Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been banned from receiving communion in Springfield-area churches because of their support for legislation that expands abortion access.
The decree barring Illinois' two highest-ranking lawmakers -- both Catholic Democrats from Chicago -- from taking the sacrament was issued by Thomas Paprocki, bishop of the Springfield Diocese, less than a week after an abortion rights bill won final approval in the legislature and sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Paprocki said in the decree that he imposed the sanction on Madigan and Cullerton because of their role in facilitating the passage of the proposed law, known as the Reproductive Health Act.
"They have obstinately persisted in promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion as evidenced by the influence they exerted in their leadership roles and their repeated votes and obdurate public support for abortion rights over an extended period of time," the decree states.
The Reproductive Health Act, if signed into law by Pritzker, would establish that a pregnant woman has a fundamental right to have an abortion and that a "fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights." The measure also does away with past provisions such as spousal consent and waiting periods.
While the church sanctions singled out Madigan and Cullerton, Paprocki's decree also advises any Catholic state lawmaker who backed the abortion bill not to present themselves for Holy Communion because they "cooperated in evil and committed grave sin" by voting in favor of the measure.
Paprocki cited church law that calls for someone to abstain from communion if they have committed a grave sin.
"To the best of my knowledge the Senate President hasn't ever attended services there," a Cullerton spokesman said Wednesday.
Madigan issued a statement saying Paprocki had notified him earlier that if he permitted the House to debate and vote on the Reproductive Health Act, he would no longer be able to take communion.
"After much deliberation and reflection, I made the decision to allow debate and a vote on the legislation," the Madigan statement said. "I believe it is more important to protect a woman's right to make her own health care decisions, including women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. With women's rights under attack in an increasing number of states across the country, Illinois is now a leader in making sure women are protected and their rights are upheld."