"At all times and in all places, the Church should have the true freedom to teach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgment even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it."
The preceding words are found in the Second Vatican Council’s "Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (GS 76). They are referenced in the Catechism (2246) and bear repeating today.
We are on the cusp of perhaps the most contentious election in our history.
The ever volatile issue of abortion front and center.
Many pastors are cowering in their sanctuaries, fearful of losing their tax-exempt status should they become "too political."
No church has ever lost its tax exemption because of what was preached in the pulpit, and the 2020 election cycle will prove no different. It’s not going to happen. Period — Amen.
What may come as a surprise for many is that churches are not tax-exempt because of a form they fill out and a letter of determination that they receive from the government. Rather, churches are already automatically tax exempt by law.
Whether they seek a determination of that status from the government by filling out a form and receiving a letter is entirely up to them, if they want a piece of paper that proves that they have the exemption.
But even without the piece of paper, they have the exemption anyway.
And the idea that the Church, because it represents an other-worldly kingdom (however different religions may understand it), should be tax-exempt because of its very nature, goes back to ancient times.
The church, to be sure, has a spiritual rather than a political mission.
Yet, it's precisely from faithfully carrying out that spiritual mission that clergy have an urgent responsibility to be vocal in political matters when the "fundamental rights of man" require it.
There is no right more fundamental than life itself.
And the protection of life in its most vulnerable and early stages is an issue which has never more starkly divided our nation’s two principal political parties. Nor could the position of the Catholic Church on this matter be more clear and definitive. “The Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (Catechism 2271).
Amidst all this, Catholic bishops are in the habit of sending out memos to their dioceses which say, to quote one of many, "All priests, deacons and religious men and women are to refrain from publishing or speaking in favor of one political party’s stance or issue preferred over another's.'"
If you compare the current Republican and Democrat platforms, you’ll notice that the Republicans' stance on abortion aligns with that of the Catholic Church, and that of the Democrats diverges as completely as possible from it.
The Republican platform declares, "We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life that cannot be infringed."
The Democrat platform declares, "We will continue to oppose — and seek to overturn —federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion."
Not only do the Democrats place no limit on abortion, but by rejecting explicitly the Hyde Amendment (both in the platform and out of the mouth of Joe Biden) they want you and me to help pay for abortions.
How, then, can the aforementioned memoranda be implemented by any pro-life Church or pastor? To favor the protection of the unborn is in fact to favor the position of the Republican Party over that of the Democratic Party.
It is, de facto, to favor the position of President Trump over the position of Joe Biden.
What is a priest to do, stop talking about abortion?
Indeed, another line from one of these memos says, "refrain from writing and or speaking from the pulpit about any matter that may contribute or cause disunity and anger among our brothers and sisters."
Jesus Christ must have missed that memo.
What has church become? Is all preaching about what is a sin to stop?
Many more of these misguided memos are detailed in my book "Abolishing Abortion," which I wrote in advance of the 2016 election, and which is just as relevant today.
This kind of "advice" from the bishops does not in any way reflect the law. There simply is no law forbidding clergy from articulating positions either supporting or discrediting the policy positions of political parties.
And President Trump has been explicit about this, for instance, in his Executive Order in May of 2017, making clear that free speech doesn’t stop at the door of our churches.
What an irony it is that as many churches fight for their religious freedom, while having an unprecedented ally in this administration, the churches themselves stifle that freedom within their own ranks.
The fight to abolish abortion will be well served when that self-censorship ends.
Fr. Frank Pavone is one of the most prominent anti-abortion leaders in the world. He became a Catholic priest in 1988 under Cardinal John O’Connor in New York. In 1993 he became National Director of Priests for Life. He is also the President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and the National Pastoral Director of the Silent No More Campaign and of Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion. He travels to about four states every week, preaching and teaching against abortion. He broadcasts regularly on television, radio, and internet. He was asked by Mother Teresa to speak in India on abortion, and was asked by then-candidate Donald Trump to serve on his Pro-life and Catholic advisory councils and he is now the co-chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump. He has served at the Vatican as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which coordinates the anti-abortion activities of the Catholic Church. Read Fr. Frank Pavone Reports — More Here.
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