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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?

About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).



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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.

Isn't there a symmetry between - Myers saying that Catholics who don't oppose gay marriage should refrain from receiving communion (because, one presumes, it's just as bad as getting gaily married), and - JJ saying that bishops who do not speak out in opposition to their fellow hierarchs partisan political involvement are in the same lot (because they're just as bad as the worst of them)?

"Id like to know the source of the restriction on religious bodies from endorsing candidates"It applies to all 501c3 nonprofits, not just religious organizations; we are barred from endorsing candidates for office. We can do some lobbying (about 15% of budget, but we can't engage in political activity) A non-profit that wishes to endorse a candidate needs to set up a 501c4 corporation; the c4 can then endorse a candidate. The 510c3 nonprofit needs to be careful about what money it uses to finance the c4; it can't use any charitable dollars it has received, for example.Both c3s and c4s are tax exempt, neither pays taxes. But only with the c3 are donations the agency receives tax deductible on the part of the donor. (If I donate to the c3, I can deduct it from my taxes, I can't deduct a donation to the c4). That aspect of the c3- that people who give it money can take the charitable deduction- is a huge deal;my own agency would be out of business if we lost our c3 status. That is why I have set up c4s at different times. Imagine if all of the donations to the Catholic Church were no longer tax deductible; it would be a big deal.

The irony is that American bishops have always been involved with politics. No bishop today comes anywhere near the influence that Cardinal Spellman had. From Roosevelt to LBJ Spellman was a force withing the country and in New York where politicians referred to the Chancery as the "powerhouse." While we are on ironies it appears that Spellman was an active homosexual. polarization that seems ubiquitous today seems to have begun about the time that Spellman was a fervent advocate of the Vietnam War. Prior to that people did not feel much empowered to exert influence in religion and politics. So when we lament the polarization that exists today we might pause to consider it a positive since people have more rights than they had then. The objections to bishops and political figures today may reflect the reality that people have stronger hope of influencing their lives than they once did.

For background on the 501(c)(3) issue, see .Let's not forget the important distinction between "political" and "partisan political".

Whatever IRS regulations say, no elected official will try to remove tax-exempt status from a major religious institution. Politicians don't go out of their way to kick hornets' nests. And that may not matter much, because although the threat of eternal damnation would seem to be a pretty big cudgel, strange to say, it isn't as big as it used to be. The threat, I mean, not the damnation.With celibacy obsession, distrust of women, contraception troglodytism, feigned concern but plain disdain for gay people, and of course the Biggy of the last several decades, bishops have so whittled away their authority, that even on the issue of abortion they get an inattentive hearing.And then there was the Fortnight of Fizzle.Catholics don't seem to differ much from other Americans on the issues that so tangle episcopal skirts. In at least two states, one of them the foundational Catholic state in the country, voters seem prepared to approve same-sex marriage this year. Large majorities of Catholics ignore Church teaching on contraception. And the cries of religious persecution coming from some of the most coddled and privileged people in the world are simply embarrassing.So keep digging, Your Excellencies! You're getting there.

I may have spoken prematurely on the distinction I mentioned earlier. IRS apparently doesn't recognize such a distinction:"Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC section501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religiousorganizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly orindirectly participating in, or intervening in, any politicalcampaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidatefor elective public office. Contributions to political campaignfunds or public statements of position (verbal orwritten) made by or on behalf of the organization in favorof or in opposition to any candidate for public officeclearly violate the prohibition against political campaignactivity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denialor revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition ofcertain excise tax."The above seems to contrast with provisions of the Hatch Act relative to "partisan political" activity:"A partisan political election is one in which any candidate is to be nominated or elected as representing a party any of whose candidates for Presidential elector received votes in the last preceding election at which Presidential electors were selected, but does not include any office or position within a political party or affiliated organization. Examples of political parties that received votes in the last Presidential election are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green Parties. Thus, a partisan election is one in which any candidate is to be nominated or elected as representing a political party. An election is partisan even if only one candidate represents a political party and the others do not" ( ).Federal tax law (with reference to "any candidate for elective public office") apparently is broader in its coverage than federal civil service law (with reference to "any candidate...representing a party" under specified conditions) when it comes to permissible and non-permissible activity by persons subject to one or other statute.

Joseph J. --You appear to have the IRS 501(c)3 details on Political Activity or Political Campaign Intervention, when competing candidates for office are involved. The other one of interest is on Lobbying. The latter appears to be the one relevant to activity over a referendum to cancel a samesex marriage law that has passed, for example. An introductory discussion is at,-Churches-and-Politics

The question is more interesting from the Church's side than from the civil side. There are good reasons why the law should prohibit charitable groups from political interventions and endorsements--though, those prudent limitations have been exploded by the Citizens United decision. But the real question, it seems to me, is whether the Church's mission is served well by its identification with either side in partisan squabbling. We heard a partisan homily on Sunday in our parish. I can say that not only because it only recited "non-negotiable" issues where the Church is against the Obama Administration (including one, religious liberty, where 43 Church institutions and ministries are suing the Administration), but also because the applause that followed was not unanimous. We in the congregation knew what it was we just had heard, and we applauded accordingly. Those who will vote for Romney clapped; those with other plans didn't. Is such a division of the congregation the best way to enter prayerfully into the Liturgy of the Eucharist? My experience says no. And, it creates other problems after the Mass is over within the Christian community. In human affairs, divisions endure. The Mass and parish membership ought to confound that wisdom, not confirm it.But the other problem is that the Church's only political mission is to promote the common good, and that is not partisan. To succeed in the public square as it pursues the common good, though, the Church cannot afford to appear as though it is 'in the tank' for one side or the other. You want a preferential option and a just immigration process? Then it's best if the Church can't be dismissed as only worrying about abortion. You want traditional marriage and expansive protections for religious liberty? Then the Church is a good ally only when it is not seen as reflexively opposing the wealthy because they're wealthy. The Church's political credibility depends on the legitimate lack of partisanship. Without that credibility, it can do very little good in the temporal order.We're at a point where Bishop Paprocki feels quite free to say what he said--largely because there is no surprise left to be provoked. We know that all the bishops collectively, through the statements of the USCCB and its recent civil litigation, have a partisan point of view in the 2012 election. They've made their interests clear, and their partisan point of view follows their interest. (It can be dismissed effortlessly by honest people for that reason.) We know that many of the bishops individually--Lori, Myers, Dolan, Wuerl, George, Paprocki, Jenky, and Sheridan (just off the top of my head)--have a partisan point of view in this election simply by their own public statements. They have not been shy about it. Or, prudent.Though it's been four decades in coming, I worry that something important is being squandered in 2012. It will not be won back quickly.

I wonder how many people have walked out of partisan political homilies out of protest or just plain disappointment? One can always come back for the Creed.

"In 2008 I was teaching a course in Sociology in a Catholic High School. I said to the students: Look, weve talked about racism, sexism, and ageism and we have running for President a black man, a woman and an elderly man. Id say were doing well. One of my colleagues talked about the election in her class, too. She referred to Obama as the anti-Christ."Helen, it's an instructive contrast. If I understand your point rightly, it's that Catholic schools (and the church more generally) should promote justice, which your comment was intended to do. Referring to a presidential candidate as "the anti-Christ" crosses the line.

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.Helen,President Obama took several discrete actions which upon entering office which the Church teaches are abortion related intrinsic evils.1) On March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13505, entitled Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells which changed the way National Institutes of Health (NIH) can support and conduct human stem cell research by rescinding limits which President Bush put in place. 2) On January 23, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order reversing the ban that prohibited funding to international family planning groups that provide abortionsYou may believe that your vote '...will not change things with respect to abortion.' I have two related questions What makes you so sure it wont? and more importantly Why not try?

Prof. Kaveny brings necessary insight to the whole partisan question in her article "The Single-Issue Trap, WHAT THE BISHOPS' VOTING GUIDE OVERLOOKS.""Am I suggesting that a candidates stand on legal abortion is insignificant? Absolutely not. I do believe, however, that simply correlating a politicians stand on Roe v. Wade with a vote for or against him or her does not do justice to the question of how, morally, citizens should vote. After all, apart from referenda items, voters are asked to select among people, not positions. Election guides would do well to place more emphasis on assessing the fitness of candidates for a particular office. That assessment should include scrutiny of both the candidates moral characterpaying particular attention to the virtues and vices most likely to be involved in the elected postand the candidates social and political networks. With whom will he or she work? To whom will he or she be loyal? These are key questions. Many election guides, however, emphasize instead the issues they perceive to be (or hope to be) relevant to the voters. The election guides issued by the USCCB are no exception."..."Voters cannot blind themselves and focus single-mindedly on one issue in the abstract, even if the issue is abortion. They must select among candidates, not among issuesand they are morally required to do so in light of the concrete challenges and possibilities for the common good posed by a specific election at a specific time. This, and not a litmus test of issues, is what forming consciences for faithful citizenship is really all about."

Jack, thanks for the IRS link. During last election cycle, I came across it (or something very similar to it at IRS site), but I couldn't find it this time around. I had remembered Johnson's name in the 501(c)(3) matter, thus my luck in finding the Pew information.The more I think about it, it's probably just as well that Congress eliminate restrictions altogether on religious leaders' political (partisan or not) involvement. Let the bishops take responsibility for their pronouncements. Conflict is not comfortable --- but it can be darn healthy for an organization/institution in the long run! Let the bishops and parish pastors live with the consequences of their endorsements, etc. (I suspect IRS would be more than happy getting out of this arena --- just as we at OPM were more than happy getting out of answering Hatch Act inquiries when the newly established OSC came into being at the same time following the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978).Abolish the restrictions. Duke it out. Let the dust settle (if it ever does :-)

Prof. Kaveny's excellent analysis of "The Single-Issue Trap" (Thanks, Jeanne) carefully identifies and evaluates critical characteristics of the environment in which the bishops and we exist and function. Her perceptions seem to have escaped the authors of the twice-issued voting guide. One insightful result is the set of four paramount considerations in assessing candidates for a particular office. 1.2 billion Catholics get no vote on bishops. Nevertheless, it is illuminating to apply to those we see performing in episcopal office the four considerations she identifies as paramount in selecting others for positions of high responsibility involving serious matters in an unpredictable future. 1) Competence intellectual capacity, experience, temperament, and judgment? 2) Character moral values and integrity to pursue them in situations of temptation and fear? 3) Collaboration work well with other people, both allies and opponents? 4) Connectionsmoral and practical ramifications of political and financial connections? How many of the outspoken bishops would be chosen again, if the choice existed, considering the evidence from their voting guide, their campaign for religious freedom, their election-year sermonizing, management of their clerical-sex-abuse coverup tradition, and their focus on a sexuality-related set of high-priority issues?

Thomas Farrell says,

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 would hope that, too. But what if the HuffPost article is right when it says, 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. What about that other 30%? If theyre people who think they dont have the right to make up their own minds once their bishop has made a political statement, thats a lot of people to have laboring under a false impression. (Its also a lot of votes). Some comments here have spoken of the bishops equal rights to free speech. But what if, for that 30%, this is a question of all Catholics are equal, but some Catholics (i.e. bishops) are more equal than others and, given that theyre more equal -- that theyre authority figures -- they must be obeyed? After all, the person making these political statements isnt just another Joe Citizen exercising his free speech rights. Hes making the statements as he stands high up in the cathedral pulpit, wearing those impressive vestments, or making them in letters that have, up top, the official diocesan letterhead.How, then, to insure that voters dont attribute to the bishops more authority than they really have? Im reminded of a time in El Salvador when Archbishop Romero had to deal with a situation which was, in one sense, similar to this one. In the period following Vatican II and the meeting of Latin American bishops in Medellin, Colombia, small, grassroots Christian communities (comunidades eclesiales de base) began to form in some countries, El Salvador being one of them. These groups would meet in their neighborhoods to pray together and reflect on Scripture, asking how it could help illuminate their life situations; as they put it, they were reflecting on reality in the light of Scripture. Some people began to emerge as leaders of that movement. As time went on and peoples social and political consciousness continued to develop, a moment came when they decided that they needed to form new groups (organizaciones populares) to deal with explicitly political and economic questions. Archbishop Romero supported this new kind of organizing, but he drew the line when some of the leaders of the Christian communities true, they werent bishops, but they were authority figures -- began taking leadership positions in the new groups as well. He feared this could give rise to a certain confusion; that is, some Christians might feel obliged to accept the political positions taken by the new groups, since those positions were being enunciated by people who were authority figures in the Christian communities. This led Romero to tell the leaders to make a choice: If you want to remain as a leader in the Christian communities, do not take leadership roles in the new groups; if you opt for leadership in the new groups, resign from your leadership role but not your membership in the Christian communities.Maybe theres something for us to learn from Romeros insistence on this point, and the measures he took to insure that there be no grounds for confusion, for attributing more authority to people (and the positions they advocate) than they deserve.

Following Gene Palumbo, it seems to me that it is--or, should be--possible to separate the teaching of faith and morals from articulating specific political solutions. There is a role for political prudence, our judgment about which solutions will and won't be effective in a given time and place, about which we can disagree in good faith.An example: I could take the religious liberty campaign and the Fortnight more seriously as a legitimate exercise of a bishop's role if I had heard in the last year just one homily about why contraception is immoral. I could take the marriage campaign seriously if someone would preach just once against divorce. But those things don't happen, and it leaves the impression that the partisan appeal has grown more important than the teaching of the faith. In contrast, it seems to me better to teach the faith and to leave a literate, educated laity that lives in the secular world to reach prudent conclusions about how to bring that faith to social and political life.The partisanship that comes before the teaching of faith serves the Church poorly and, for how it calls into suspicion the witness Catholics offer in the public square, it does little to make a more just temporal order.

"Maybe theres something for us to learn from Romeros insistence on this point, and the measures he took to insure that there be no grounds for confusion, for attributing more authority to people (and the positions they advocate) than they deserve."Gene --You make an important qualification when you say ". . . for attributing more authority to people (and the positions they advocate)". There is a big difference between "the authority" who advocates by reason of his office and *what* he advocates based on his "authoritative knowledge". "Authority" is a very ambiguous word. It can mean *a right* to do or say certain things, for instance, a policeman has the right/power/duty/authority to tell you to move your car from a no parking spot. It doesn't take much knowledge on his part for him to tell you to move on, all it takes is his authority as an officer. On the other hand, the word can also mean the *competence* to speak very knowingly on a subject. For example, when the philosopher Michael Dummett talked about logic and the card game tarot, he spoke from great knowledge about the two subjects. Yes, tarot was a hobby, and he had a vast knowledge of the game. Though he held no office of tarot-teacher (and hence no authority in the first sense of the word) he was "a world authority on the subject" by reason of his vast knowledge. At Oxford, by reason of his office as professor of logic, he had the right/duty/authority to speak on the subject (the first sense of "authority"), but he also spoke from his world-class understanding/competence in the subject, and that made him an authority in the second sense as well. So he had *both* kinds of authority at Oxford -- the right and power to speak out about logic and his great competence in the subject of logic. As a tarot authority he had only competence.Unfortunately, merely holding an office with its consequent right to speak out does not guarantee that the office-holder has competence in a particular subject. Bishops always have the first kind of authority -- the right and duty to speak out the teachings of the Church. But only sometimes do they have the second kind of authority, the knowledge of, the competence in a subject. They are *supposed to be* competent, but sometimes they aren't.So what about bishops ordering us to make and abide by their prudential judgments? Prudential judgments are about *both* general principles, the sorts we can all learn in school, and actual, singular facts or sets of circumstances. Only when bishops have knowledge of actual facts are they competent to make prudential judgements. People rarely have the same knowledge of actual facts, so, paradoxically, the bishops' prudential judgments can honorably differ from ours. How is this possible? Because we often see what they don't see or they see what *we* don't see, so we can come to different conclusions. In other words, their premises and our premises are not exactly the same, and so our conclusions can validly differ. But there is more to it than that. Sometimes a moral problem concerns *which* moral principles apply, and we can honestly differ about that too, and reach opposing conclusions.Where some of the bishops overstep their mark, I think, is in thinking it is their right and duty to tell us which general principles to apply and how we MUST apply them to particular, actual circumstances as we understand them, such as whom to vote for in November. Sometimes our knowledge differs from theirs, and we must follow our own consciences, our own honest reasoning. Even Rome agrees about that.I think there is also a particular logical problem about the bishops and U. S. law. The law says that a leader of a tax exempt organization can't tell members whom to vote for. Well, it's obvious they can't do that by name. They cannot legally say, for instance, "You must vote for Romney". But what if a bishop says, "You may NOT vote for ANYONE who is pro-abortion ever". (One of the bishops actually said that, I think.) Logically that bishop has excluded the possibility of voting for Obama because Obama is pro-abortion. But, note this -- this is logically *not* the same thing as saying, "Vote for Romney", because there are other possibilities, e.g., voting for a libertarian candidate, or not voting at all. So does he break the law by implying we shouldn't vote for Obama? I think not, but it's a hair-splitter. Sorry to go on at such length, but the problems are complex and confusing.

Hi, Gene, I really like Thomas Farrell's formulation: "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 like it because it is in two parts: (1) Catholics should listen respectfully to their bishops (when the bishops speak within their competence) and (2) Catholics should make up their own minds on whom to vote for. What is that competence? To teach on faith and morals. Certainly, it doesn't extend to dictating for whom Catholics should vote.If bishops were to tell Catholics whom to vote for, perhaps some Catholics would comply. I don't think that's very different than voting a "straight party" ticket. People have all sorts of reasons, some better than others, for their voting decisions. I take the Chicago Tribune list of endorsements into the voting booth with me, because otherwise I could never keep track of which candidates for circuit court judge or water reclamation district are the best ones. Many people in this area vote for judges based on the ethnicity of their last names. But it's all theoretical, because I don't know that any bishops in the US have told their people whom to vote for. Perhaps some try to sway voters by issuing statements before an election. The consensus among dotCom commenters, as far as I can tell, is that this practice is not wrong per se; but that it is thought to be counterproductive for church officials to be so aligned with the Republican party. My own thought is, if it's not wrong per se for bishops to issue statements that influence voters, then their statements should influence voters to align themselves with Catholic principles. If that favors one party more than another, then perhaps that will be an incentive for the non-favored party to change some of its policies. Which I take to be the real point of the exercise.FWIW - here in the US, Catholic clergy are not supposed to run for political office. I assume that Archbishop Romero had a similar policy in mind when he drew the line with authority figures in his archdiocese.

"I could take the religious liberty campaign and the Fortnight more seriously as a legitimate exercise of a bishops role if I had heard in the last year just one homily about why contraception is immoral. I could take the marriage campaign seriously if someone would preach just once against divorce."These issues are not easy to address well in a homily. Certainly, commenters here have been known to complain about such homilies as have been given in their parish. It is hard to strike the right notes. For example: I expect (and I hope) that most clergy wouldn't preach "against divorce" because the church's position on divorce is not that it can never be done; in fact, it is required in cases in which marriages are annulled. Our larger culture tends to present issues in black and white, when the reality lies somewhere in between. A homilist who claims that divorce is always wrong would be as mistaken as the one who claims that divorce is always the right choice. But then, what is the truth of the matter? It's difficult to articulate.The reality is that the typical parish congregation includes people who are divorced, whose parents have been divorced, who are married but whose marriages are on the rocks, and so on. Faced with this pastoral reality, many clergy don't find it sensitive to stand before the congregation and deliver a dry lecture on the canons that apply to marriage. That is not the function of a homily. As it happens, this Sunday's Gospel passage is about marriage and divorce. If the homilist takes the approach that the homily should proclaim the wonderful news of God's salvation, what should he say about divorce? As I say, I think it's difficult to do justice to a topic like this in a homily.I am not arguing that the church should never talk about these things - in fact, it must - but that the homily may not be the best place to talk about them. There are many other venues available: religious education, pastoral letters, small faith sharing groups, support groups for the divorced, pastoral counseling sessions for married couples, wedding preparation sessions, and numerous other possibilities. And the new media presents all sorts of possibilities, including interactive possibilities, that parishes tend to be slow to take advantage of.

I want to be careful not to leave the impression that I'm calling for thundering homilies about contraception or divorce. Really, I'm not. Really. Really. I agree that human circumstances come in gray hues, but then that's the problem with bringing partisan politics into the Mass or the Christian community in the first place. I only mean to say something close to what Ann Olivier said much better. Wedging partisan politics into the Mass with a homily is no easier or harder than wedging in contraception or divorce. The question is--Why aren't we getting as many homilies, or pastoral letters, or press releases on those subjects? We know that the bishops all but demand that the partisan statements, the voting guides, get put in front of us, at least in the bulletin if not in the homily. Where is the reinforcement of the underlying moral principles? Where is the actual teaching?This is important because the partisan voting guidance comes under the heading of the bishop's teaching office: he makes his pronouncements about faithful citizenship as a teacher of faith. But the problem is that the teaching that we get is about how to behave in politics, and not what should guide our moral judgments when we make political decisions. We get "You may not vote for x" instead of "You must value a, b, and c, and here is why the Church teaches a, b, and c." As Ann Olivier observes, the bishops are qualified experts, authoritative teachers of the moral tradition. The question of how best to implement Catholic moral principles involves a different competence, and the answers to questions of how to implement it are as gray as anything else.But the bishops and many of our pastors do focus their competence on the political outcome, not on teaching the moral principles. The question is why. I suspect that the absence of homilies, etc. on contraception and divorce reveals the answer. Something like 40-50% of any congregation or parish probably supports Republican candidates, if we can believe public opinion data (I do). But only 20-40% of any parish or congregation can be depended upon to support the teaching on contraception, and even fewer have not seen the messiness of divorce up close in their own lives. The blowback from the pews would be far greater if the pastor or the bishop said "You can't support Obamacare for the same reason you can't use the pill or a condom," or "You can't support gay marriage, but you also need to oppose easy divorce for the same reason." The problem, then, apart from the fact that the partisanship exceeds the competence of the bishop as a teacher of faith and morals, is that the partisanship also expresses what I'll charitably call insincerity. Those making partisan appeals want to get their outcome the easy way, without disturbing the faithful whom they instruct--whom they have a duty to instruct. I think this is a deep and troubling pathology.

Homilies that may have been given on contraception have done notably little since 1968. Consider the possibility that the campaign for religious liberty ("the issue is not contraception") is seen by bishops primarily as a tactic to do what bishops haven't done in 40 years with Humanae Vitae. The primary target they hope their vigor will persuade -- that Church teaching on contraception is a very important matter which Catholics must observe -- is not the civil government but Catholic insiders, lay and clergy. Until that persuasion happens, the longterm gap between Catholic contraception teaching and practice is probably second only to the tradition of clerical-sexual-abuse coverup in continually damaging bishops' credibility and authority, more broadly than on that one topic. Some of the explicit political activity du jour is thus a means to an end, which is to persuade more Catholics that artificial birth control is wrong and to demonstrate thereby that bishops still, or again, have real _effective_ authority.

"Where some of the bishops overstep their mark, I think, is in thinking it is their right and duty to tell us which general principles to apply and how we MUST apply them to particular, actual circumstances as we understand them, such as whom to vote for in November."I'm not aware of any bishops, at least in the last 30 years, telling whom we MUST vote for.Where bishops seem more likely to stir up controversy and discontent is when they lay out consequences for violations of the principles they're teaching.Sometimes those consequences are explicitly disciplinary, as in 2004 when Archbishop Burke announced that John Kerry should not be given communion in his diocese. Another example would be Kathleen Sebelius' bishop asking her to refrain from receiving communion. In other cases, those consequences are not explicitly disciplinary but (in the view of the bishop) follow logically from the premise. Bishop Paprocki's statement, quoted above, that voters who vote for candidates who support intrinsically evil policies are jeopardizing the state of their souls, would be an example.Lisa Fullam, in the original post, makes it clear that in her opinion, these sorts of consequential acts and statements are means to nakedly partisan ends: that bishops are using whatever tools are at their disposal to advance GOP electoral aims. I don't claim that this is impossible, but I don't agree that it is certain or even likely. I take the position that, absent evidence to the contrary, we should extend bishops the benefit of the doubt on these matters and assume that their words are sincere and they are acting, not as GOP partisans, but as successors to the apostles.If the GOP benefits from bishops exercising their apostolic office, it's because the GOP's policies are more aligned with the pertinent Catholic principles. Democrats are welcome to similarly align their party.

I'd like to think that the lack of homilies on contraception is because nearly all of them, like us, believe that contraception is not wrong. So they keep their opinion to themselves and do not preach on it. There is a facade of controversy, but in reality the church is secretly united in our acceptance of contraception. That's a somewhat consoling thought.But of course, I have no way of knowing if it is true.

"I think there is also a particular logical problem about the bishops and U. S. law. The law says that a leader of a tax exempt organization cant tell members whom to vote for."To the extent that this law restrains clergy from instructing their captive audience on whom to vote for, I think we should cheer it.In general, my view is that this restriction is a matter of secular law, and to the extent that the law is just, church leaders should follow it - including pushing the civic-legal envelope to the furthest extent permitted by the law. If the law itself is just, I don't have an issue with doing what the law permits.Many churches go much farther than Catholic churches in promoting candidacies. It would be extremely unusual for a political candidate to give a guest homily at a Sunday mass in a Catholic parish, but similar appearances are not unusual in many other churches - quite frequently (as in African American churches) to the benefit of Democrats.

"Id like to think that the lack of homilies on contraception is because nearly all of them, like us, believe that contraception is not wrong."Claire, my own observation, which is skewed toward deacons (the large majority of whom are married or widowed and so have some personal authority to speak of reproduction and contraception), is that the clergy are pretty sharply divided. Probably - again, based on my own observations - clergy are somewhat more likely to agree with official church teaching on contraception than the general population is. Of course, that could still make for a pretty small minority :-).In Chicago, my sense of the overall makeup of the priesthood is that the older generations of priests, who tend to be American-born and grew up in Democratic-leaning households, are relatively progressive and tolerant. They are also the guys who are now retiring or (sad to say) dying. The ranks of younger priests are different: they are more likely to natives of other countries, and bring with them a different spirituality. In my observation, they are somewhat more likely to toe the doctrinal line. Having said that, though: I don't think I've ever heard a priest, of any age or background, give a parish homily on the evils of contraception.There is this to consider, too: there is a small minority of reproductive-age Catholic couples who really do try to abide by what the church teaches about contraception. There are some in our parish. They deserve the support of the faith community in trying to live out their Catholic faith, and a homily that focuses on the blessings of traditional marriage might reinforce and encourage their counter-cultural life decision. I'd like to think that can be done without condemning everyone else in the pews.

Jim P. -- It would be extremely unusual for a political candidate to give a guest homily at a Sunday mass in a Catholic parish, Interpretation by a canon law expert is required, but, meanwhile, Canons 762-772 seem to explain the rarity of guest political candidate homilists: (Can. 766) Preaching by lay persons may be permitted by the conference of bishops if called for by necessity or particular advantage and "without prejudice to can. 767 1"."Can. 767 1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year." Note also, re "voice beyond their own dioceses" discussed above: "Can. 763 Bishops have the right to preach the word of God everywhere . unless the local bishop has expressly forbidden it in particular cases.

Lisa Fullam's statement of this topic has been most helpful, and the 76 replies are also much more thought-provoking than what I could write. Many thanks from this reader!----(I view other blogs and message boards where each new answer causes the topic and thread to rise to the top of the list. On dotCommonweal, interesting and provocative topics often sink off the bottom of the page within four days. Then one must remember the title and hunt for it. This drop to a lesser position may also cause a sudden drop in replies.)

I believe that there is a strong similarity between bishops not contradicting their fellow apostolic successors when they step over the line and the famous and oftenquoted statement by Pastor Martin Niemller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. is not always golden. I think that John 8:32 tells us that truth (not going along and getting along) shall set us free.

Ann: Obama and very few people are "pro-abortion." To support a woman's right to choose is not the same as being pro-abortion.Using that line is why so many people simply do not care to listen to any of the points about Obama that official Catholicdom chooses to make around the matters of abortion or choice.Myself included.

Jim McC. ==But Obama is pro-abortion in those cases where the women chooses it. You/he really can't have it both ways. That's like saying that I'm not pro-slavery, but I support your right to be pro-slavery. From the slaves point of view, the effect is identical.

I'll weigh in to say that I don't think the "Obama is pro-abortion in those cases where the women chooses it" argument is subtle enough for our problem. This question hinges on how we think about law. Does the lawfulness of something mean we think it is good? Or, does the lawfulness of something reflect a pragmatic judgment that it may not be best--for whatever reason--to make it unlawful.I cannot conceive of a way to say that Obama--or anyone else I've ever heard of--is pro-abortion in any case. I've never heard anyone say, "I think there should be more abortions." But I can think of (indeed, I have made) arguments against a rigid criminalization of abortion because that doesn't seem like a prudent solution to the problem. Does that make me pro-abortion? I'm not, so I'll say no. Does it make me pro-choice? Not really. I'd prefer (if I need a label) pragmatically pro-life. I'm not persuaded that there is a good legal remedy to the problem available to us. Our best remedy, it seems to me, is to inculturate the appreciation of human life through evangelization, and to make public policy choices that support pregnancy and families.Overturn Roe tomorrow. Will there be fewer abortions? Or, will we just feel better because we've won a battle in the culture wars?

Steven Millies' closing asks precisely the right questions. Roe v. Wade affects only the legality of abortion. To move to the conviction that the law's presence or absence affects the _occurrence_ of abortion is unwarranted. Law observably has limited influence on the actual occurrence of many activities, good and bad. Background is instructive. An article "Birth Control in Antiquity" by M. Bujalkova, Comenius U., Slovakia, describes views, chemical and mechanical agents, techniques, rules and laws imposed, government and individual roles, etc. from the eras of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Augustus and others a couple of millennia ago. The distinction usually made today between contraception and abortion was often unavailable then because of lack of biological knowledge. Nevertheless, many ancient issues, considerations, disagreements, practices, and conclusions sound strikingly familiar today. Journal Considering human history, one law more or less is unlikely to significantly affect the place in human sexuality of abortion. If its occurrence is to be affected, the various sets of life circumstances that drive the choice in individual women today need to be understood and changed. Then, one might hope for fewer abortions.

A group of Protestant pastors is planning to challenge the IRS rule about not endorsing politicians. They expect to get away with it. Here's a WaPo article about it:

I wish those pastors luck. I'm not sure that the ban on political speech for 501(c)(3)'s makes as much sense under civil law after Citizens United, when now 501(c)(4)'s can spend limitlessly on partisan activity.But, I've gotta say: the two fellow parishioners with whom I've spoken who are Romney supporters were made uncomfortable and angry by the partisan, effectively-pro-Romney homily we heard on Sunday. Even though they agreed with everything said, they didn't want to hear it in church.Churches may win the battle with the IRS and get to offer endorsements legally. I think they'll lose the war once their parishioners start viewing preaching through the same partisan prism they now use to filter the news.

One interesting tidbit in the WaPo article: the rule was established by Lyndon Johnson who was concerned about the flak he was getting from some tax-exempt NGO groups, but as written t the rule applied to *all* tax-exempt groups, not just his non-religious critics.. You might say, then, that at first it covered the churches only accidentally. Nobody was trying to shut them up at the time. Unintended consequences, indeed.

Ann -- According to a short IRS summary, Congress has revisited the ban over the years and strengthened it. My impression is that one key part of "strengthening" has been efforts to clarify what is OK and what is not. Paprocki's pronouncement may be an example of the need for more work.,-Churches-and-Politics Rigorous formal syllogistic analysis shows that Paprocki doesn't specifically identify the candidate for whom to vote. He probably remains tax-exempt. On the other hand, anyone with the capability and will to read his diocesan paper column should end up with absolutely no question about his election message and the possible eternal consequences of non-compliance. Maybe seasonal huckster licenses could be introduced for a fee. Pastors may be missing out on a great opportunity. Imagine the draw if one were to guarantee a place and an hour in which he promised to talk with substance about some very important things in people's lives which had nothing whatsoever to do with the election or the bishops' ubiquitous sexuality-fixated agenda. Today, like, yesterday, I will be swamped with mail, e-mail, door-knockers, human and robotic telephone calls [just happened again], street-corner interrupters, and other solicitations. None matter any more due to saturation.

Thanks, Jack.It seems to me that the rule is a good one. It doesn't deprive anyone of his right to say who to vote for -- those pastors have chosen tax exemption in exchange for not exercising their free speech right. Those pastors and priests choose whether or not to exercise their right by choosing or not choosing the tax exemption.Here is one aspect of this issue that has not been considered. It is this: people have a right to listen to what their pastors tell them they ought to do. That is part of freedom of speech, is it not? And maybe also a matter of the right of free exercise of religion. It seems that the rule in effect deprives the flock of their right to hear from their pastors. Except it doesn't? If they choose to follow a clergyman who chooses tax exemption over exercise of his free speech, then they have implicitly forfeited their right to hear his recommendation. (I'm not sure of this.)I suspect that the solution is to allow the clergyman to express his position but not from the pulpitt and only on condition that he makes it clear that he is speaking as an individual, not as representative of the whole religious group. I'm sure that for Catholics it is quite different when a priest says, "In my opinion you should vote for X" and when he says"The Catholic Church says you must vote for X". A priest speaking from his own merely personal competence is worlds different from speaking for the Church. We do not consider ourselves bound to obey him, but we think we are bound to obey the commands of God as received from His spokesmen.Of course, the Church also teaches that making prudential judgments for individuals (such as deciding whom to vote for) isn't the business of the Church in the first place, but some of the American bishops seem to be ignoring that fact.Complexity, complexity, . . .

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