"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.

Otherwise:

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?

Lisa Fullam is 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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