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"Not Telling You Whom To Vote For" Watch

It was months ago when Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, compared Obama to Hitler, Stalin, and Bismarck in the heat of the contraception mandate debate. The diocese was challenged by Americans United for Separation of Church and State for violating the regulations for tax-exempt institutions. (My understanding of the law is that groups can argue issues, not candidates.) Americans United director Barry Lynn said at the time "No rational person could believe the bishop was doing anything but saying vote against Obama.And now...Here's Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield IL. After detailing several "intrinsic evils" he claims to find in the Democratic platform, he says:

Now, why am I mentioning these matters in the Democratic Party Platform? There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party Platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils.

And a few paragraphs later:

So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.

And he concludes:

I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

Oh. Good. As long as he's not trying to tell us how to vote.Then there's Archbishop Myers of Newark, NJ, whose pastoral on marriage and how to vote concerning it comes also at a convenient time for those (and Myers says he's NOT one of those) who want Catholics to be one or two-issue voters. But when he gets down to brass tacks about voting, he sure sounds like he might be. He writes:

Catholic citizens must exercise their right to be heard in the public square by defending marriage. We must exercise our right to vote in defense of marriage and life. This is our duty as citizens and believers.


Make no mistake about it: the freedom of the Church as an institution...and Catholic believers as individuals will be significantly curtailed by any redefinition of marriage that would abandon the understanding of marriage that has been accepted since well before the foundation of our nation.

Paul Moses' post below takes up Myers comment that Catholics who don't oppose same-sex marriage should refrain from receiving Communion. Here, I'd invite the dotCommonweal community to keep our eyes open for bishops who are treading very very close to that line of telling folks how to vote. This is a 2-party election, after all, in which one party has taken a historic stand in support of same-sex unions and continues to be strongly pro-choice, and the other wants to repeal what gains LGBT people have made in our society and ban abortion apparently without exception. (Romney's own stance on abortion has, um, varied throughout his career, so it's hard to say exactly where he stands on the issue.) I see how this might meet the letter of the law regarding not endorsing candidates, but gosh...isn't it clear what they mean to communicate?And before any of our resident trolls piles on, I say--sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Find me a bishop who says "Vote for Obama [or in favor of positions Obama holds that Romney does not,] or you'll go to hell," or "or then don't take Communion," or "or you're not Catholic," and they'll be worth keeping an eye on too.But what saddens me is this choice of issues. What about the war, now the longest in US history? Poverty? Hunger in the US and elsewhere? Education? Joblessness? National debt? Our policy regarding other nations, especially [fill in the hot spot of your choice]? The ecosystem and global warming? Are there no other issues that the bishops "don't want to tell us how to vote" about?


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Remember when Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs was flitting about the partisan political flame a few years ago. I notified the IRS at the time. I wasn't the only complainant, to be sure. Don't hear much --- or anything --- from Sheridan this time around. Did the IRS look into the matter? Did Catholics in his diocese tell their good bishop to shut the hell up?Maybe we should get rid of the federal law prohibiting churches from partisan endorsement and see where the money drops --- or stops!!!Let the bishops provide one more example of how they are their own worst enemy!

The quality of our bishops has plummeted over the past twenty, if not thirty years. For my part, I hope they continue making blatantly partisan statements and push church-going Catholics into more liberal choices on Election Day.Archbishop Chaput presides over a five-point swing to the president in his state. We haven't heard much from Maine these days, have we? The bishops have yet to realize that as much as they would like to sweep sex abuse under the sacristy carpet, that people still do not trust them, especially when they stray from the new Roman Missal.

What percentage of U.S. bishops are indulging in this type of electoral analysis?

All of them, Professor Komonchak, to the extent they do not speak out in opposition to their fellow hierarchs' partisan political involvement.

The connection between taxes and freedom of political speech by churches is delicate, as Lisa's reference to the the Americans United objection indicates. Taxes and tax-exempt institutions are in the news. A local German-Vatican issue on church tax has just received world-wide attention. The link below is to a newspaper that serves as local morning news for a large number of people in DC seriously interested officially or otherwise in the US tax system. It gives the story of growing enthusiasm in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe for taxing the long-exempt Roman Catholic Church. A particularly unfortunate unintended consequence of the bishops' current campaigning would be to crystallize US interests in enhancing their freedom to engage in politics by removing tax exemptions they enjoy because of religious privilege.

I don't give much credence to the threat of "losing tax exemption." Many non-profit organizations receive donations that may be deducted on an individual's Schedule A. Unfortunately, many faith-based organizations are not required to file Form 990 annually, a form that gives some insight into the organization's finances. It is that deductibility of donations that is at stake with supporting particular candidates. If Bread for the World lobbies, as it does, my donation to BFW is non-deductible. However, there is a separate non-lobbying Bread for the World Institute, donations to which are deductible.----Also, it will be politically difficult to prosecute some churches while letting other small urban churches host favored candidates.----I think the other "tax exemptions" are a far different kind and mostly local: exemption from paying state gasoline tax for cars registered to a non-profit org (as a school district), exemptions from town property tax, exemptions some places from garbage-removal, sewerage, and water taxes.----The diocesan clergy pay IRS income tax on their salaries. ----(All the above is subject to correction by those who know the topic better.)Joe

I don't agree at all, Mr. Jaglowicz. That I don't reply to many of the things with which I disagree on this blog, or elsewhere, cannot be justly taken to indicate my agreement with them; and I would guess that the same thing is true of you. And the question could be asked: Who gives these few bishops a voice beyond their own dioceses?

Fr. Komonchak, are you suggesting that we who find these bishops' comments so partisan are responsible for "giving them a voice beyond their own dioceses?" I do respect one who refrains from commenting on an issue. But to whom is your question addressed? Are we to believe that these bishops are "unhappy" to have their statements receive publicity "beyond their own dioceses?'

None of the bishops who have bubbled into the spotlight with their preferences showing have actually said Catholics must vote for Bishop Mitt Romney. I can see three reasons why. For the bishops, they might be listed as 1) Romney's own pro-life credentials won't bear much scrutiny, 2) they dislike President Obama, but they don't like Romney either on general grounds, and 3) fear of the tax man. So I think it is wrong to characterize this as telling us whom to vote for; it's more like telling us whom not to vote for. That doesn't automatically mean a vote for Romney; the possibility of not voting in a specific race is raised in the bishops' conference voting guide as a last resort. At least some of the mouthy bishops may be thinking along that line. I know I am.

Fr K. -- Money talks - and travels. If bishops are contributing funds to support out-of-state/diocese voting campaigns, they are doing their bit, whether their own diocesan donors know it or not or would have contributed, had they known. In his 2009 campaign in Maine against samesex marriage, Bishop Malone of Portland reportedly requested and received funds from 50 dioceses according to state records. Contributors included Lennon, Lori, D'Arcy and others, named at the link. How much of that kind of support from beyond the diocese is behind campaigns today by Lori, Sartain, Paprocki, Myers, et al.?

Mr. Dauenhauer: No, I'm not suggesting that. And I suspect that one or another of these few bishops might be pleased that their statements have received notice "beyond their own dioceses." In fact, they might be very pleased that they have received more publicity than their own PR departments, in Peoria, or Springfield, or even Newark, could ever have achieved. How many of their other effata have been so blessed? But my original question here was simply to draw attention to the fact that the vast majority of bishops, as far as I know, are not issuing similar analyses of electoral choices; and I sense, here and there, a tendency to go from these few to grand judgments about "the bishops," as if they are typical and indicative.

Father KomonchakI understand your point that three bishops do not a hierarchy make and the fact that others do not call them on it does not mean that they necessarily agree or are totally complicit, However, since for over 10 years now we are accustomed to the bishops adhering to the "thin purple line" in never saying that a "brother" bishop was out of line with his attitude or behavior in the sexual abuse crisis or in his overtly partisan political views, you must understand the frustration that so many of feel about their apparent tacit acceptance. Perhaps silence isn't consent completely, but the bishops who don't speak out about their fellow prelates who cross this line thus appear to have no problem with it -- and that's the scandal and the problem.

Tom Blackburn:True, one cant say that the bishops have actually said Catholics must vote for Romney. Not in so many words. But isnt that the thrust of their comments? Isnt that the conclusion thats most likely to be drawn from their comments? Its all well and good for you to present your three reasons for a more nuanced conclusion. I simply wonder how many people will have/take the time to go into all those nuances. Id be happy to be proved wrong on this, so please go ahead and try.

" I saysauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Find me a bishop who says Vote for Obama [or in favor of positions Obama holds that Romney does not,] or youll go to hell, or or then dont take Communion, or or youre not Catholic, and theyll be worth keeping an eye on too."But it's entirely possible - more than possible - that one can not vote for President Obama and yet not risk her eternal destiny. That being the case, why would a bishop claim otherwise?

Mr. Pasinski: I suppose appearance is in the eye of a beholder. This beholder has never been tempted to think that the silence of Bishop B about Bishop A implies consent or even appears to be consent to what Bishop A has said or done. So for me such silence is not a problem, and certainly not a scandal.Has anyone studied what influence a bishop's statements on such matters has had on Catholic voting patterns? I suppose because I don't think bishops have much authority in this area at all, I expect that they also don't have much influence; but I don't really know. Does anyone?

This from Felipe Estevez, Bishop of St. Augustine, FL, in a letter to the faithful in his diocese:"I would not tell you how to vote or who to vote for, but it is my responsibility to remind you that, for us Catholics, some issues are simply never morally acceptable. The taking of an innocent human life, whether inside the womb or not, and up until natural death, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. Such issues as embryonic stem cell research and attempts at human cloning are also direct attacks against the dignity and uniqueness of human life made in the image of God. Finally, preserving the dignity of traditional marriage is of central importance and must never be undermined because marriage is a cornerstone of any stable society. Any attempts to re-define marriage as something other than between a man and a woman, should be vigorously opposed by a Catholic as contrary to reason, the natural law, and the divinely revealed truths of the Bible. Beyond these fundamental issues, and closely related to them is the issue of religious liberty our ability as Catholics to live our lives publically according to our faith and morals at all levels of society."As Catholics we must first consider the various candidates and party platforms in light of those immutable issues I have mentioned above. Then, in good conscience, we must give preference to the candidate who does not oppose our God given moral principles."Hearing that letter read aloud at Mass last week--I suspect it was read at every Mass throughout the diocese--I couldn't help but wonder if Bishop Estevez hadn't received some kind of generic letter from the USCCB, which he was encouraged to personalize and then disseminate. Maybe I'm cynical, but so many of these bishops' statements sound very much like each others'. Reminds me of the letters read at Mass during the height of the anti-HHS mandate/Fortnight of Freedom campaign. They all said the same thing, only with slight differences.Of course, a bishop is free not to follow the USCCB's recommendations, and I'm sure a number of them do opt out.

I can't take seriously the moral advice of men who covered up (pr kept quiet about the covering up of) the sex abuse of kids.

"So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin." Going against Matthew 25 which the Republicans do is the greater sin. "I understand your point that three bishops do not a hierarchy make and the fact that others do not call them on it does not mean that they necessarily agree or are totally complicit, "Joe, it would appear your head might be in the sand with naivete. Check out the Catholic Conferences in each state.

Professor Komonchak, I believe that silence in some cases connotes acceptance (read: "tacit approval") of the situation. Furthermore, if a bishop does not challenge egregious statements and/or behaviors of other bishops with whom he disagrees, that bishop is part of the problem. As Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." The phrase "fraternal correction" comes to mind here ---, for example, twenty-four days have elapsed since a U.S. bishop was convicted of the criminal act of failing to report possession of child pornography by one of his clerics. Yet this bishop is still in office. And not a peep from the Vatican.Which U.S. bishop has called for Bishop Finn's resignation?None that I know of."If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Archbishop Thomas Broglio, bishop of the military services, preached at the annual D.C. Red Mass today with four justices in attendance. Good sermon about cooperation of Church and Caesar. Rocco gives the whole text at readings today were particularly apt for the topic -- Moses respecting prophets not literally in his tent, and Jesus insisting that those who are not Christians who do His work must be respected.

... and also that those who are Christians and are leading us astray, such as Bp Paprocki etc., must be rejected. Also apt!

Bishop Lynch in Florida in his 9/18 blog did an analysis of where the two parties came down vis-a-vis "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship". I thought his analysis was refreshingly straightforward.

Opening sentence in Bishop Lynch's analysis:"There have been numerous inquiries to my office about if and when I might speak about the upcoming national election."I have known Catholics, who have told me that they badger their bishop with letters and threaten to write to the Vatican via the Vatican ambassador in Washington DC if their bishop has not been vocal enough on some issues.

Mark Jameson:Just curious: Was the letter from Bishop Estevez read in lieu of a homily?

With all due respect to the various commentators here, the Roman Catholic bishops in the United States are American citizens. As American citizens, they should be allowed to engage in free speech about American politics, as so many other Americans do.There is no good reason to expect the Catholic bishops to be non-political.As to the American Catholics who might hear or read a political statement by a Catholic bishop, I would hope that American Catholics have attained sufficient maturity to listen respectfully to a Catholic bishop and then make up their own minds.I know, I know, the IRS has certain regulations. But the merits of the IRS regulations are debatable, just as the idea of tax-exempt institutions is debatable.So I say, "Let the Catholic bishops have free speech in the United States. And let American Catholics learn to think for themselves."

No, Helen. It was read after Communion. Mercifully, the homily was on the readings.

Thomas Farrell wrote: "As to the American Catholics who might hear or read a political statement by a Catholic bishop, I would hope that American Catholics have attained sufficient maturity to listen respectfully to a Catholic bishop and then make up their own minds."I agree completely.

As the late, great liberal Texan journalist Molly Ivins was fond of repeating, our Founding Daddies got some things wrong but they got a lot of things gloriously right. Freedom of speech is one of them. And the best cure for bad speech (however you define bad speech) is better speech.So I'm all for Bishops Jenky & Paprocki exercising their constitutional and ecclesiastic rights. And I'm all for Lisa Fullam repeating their statements and exercising her own constitutional and ecclesiastic rights by critiquing their statements and expressing her own views.And I'm all for all of us commenting here (and in the non-virtual world!) about those statements and adding our own.Underlying the notion of "freedom of speech" is a foundational trust that there is a power in the truth, and that truth can better be revealed over time through ongoing discourse and the testing of that discourse against the realities of life that surround it.So, for example, Bishop Malone was a key leader in the 2009 successful referendum to repeal same-sex marriage in Maine. The diocese of Portland gave $500,000 (a lot of money by Maine political standards) to the campaign and lent its public policy director full-time to the campaign.This year, for whatever mix of reasons, Bishop Malone and the diocese of Portland are more or less standing on the sidelines of a new referendum to legalize same-sex marriage. I hope those who know more will weigh in, but I strongly suspect that the opposition---in word and deed---of many Maine Catholics to the way in which their bishop exercised his authority and power 3 years ago is a significant factor in his decision to act differently this year. (Fraternal and sororal correction doesn't only exist between bishops!)

Here's what my bishop had to say about the elections (and perhaps this will be all?): is rather different from the stories that dominate the news and the blogs. Does anyone know what (and how much) "most" bishops say and write in the periods before elections? Perhaps the stories that make the news are not so typical...

Maybe Im cynical, but so many of these bishops statements sound very much like each othersMark,The issues are the same, and they all have a very similar take on Catholic teaching and morality, so its seems a little disingenuous to me to expect a wide range of opinions from the bishops.

Agree with Thomas Farrell and Luke Hill. Free speech for all, even bishops.Huff article about how much influence bishops have on voters, with good links within:"Seventy percent of Catholic voters say that the views of the U.S. Catholic bishops are unimportant to them in deciding for whom to vote. And a similarly large proportion, 73 percent, says they believe Catholic politicians are under no religious obligation to vote on issues the way the bishops recommend."

"With all due respect to the various commentators here, the Roman Catholic bishops in the United States are American citizens. As American citizens, they should be allowed to engage in free speech about American politics, as so many other Americans do.There is no good reason to expect the Catholic bishops to be non-political."Thomas,This may be some unintended sophistry. It is one thing to express free speech and quite another to speak from your office. These bishops are speaking not as private persons but as church officials.

In response to Lisa's lament about other issues, I would note that there are over 1 million abortions in the US and 40 million globally each year. Data here

Bruce:Therefore, if the Republican Romney-Ryan ticket wins, the abortion numbers in the U.S. will decrease and if the Democratic Obama-Biden ticket wins, the abortion numbers in the U.S. will increase.

Bishop Paprocki wrote, as quoted in the original post: "... a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit, and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy."This needs qualification, to say the least. Proximity of cooperation surely come into play, as does the voter's intention.

Bill Mazzella: Sophistry or not, I say, "Let the Catholic bishops speak. Let them have their say. Then let the American Catholics make up their own minds about how to vote."Now, for the sake of discussion, I would urge you and others to consider the alternative. The alternative is to try to limit their free speech about public issues.The Catholic bishops have already sponsored their Fortnight for Religious Liberty (or whatever they called it).So don't do anything further to provoke the Catholic bishops, or else they will just cry out all the louder that their freedom of religion is being taken away from them.

Thomas, I get it.

Helen,Ok, lets just assume it doesnt matter and ignore it.

This may be some unintended sophistry. It is one thing to express free speech and quite another to speak from your office. These bishops are speaking not as private persons but as church officials.Indeed. I would never use lecture time to tell my students to vote one way or another. Some of my colleagues did that in 2002 and told their students to vote against the (anti-Semitic) Front National party in France. Much as I abhor that party's ideas, I would never do that. In class they are a (somewhat) captive audience, and it is highly inappropriate to use that forum to impose my ideas. At Mass Catholics are also a (somewhat) captive audience, and it would be highly inappropriate to use that forum to read letters in which a bishop would present his personal views as a US citizen. It is not what he is doing: there, he is speaking as a church official. That has nothing to do with free speech.

In a 2002 written finding (Election Year Issues by Judith E. Kindell and John Francis Reilly), the IRS found that: "In situations where there is no explicit endorsement or partisan activity, there is no bright-line test for determining if the IRC 501(c)(3) organization participated or intervened in a political campaign. Instead, all facts and circumstances must be considered"(344). They seem to say it is possible to transgress the boundaries of 501(c)(3) without an "explicit" endorsement. Or, to put it another way, cute evasions only can go so far when they fall in a persuasive pattern of facts and circumstances.The question is--since "religious liberty" has been added by +Paprocki and others to the list of so-called non-negotiables that should determine how a good Catholic votes, and since the bishops are now suing Obama over religious liberty claims, has not the line separating moral advocacy on policy and electoral intervention been blurred in 2012? We can go further. +Chaput wrote in a February 12 op-ed about the HHS mandate that, "Critics may characterize my words here as partisan or political. These are my personal views, and of course people are free to disagree." But three sentences later, he wrote that, "Catholics should not be misled into accepting feeble compromises on issues of principle." Is he writing as a private citizen with an opinion, or is he speaking as a bishop about what "Catholics should" do? I cannot tell.Don't these "facts and circumstances," these murkily blurring lines, suggest the line has been crossed?

RE Claire's 1:09 pm of today:Hear! Hear!

Bruce:"Ok, lets just assume it doesnt matter and ignore it."That is not what I think and believe at all. What I was trying to say, but maybe I was not clear, is that voting for one party or another will not change things with respect to abortion. It may make a statement but practically it will not be effective.

"I would never use lecture time to tell my students to vote one way or another ... In class they are a (somewhat) captive audience, and it is highly inappropriate to use that forum to impose my ideas. "Claire, I appreciate the separation you maintain. I am sure it is not news to you that not all of your colleagues in academia abide by it.But the parallel is not exact. Bishops have been given the charism to teach authoritatively on faith and morals. The moral formation of the people under their pastoral care is the proper "subject matter" of their "class". Not only is it appropriate for them to use their "class time" (the pulpit, their column in their local diocesan paper, their media appearances, and so on) to teach on moral issues, it would be wrong of them *not* to do it.

Steven P. Millies: I'm not an expert on the IRS regulations. However, There was a time before which there was a regulation IRC 501(c)(3). So somebody for some reason instituted regulation IRC 501(c)(3). What was the reason for instituting this regulation?Does the historical reason still have some merit, or not?Does the regulation IRC 501(c)(3) still have any merit, or not?Has the time perhaps come to abolish regulation IRC 501(c)(3)?Now, +Chaput is not one of my favorite people.However, I will defend his right as an American citizen to free speech.According to you, +Chaput wrote that "Catholics should not be misled into accepting feeble comprises on issues of principle."Neither should other Americans.Who's in favor of feeble comprises? Can we have a show of hands?In the American political arena, you should fight for the strongest compromise you can realistically get.But do American Catholics actually need to have +Chaput spell out for them that they should not settle for feeble compromises on issues of principle?If they do, what a pitiful bunch of people American Catholics must be.

Claire (and Jim P.):In 2008 I was teaching a course in Sociology in a Catholic High School. I said to the students: "Look, we've talked about racism, sexism, and ageism and we have running for President a black man, a woman and an elderly man. I'd say we're doing well."One of my colleagues talked about the election in her class, too. She referred to Obama as the "anti-Christ."

Bill Mazzella and others have made the distinctions that I think are important to Fr. Komonchak and others about the right of the bishops to speak as individual persons, but they are unque in in using their office for quasi- accusations against anyone who thinks differently and are therefore somehow being less than good Cahtollics should one support a political party or person who does not meet all their criteria.I don't know how much sway thay have -- I think they're largely preaching to the choir at this point and those who believe will cite them as authoritative and those who don't will largely wring their hands and ignore them (I'm mostly in that camp). When they mandate certain dispoisiions about laws with the tone that so many of them have put forth about "true Cathlolicsm" or one's sacrmental practice, they may not have crossed a technical line involving church-state line or law, but iit seems like a very selective use of the office that only ultimately is going to alienate them further from all but "true belieivers."It is no different for many professions that would criticize another publically, but perhasp I have always hoped for more from our hierachy.. I served with one wonerful post-Vatican II bishop at the Cathedrlal had have nostalgia for his ilk...fool that I am... Happy anniversary of Vatican II days ....!

David Pasinski: You say that "so many of them," that is, bishops, have put forth statements about "true Catholicism" in connection with the upcominig election. I'll ask the question I asked before: How many bishops have done this? I don't know myself, but not many have been cited.I'd like to know the source of the restriction on religious bodies from endorsing candidates. Does this apply to all tax-exempt bodies, or just to religious bodies? If only to the latter, would this not be a violation of the right to free speech, and discrimination against religious speech?

This was on the IRS website under 501(c)3 restrictions:To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.And there is a history of the restrictions here: didn't read it all, but it may have the answers to your questions.

Fr. Komonchak,I decided to read some of it...Look at page 344 and 345. That probably best addresses this discussion. I'm curious how the regulation would be interpreted when it is the bishops addressing the issue. The bishops speak for their dioceses not for the entire Church. Would individual dioceses be subject to lose tax exemption status. The entire Church would not lose its status.

A 32-page "tax guide for Churches and Religious Organizations" is available from the IRS. Pages 5-15 deal with jeopardizing (federal) tax-exempt status, including by political activity and lobbying activity, two separate matters of obvious current interest.