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New Jersey State Senate Majority leader leaves Catholic church over policy debate

 

5/10/2004 9:52:00 PM - A.P.

 

TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey's State Senate Majority leader has decided to leave the Roman Catholic church after 57 years, citing church demands that politicians vote in accordance with Catholic doctrine.

 

Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hudson, told his pastor Saturday that would no longer be a member of the church.

 

"If every faith starts trying to impose their rules on elected officials, democracy is going to be factionalized along religious lines," Kenny told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Sunday's editions.

 

Kenny, who supports abortion rights and stem-cell research, said his church leaders told him he would be offered Communion one more time, "but that then he would tell me not to come again."

 

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark declined to comment on Kenny's decision.

 

"I will look for other options to express my faith and will probably join another Christian church," Kenny told The Inquirer.

 

U.S. Rep. William Pascrell Jr., also a Catholic Democrat, agrees that politicians have an obligation to represent all their constituents.

 

"This is exactly what the Catholic Church said 50 years ago would not happen when Catholic politicians were trying to get elected to office," said Kenny, a former altar boy from Essex County. "It is a total reversal of the position that enabled Catholics to represent people of all faiths and all backgrounds."

 

Last week Gov. James E. McGreevey took the rare step of saying that he won't receive Communion at public services.

 

McGreevey's announcement came after Archbishop John Myers of Newark declared abortion rights supporters should not receive Communion, and the Camden bishop said he would refuse Communion to McGreevey. Adopting a respectful tone, the governor said he disagrees with Myers but would honor his request.

 

Pascrell told The Inquirer he doesn't plan to follow suit.

 

"I will continue receiving Communion - not in defiance, but out of conscience," he said. "I have nothing to apologize for."

 

 

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