PARTISAN ‘SINS’…. A couple of weeks ago, we learned about the Rev. Jay Scott Newman, a South Carolina Roman Catholic priest who announced that his parishioners who voted for Barack Obama are not eligible for Communion. He was rebuked by the Diocese, who said Newman’s statements did not “adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings.”

A priest in California apparently didn’t get the message.

Parishioners of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto have been told they should consider going to confession if they voted for Barack Obama, because of the president-elect’s position condoning abortion.

“If you are one of the 54 percent of Catholics who voted for a pro-abortion candidate, you were clear on his position and you knew the gravity of the question, I urge you to go to confession before receiving communion. Don’t risk losing your state of grace by receiving sacrilegiously,” the Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor of St. Joseph’s, wrote in a letter dated Nov. 21. […]

Illo, in an interview Wednesday, explained his reasoning. “In Catholic teaching, you have to go to confession when you have committed a mortal sin,” he said. “Now, what is a mortal sin? It’s somewhat complex. No one can say, ‘You committed a mortal sin.’ I can only say, ‘It’s a grave matter.’ It’s my job to look after my parishioners.

The Rev. Stephen Blaire, a bishop in Illo’s Diocese disagreed, saying Catholic parishioners should not feel compelled to tell their priest how they voted, and that voting for Obama did not necessitate a confession. “Our position on pro-life is very important, but there are other issues,” Blaire said. “No one candidate reflects everything that we stand for. I’m sure that most Catholics who voted were voting on economic issues. There were probably many priests, and I suspect many bishops, who voted for Obama.”

Of course there were. To reiterate a point from a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement not too long ago telling Catholics that they can’t vote “for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” That left voters plenty of wiggle room — a Catholic voter could back a pro-choice candidate and simply say that it wasn’t his or her “intent” to support the candidate’s position on abortion. Problem solved.

And yet, here we have another priest going considerably further, saying intent is irrelevant, and he wants to punish those who voted for the “wrong” candidate, regardless of their motivation.

Given that a majority of Catholic voters backed Obama on Election Day, one wonders why a church leader would take such an extreme position.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.