The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, David Ricken, has sent a strong message to the 304,614 Catholics living in his diocese.
In his letter, the Bishop urged parishioners living in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, to vote for candidates who follow the Catholic teachings on life and family issues or risk putting their souls in jeopardy.
This seems to be in line with the Pope deciding that gays are not fully developed humans, or telling nuns that they should stop focusing on working with the poor or disagreeing with bishops about health care reform.
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Here’s an excerpt from Ricken’s letter, dated October 24, as reported in The Raw Story:
A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals. Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally complicit with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.
“Morally complicit”? “Intrinsically evil”? Scary words, indeed. Rickens continues by “reminding” the faithful of what principles to abide by when voting on November 6, including on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage.
Whatever happened to separation of Church and State?
Well, the letter does not actually tell the congregation whether they should vote Democratic or Republican. That’s because even a Catholic bishop is not allowed to go that far: the Internal Revenue Code has an amendment that prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.
According to The Raw Story, Bishop Ricken covered himself by using this masterful example of double-speak at a press conference last Saturday:
My letter should not be misunderstood as an endorsement of any political candidate or party. The church does not endorse political candidates or political parties.
But isn’t the Bishop threatening eternal damnation if his Catholic followers don’t obey his suggestions? Yet another example of the “un-Christian” behavior of the Christian leaders in the US.
As Town Hall reports, this is potentially important because Catholics make up more than 25 percent of the population of Wisconsin, or 1.5 million people, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies 2010 U.S. Religion Census.
On the other hand, plenty of Catholics have been standing up to the party line recently, as Care2 noted here. And as the Vatican has turned its fury toward the nation’s largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns, accusing them of “promoting radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” the Catholic church seems increasingly split between the conservative hardliners and the more liberal, progressive Catholics, who see their religion as a call to social action.
But given that Wisconsin has a vital role to play in the upcoming election, Bishop David Ricken has made a calculated, well-timed play, which could have powerful consequences. Let’s hope the Catholic voters in Wisconsin can see this political maneuvering for what it is.