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Colorado bishops want state lawmakers who voted for abortion rights to abstain from communion

To accept communion after voting in favor of the law, the letter said, would be considered sacrilegious.

DENVER — In an open letter addressed to lawmakers, Colorado's bishops told Catholic state legislators who voted for abortion access to "voluntarily refrain from receiving Holy Communion" until they offer "public repentance."

"The burden from their decision does not rest upon the shoulders of priests, deacons or lay Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. It rests upon the consciences and souls of those politicians who have chosen to support this evil and unjust law," the letter read, in part.

The letter, dated June 6, is in response to the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) that passed through the Colorado legislature and was signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in April. RHEA guarantees abortion rights in the state, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers overturning Roe v. Wade, a 1973 case that prevented states from banning abortion.

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According to the letter, most Catholic legislators who voted in favor of the law were unwilling to meet with church leaders.

"It causes us profound sadness and distress to know that some Catholic legislators voted for this," the letter said.

"Voting for RHEA was participating in a gravely sinful action because it facilitates the killing of innocent unborn babies, and those Catholic politicians who have done so have very likely placed themselves outside of the communion of the Church."

To accept communion after voting in favor of the law, the letter said, would be considered sacrilegious. The letter also characterizes voting for abortion rights as "encouraging others to do evil."

Top bishops in Colorado signed the letter, including Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge H. Rodriguez, Pueblo Bishop Stephen J. Berg and Colorado Springs Bishop James Golka.

Their views are at odds with that of Pope Francis, who expressed politics should not interfere with offering communion.

“Communion is not a prize for the perfect,” he told reporters last year, while also stating the Catholic church considers abortion to be homicide.

9NEWS asked the Archdiocese of Denver if a similar no-communion order had been issued to legislators who voted for the death penalty. The archdiocese declined to comment and referred the question to its lobbyist.

Brittany Vessely, the registered lobbyist for the archdiocese and policy director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, said she does not believe a no-communion directive was issued over the death penalty. Vessely said that's because abortion is the bishops' "preeminent policy priority."

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