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Bishop says he won't serve Communion to N.J. governor

BLACKWOOD, N.J. -- The incoming leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden said that he would not serve Holy Communion to Governor James E. McGreevey, a divorced Catholic who supports abortion rights.

The Most Rev. Joseph Galante said Thursday that he was taking the stance primarily because the Democratic governor remarried without receiving a church annulment.

Galante also cited McGreevey's support of abortion rights, stem cell research, and other positions that contradict church views.

Galante, who was installed yesterday during a Mass at St. Agnes Church in Blackwood, said he felt duty-bound to take a hard-line stance on the issue. He said the public becomes confused about church teachings when bishops fail to challenge Catholic politicians on their voting records.

The new bishop's homily before 1,500 people included an apology to "those who have been violated" as victims of sexual abuse by priests.

McGreevey did not attend the installation, though the diocese included his name on a list of dignitaries expected at the ceremony. If he did go, Galante said prior to the Mass, "I'd give him a blessing. In his case, he can't go to Communion."

McGreevey, a former altar boy who attended parochial schools and goes to Mass, commented yesterday on Galante's decision in a taping of WPIX's "Eleven News Close Up." The New York-based television show is to air tomorrow morning.

"I'm proud to be a Catholic. I love my faith," McGreevey said. "I'm the governor of the state of New Jersey, and I have a responsibility to 8 million people."

McGreevey said decisions on such matters as abortion and stem cell research are "intensely personal."

"Those are personal decisions, so I think certain bishops are doing a profound disservice to the faithful," he said.

Last week in Vatican City, Cardinal Francis Arinze said a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights "is not fit" to receive the Eucharist. At the time, McGreevey, who has also been criticized in recent weeks by Trenton Bishop John Smith, said denying the sacrament to politicians was unfair.

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