George Woyame: Weaponizing Holy Communion

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U.S. Catholic bishops have moved to deny Holy Communion to pro-choice Catholics like President Biden. George Woyames has this Perspective.

I am a pro‐choice Catholic, and a partner in a same sex marriage, attending a parish in San Francisco, for 36 years. Until the onset of the pandemic, as a lay Eucharistic minister, I distributed the Eucharist at a local hospital. Some American catholic bishops would gladly deny me Holy Communion, not for my gay marriage at least for now — but for being pro‐ choice. Threatening to withhold communion from pro‐choice Catholics, like president Biden, does not obliterate the stories of women worldwide having abortions, often in unsafe settings, and worried about the salvation of their souls.

I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where abortion is still illegal. Though it was easier for women of means to obtain safe abortions, those poor and mostly of color, rather than facing the shame of unwanted pregnancies, would commit suicide by setting themselves afire, or drinking poison. Others died from botched abortions. The front page of the papers would carry their stories and pictures of the corpses. Sadly, some of these women were like sisters to me.

When I was conceived, my parents were penniless, but my mother refused to abort me. Personally, I don’t favor abortions; but they will happen, legally or not. I prefer that they be done safely. As a medical social worker at a community hospital I referred women seeking abortion to the appropriate services. Those requesting adoption of the unborn were also referred out. Catholic clients often feared talking to priests about abortion. They trusted Divine Mercy instead. Faith leads me to believe they eventually found God’s comfort within themselves, whatever their decisions.

Being pro‐choice does not mean to be pro‐abortion. Weaponizing Holy Communion is wrong, and the bishops know it. My prayer is that all women may exercise their reproductive options, without priestly interference.

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With a Perspective, I am George Woyames.

George Woyames is a retired social worker living in San Francisco.