Thursday, October 4, 2012



This Sunday, some Right-Wing groups have announced “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” They say they are challenging IRS rules that prohibit 501(c)3 organizations from endorsing candidates. In fact, they tried this stunt before and despite a lot of fanfare in advance, all of their participating churches chickened out and did not explicitly endorse a candidate (so much for civility and truthfulness).

No Catholic parishes are participating in this conservative stunt. In fact the Catholic Church forbids the Mass to be used as a means of endorsing a political candidate and forbids Church funds from being used to promote the election of a candidate. This is not something imposed by the IRS on the Catholic Church but a position of principle she freely embraces and would practice even absent any IRS regulations.

But let us review exactly what the Protestant Pulpit Freedom folks are talking about.

First of all, this is not about taxing churches. Churches can apply for a variety of tax exempt statuses. A non-profit organization can engage in politics and support or oppose candidate. That is what the Republican National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Romney for President Committee, the SuperPACs and most political organizations do. All of them have 501(c)4 or related tax exempt status. Any church organization could choose this status and be tax exempt.

However, what most religious organizations do is choose a different tax status of 501(c)3 or related. This not only exempts the organization from taxation, but also allows it’s contributors who itemize on their tax returns (most people do not itemize) to claim a tax deduction as well.

The Catholic Church agrees with this blog that it is a matter of justice that the Church not be taxed. However, it is a matter of prudential judgment to give the further benefit of allowing a minority of private persons a tax deduction for their donations. To be granted this extra benefit (not for the Church herself, but for some of her donors) an organization must apply for the status and agree to the conditions including that the organization not endorse or oppose candidates for office.

This does not mean the Church cannot speak out on important (or unimportant) issues of the day. But it must be about issues and not elections. It also does not mean that clergy in their private capacity can do what they want as private individuals including being involved in political campaigns. But it can be fairly said that for a church to apply for a special tax status that not only exempts itself from taxation but also lets her contributors take itemized deductions and then disregard the conditions it had sworn to, is dishonest and sinful.

We will hear a lot of crazy talk from Right-Wing Protestant organizations on Pulpit Freedom Sunday. I hope this sober explanation is helpful in cutting through the silliness they expound.


Anonymous said...

Your post saddens me...and I am embarrassed by it. I hope my freinds and fellow Catholics never find it. For you to mock Protestants and "right wing silliness' and all the other "name calling" you have done in this article is certainly not resperentative of the Catholic Faith as I know it. I would be impressed if you could explain this Sunday factually without sarcastic adjectives. I am a life-long Catholic and my priest took an opportunity 4 years ago to share with our parish what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops had to say about making election decisions when thinking about the degrees of importance of political issues such as clean water, helping the poor, abortion, etc. My priest said "LIFE trumps all." While all those issues were important to Catholics, the isue of Life was the highest. The candidates position on protecting life from natural conception to natural death was THE MOST IMPORTANT position a candidate can have. If you search for the 2008 Catholic Bishops letter to that effect and can't find it, I am happy to look it up for you. The Democratic Party and President Obama's class warfare and vile attacks on religion and those of us who have "made it" after a lot of hard work have made me sick over the last few months. But I certainly did not expect that same vitriol from my own fellow Catholics. We give so much of our money and time back to the Catholic hurch in thanksgiving for our blessings. I left the Democratic Party a few years ago primarily over the lack of regard for human life and the party efforts to take God out of everything. Your post assures me I made the right "choice." Only Satan would be behind Christians pitting other Christians against each other. Who else could have inspired you to write such hatred for your fellow Christians? I am at peace with that my decision and my decision to vote against the most pro-abortion, anti-family politician on record. May God protect you and your decision.

Kurt said...

No principle "trumps" another principle. To say it does is to deny Christ who left the 99 sheep to search for the one lost sheep.

Catholics are called to stand for ALL of our principles. Yes, life - the life of the unborn including those facing abortion because of the Mercury abortions promoted by Mitt Romney. The life of those withotu health care, those in war zones and the poor. But also all of our other Catholic principles of worker rights, solidarity with the poor, racial justice and and end to hatred.

just jake said...

The title of the article could have been worded better rather than making it look like all Protestants should be blamed for this silliness rather than the right wingers in their ranks.

Anonymous said...

Please read the Faithful Citizenship as suggested: Item 22 states "There are some things we must NEVER do, as individuals or as a society, because
they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are
so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons.
These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must ALWAYS be rejected and
OPPOSED and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the
intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. " This paragraph concludes with "A legal system that violates the basic right
to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed."
This means that if a candidate supports abortion, their decision making process does not rely on the value of life, their moral base is flawed. Future decisions will be based on this flaw.
Obama is promoting abortion. Romney is not promoting Mercury pollution.

Katherine said...

Yes, Romney is supporting Mercury pollution. His energy platform calls for doing away with EPA rules on Mercury pollution. This pollution causes abortions.

Typical of Republicans, while opposed to a woman in a problem pregnancy having an abortion, they are A-Okay with Big Business causing abortions.

I am against abortion while at the same time understanding that this is a tough issue for many people. What I can't understand is how the government should stop a woman from aborting but not stop Big Business from aborting. Can you explain this?

Anonymous said...

The write of this site can not be a Catholic with view that abortion is equal to one of many social issues. Sad to think this writer has fallen into the world and out of the Word.

Katherine said...

Who said that? Romney supports Mercury abortions and now has said he will do noting to defend life if he were President.