“Pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone, and this does,” Bucci said in reference to a bill passed in June that enshrines the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law.
He defended himself in a separate weekend interview on the “Gene Valicenti Show,” saying he’s not creating new rules by barring people from Communion, only enforcing ones that have been part of the Catholic catechism for 2,000 years.
“It’s not a new idea. I don’t know why everybody is shocked,” Bucci said.
The remarks incensed several state lawmakers, including Rep. Carol McEntee (D), who was among those named in Bucci’s letter. McEntee, who grew up a parishioner of Sacred Heart, is no longer allowed to participate in weddings or funerals at the church. She said Bucci even forced her out of her cousin’s funeral last year, shouting for her to leave. Bucci has disputed that version of events.
“What is it that he’s trying to say? That my vote on choice is worse than what pedophile priests have done for decades? I disagree,” McEntee told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “I think what they’ve done is a lot worse. They’ve taken children and ruined their lives, and left the rest of us to pick up the pieces.”
Bucci could not immediately be reached Tuesday, but the priest said in the Feb. 7 interview that he had not received any pushback from church superiors, including the bishop of the Providence Archdiocese.
Bishop Thomas Tobin later issued a statement affirming the serious consequences of both child sexual abuse and abortion. Tobin said it was "not acceptable to underestimate the harm caused by sexual abuse of minors,” but also called abortion sinful and “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.
McEntee said Bucci’s public campaign to pressure and shame lawmakers like her isn’t about abortion or the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, as Bucci has claimed; it’s retaliation for passing a bill that extends the statute of limitations for bringing child sexual abuse charges from seven years to 35 years — a law the Catholic Church continues to fight.
The legislation, which became law last year, was inspired by McEntee’s sister, Ann Webb. McEntee said her sister was sexually abused as a child by a previous priest at Sacred Heart. The church paid Webb restitution.
Webb is now a psychologist who says about half of her patients are also survivors of sexual abuse by priests. She said Bucci’s comments were personally triggering, but also uninformed and “absolutely ludicrous.”
“The right to choose is not a heinous crime,” Webb said. Meanwhile, countless victims of sexual abuse by priests have died because of substance abuse, suicide and other factors that may have stemmed from their trauma.
She pointed to bills in the Rhode Island legislature and around the country that the Catholic Church has tried to undermine.
“The Catholic Church has been working diligently behind the scenes to make sure these bills fail or are watered down,” Webb told The Post. “They can’t go out and attack the people who are supporting survivors of child sexual abuse, so they attack them on something else, like abortion.”
Webb said she has gone up against the powerful lobby of the Catholic Church with the bill she inspired and with other bills like it, but she pointed to actions like Bucci’s as less-obvious ways the church tries to exert influence over politics.
“I think they’re trying to flex their political muscles and signal that they can sway the voters, so you better vote our way, or else you’ll be out of office,” Webb said. “That to me shouts that they don’t want there to be a separation between church and state. The Catholic Church should not dictate to Catholic legislators how they vote.”
Bucci, in the weekend interview, maintained that lawmakers can have pro-choice beliefs, but once their actions help facilitate abortion, as he argues last year’s law does, those are grounds for excommunication.
This story has been updated with comment from the Providence Archdiocese.