Just in reflection on the US election, I’m a little stunned at the extremely vocal bishops who nearly outrightly (because outrightly is taking an obvious stance in the politics, favouring one person over another, and is actually prohibited) and in some cases, outrightly, told the many American Catholics to vote Republic.
It stems from a very basic document that establishes the right for the Catholic Church to maintain a federal income tax exemption:
The following document [on Political Activity Guidelines for Catholic Organizations] is provided by the USCCB Office of General Counsel in order to assist (arch)dioceses, parishes, and other Catholic organizations (“Catholic organizations”) that are exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) in distinguishing activities that are permitted during election campaigns from activities that are prohibited. This guidance focuses primarily on section 501(c)(3) of the IRC, because it contains a prohibition, which has been interpreted as absolute, against participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate, as a condition of maintaining federal income tax exemption.
As stated on the USCCB website.
Even before going into the sections of the document, the opening paragraph outlines the essence: “…it contains a prohibition, which has been interpreted as absolute, against participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate…”
I’m really shocked at how outspoken many (not all) of the bishops were when it came to giving general instructions on how to vote for the election. Having the ability to watch the election without having a bias by essence of voting helped to really see things from an outside perspective. I am disappointed because there are many American Catholics who are uneducated when it comes to how to vote morally, and though I believe many were wise in voting where their conscience led them, I feel that the bishops (again, not all) failed them in helping them form a right conscience. For instance, voting for a president does not mean it all boils down to one issue. I read many articles from noted American theologians that were urging Catholics to not make the election a one-issue vote, yet I heard from other media that many bishops were indeed saying it comes down to one-issue. If an uneducated (in the sense of moral formation) Catholic were to listen to both a theologian saying one message, and a bishop saying another, they would tend to follow the bishop who is a primary catechist of the Catholic Church. He has the authority and responsibility to rightly form the conscience of his flock. Making it a one-issue vote does a serious disservice to not only Catholics, but the whole nation and its health, and its ability to reach out to other nations in need.
Apart from the moral shock of it, I would say that it draws a fine line when the document states a prohibition against intervention. While not stating anything (necessarily) against a particular person in the election, telling people they should not vote for a group that supports one particular issue (ex. abortion) is truly telling them to vote a particular way. I do believe that it is intervention when it is spoken from an authority from the Catholic Church. However, I am not completely educated in the area of Church and politics in the States, I admit. It just shocks me from what I know of it. And I know that it has shocked a lot of other people as well.
That’s my rant.