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Priest in Rhode Island says abortion worse than pedophilia, which 'doesn't kill anyone'

Rev. Richard Bucci doubled down on his recent call to bar state lawmakers who supported an abortion rights bill from receiving communion at his church.
Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick, R.I.
Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick, R.I.

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By Janelle Griffith

A Catholic priest in Rhode Island who barred state lawmakers who supported an abortion rights bill from receiving communion at his church has doubled down on his stance, saying abortion is worse than pedophilia.

In an interview over the weekend with NBC affiliate WJAR in Providence, the Rev. Richard Bucci of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick described abortion as "the slaughter of innocent children."

"We are not talking about any other moral issue, where some may make it a comparison between pedophilia and abortion," Bucci told the station. "Pedophilia doesn't kill anyone, and this does."

Bucci said more children have been killed by abortion than have been abused, adding, "which is not to say that abuse is not a horrible thing."

Sacred Heart Church declined to comment Wednesday, deferring to Bucci. NBC News reached out to Bucci for comment but did not immediately hear back. He later told WJAR his comments were taken out of context and that if anyone supports clergy sex abuse victims, it's him.

"It was imperfectly said," Bucci said. "I should have said, 'In general, the child that's molested does not die physically,' and I should have said, 'but some have.'"

Rev. Richard Bucci of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick, R.I.WJAR

Bucci's earlier comments to the TV station came after he put out a notice to Sacred Heart parishioners at the end of January listing the names of lawmakers who would not be allowed to receive communion at the church or participate in certain religious functions, such as acting as godparents or lectors at weddings.

The announcement came days after the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 establishing the right to abortion.

The priest's action also came months after Rhode Island in 2019 enacted the Reproductive Privacy Act to enshrine the right to abortion in state law.

The secretary of Sacred Heart Church provided a copy of the flyer to NBC News. Lawmakers' names appeared below the message:

"In accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church for 2000 years, the following members of the legislature may not receive Holy Communion, as are all the officers of the state of Rhode Island, as well as Rhode Island’s members of Congress. In addition, they will not be allowed to act as witnesses to marriage, godparents, or lectors at weddings, funerals or any other church function.”

Bucci discussed this announcement in an interview with the Providence Journal.

“If they are proud of what they have done, why do they want to keep it a secret?" he said of lawmakers. "We all hear about responsibility. Let them take responsibility. If they think this is a good and wholesome and holy thing ... they should be proud of it, and why should I hide that from my parishioners?"

Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin issued a statement Thursday, saying, "It is never acceptable to underestimate the harm caused by sexual abuse of minors," but "abortion is also a sinful, immoral act, an abominable crime.”

"In the current public discussion, I urge all parties to refrain from unhelpful, inflammatory rhetoric, and to reflect personally and prayerfully on the consequences of these grave matters," Tobin said.

On Monday, a diocese spokeswoman, Carolyn Cronin, told WJAR that the church provides "detailed norms for preparation and reception" for each sacrament, but that it is "the pastor’s duty to apply them within his parish, in accord with church law."

"Because the church entrusts to each pastor the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and governing his parish, the daily pastoral and administrative decisions are made at the local parish level," Cronin said.