Catholics should not support gay marriage, says Newark archbishop

Catholics who support same-sex marriage should refrain from receiving Holy Communion and also must consider a candidate’s position on abortion when deciding how to vote, Newark Archbishop John Myers says in a pastoral letter to 1.3 million Catholics in northern New Jersey.

The archbishop says he wants to clarify church teachings, and urges Catholics to vote “in defense of marriage and life.” Catholics who disagree with the church’s official stand against same-sex civil marriage should not receive Communion, he says, while describing opposition to it as important to maintaining religious freedom.

Myers says his statement is not intended to side with either political party six weeks from the national election, but it lines up with the positions of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. President Obama has endorsed gay marriage, and supports abortion rights.

“We live in a time when Catholics are walking away from the faith in record numbers. Archbishop Myers’ tone-deaf pastoral letter on marriage might explain why,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a liberal group that believes the church should focus more on its traditional social-justice mission. “When so many families live paycheck to paycheck, pew-sitting Catholics like myself want our faith known for its service to the poor, not for the far-right politics of the bishops.”

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that percent of U.S. Catholics support legalized same-sex marriage; that number rises to 72 percent among Catholics between the ages of 18 to 34.