Diocese responds after state senator says he was denied Communion

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After a New Mexico state senator said he was denied Communion this weekend because of a political matter, his diocese responded that it had privately warned him he should not approach for Communion, due to his obstinate support for a pro-abortion bill.

In a tweet on Saturday, July 17, New Mexico state Sen. Joe Cervantes (D) wrote he “was denied communion last night by the Catholic bishop here in Las Cruces and based on my political office.”

“My new parish priest has indicated he will do the same after the last was run off,” Cervantes added. “Please pray for church authorities as Catholicism transitions under Pope Francis.” The senator represents New Mexico’s 31st district, around Las Cruces.

In response, Christopher Velasquez, director of communications for the Diocese of Las Cruces, told CNA on Monday that it is “unfortunate that a pastoral issue with a member of the local church be publicized.”

He explained that both Cervantes’ pastor and local ordinary tried to contact him several times previously regarding his support for an abortion bill, warning him he should not receive Communion. “It did not happen on the spur of the moment,” Velasquez said of the denial of Communion.

“In terms of the diocese, we regret the decision of Senator Cervantes to politicize this issue,” Velasquez said.

He noted that both Cervantes’ pastor and Bishop Peter Baldacchino reached out to Cervantes privately, in regards to his support for a pro-abortion bill that was signed into law earlier this year.

“Bishop Baldacchino did not receive a response from the senator,” Velasquez said, adding, “He [Cervantes] was contacted multiple times prior, letting him know that if he voted for Senate Bill 10, he should not present himself for communion.”

New Mexico’s Senate Bill 10, which Cervantes cosponsored, repealed a 1969 state law criminalizing abortions. That law has not been enforced since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. However, supporters of SB 10 warned the ban could go back into effect if the Supreme Court were to repeal its Roe ruling.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed Senate Bill 10 into law earlier this year.

Velasquez said the decision to deny Cervantes Communion “has nothing to do with his office or politics, it has to do with Senate Bill 10…with this particular bill, because of what it entails.”

Bishop Baldacchino, Velasquez added, has “an open door policy” on Fridays if members of the faithful in the diocese have questions or concerns.

“He’s definitely made it a priority of his to make himself available,” Velasquez said.

Cervantes did not immediately respond to an interview request from CNA.

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