Chicago (AFP) - A US Catholic bishop announced Thursday that he is denying communion to two Democratic leaders of the Illinois state legislature because of their stance on abortion.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, in the midwestern state's capital, targeted the powerful Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and John Cullerton, who leads the state Senate.
The bishop said the two leaders are barred from "the most sacred aspect of our Catholic faith" because they advanced bills supporting abortion, a procedure the bishop called an "abominable crime" and "serious sin."
"To support legislation that treats babies in the womb like property, allowing for their destruction for any reason at any time, is evil," the bishop said in a statement.
The Illinois legislature this month passed a bill stripping away a number of restrictions on abortions in the state that have existed for decades -- in contrast to the wave of abortion limits being approved in conservative US states.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker is expected to sign the new abortion bill into law.
"It's my hope and prayer these lawmakers reconcile themselves to the Church so they can receive communion," Paprocki said.
Communion, in which Catholics eat bread and drink wine representing the body and blood of Christ, is an essential rite of the faith.
The Springfield bishop's decision comes amid an uproar over abortion rights in America.
States that have recently adopted restrictive abortion laws hope that the US Supreme Court, with a new conservative majority, will take up the issue and overturn its landmark 1973 decision allowing conditions to be placed on abortion only after the first trimester of pregnancy.
In Illinois' neighboring Missouri, the only abortion clinic in the state is in danger of closing -- pending the decision of a judge over whether it can keep its license to operate.
The bishop of Springfield made the same kind of decree against Democratic Senator Dick Durbin in 2018, after he prevented the passage in the US Congress of a restrictive law on abortion.
During the 2004 US presidential campaign, bishops put out a statement saying Catholic politicians who support abortion, including Democratic candidate John Kerry, may not be worthy of receiving communion.