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Catholic priest in Rhode Island suggests abortion is more heinous than pedophilia

Catholic church (Getty Images)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Catholic priest in Rhode Island condemned lawmakers who supported the state’s abortion bill and said they should be denied communion. Now, he is suggesting abortion is more heinous than pedophilia.

In an interview with CNN affiliate WJAR, the Rev. Richard Bucci of Sacred Heart Church said that while abuse is a “horrible thing,” the comparison between pedophilia and abortion is unfair because he believes more children have been aborted than abused.

“We are not talking about any other moral issue, where some may make it a comparison between pedophilia and abortion,” the West Warwick priest said in the interview, published Sunday. “Pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone and this does.”

Bucci told WJAR no one should be surprised by his stance: The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church holds that from the moment of conception, unborn children have the rights of a person.

His comments come after he published a church bulletin in January that listed Rhode Island lawmakers by name who’d supported the state’s abortion bill. The law, passed in June, codified abortion protections.

In the bulletin, Bucci said the more than 40 lawmakers he named should be barred from receiving communion, serving as godparents, or reading at Mass, among other restrictions.

Direct abortion, according to the Roman Catholic Church, is “gravely contrary to the moral law.” In 2016 Pope Francis indefinitely extended Catholic priests’ power to forgive abortions, although he said it remained a “grave sin.”

CNN reached out to Sacred Heart Church for comment. The church deferred to Bucci, who wasn’t available to comment.

Rhode Island lawmakers criticize his letter

State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee told CNN she received one of Bucci’s letters. She’s publicly opposed the church — in 2019, she introduced a bill that extended the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims after her sister, Anne Hagan Webb, said she’d been abused by a Sacred Heart priest as a child.

“It’s just absurd that he doesn’t think this kills anybody,” she said. “It steals their childhood and robs them of their soul.”

McEntee, who supported the abortion legislation, doesn’t attend church anymore. She said she believes the Catholic Church hasn’t taken responsibility for accusations of abuse against children.

“[Bucci] should come to the statehouse and listen to the victims’ testimony,” she said. “He’d have a completely different view.”

State Sen. Adam Satchell, who also supported the abortion legislation, called Bucci’s letter disappointing.

“I was recently asked to be my niece’s godfather, and I happily accepted,” he told WJAR. “My wife was excited. It was going to be her first godchild, and now we can’t.”

A week before Bucci made his comments about pedophilia, Carolyn Cronin, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Providence, said that while the Catholic Church provides “detailed norms for preparation and reception” of sacraments like communion, it’s the pastor’s duty to apply them. Thus, any change in who’s able to receive the sacrament is up to the individual parishes.

CNN reached out to Cronin for an updated comment regarding Bucci’s pedophilia remarks and was waiting to hear back.

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