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The pastor at St. Augustine Church in Andover has asked a pro-abortion politician, state Rep. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, to resign as cantor and head of the youth choir.
L’Italien said she refused Father William Cleary’s request and will not consider it unless he puts it in writing. Father Cleary is out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and will not return until next week, according a person answering the phone at St. Augustine’s.
“In this particular case we’re dealing with a person who is against the Church’s position [on abortion],” Father Cleary told the Eagle-Tribune newspaper. “I can’t allow her to be in a public posture, to be standing up at the pulpit singing or directing singing.”
Father Cleary said he did not object to L’Italien receiving Communion or working with children “behind the scenes.”
The Archdiocese of Boston has not yet commented on the situation.
“The archdiocese continues to gather more information about what transpired between the pastor and this parishioner,” said Ann Carter, spokesperson for the archdiocese.
L’Italien, a life-long parishioner who attended grammar school there, said Father Cleary made the request on Nov. 4, two days after she was re-elected to a second legislative term. She has lead the choir for four years, and three of her four children are in the choir.
She said she is personally pro-life but represents “people of many different faiths.”
“It is my job to separate this out,” she said. “I find it incredibly sad that I’m being targeted for this.”
Though L’Italien said she has never voted on any abortion legislation, she ran for reelection on a pro-abortion rights platform. She also voted against the proposed constitutional amendment that would have preserved the traditional definition if marriage.
L’Italien defended her record saying she has devoted her time as a legislator to helping the elderly, sick and poor, and her focus on these groups is driven by her faith.
AP materials contributed to this report