship. Before her stint in the state assembly, Killea was a popular city council member who was often supported by then mayor Pete Wilson, who later claimed to "vigorously support" Bentley in her run against Killea. Bentley was in her first assembly term. At the time, the 39th Senate District ran along the Interstate 8 corridor from Ocean Beach to the Imperial County line, covering most of inland San Diego County. Its voter registrations was 49 percent Republican and 38 percent Democrat. Killea represented the 78th Assembly District which was centered in downtown San Diego, while Bentley's 77th District was centered in heavily Republican El Cajon. The special election was called when Senator Larry Stirling resigned in November to accept an appointment as a municipal court judge from Governor George Deukmejian. That previous July, the United States Supreme Court had handed down its Webster decision, giving states more powers to regulate abortion. While the conventional wisdom held that Bentley should have easily won in a district that always went Republican, she was lesser known in comparison to Killea and spent $128,000 on her campaign while Killea spent $317,000.

Although abortion rights was never one of Killea's legislative priorities, she played up the issue by releasing a television ad that claimed Bentley would restrict access to abortion. Abortion then became an issue in the campaign when Bishop Maher made his letter to Killea public in a local TV interview the same day he faxed her. Abortion-rights groups such as the California Abortion Rights Action League seized the opportunity to make abortion the major campaign issue, predicting a huge victory for Killea, behind whom they threw their support. Bentley found that pro-choice Republicans were reluctant to support her. Though she had the support of state pro-life groups, they were neither as well-organized nor as well-funded as they are today.

After the election, Bentley told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Maher's letter to Killea made the difference. "In one letter," the defeated candidate said, "he created an instant international celebrity and a martyr."

Looking back, Bentley (now Carol Bentley Ellis) says she never disagreed with Bishop Maher's actions, but just how he went about it. "I think it was kind of inappropriate to have a press conference to do it," she reflects, "rather than just [doing it] privately. I'm not a Catholic, I just happen to be pro-life. If you're a practicing Catholic and you're pro-choice, the Church probably isn't going to do anything about it. But if you go on television and promote that you are pro-choice or pro-abortion, I guess they would have to do something. I believe her TV campaign pushed Bishop Maher. If you're a member of the Mormon Church and you drink, they're probably not going to throw you out. But if you are a Mormon and you appear in a liquor ad, they're going to have to do something. I just don't think they need to have a press conference to take an action against somebody. It's their religion and it's between them to work it out. I just think the press conference was a little over the line."

Father Raymond Ryland, who at the time was a faculty member at USD and a confidant of Bishop Maher disagrees. "If he hadn't made a public statement, it would not have been known that the Church had taken a stand. I refuse to believe and I don't think there's evidence that can demonstrate that the bishop refusing [Killea] Communion put her over the top. Even if it did, the action was justified. When it's a moral issue, you don't take possible political consequences into account. She was very outspoken in her support of abortion. Bishop Maher had already done the same thing with the [National Organization of Women] people some time before that. He forbade them to receive Communion. He was left to dangle slowly in the wind -- especially by Bishop Quinn of Sacramento, who knifed him in the back, I'm sorry to say. Quinn just told her, 'It's okay, Lucy. You can receive here.' Lucy did say that she would obey the bishop in our diocese, but all she had to do was go back to Sacramento."

Now retired, Killea is gracious when recalling the incident with Maher. "I don't think it's appropriate to speak about him now that he's gone," she says. "All of this, [question whether Maher's refusal was a failure] is speculation. I respect him as my former bishop and what he did or didn't do doesn't seem that pertinent to the world today. I don't see any point in going into it again. I had great respect for him as my bishop."

Patton believes Maher has been seriously misjudged by other bishops and pro-lifers. "When we first got into this issue," she recalls, "we were critical of Bishop Maher because we couldn't understand why he wasn't doing anything on his own. We didn't appreciate at the time what we had. There were no bishops coming forth and taking a stand. He was very good about meeting with us, hearing what we had to say and taking our suggestions. When it came to Catholics for a Free Choice we asked him, 'Who are these people? Can you be a Catholic and support that?' and he said, 'Absolutely not!' and he made a public statement. We didn't appreciate at the time that he would meet with us, unlike the current bishop, and hear our side very openly. At the time, we thought, 'Why doesn't he do more?' but we didn't realize how lucky we were. We thought they should all be doing something and he was the only one who did. We didn't know how things worked and we didn't appreciate that he was very receptive and strongly behind pro-life activities."

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; catholic; catholicpoliticians; democrats; elections; politics; prolife; religion; republicans; sandiego

1 posted on 01/22/2004 10:53:55 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Lady In Blue; Canticle_of_Deborah; Desdemona; sandyeggo; Aunt Polgara; ElkGroveDan; Gophack; ...
2 posted on 01/22/2004 11:01:00 AM PST by nickcarraway (
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To: nickcarraway
Sounds like my kinda guy - wish they had taken a similar stance on pedophiles.
3 posted on 01/22/2004 11:06:19 AM PST by Henchman (I Hench, therefore I am!)
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To: nickcarraway
Sounds like my kinda guy - wish they had taken a similar stance on pedophiles.
4 posted on 01/22/2004 11:06:20 AM PST by Henchman (I Hench, therefore I am!)
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To: nickcarraway
She won't be the last!
5 posted on 01/22/2004 11:11:15 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway
The Deadly Dozen

Canadian Prime Minister Taunts Church: "I Am A Catholic And For Abortion"
Catholic Church asks Tom Daschle to stop calling himself a Catholic
On Catholic Politicians and Faith
Vatican Urges Catholic Politicians to Vote Along Church Lines
Senator Santorum on Being Catholic and a Politician
William E. Simon, Sr. and Jr. Devout Catholics, Philanthropists and Politicians
Deadly Dozen senator taken to task over claims of Catholicism
THE BISHOP AND THE SENATOR [author links to FR thread regarding Daschle in her online column]
Blood On Their Hands: Exposing Pro-abortion Catholic Politicians
MI Gov Granholm Proclaims June "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month"
Colorado Governor To Media:'WE LOVE OUR CHURCH' [Gov. Bill Owens
U.S. Senator Brownback and Commentator Dick Morris Join Catholic Church
Kerry [Catholic} says he'll filibuster Supreme Court nominees who do not support abortion rights
Pope to MPs: Stop gay marriage
Vatican - Considerations regarding ... homosexual persons
Prelate says politicians who back abortion shouldn't go to Communion
Bishop draws fire for targeting Chrétien
Kennedy likens Vatican stance on gay unions to 'bigotry' (oh, go get a job, you little creep)
Ignorance or Malicious Intent? "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to..."
George Weigel on Authentic Catholic Citizenship, and the Duty of Catholic Politicians to Behave as Catholics
Conservative Catholics urge Church to challenge "dissenters"
[Robert F., Jr.] Kennedy to speak at Festival of Faiths (Environmentalism as religion)
Faithful Catholic Politicians
Catholic Bishops Eye Possible Crackdown of Pro-Abortion Pols
It is Time to Excommunicate the Politicians
Church vows to fight gay marriage: Catholics pressure pols
Should politicians toe their church line?
Church May Penalize Politicans
Catholic politicians facing dogmatic threat
Bishop appeals to Catholic lawmakers [Wisconsin]
New St. Louis Catholic Archbishop Warns Pro-Abortion Catholic Politicians of Excommunication.
Bishop Objected to AIDS Walk
Wisconsin Catholic Lawmakers Seek Victim Status In Feud With Bishop
Bishop Burke discusses the letters he sent to Catholic politicians
Congressman Places Internal Pro-Abortion Docs in Congressional Record
Flynn: Dems ignore Catholics
Granholm gay rights order "a slap in the face"
Calif. Bishop To Gov. Davis: Pick Abortion Or Communion [formal excommunication?]
California Bishop to Gov: Oppose Abortion or No Communion (New Title)
Sacramento Bishop Challenges Governor on Abortion; Tells Davis to Stop Receiving Communion
Granholm's Bible-thumping Sure to Rile GOP
Bishop: No Communion for Abortion Backers
Legislators can't have Eucharist, bishop says: Don't serve supporters of abortion rights, euthanasia
Wisc. Bishop Tells Pro-Abort. Catholic Pols: Change Your Stripes or Stay Away from Holy Communion
Diocese targets Granholm on abortion
NJ Governor McGreevey a devout Catholic, yet diplomatic {Barf Alert}
Communion ban on lawmakers who back abortion starts furor
Bishop's ban ignites church-state debate
(MI) Governor's effort is first step to give gays special benefits, weapon against religion [Granholm]
(Louisiana) LA Archbishop aims call at some Catholic politicians [Hughes]
Hughes exhorts Catholic pols to toe line
The end of Catholic politicians
Maher's Moment: A look back at Bishop Maher's Denial of Communion to a Pro-Abortion Politician [Lucy Killea]

6 posted on 01/22/2004 11:12:38 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway
"Fourteen years later, Maher is still the only United States bishop on record to have denied Holy Communion to a Catholic who supports abortion..."

The ONLY one? In the last 14 years? Not even Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE?

Where are the shepherds!
7 posted on 01/22/2004 11:19:36 AM PST by (The Missing Key of the Pro-Life Movement is at
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To: nickcarraway
Thanks for this article. I wondered what had happened. I hope the crisis in public relations (if not the gospel itself) will cause our current bishops to re-think their earlier "pastoral" stance in favor of mass murderers.
8 posted on 01/22/2004 12:43:52 PM PST by madprof98
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

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